Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Richmond Festival of Music

James Wilson’s Richmond Festival of Music returns this month for its fifth season of concerts and "informances," this time showcasing music of the 18th century, from Couperin and Vivaldi to Haydn and Beethoven.

Wilson, the former Shanghai Quartet cellist who launched a chamber-music festival during a short post-Shanghai stint on the Virginia Commonwealth University music faculty, is now a freelance musician based in New York and the Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton. He draws much of the cast of his Richmond festivals from the ranks of fellow freelancers; in recent years he has divided his time between the modern cello and performances of pre-romantic music on period instruments and with techniques believed to be prevalent in the 18th century, and has begun playing regularly with other "historically informed" musicians and as a period-style soloist.

The 2009 roster of the Richmond festival reflects that new direction. Artists for its four concerts and an "Ear Project" lecture-concert include four baroque-instrument specialists, violinists Florian Deuter and Mónica Waisman, violist Daniel Elyar, double-bassist Anthony Manzo and flutist Colin St. Martin. Mary Boodell, principal flutist of the Richmond Symphony, also will play a baroque instrument in some concerts. Similarly, Carsten Schmidt, Wilson’s partner and artistic director of the Staunton Music Festival, will alternate between harpsichord and piano in these concerts.

The festival’s most stellar guest stars this season are the members of the Escher String Quartet – violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Wu Jie, violist Pierre Lapointe and cellist Andrew Janss – who will perform singly and collectively in the last two concerts of the series and a master class at VCU. The Escher currently is quartet-in-residence with Chamber Music Society Two of New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and shares a residence with the Emerson Quartet at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

Two other events, both free, are scheduled by the festival: a Wilson-hosted performance by a string quartet based at VCU, and Wilson in performances of two of Bach’s solo-cello suites.

Tickets for the festival are $35-$95 for the series and $10-$25 for single concerts. They may be ordered by calling (804) 519-2098 or visiting www.cmscva.org

The Richmond Festival of Music’s 2009 lineup:

April 18 (11 a.m., Magnolia Grange Plantation, 10020 Iron Bridge Road, Chesterfield) Ear Project Concert with baroque violinists Florian Deuter and Mónica Waisman. Free admission.

April 19 (4 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, 1000 Blanton Ave. at the Carillon) "Baroque North and South," Deuter, Waisman, Colin St. Martin, Mary Boodell, Daniel Elyar, Anthony Manzo, James Wilson and Carsten Schmidt in works by Vivaldi, Telemann and Johann Friedrich Fasch.

April 20 (5 p.m., Chester Library, 11800 Centre St.) String quartet of VCU students Katherine Wooldridge, Naima Burns, Megan Gray and Thomas Wooldridge in Beethoven’s Quartet in G major, Op. 18, No. 2, with Wilson as host. Free admission.

April 21 (7:30 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, 1000 Blanton Ave. at the Carillon) "Music Fit for a King," St. Martin, Deuter, Waisman, Elyar, Wilson and Schmidt in works by Telemann, Couperin, Haydn, Jean-Marie Leclair and Prussian King Frederick II (the Great).

April 22 (5:30 p.m., Singleton Arts Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Park Avenue at Harrison Street, Richmond) – Escher String Quartet in open rehearsal and master class. $5 at door.

April 23 (7:30 p.m., Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road, Richmond) "The Classical Ideal," Escher Quartet, Boodell and Schmidt in works by Haydn, Mozart and Pietro Nardini.

April 24 (7:30 p.m., Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road, Richmond) "Music at the End of a Century," Escher Quartet, Schmidt and Wilson in works by Mozart, Beethoven and Boccherini.

April 28 (7:30 p.m., The Hermitage at Cedarfield, 2300 Cedarfield Parkway, Richmond) Special event, "Bach to Bach," Wilson playing Bach’s Suites in D minor and C major for solo cello. Free admission.