The annual Northwestern Winter Chamber Music Festival opens this Friday with the North American concert debut of a young ensemble hailing from the Netherlands, the Dudok Kwartet Amsterdam. Hosted by the Bienen School of music, the Winter Chamber Music Festival has concerts every Friday and Sunday from January 12 through January 28 at Pik-Staiger Auditorium in Evanston.
Since 2009, Dudok Kwartet Amsterdam has taken a different approach to performing and recording the repertoire. In addition to traditional quartets by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn, this string quartet has also transcribed, performed and recorded keyboard and orchestral music by composers such as Brahms and Bach. Modern and contemporary composers have also been of focus; the Dudok has recorded both quartets by Hungarian composer György Ligeti. His first quartet Métamorphoses Nocturnes will be performed Friday night in a program that also includes the first of Mozart’s six quartets dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn, in G major, K.387, and Felix Mendelssohn’s F minor quartet Op. 80.
Two others of Mozart’s six Haydn quartets will also be performed during the Festival. In the second concert the Rolston Quartet will be playing the A major quartet, K. 464, on Sunday, January 14. This new group from Canada will also be performing R. Murray Schafer’s String Quartet No. 2, Waves, and Tchaikovsky’s rather overlooked but delightful Quartet No 1 in D major, Op. 11. Quartet in Residence Dover Quartet will be performing Mozart’s D minor quartet, K. 421, on Friday, January 26 in a concert that starts with an early work by Arnold Schoenberg that was not published in his lifetime, Quartet in D major, and ends with Alexander von Zemlinsky’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15.
Bienen School faculty and guest artists will be offering two concerts. On Friday, January 19, Devils and Deceits includes a performance of the Devil’s Trill violin sonata by Giuseppe Tartini, in G minor, Bg. 5. Also on the program are Béla Bartók’s Contrasts and Igor Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). On the following Sunday An Evening in Vienna includes Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder in an arrangement by Daniel Grossman. That program has another work by Arnold Schoenberg, Chamber Symphony No. 1, this one arranged by Anton Webern. It closes with one of the greatest works ever written, the amazing Clarinet Quintet by Johannes Brahms, in B minor, Op. 115.
The Festival concludes with an extraordinary solo violin performance by Chicago native Jennifer Koh, who needed a new violin but didn’t have the money to pay for it. After several rounds of unsuccessful fundraising, she got a loan from benefactors who agreed to accept commissions of new music in lieu of repayment. Inspired by 24 Capriccios for solo violin written by Nicolo Paganni in the 19th Century, 24 contemporary composers stepped up, each contributing a single Capriccio, which were fashioned into a new work, Shared Madness. Several notable composers contributed, including Philip Glass, John Harbison, and Julia Wolfe. Chicagoans Samuel Adams and Augusta Read Thomas also contributed.
In a 2-concert event on Sunday, January 28, Koh will perform Shared Madness, although the program lists 31 Capriccios. 14 will be performed at 3:00 pm; 17, including For Jenny, by Adams and Venus Enchanted by Thomas, will be performed at 7:30 pm.
The Northwestern Winter Chamber Music festival takes place at the Pik-Staiger Hall in Evanston every Friday and Sunday in January, starting Friday, January 12, 7:30 pm. There will be an additional concert on Sunday, January 28, at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30.