Featuring five thrilling piano performances, the 2018 season of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, themed “The Year of the Piano,” will be launched by twin headliners; classical great Yefim Bronfman and jazz legend Chick Corea. But the excitement will not stop with dazzling displays of keyboard virtuosity. The Festival presents a wide range of internationally recognized artists at 13 more performances through April, including the highly regarded Dover Quartet, the Festival’s quartet-in-residence; violin virtuoso Gil Shaham; Amelia Island’s favorite trio, cellist Andres Diaz, pianist Wendy Chen, and violinist Chee-Yun; and the Grascals, a Grammy-nominated bluegrass band hailing from Nashville.
“We’re very excited to celebrate ‘The Year of the Piano’ during our 17th year,” says Christopher Rex, General and Artistic Director of the Festival. “The piano is one of the pillars of chamber music, as well as such an important instrument in many other genres. We’re so fortunate to welcome Yefim Bronfman and Chick Corea as headliners. They are legendary artists, each with their own celebrated style of music.”
Executive Director Dr. Joseph Marasco and Emma Bledsoe, President of the Executive Board, believe the Festival’s sponsors and contributors have brought the AICMF to its present level. “CBC National Bank, our season sponsor, along with Rayonier Advanced Materials Foundation, Florida Public Utilities, and West Rock, are responsible for making this one of our best seasons ever,” says Marasco. “The programs are outstanding, and the artists are some of the best in the world.”
“With ‘The Year of the Piano,’ we couldn’t bring these concerts to the public without the generous contribution of Keyboard Connection of Jacksonville,” says Bledsoe. “They provide us with a Yamaha Grand piano, and have done so for the past 17 years. That single contribution adds up to $288,000, a very generous donation, indeed.”
PIANO VIRTUOSO YEFIM BRONFMAN AND JAZZ LEGEND CHICK COREAPiano virtuoso Yefim Bronfman opens the Festival with a program featuring works by Beethoven, Schumann, and Schubert, including Schumann’s Humoreske in B-flat Major, Op. 20, a romantic piano piece composed in 1839. It contains what is thought to be one of the most beautiful openings in all of Schumann’s works.
Internationally recognized as one of today’s most acclaimed and admired pianists, Bronfman stands among a handful of artists regularly sought by festivals, orchestras, conductors, and recital series. Widely praised for his solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings, Bronfman has been nominated for six Grammy Awards. “I’ve known Bronfman for many years,” says Rex. “His strength, power, dignity, and incredible virtuosity is apparent in his service to the music. He’s one of the greatest pianists in the world.” Bronfman’s performance will be January 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel, 36 Bowman Road.
The piano-themed Festival continues on January 19 when the AICMF welcomes jazz legend pianist Chick Corea. The keyboardist, composer, and bandleader has teamed with artists like Lionel Hampton, Stefano Bollani, Bela Fleck, and Bobby McFerrin. His duo partnerships with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock have endured for decades. Corea’s concert will feature in-the-moment improvisation, Corea classics, jazz standards, and classical renderings. “Corea is one of the greatest improvisational artists in the world,” says Rex. “The winner of 22 Grammy Awards, he’s truly a musical phenomenon.” Corea’s performance will be held at First Baptist Church, 1600 South 8th Street, at 7:30 p.m.
CHRISTIANIA PIANO QUARTET AND THE MIRó QUARTETOn February 2 at 7:30 p.m., the Christiania Piano Quartet presents a stunning performance of works by Mozart, Korngold, Beriot, and Schumann, including Mozart’s Piano Quartet No.1 in G Minor, K, considered the first major piece composed for piano quartet in the chamber music repertoire. The Christiania Piano Quartet features David Coucheron, violin, Julianne Lee, violin/viola, Christoper Rex, cello, and Julie Coucheran, piano. David Coucheron regularly performs in some of the most impressive venues, such as Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, and The Kennedy Center, with orchestras such as the BBC Philharmonic and Oslo Philharmonic. He holds degrees from The Curtis, Julliard, and Guildhall schools. His sister, Julie Coucheron, has established an international career and has worked with musicians such as Lazar Bergman, Elton John, and Claude Frank.
