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Universal music of the Chamber Music Festival is for everybody

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

The 36th edition of the International Chamber Music Festival began on Jul 31 and will continue until through August 23, presenting the most demanded trios, quartets and ensembles across the world.

Although the festival has all the resources to grow in San Miguel, Camie Sands, former president of the organization, says that for 35 years the event has preserved the founder´s vision because they have focused their efforts on bringing what is considered high level chamber music to San Miguel from across the world (England, Germany, Portugal and the USA) and of course from Mexico and South America. Sands remarks that the festival still has its original essence of being financed by the private sector. Frederic Dannen, advisory board member, commented that all this time the organization had to contend with misconceptions that people—both Mexican and foreigners—have about chamber music, but, “There is nothing more universal than music,” he said.

The organizers remark that in this World Heritage site, this kind of culture is accessible to everybody because the prices are affordable for the concerts. In past year the prices have ranged from 50 to 400 pesos. The concerts are held in Teatro Ángela Peralta and, interestingly, the cheapest ticket is for the third balcony, which is the best place for hearing the music. Although the audience is in the third balcony, they are not far from the musicians because the theater is a small venue. No matter where people are, the connection and intimacy with the sound is present.

What is chamber music? Dannen says people always have misconceptions about this music, “even those who love it.” They think that it is something small because they are accustomed to seeing big symphonies perform. “They like large bands, but the musicians that we bring are capable of playing long, difficult pieces, and the sound is tremendous,” said Dannen. He expects that at some point the audience can be balanced with Mexicans and expats because a great effort is being made to make the culture accessible to both groups.

Sands highlighted that this music is more affordable in San Miguel than in any other part of the world; she also commented that trios, quartets or ensembles are the most demanded in bigger festival and cities. Nevertheless, they decide to come to San Miguel because it is a magical place, where they are not paid as well as in the big cities, but they receive great compensation in local experiences and “lots of love,” says Sands. Besides. the contact with the local population is more personal.

The program

The festival opens on Thursday, July 31, with a concert by the Borromeo String Quartet, which also will offer a performance on Friday, August 1, at 7pm in the Teatro Ángela Peralta. The members of the quartet are Nicholas Kitchen

(violin), Kristopher Tong (violin), Mai Motobuchi (viola) and Yesum Kim (cello). This quartet is one of the most important of its kind. The Chicago Tribune calls the Borromeo, “a remarkably accomplished string quartet, not simply for its high technical polish and refined tone, but more importantly for the searching of musical insight it brings.” The quartet from Boston, Massachusetts, “is renowned for its extraordinary music,” commented Dannen. He said, in addition,  “Nicholas is known for using technology; he has notebooks and reads the scores on the screen and turns the pages with a foot pedal that enables them to see the four parts of first violin, second violin, viola and cello. That is not possible when he has to change the pages physically, and that is a distraction.” This quartet is different from any other because they can see all the music they are playing.

Kitchen has some handwritten scores and will project some of them on a screen so people can see what the composer was thinking when he wrote a piece. In the case of Mozart, people have the idea that Mozart downloaded all his music from God and that he never made changes, but when they see the scores they will change their minds.

In celebration of 70 years of partnership between Mexico and Canada, the Canadian Ambassador to Mexico, Sara Hradecky, will attend one of the concerts of the Gryphon Trio, who will have two performances in the theater on Aug. 9 and 10 at 7pm. The trio was formed in 1993 and has regular presentations in Canada, the United States and Europe. The trio, said Sands, won the Juno award. the equivalent of the Grammy, in 2011. Dannen comments that there are too many piano trios in the world, but this is the best. In 2013, the trio dazzled the audience with its refined and dynamic presentations.

The Calder String Quartet will perform on August 15 and 16 at 7pm in the theater. This California quartet has earned a reputation as a towering influence on contemporary chamber music with its embrace of both classical traditions and innovative contemporary composers.

The festival will close on August 22 and 23 at 7pm with the concerts of the Claremont Trio. According to the members of the festival, the trio—violin, violoncello and piano—plays with astonishing ability and precision that captivates the audience with technical, bright and interpretative sensibility. The trio was formed in 1999 and currently is on demand due to its presentations in the most prestige music festivals in the United States as well as in the Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall, among other venues.


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