Rembrandt Chamber Musicians announces 2022-2023 concert season in Evanston and Chicago

Opera music

The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians, Chicago’s flagship ensemble spanning the spectrum of classical chamber music, has announced details for its 33rd concert season, 2022-2023, featuring five programs to be performed at venues across Chicago and around the world. ‘Evanston, Ill.

Violinist John Macfarlane, entering his second season as artistic director of the ensemble, says: “What sets us apart is how we design our programs to keep listeners intellectually and emotionally engaged from first to the last note.

“Each of our programs has a guideline, a narrative thread that connects the compositions and takes the audience on a common journey,” he says. “We take the audience experience very seriously.”

While RCM will present many worthy but seldom-heard works by familiar and lesser-known composers, the ensemble does not overlook audience favourites.

“We will open and close the season with the most famous and captivating clarinet quintets in all of classical music,” says Macfarlane, referring to Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, in November, and the Quintet for clarinet in B major by Brahms. Minor, op. 115, in May.

The main RCM ensemble is made up of Macfarlane, violist Carol Cook and cellist Calum Cook, all of whom will perform at each concert alongside guest artists.

November season opener gets the most out of Mozart

The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians will perform an “All Mozart” program of three diverse masterpieces, each groundbreaking for its time, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston; and 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 7 at PianoForte Chicago, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

“Some of our loyal fans have mentioned that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music has disappeared from the past few seasons,” Macfarlane said, “so we’re making amends.”

Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E minor, K. 304 – an unusual key for this type of work, especially for Mozart – was written in 1778 in Paris during a time of loneliness and despair when his mother was ill and dying.

His 1785 Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478, in three movements, with its spirited finale, is widely credited with launching the piano quartet genre.

The Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, written in Vienna in 1789, is an enduring audience favorite for its lyricism and clear, transparent textures.

The guest artists are Yuan-Qing Yu, violinist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO); Stephen Williamson, principal clarinet of the CSO; and award-winning pianist Jessica Choe, whose chamber music collaborators have included classical stars Avi Avital and Marc-André Hamelin.

Theorbo debuts at December’s ‘Holiday Baroque’

RCM’s popular “Holiday Baroque” concerts will focus on “Baroque” with guest appearances from theorbo virtuoso Brandon Acker; the soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, an internationally renowned specialist in baroque music; and harpsichordist and organist Stephen Alltop, who has performed with many of the greatest proponents of early music today and directs the Baroque Music Ensemble at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.

This will be the first appearance of a theorbo, a long-necked lute that is a Renaissance and Baroque ancestor of the guitar, at an RCM concert. The instrument will be heard solo and together.

It also marks the ensemble’s debut at the Epiphany Center for the Arts in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

The program includes the Concerto for 2 Violins in G major, TWV 52:G2 by Georg Philipp Telemann; “An Evening Hymn” by Henry Purcell, sacred song for solo soprano; Italian Baroque composer (and accomplished violinist) “Diverse bizzarie Sopra la Vecchia Sarabanda ò pur Ciaccona” by Nicola Matteis, Organ Concerto in F major by George Frideric Handel, op. 4, no. 5; and Johann Sebastian Bach’s secular cantata “Non sa che sia dolore” (He does not know what pain is), BWV 209.

Concerts are Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Epiphany Center for the Arts, 201 S Ashland Avenue, Chicago; and 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 4 at Northwestern University’s Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

‘Dvorak’s Prophecy’ Combines Contrasting Late Romanticism Works in January

The Rembrandt Chamber Musician’s March concert program takes its name from “The Prophecy of Dvorák

And the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music,” the 2021 book by former New York Times music critic Joseph Horowitz.

The late 19th-century Romantic composer Antonín Dvorák, who loved to use folk themes from his native Bohemia in his works, was captivated by the African-American melodies he heard after arriving in the United States in 1892 to an extended stay. In 1893 he envisioned a “great and noble school” of American classical music based on this tradition.

The program combines a work by Dvorák with a contrasting work by the young London-born Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a pioneering black British composer of the same era, the son of a West African father and an English mother. He was a musical celebrity in his native England and in the United States, which he visited frequently.

Coleridge-Taylor Sonata in D Minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 28, first published in 1917 but believed to have been written in the late 1890s, shows influences from Dvorák, whom he called his “first musical love”, as well as from Tchaikovsky and Grieg.

The public will also hear the Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81, “one of the glories of chamber music” (Britannica.com).