Julianne Lee appears frequently as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player, recently joining the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as their new principal second violinist. She has earned her degree in both violin and viola performance from The Curtis and the New England Conservatory. Christopher Rex is principal cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and General and Artistic Director of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival. Christiania’s concert is held on February 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 2600 Atlantic Avenue.
On February 9 at 7:30 p.m., the Miró Quartet presents a program of meticulously played pieces by Haydn, Boccherini, and Schumann, including Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, a composition describing the bustling streets of night-time Madrid. The quartet will be joined by Chris Rex, cello. Now in their 19th year, the Miró Quartet, consistently praised for their deeply musical interpretation and exciting performances, features Daniel Ching, violin, William Fedkenheuer, violin, John Largess, viola, and Joshua Gindele, cello.
“The Miró Quartet was the very first string quartet to win the Avery Fisher Career Grant, and they were also awarded the coveted Cleveland Quartet Award,” says Rex. “Cellist Joshua Gindele has a close connection to Amelia Island, as his parents Jerry and Cathy live here, and help support the Festival.” Their concert will be held at Amelia Baptist Church, 961167 Buccaneer Trail.
VIOLINIST GIL SHAHAM AND PIANIST GARRICK OHLSSON CONCERTSOn February 15 at 7:30 p.m., violin virtuoso Gil Shaham will be joined by pianist Akira Eguchi for a dazzling program with works by Kreisler, Prokofiev, Franck, Bach, Saint-Saens, and Dornam, including Bach’s beloved Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin BWV 1006 and Prokofiev’s Five Melodies, Op. 35. Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time; his flawless technique, combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity, has solidified his renown as an American master. The Grammy Award-winner is sought after throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, and was named Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year” in 2012.
Akira Eguchi has captivated audiences and critics throughout the world as a piano soloist, chamber musician, harpsichord player, and collaborative pianist. He was the recipient of numerous honors during his time at Juilliard and was awarded a prize for excellence in accompanying at the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition. Shaham and Eguchi’s program will be performed at Amelia Plantation Chapel, 36 Bowman Road.
Continuing with “The Year of the Piano” theme, the AICMF is proud to welcome pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who will perform works by Beethoven, Scriabin, and Schubert on March 4 at 5 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel. Since his triumph as winner of the Chopin International Piano Competition, Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Ohlsson is known for his masterly performances of the works of Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, and his vast repertoire, many of which have been commissioned for him. “Ohlsson was already a legend when we were at Julliard together,” says Rex. “He’s one of my very favorite pianists.”
AICMF QUARTET-IN-RESIDENCE THE DOVER QUARTET RETURNSJoining the Festival again this year is the Dover Quartet, the AICMF’s Quartet-in-Residence, for three events: a Master Class on March 17, and two concerts on March 18 and April 8. The Dover Quartet features Joel Link, violin, Bryan Lee, violin, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola, and Camden Shaw, cello. Hailed as “the next Guarneri Quartet,” the Dover Quartet draws from the lineage of that distinguished ensemble, as well that of the Cleveland and Vermeer Quartets. Its members studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. The Dover Quartet first formed at Curtis, and its name pays tribute to “Dover Beach” by fellow Curtis alumnus Samuel Barber. “The Dover Quartet is a permanent part of our Festival family,” says Rex. “Everyone loves them, and we hope to increase their residency at the Festival to include an expanded educational presence, in addition to their performances.”
The Dover Quartet’s master class on March 17 will be held at 11 a.m. in the Memorial United Methodist Church sanctuary, a free concert sponsored by donors Scott and Judy McCue. Young string players from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, Douglas Anderson School for the Arts, and the Jacksonville Youth Symphony will be mentored by members of the Quartet.
