A remarkable program starring legendary pianist Leon Fleisher and four of today’s top string quartets concludes the 75th concert season of the Chamber Music Society of Detroit on Sunday, May 12 at Orchestra Hall. The program begins at 3 p.m.
The CMSD Grand Finale concert features four of America’s most exciting young string quartets — the Attacca, Catalyst, Dover and Harlem Quartets. The concert also features performances by violinist Sonia Lee and bassist Rachel Calin and the world premiere of “Trading Fours” by Jessie Montgomery, a work commissioned by the CMSD audience.
- Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings in E-flat major, Op 20
- Jessie Montgomery: Trading Fours (world premiere)*
- J.S. Bach: Sheep May Safely Graze, from Cantata 208, arr. Egon Petri
- Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414
*commissioned jointly by the CMSD audience
Details from CMSD:
The concert opens with a game of musical chairs in Mendelssohn’s youthful Octet, followed the world premiere of “Trading Fours,” a new work by Catalyst Quartet member and composer Jessie Montgomery commissioned by the CMSD audience for this concert. The second half opens with Mr. Fleisher in a solo performance of Egon Petri’s affecting transcription of J.S. Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze (Cantata 208), and concludes with Mr. Fleisher as piano soloist in Mozart’s lovely Concerto in A major, K. 414.
This concert is unique in several respects. In addition to mixing and matching personnel for the performance of the Mendelssohn Octet, the four string quartets will join together to become a string orchestra for the Mozart concerto. A new piece for sixteen strings by Jessie Montgomery (who is also a violinist in one of the participating Quartets, the Catalyst) was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit especially for the occasion and will receive its world premiere. The commission is being funded by small contributions from over 120 CMSDetroit donors and ticket buyers, in a nod to the organization’s history: 65 years ago, to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 1954, the Chamber Music Society commissioned distinguished American composer Samuel Barber to write a new work, and that commission, also funded by small contributions from patrons, was the first ever commission funded by public subscription.
Leon Fleisher, recognized as one of the world’s most revelatory and inspiring musicians, thrives in a sustained career as conductor, pianist and master teacher. He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1944, and in 1952 became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition. At the height of his success, he was suddenly struck at age 36 with a neurological affliction later identified as focal dystonia, rendering two fingers on his right hand immobile. Rather than end his career, Mr. Fleisher began focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, conducting, and teaching. In one of the great comeback stories in classical music, he was able to return to playing with both hands in the mid 1990’s after successful experimental medical treatments. In celebration of his 90th year this season, he has appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall, in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco; at the Ravinia, Gilmore and Tanglewood Festivals; and on tour in Canada with the Toronto Symphony.
Praised by The Strad magazine as “stunning” and for possessing “a musical maturity far beyond its members’ years,” the Attacca Quartet is currently celebrating its 15th season. From sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall to National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts, the Attacca Quartet is becoming recognized as one of America’s premier young ensembles. Top prize winner of the Osaka and Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition, the Attacca Quartet has served as Juilliard’s Graduate Resident String Quartet and the Quartet in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Hailed by the New York Times at their Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…playing with earthy vigor,” Catalyst Quartet is comprised of top Laureates and alumni of the acclaimed Sphinx Competition. The ensemble has toured throughout the United States and abroad, including sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Miami’s New World Center and Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall.
The Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom following a stunning sweep of the 2013 Banff Competition. Recently named the Cleveland Quartet Award winner, and awarded the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Dover has become one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world, performing over 100 concerts across North America and Europe annually.
New York-based Harlem Quartet has been hailed in the Cincinnati Enquirer for “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent.” The Quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical in classical music and it has become known for eclectic programming that combines music from the standard string quartet canon with jazz, Latin, and contemporary works. Since its public debut at Carnegie Hall in 2006, the ensemble has thrilled audiences and students in 47 states as well as in Europe, Latin America, Japan and South Africa. Among its recordings is a Grammy award winning collaboration with jazz masters Chick Corea and Gary Burton.
Locally, nationally and internationally, the Chamber Music Society of Detroit is recognized as metro Detroit’s anchor organization for chamber music, and one of the world’s leading chamber music presenters. Dr. Karl Haas, who settled in Detroit after fleeing Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, founded CMSDetroit as an informal gathering of music lovers in 1944. Also a popular classical music broadcaster, he developed the radio program “Adventures in Good Music,” which was eventually syndicated to more than 400 radio stations nationwide.
During its first fifteen seasons, CMSDetroit presented concerts at the Detroit Institute of Arts, with ensembles made up of first-chair musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Under the leadership of Dr. Zalman “Tiny” Konikow, the CMSD played a critical role in the preservation of Orchestra Hall, and brought CMSDetroit to national prominence by developing annual concert relationships with the leading ensembles of the 20th century, including the Guarneri, Cleveland, Tokyo and Juilliard Quartets, Beaux Arts Trio, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and many more.
Today, CMSDetroit remains at the forefront of the chamber music field, presenting programs featuring the world’s most renowned artists as well as rising stars. The organization’s mainstay has long been its flagship Signature Series, which has been held at the Seligman Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills MI for the last 20 years. Over the past decade, CMSDetroit has made a strategic effort to increase its services across the southeast Michigan region, expanding its educational outreach programs, re-establishing a presence in the City of Detroit and adding to its season calendar series in Detroit at Wayne State University, in Rochester Hills at Oakland University, and, new this year, in Grosse Pointe and Canton.