“The Coleridge-Taylor Sonata and the Dvorák Quintet share harmonic similarities,” Macfarlane says. “However, they end very differently and as such leave a very different impression on the audience. The Dvorák ends with such optimism and hope, while Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Sonata takes on a sudden turn and ends in quiet resignation.”

The guest artist is the American violinist Eoin Andersen, former concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The program will be heard at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 20 at The Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 22 at Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston.

“The crazy decade”: works by Mahler, Prokofiev and Dohnányi in March

Really encompassing music spanning decades, RCM’s “The Mad Decade” charts an arc of musical innovation from “Mahlerian aesthetics to ragtime and jazz” in a program of chamber gems rarely heard, says Macfarlane.

The program opens with the only surviving instrumental chamber work by Gustav Mahler. His Piano Quartet in A minor, written in 1876 while a student at the Vienna Conservatory, is the first movement of an abandoned piano quartet. Mahler’s widow, Alma Mahler, rediscovered the manuscript in the 1960s.

Sonata for 2 violins by Sergei Prokofiev from 1932, op. 56, is “unique to the violin repertoire”, says Macfarlane. “It’s extremely innovative and very exploratory work. There’s no other piece like it.”

Prokofiev evokes the origin of the work in his 1941 autobiography: “Listening to bad music sometimes inspires good ideas… After having heard once a piece without success [unspecified] for two violins without piano accompaniment, it seemed to me that despite the apparent limitations of such a duet, it could be made interesting enough to listen to for ten or fifteen minutes…”

Ernst von Dohnányi’s highly unusual Sextet in C major, Op. 37, from 1935, is written for the rare combination of clarinet, horn, piano, violin, viola and cello. It opens with a heroic theme and lots of drama, followed by a dark and menacing slow march. There are moments reminiscent of Brahms and a finale in the style of 1930s European jazz. The final passage combines jazz, a waltz, and the dramatic opening theme.

Guest artists include Eoin Anderson, violin; Ilya Shterenberg, longtime principal clarinetist of the former San Antonio Symphony; Fritz Foss, Assistant Principal Horn of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra; and pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, hailed by The Washington Post for his “calm and imaginative playing”.

RCM will perform “The Mad Decade” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 10 at The Cliff Dwellers in Chicago and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 12 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

The season ends in May with “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

RCM’s season finale, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” reflects the stages of life from childhood through adulthood and old age through works by three very different composers at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7 at the Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

Prolific composer and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violist Max Raimi’s “Four Songs for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano,” which opens the concert, was inspired by poet Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” a collection of whimsical light verse and drawings for young people .

Sri Lankan-Canadian composer Dinuk Wijeratne’s 2013 “Love Triangle” is an exotic, rhapsodic, single-movement piano trio that blends Middle Eastern-inspired melody, classic North Indian rhythm and structure. Western classical and offers improvisation cadenzas for each instrument. Macfarlane says that the title of the works and its interaction between violinist, cellist and pianist evoke the complexity of adult relationships.

Johannes Brahms was so impressed by the artistry of clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld that he came out of retirement in 1891 to write the Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, for him. Modeled on Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, heard at the RCM’s first concert of the season, it has the melancholic, sentimental feel associated with the music of Brahms’ Twilight Years.

Guest artists are Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Simon Michal; Alan Kay of the Juilliard School, principal clarinet of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Santa Fe Opera; and St. Luke’s Orchestra; and pianist Beilin Han, a staff pianist at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities in Chicago and a member of the collaborative piano faculty at the Heifetz International Music Institute.

Tickets and information

General admission tickets are $43; student admission is $15 with ID. Full season passes are $179; other subscription plans start at $119. Tickets can be purchased online at rembrandtchambermusicians.org or by phone at 872-395-1754.

Subscribers and single-ticket holders can access online streaming performances of the ensemble’s 2022-2023 season concerts.

All Evanston concerts include a free ENCORE! reception with the musicians. Performances at the Cliff Dwellers include a post-concert cash bar and free cheese and fruit.

Rembrandt Chamber Musicians is following CDC, state, and local health and safety guidelines regarding pandemic precautions.

Rembrandt’s Chamber Musicians

Founded in 1990, Rembrandt Chamber Musicians is a Chicago-based ensemble made up of the principal members of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra. The RCM champions classical chamber music as an accessible, engaging and deeply personal living art form by presenting world-class performances of well-known works of art and hidden gems from the Baroque period to the present day. The ensemble collaborates with renowned guest artists, commissions new works and supports young musicians through an annual high school chamber music competition and educational outreach initiatives. Website: www.rembrandtchambermusicians.org.