Frankly Music celebrates its tenth anniversary season, opening Monday with a "Flashback!" concert at the Conservatory. Frank Almond offers his usual mix of unique programming and a trio of experienced chamber artists for the performances.
How does a series created from ad hoc gatherings of chamber musicians for each concert survive? Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster Frank Almond, creator of the series, starts with a personal network of accomplished musicians. He meets many through participation in New York City events – including his membership in chamber ensemble An die Musik. The secret, he says, is to choose those with a commitment to the sensibilities of chamber music.
The first concert of Frankly Music’s tenth season, Flashback!, illustrates this well. Cellist Edward Arron, on the faculty at New York University, served for 10 years as artistic director of the critically acclaimed Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert. Currently, he is responsible for several chamber series in Massachusetts, Connecticut and South Carolina.
Violist Toby Appel, on the Julliard faculty, has had a more varied career – including a stint running a restaurant in Sante Fe and a year as personal chef to Georgia O’Keefe. He has performed with many of the luminaries in the chamber music world and was a member of the distinguished Lennox and Audubon Quartets. Notably, Appel has been a sardonic observer of the classical music scene (note his Irreverent Guide to the Orchestra, featured on NPR).
The three players will begin in duo combinations. Appel and Almond will play a Mozart String Duo No. 1 (K 423) a tightly written gem – well balanced between violin and viola. Arron and Almond will play an eclectic work by a little known 20th century Czech composer, Erwin Schulhoff. Schulhoff led a bold, complex and often tragic life in war torn Europe – dying in a concentration camp. This work, Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) offers a series of vignettes with a bright contemporary feeling – reflecting folk, “fiddle,” jazz and Jewish themes in a work appropriately dedicated to Leos Janacek (preview music and score here).
The program concludes with Mozart’s Divertimento in E flat, (K 563). This is not to be confused with the usual divertimentos, which are often light extended works serving as background music for the royal court. This trio, in six movements, contains serious sonata development, inventive variations, complex minuets and a lively rondo close. This ambitious work opened the Frankly Music series ten years ago.
The January concert will highlight two Olivier Messiaen masterworks – Quartet for the End of Time and selections from Vingt Regards Sur L’Enfant Jesus. The latter will feature Christopher Taylor – one of the few pianists in the world to have mastered this work. Local favorites cellist Joseph Johnson and clarinetist Todd Levy will play.
A renowned string quartet – the Miró Quartet – will offer a special program in March. And the season will close in May with a doubly ambitious staging of two classic string octets, by Schubert and Mendelssohn. A number of Almond’s colleagues from the Milwaukee Symphony will round out the ensembles at these concerts.
Frankly Music observes the start of its tenth season with a concert at 7 p.m. Monday, October 14th (repeated Tuesday) at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Tickets may be purchased online for all events.