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Summer Concerts in the Maine Woods: Chamber Music at Monteux

July 15, 2016

It would be hard to find a better or more enjoyable venue to experience of chamber music and symphony than the auditorium at the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival in Hancock Maine. The room is small—no more than a couple of hundred folding chairs. There are no cheap seats; every single one is no more than fifty feet from the elevated stage. But the best seats are in the front row, and on the chamber music nights (Wednesdays) we found empty ones ready for the taking.

From these you can see the expressions on the faces of the players, the movements of their fingers, the interplay between each of them at the key harmonic moments of the music. And, of course, hear those instruments and the lovely sounds that come from them to be reflected off the high wood ceiling and fill the auditorium. Seen through the wide windows, the oak and birch leaves outside seemed to be nodding in time with the music.

But the best reasons to attend the Wednesday Chamber Music series is the choice of pieces to be performed. Don’t be put off by the term “chamber music.” The selections run the gamut from the most staid and traditional of Beethoven’s Adagio for Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11 to a jazzy upbeat rendering of There Will Never Be Another You that would be right at home in the classiest of cabaret lounges. Some pieces are solo, some with just two or three instruments, and the joy comes from being so close and so in touch with the performance itself.

My own personal favorite of the evening was a haunting rendition of Philip Glass’s “String Quartet No. 2, ‘Company.’” Daniel Mullins introduced the piece with a few words referring to previous critical appraisal of Glass’s works as being “minimalist” and characterized by repetition, but these words did no justice to the beautiful performance that followed. To my ear, there were layers upon layers of ghostly themes all built on the solid foundation of Carrie Miller’s violincello.

More than once the program of July 13, 2016 brought the crowd to their feet in a thunderous, foot-stomping show of affection and approval. The thunderous finale of the final piece, Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano, earned just such approval. There were two conductors for the piece; Monteux is a school not just for those who aspire to the highest level of instrumental performance, but for those who would conduct the orchestras in which they will one day perform.

For all of them, Monteux is the place they come to learn. For the rest of us, it is the place we come to listen and to expand our horizon as to just how broad the concept of “chamber music” can be.

Monteux Contact: E-mail: pierremonteuxschool@gmail.com Cell: 207-460-0313 Fax: 207-221-5702

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2016 11:44 am

    Thanks 4 the info. I’m holding on 2 to the phone #s.

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