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What to Hear Next Season: More Chamber Music

Several museums are offering free chamber music concerts in the coming months

This early seventeenth century handscroll is one of the many works of art at the Freer Gallery. Image courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art

Another museum that hosts a free concert series is the Freer Gallery of Art, with occasional but always intriguing concerts in the Meyer Auditorium, an intimate venue with a lovely acoustic. As for the Library of Congress series, one needs a ticket for the Freer concerts, which can be ordered in advance through Ticketmaster, for a small processing fee. A limit of two tickets per person can be picked up at the auditorium, starting one hour before the concert (which generally begin at 7:30 PM), so early arrival is encouraged.

Because of the focus of the Freer’s collection, on Asian art, the concerts featured at the museum often, but not always, have a similar orientation toward the non-Western, and especially Asian, world. Some of their concerts are performances of traditional Asian music, like the concert of Indian classical music featuring Partha Chatterjee (sitar), Rajeev Taranath (sarod), and Nitin Mitta (tabla) on October 29. Others combine Western and Eastern, like a new concerto for Japanese koto and string quartet, by American composer Daron Hagen and drawn from Tale of Genji. The Lark Quartet will perform the work, with koto player Yumi Kurosawa, on October 13. On September 22, the Four Nations Ensemble will join with soprano Rosa Lamoreaux for a concert of 18th-century European music written in China and the Americas. More concerts on the Freer series will be announced later in the season, and some music from past concerts can be heard through the museum’s podcast series.

The Kreeger Museum has a beautiful space for concerts, in the distinctive house built by postmodern architects Philip Johnson and Richard Foster. Inspired in this case by Byzantine buildings, as well as other historical styles, Johnson and Foster designed a Great Hall with an ear toward David Kreeger’s interests as an amateur musician and lover of chamber music. The geometric relationships behind the room’s design carry sound, both music and speech, in unexpected ways via stone arches. The museum hosts a few concerts each year, including an annual chamber music festival in June. The only concert announced for the fall so far features the excellent Danish ensemble Trio con Brio Copenhagen, on October 28, in cooperation with the Embassy of Denmark.

As mentioned in an earlier preview, the excellent concert series at the Corcoran Gallery of Art has been in decline the last couple years. Official word from the museum is that there will be no chamber music series this fall, “as we are prioritizing programming for our major exhibition, 30 Americans (opening October 1).” This is a shameful waste of the Frances and Armand Hammer Auditorium, one of the most beautiful acoustics for chamber music in the city, and there are no plans to present any chamber music in the second half of the season either, at least not yet. Listeners will have to console themselves with the knowledge that the museum’s concerts of contemporary music will continue, featuring the VERGE Ensemble (formerly known as the Contemporary Music Forum). The first concert is scheduled for September 18, and it will feature the group’s three pianists in a program of music for one to three pianists, including the world premiere of three movements from Jeffrey Mumford’s of ringing and layered space.

La Maison Française, the cultural arm of the French Embassy, hosts a series of concerts, generally featuring French artists, some of which have just been announced. Following up on a marathon performance of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, over nine consecutive days in 2009, pianist François-Frédéric Guy will team up with violinist Tedi Papavrami this fall, to perform all of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano (October 28 to 30). The early music offerings include violinist Riccardo Minasi, cellist Beiliang Zhu, and harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss playing Baroque sonatas (October 19) and La Rêveuse Ensemble (March 28), and contemporary music will be represented by the unorthodox soprano Donatienne Michel-Dansac (February 15) and the always entertaining Quatuor Diotima (April 12), with a new second violinist, Vanessa Szigeti, replacing Naaman Sluchin. Other concerts worth hearing include flutist Mathieu Dufour (December 5) and violinist Nemanja Radulovic and pianist Laure Favre-Kahn (May 22).

For those north of the city, the concerts presented by the Candlelight Concert Society, in the Smith Theater at Howard Community College (Columbia, Md.), are a good option. String quartets are in abundance next season, with concerts by the Ying Quartet (October 1), the Escher Quartet (with guitarist Jason Vieaux, November 19), the Pacifica Quartet (December 3), the American and Ariel Quartets (January 28), and the Borealis Quartet (April 14). Other performances include the flamboyant, mohawk-sporting violinist Hahn-Bin (January 14), the Gryphon Trio (February 18), and pianist Soyeon Lee (March 17).

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