When guests arrived at Evermay Estate on Friday evening there was a certain amount of oohing and ahhing. First-timers and return visitors alike were eager to see the newly decorated public rooms and the expansive garden. Ogling was to be expected in this grand early-19th-century mansion that has captured public imagination for years, but especially since last year, when it was bought by Japanese medical entrepreneurs Ryuji Ueno and Sachiko Kuno. The couple were there to greet the guests, to welcome them into what will eventually be their home but for now is where they celebrate their love of music.
Ueno and Kuno, through their S&R Foundation, last month launched a series of concerts at Evermay called Overtures. They feature performances before a small audience by promising young musicians, mostly but not exclusively Japanese. The concerts take place in the mansion’s largest room, probably once a ballroom, which has the intimate feel of a “salon,” bathed in light by a series of floor-to-ceiling arched windows. The music against the backdrop of the elegant garden views is a special pairing.
On Friday the performer was pianist Ryo Yanagitani, who put together a program of mostly rousing Chopin along with some contemplative Debussy. His resume is packed with accolades and awards, plus a Yale School of Music master’s and a doctoral degree on the way. He is a professor of piano at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He’s also a good showman—he likes to tell a story or two to add context to the music. His considerable skills were a nice match for the room and the view. If there’s anything to quibble about, it has to do with the room and not the performer. The many hard surfaces—large glass windows, wooden floors, bare brick walls—don’t offer much absorption, making the music perhaps too rousing. The owners may want to consider some sound baffles or even a few rugs.
The next, and last, concert features violinist Tamaki Kawakubo this Friday, August 17. It’s currently sold out, but it’s worth checking the website for possible cancellations. Kawakubo has played with the Russian National Orchestra, the Moscow Radio Symphony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, the Tel Aviv Chamber Orchestra, and the Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra. She made her Kennedy Center recital debut in 2009. Sachiko Kuno said she plans to resume the Overtures concerts in the winter.
Tickets for the concerts cost $50 and include the performance, plus a reception with wine and beer before the program and a light buffet after. It’s an altogether easy and relaxing evening. Given the parking headaches of Georgetown, it’s worth noting that Evermay has valet parking on the grounds.