On March 18 at 5 p.m., Dover will be performing works by Mozart, Borodin, and Mendelssohn featuring Mozart’s Quartet in D minor, K. 421, the second string quartet in the series of six that Mozart ultimately dedicated to Haydn. “The audience will likely be familiar with the work of Borodin, as his music was featured in the popular Broadway show, Kismet,” says Rex. “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads, and This is My Beloved are both from Borodin’s work.” Dover’s second concert will be held on April 8 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 7:30 p.m., featuring the works of Couperin, Schoenberg, and Zemlinsky.
“HOT CLUB” MUSIC, DIXIELAND JAZZ, AND THE GRASCALSAward-winning violin legend Tim Kliphuis teams up with America’s top “hot club” style guitarist, Sam Miltich, to highlight the music of famed musical duo Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt on April 12. Performing at Walkers Landing at 7:30 p.m., these two current-day jazz greats bring back the Parisian 1930s, alternating moments of dazzling interplay with melancholy and sheer exhilaration, as recorded on their new Duets album. And in a fun concert for the whole family, The Hotlanta Dixieland Jazz group will perform a free concert at the Amelia Park concert pavilion on April 14 at 11 a.m., sponsored by Rayonier Advanced Materials Foundation. Attendees should bring their own chairs or blankets.
For great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond, and for the Grascals, that bond has been forged through personal friendships. The Grascals feature Terry Eldredge, vocals/guitar, Danny Roberts, mandolin, Terry Smith, vocals/acoustic bass, Kristin Scott Benson, banjo/guitar, Adam Haynes, fiddle, and John Bryan, vocals/guitar. Their cutting-edge modern bluegrass is sure to be a hit on April 15 and 17 at Walker’s Landing. On April 16, the Grascals will be performing a free concert at the Boys & Girls Club Roberts Learning and Achievement Center on Lime Street, sponsored by Rayonier Advanced Materials Foundation.
NEWDOME FELLOWSHIP ARTISTS, PIANIST SAM HAYWOOD, AND AMELIA’S FAVORITE TRIOThis year’s Newdome Fellowship Artists, which feature students from leading conservatories, will be the Cezanne String Quartet made up of Eleanor Dunbar, violin, Lauren Densinger, violin, Steven Juarez, viola, and Elizabeth White, cello. They will have two performances: one on April 22 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 7:30 p.m. where they will be joined by one of Amelia’s favorite pianists, Wendy Chen; the second is a free concert on April 26 at Savannah Grand at 1 p.m., also sponsored by the Rayonier Advanced Materials Foundation.
The Fellowship Artists are named after Beth Newdome, a beloved performer at the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, who played a crucial role in helping to get the Festival started. “Beth was a consummate artist whose upbeat personality and talent made her sought-after performer and teacher,” says Rex. Newdome fought cancer for over five years and died in February 2010.
Virtuoso pianist Sam Haywood offers a stunning performance along with Chris Rex on April 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Amelia Baptist Church featuring works by Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Stanford, and Mendelssohn. Haywood was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the age of 13. As a chamber musician, his partners have included Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis, with whom he is featured on the Musical Gifts album. Mr. Haywood is also a composer and artistic director of London’s Solent Music Festival.
Amelia Island’s favorite trio returns to the Festival this year—Chee-Yun, violin, Andres Diaz, cello, and Wendy Chen, piano—performing works by Menotti, Ravel, and Mendelssohn. For Mendelssohn’s piece, String Octet, the trio will be joined by the Cezanne Quartet and former Newdome artist Julia Brandenburg, violin, and Nina Bledsoe, viola. Their concert will be held on April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel.
CLOSING GALA AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, AMELIA ISLANDThe Closing Gala on April 29 at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island celebrates the talent of two Festival favorites, pianists Julie Coucheron and Elizabeth Pridgen, in a very special four-hand piano concert, that is, two pianists at one piano.The concert begins at 5 p.m., and a post-concert dinner will be held at Coast Restaurant, with an opportunity to meet the artists. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is located at 4750 Amelia Island Parkway.
For more information, call (904) 261-1779 or visit the website at www.ameliaislandchambermusicfestival.com.