Heart of Chamber
By August March
One of the beautiful things you can do while calling this little big-sky, small-town city home: Leave your orchestral ambitions behind, and check out the June Music Festival, a concert series deeply woven into Albuquerque’s musical culture that presents some of the world’s most learned musicians performing a genre that's both intimate and transfixing, relaxing yet invigorating.
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The June Music Festival, presented by Chamber Music Albuquerque, is all about small ensembles of ultra-sharp musicians plumbing the sonic sea for the sublime; thus, a totally awesome concert experience awaits. Two performances this year feature late-afternoon appearances by the American String Quartet on Sunday, June 8, and cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han on Sunday, June 15. Both recitals begin at 4pm sharp.
There is a fascinating history behind this musical movement: Albert Gallatin Simms, a New Mexico Congressman and a Bernalillo County Commissioner of the past, founded the event. Simms also founded the Albuquerque Academy. When his wife died in 1944, he sought to honor her with a series of concerts, a perpetual gift to the community and her memory. Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms’ vision of making it possible “for the people of Albuquerque to hear and enjoy the great and beautiful works ... in the field of chamber music” drew the attention of some of the great minds of the day.
Among other notables, Ralph Berkowitz was an early guest and later an organizer of the festival. Berkowitz, a dean at prestigious music school Tanglewood—as well as a gifted pianist—moved to Burque in the late ’50s, setting the tone for the festival and the local music community for many years afterward.
This year’s iteration at the Albuquerque Academy (6400 Wyoming NE) continues that tradition and features performances of some of the most intriguing works in the chamber music repertoire. The American String Quartet, famous for its vigorous interpretations of Beethoven’s works, will perform Ludwig van’s 11th and 12th quartets. Written about 10 years apart, these two works represent music from the end of the composer’s middle period and the midst of his later period, respectively.
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Beethoven produced massive works like the 9th symphony in his later years; Quartet 12 shares tonal qualities with that choral-driven opus. This earlier quartet has haunting passages that are reminiscent of his earlier Egmont Overture. In between, an even earlier, more formal and structured quartet (Op. 76 No. 5, 1799) of Franz Joseph Haydn will provide an interesting counterpoint to the afternoon’s explorations.
The next weekend of the fest provides listeners the rare opportunity to hear a husband and wife duo praised by The Grey Lady as “exploratory artists.” David Finckel and Wu Han are known for the theatrical, sometimes glamorous nature of their performances, but the duo is also renowned for their emotive interpretations and innovative programming. Their concert is called The Unfolding of Music, and it covers the evolution of the sonata from Bach to Britten. Presented chronologically, the program seeks to illuminate the glory of baroque and classical sonatas in its first half, while the second act features European modern and postmodern sojourns: Debussy’s soulfully complex Sonata in d minor is paired with Britten’s sometimes-stormy Sonata in C.
Admission to these wonderfully arcane sonic rituals will run you between $30 and $40, but $10 student rush tickets will be available. For more info or to purchase tickets, visit the CMA website at chambermusicalbuquerque.com.
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