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Amelia Islander

A Sensational Season

Jan 10, 2017 11:28AM
Entering its 16 season, the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival has become one the nation’s foremost chamber music festivals. In recent years, the festival has featured such renowned artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, and Pinchas Zukerman, and this year promises to be even more exciting. Led by General and Artistic Director Christopher Rex and Executive Director Dr. Joseph Marasco, the AICMF has exceeded all expectations as a presenter of great musical artists from all genres. “I believe our success stems from the fact that Amelia Islanders own this festival,” says Rex. “It’s a powerful but intimate musical experience that the community has enthusiastically embraced.” Mr. Rex has been the general and artistic director of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival since its inception. Following his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, he was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Mr. Rex joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Principal Cellist in 1979, the same year in which he became the first cellist ever to win the string prize in the biennial Young Artists Competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. He is a founding member of the Georgian Chamber Players, artistic director of the Madison Chamber Music Festival in Georgia, and he has served on the Board of Directors of Chamber Music America. Mr. Rex is a regular performer at the Highlands Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina and has been Principal Cellist of the orchestras at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder and the Grand Tetons Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina.

[heading style="subheader"]Itzhak Perlman Performs at the Festival in February[/heading] To kick off its 16th season season, the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival is honored to welcome virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Perlman is beloved for his charm and humanity as well as his talent, celebrated throughout the world for his remarkable artistry and his irrepressible joy in making music. Born in Israel in 1945, Mr. Perlman was propelled into the international spotlight with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958. Following his studies at the Juilliard School, Mr. Perlman won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964, which led to a worldwide career. Itzhak Perlman has appeared with every major orchestra and in recitals and festivals around the world. “I saw Mr. Perlman on the Ed Sullivan Show,” says Mr. Rex. “I watched it with my brother. He inspired both of us enormously.” Messrs. Rex and Perlman have played together on a variety of occasions over the years, including a recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many concerts with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Accompanying Mr. Perlman is pianist Rohan de Silva, who has partnered with Mr. Perlman in recitals around the world, as well as every notable violinist on the concert stage today. Mr. Perlman has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, and at the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama in 2012 for Shimon Peres; and at a State Dinner in 2007 hosted by President George W. Bush for Queen Elizabeth. Mr. Perlman’s concert will be held on February 6 at First Baptist Church. For information on ticket availability, call the AICMF office at (904) 261-1779.

[heading style="subheader"]The Dover Quartet at Historic Nassau County Courthouse[/heading] On February 8, the Dover Quartet will be performing at 7:30 p.m. at the Nassau County Courthouse, 416 Center Street. The Dover Quartet features Joel Link, violin; Bryan Lee, violin; Milena Pajaro van de Stadt, viola; and Camden Shaw, cello. This warm and intimate concert highlights works by Mozart, Smetana, and Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, a work of startling originality, considered one of the most important string quartets of the 20th century. AICMF’s Quartet-in-Residence, the Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition. Since then, the Dover has become one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world. “The Dover Quartet carries the torch of the Guarneri Quartet,” says Rex. “They were the first Quartet-in-Residence for the Curtis Institute of Music after the Guarneri retired. We are so proud to have them as our own Quartet-in-Residence.” The Dover will also be performing on March 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Amelia Baptist Church.

[heading style="subheader"]Anne Akiko Meyers at Amelia Plantation Chapel[/heading] On February 17, beloved violinist Anne Akiko Meyers returns to the festival in a concert at Amelia Plantation Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Meyers is one of the most celebrated violinists in the world today. With her passionate performances, purity of sound, and deeply poetic interpretations, Meyers has actively maintained an extensive touring schedule for close to 30 years. The program will include works from Beethoven, Debussy, and others, including Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” Piano Trio, a composition inspired by Vivadi’s “The Four Seasons.” Accompanying Ms. Meyers is Wendy Chen, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello. Ms. Chen has garnered critical acclaim for her engagements with leading orchestras and concert halls worldwide. She debuted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductor Andre Preven at age 15, and in 1990 became the youngest winner ever of the National Chopin Competition. She has performed at many of the top music festivals, including Tanglewood, Spoleto, and Montreux. “Anne Akiko Meyers and Wendy Chen are like family to me,” states Mr. Rex. “They have always been festival-favorites, and we welcome them again this year.”

[heading style="subheader"]Banjo Superstar Bela Fleck at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort[/heading] On March 5 at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Ballroom at 5 p.m., the AICMF is pleased to welcome Béla Fleck, a banjo superstar in bluegrass, folk, jazz, pop, rock, and world music. Fleck added classical to his repertoire in 2001 with his critically acclaimed “Perpetual Motion” recording that won a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album. He will be joined by his wife, clawhammer banjoist and singer Abigail Washburn. The duo’s debut album, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, took home the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk album. Winner of 16 Grammy Awards, Mr. Fleck has been nominated in more categories than any instrumentalist in Grammy history. “We’re excited to have Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn this year,” says Mr. Rex. “Having two artists in one family is a very rare phenomenon and their appearance in Amelia is a gift. It’s offerings like this that make the AICMF an unusual, eclectic mix of great chamber music.”

