2016/2017 Season
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ST. MARTIN IN THE FIELDS CHAMBER ENSEMBLE

November 2, 2016 – Series A

St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble is comprised of the principal players of the famous London-based orchestra of the same name. They are without peers when it comes to playing chamber music pieces that require something more than a string quartet. Their stunning performances here of the string repertory inspired us to invite them for the rarely performed Schubert Octet for Winds and Strings, D. 803 which is scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, cello, and double bass. They will also play the sublime Dvořák Quintet Op. 77, which requires a double base.


JUILLIARD STRING QUARTET  

December 8, 2016 – Series B

The Juilliard is America's most hallowed string quartet. Founded 70 years ago, there are, of course, no original members in the ensemble, but as the Boston Globe wrote, "some groups seem to wrestle with their past and legacy; the Juilliard Quartet seems utterly vital." You will recognize the violist, Roger Tapping, (formerly with Takács Quartet) who has been with Juilliard since 2013. In addition, we welcome the superb new cellist, Astrid Schween. The new configuration is already known for their sumptuous tone, complimenting the famous old Juilliard ferocity with warmth and richness. They will play two Beethoven quartets: Op. 95 and Op. 130 with the Grosse Fuge, as well as Mendelssohn's Quartet No. 2, Op. 13.


GARRICK OHLSSON, piano

January 19, 2017 – Series A

Garrick Ohlsson has played 19 consecutive seasons in Napa and proved without a doubt what concert audiences on all continents have been feeling since 1970 when he was the first American to win the coveted international Chopin competition in Warsaw at the age of 22. He is one of the giants of the keyboard, equally at home with the most well known sonatas of the Viennese masters as the truly obscure corners of the repertory. Behind this astonishing pianistic skill is a great intellect—as we have learned from his erudite comments from the stage. Ohlssons's record producer, Adam Abeshouse, noted "Garrick has found a way to harness all that intellect, wrap it in emotion and use it to communicate." His program will include the tragic Schubert Sonata in A Major, D. 959 and Beethoven Sonata No. 24, Op. 78. He is searching his vast repertory for some surprises for the other half of the program.


ESCHER STRING QUARTET

January 30, 2017 – Series B

Escher String Quartet formed in 2005 in New York at the Manhattan School of Music. They immediately came to the attention of Pinchas Zuckerman, Itzhak Perlman, and the Emerson Quartet, all of who endorsed these rising stars in their early days. This intense young ensemble is now making its debut at all the great venues around the world with huge waves of praise following them. The Boston Globe raved, "finely honed technique and a focused ensemble — blend are this group's strengths —a dark ambrosial brew all of its own." Their Chamber Music in Napa Valley debut program spans 100 years—from the Beethoven Razumovsky Quartet No. 2, to Bartok Quartet No. 3, and includes the final, shattering Mendelssohn Quartet Op. 80, which they have just recorded to great acclaim.


ELIAS STRING QUARTET

February 16, 2017 – Series A

Elias String Quartet returns to Napa for the third time in five years. We have deeply admired their unique approach to quartet playing which is both bold and highly nuanced. The uncanny honesty and profundity of this phenomenal quartet's performances have drawn uncommonly reverential reviews: "The Beethoven was played so majestically...with such sensitivity and vulnerability. It is hardly ever the case that gratitude is the lasting impression of a concert, but this was one of them," The Sunday Herald. "Cellist Marie Bitlloch's pizzicato and violinist Sara Bitlloch's melody bent in time with what can only be described as a clairvoyant understanding. Few quartets at any state of their development have this much personality," Philadelphia Enquirer. They have won the hearts of audiences all over the world, not least at London's Wigmore Hall, where recently, they recorded a brilliant Beethoven cycle and set a new standard by which all quartets must now be judged. They will play two Purcell Fantasias, the Bartok String Quartet No. 4, and one of the late Beethoven quartets.


PRAZAK STRING QUARTET

March 13, 2017 – Series B

Prazak String Quartet is the standard bearer of the rich Czech quartet repertory, as well as the Viennese masterpieces from Mozart and Haydn through Beethoven to Zemlinsky and Schoenberg. The Chicago Tribune notes that the Prazak is "definitive—no other word more aptly describes the achievement of this superb foursome," and of their Janáček Quartet No. 2: "urgent and visceral — searing, intense, and ardent." They have been coming to Napa from Prague for 29 years, and have brilliantly played most of their wide range before this audience. This season we have asked them to illuminate for us three of the cornerstones of the Czech repertory: Dvořák Quartet No. 12, American; Janáček Quartet No. 2; and Smetana Quartet No. 1, From My Life.


PAVEL HAAS STRING QUARTET

March 29, 2017 – Series A

Pavel Haas String Quartet leads the younger generation of Czech ensembles. Known for their "virtuosity and profundity" (The Times) they have shown these qualities along with their almost ferocious confidence as they have interpreted a wide range of works in their three previous visits to Napa. The London Times reported, "They represent the best qualities of the Czech tradition – warmth, sonorousness, individuality, intensity," and noted the "risk-taking fervency with which they propel you through these masterpieces." These extraordinary Czechs will begin their program with two masterpieces from the first half of the 20th century—Webern Quartet Op. 5 and Shostakovich Quartet No. 2, Op. 68—and conclude with the final, grand and romantic Schubert Quartet No. 15, D. 887.


LAWRENCE POWER, viola
SIMON CRAWFORD-PHILLIPS, piano

April 11, 2017 – Series B

Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips are at the top of their generation of English musicians. Lawrence Power came to the attention of American audiences during his tours with the Takács Quartet playing the viola quintet repertory. He is the most celebrated violist on the stage today. "The viola soars in wide-ranging beauty in Lawrence Power's hands, "The Times; "Lawrence Power plays the viola with a tone as dark as a cello and technique as agile as a violinist's—the ideal combination," The Observer. He is a regular at London's Wigmore Hall, often with his piano partner Simon Crawford-Phillips, with whom he has recorded much of the viola-piano repertory on the Hyperion label. Simon Crawford-Phillips has established a wonderfully varied career as soloist, chamber musician, lieder accompanist, and most recently as a conductor making his debut with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2013. Moved by their performance of this program last year, we invited them play it for Chamber Music in Napa Valley. Their program will include a suite from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.