[heading style="subheader"]Christiania Trio at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church[/heading] The Christiania Trio performs on March 12 at 5 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Featuring David Coucheron, violin, Julie Coucheron, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello, they will perform Brahms’ C Minor Trio, and Schubert’s B-Flat Trio, a lyrical and adventurous work in four movements. David Coucheron joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Concertmaster in 2010, making him the youngest concertmaster of any major U.S. orchestra. Originally from Oslo, Norway, Mr. Coucheron earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, his Master of Music from the Juilliard School, and his Master of Musical Performance from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Julie Coucheron, sister of Mr. Coucheron, has established an international career, regularly touring Europe and America as a freelance soloist and chamber musician. She has won first prize in all the national competitions she has attended, in addition to winning prizes in Italy, Germany and the United States. Ms Coucheron has worked with Lazar Berman, Claude Frank, Emanuel Ax, Vladimir Feltsman, John O’ Connor, Elton John, and Christopher O’Riley.

[heading style="subheader"]City of Angels Saxophone Quartet at Walkers Landing[/heading] New to the festival this year is the City of Angels Saxophone Quartet, a group that has championed the emergence of the saxophone quartet on the concert stage for more than 25 years. Shortly after its founding in the early 1990s, the ensemble, based in Los Angeles, was the first saxophone quartet to win top honors at the prestigious Coleman and Carmel Chamber Music Competitions. Recent honors include concerts sponsored by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, appearances at the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Artists include Bill Wilson, soprano saxophone; Sean Stackpoole, alto saxophone; Cynthia Swanson, tenor saxophone; and Matt Germaine, baritone saxophone. The concert will be held on March 19 at 5 p.m. at Walkers Landing at Amelia Island Plantation.

[heading style="subheader"]Valentina Lisitsa Returns to Amelia Plantation Chapel[/heading] On April 8 at 5 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel, the AICMF welcomes back virtuoso pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who will be performing works by Rachmaninov and Ravel, and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a suite of ten pieces considered the composer’s most famous piano composition and a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. Ms. Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1973. She started playing the piano at the age of three, performing her first solo recital at the age of four. She attended the Lysenko music school for Gifted Children and, later, Kiev Conservatory. While at the Conservatory, Lisitsa met pianist Alexei Kuznetsoff. The two performed together and, in 1991, they entered and won first prize in The Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida. That same year, they moved to the United States to further their careers as concert pianists. In 1992, the couple married. Their New York debut was at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995. Ms. Lisitsa has performed at many international venues, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and Royal Albert Hall. She has also collaborated with violinist Hilary Hahn for various recital engagements. Amelia Island Chamber Music supporters will remember many spirited performances by Ms. Lisitsa, including an amazing performance on Two Pianos with Alexei at the Chapel. “Valentina was here for our first festival,” says Rex. “She was so striking, talented, and she drew so many people to our first year. I consider her a hero to our festival!”

[heading style="subheader"]Newdome Fellowship Artists at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church[/heading] On April 21 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 7:30 p.m., the AICMF welcomes the Newdome Fellowship Artists, outstanding music students from the nation’s premier conservatories. These promising young artists will have the opportunity to train with the Festival’s internationally acclaimed musicians. Artists include Julia Bradenburg, violin; Leah Latorraca, violin; Emily Bradenburg, viola; and Wyndham Tsai, cello; along with festival-favorite Elizabeth Pridgen, who has performed at the festival every year since its inception. Ms. Pridgen, praised for her “big piano presence” by American Record Guide, has distinguished herself as a soloist and chamber musician. She is the G. Leslie Fabian Piano Chair at the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University, and currently a Distinguished Artist and Piano Chair at the McDuffie Center for Strings.

[heading style="subheader"]Turtle Island Quartet at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island[/heading] The Turtle Island Quartet will make its AICMF debut at the Closing Gala on April 23 at 5 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Since its founding in 1985, the Turtle Island Quartet has been a singular force in the creation of bold new trends in chamber music for strings. Winner of the 2006 and 2008 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Crossover Album, Turtle Island fuses the classical quartet genre with folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India. The group’s fifteenth recording, Confetti Man, recently was nominated for a 2016 Grammy. Artists include David Balakrishnan, violin and baritone violin; Alex Hargreaves, violin; Benjamin von Gutzeit, viola; and Malcolm Parson, cello.

“When the Festival began 16 years ago, it was modest in operation,” says Executive Director Dr. Joseph Marasco. “The support of the community and corporate sponsors has been astonishing, bringing the festival to the stature it enjoys today. Sponsors include Rayonier, Westrock, Florida Public Utilities, Keyboard Connections, WJCT, CBC Bank, and many more. But our individual donors are really the heart of our Festival, along with the many volunteers who help with tickets, parking, and ushering. It’s definitely a community effort.” In addition to the above concerts, there are four free concerts on March 20, April 1, April 15, and April 19. For more information, visit www.ameliaislandchambermusicfestival.com.