2019/2020 Season
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November 14, 2019 (Thursday) – Series A

The Calder String Quartet formed at the USC Thornton School of Music in 1998 and continued their studies at the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles and at the Juilliard School in NY. Winning the 2014 Avery Fisher Competition was their breakthrough moment. The LA Times exclaimed, "They have taken their place as one of America's most satisfying and enterprising quartets." They embrace the entire repertory and are the ensemble of choice for many leading composers, including Anders Hillborg, to premier new works. The Calder performances and recordings of the mainstream repertory have caught everyone's attention. They are a vital force in the chamber music world, as they "reveal hidden dimensions in the music and renew a bond with the composers" The Boston Globe.

Program: Beethoven String Quartets Op. 18, No. 3 and Op. 131; Hillborg String Quartet Kongsgaard Variations


December 10, 2019 (Tuesday) – Series B

The Takács String Quartet formed in Budapest in 1975 and are presently based at the University of Colorado in Boulder. First here in 1985, this will be their 13th appearance—all brilliant. They are the masters of a broad repertory and are especially known for their Grammy-winning Bartok and Beethoven cycles, all of which they have played for us over the years. The review of their London Wigmore concert this spring noted, "With all great quartets, the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts, but with Takács Quartet, each separate element really does blaze with soloistic, virtuosic flame...the sheer class and distinctive voice of each instrumental contribution grabbed the ear, and their tight-knit togetherness is a thing of beauty in itself."

Program: Beethoven String Quartets Op. 18, No. 6; Op. 135; and Op. 59, No. 3


January 6, 2020 (Monday) – Series A

Emanuel Ax has been coming to Chamber Music in Napa Valley for over 20 years. Born in Poland, he immigrated to New York as a child, and still resides there. His career-launching moment was his victory at the Rubenstein Competition in Tel Aviv in 1974. He is hallowed in every cultural capital in the world and is known for his "plush tone and intense focus" San Francisco Chronicle. Ax's recent Beethoven recital was praised by The Guardian: "This was a master class in the infinite gradations of dynamics, the finest pianism, and overall, a grandeur to rival the symphonies." There is no Mensch quite like "Manny," as his friends and colleagues call him. His performances convey not just virtuosity, but warmth, humility, and energy in a way that makes you feel glad to be a human being. In Jeb Distler's essay accompanying the complete RCA Ax Album Collection, published on the occasion of the pianist's 70th birthday, he writes, "Ax continues to make music at full capacity, and wears his eminence lightly," a fitting tribute to the master's humility.

Program: Beethoven Für Elise WoO 59; Five Variations on Rule Britannia WoO 79; Six Variations in F Major Op. 34; Sonatas Op. 2, Nos. 1 and 2


January 23, 2020 (Thursday) – Series B

Paul Lewis, the British pianist, has performed for Chamber Music in Napa Valley in solo recitals, song recitals with Mark Padmore, as well as with his wife's Vertavo String Quartet. Many consider Paul Lewis, the foremost Beethoven and Schubert interpreter of his generation. Tommasini of The New York Times goes further, suggesting that Lewis' complete Beethoven recordings are the greatest cycle from all past masters and current artists. Gramophone exclaims, "Time and again, you marvel at the confidence and sureness of Lewis's playing, combined with the finesse and musicality that he has always displayed."

Program: Sonatas Op. 27 No. 1 and No. 2, Moonlight, and the Diabelli Variations


February 5, 2020 (Wednesday) – Series A

Trifonov was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where he received his first piano instruction from his father before going on to study in Moscow and eventually Cleveland. When he was 20, he won both the Rubenstein Competition in Tel Aviv and the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, which launched his career. The New York Times reports, "Few artists have burst onto the classical music scene in recent years with the incandescence of the pianist Daniil Trifonov." Last year he was the Artist in Residence of the Berlin Philharmonic, a role he will undertake with the New York Philharmonic in the 2019/2020 season. The Guardian describes him as "perhaps the most exciting pianist to have emerged in the last 30 years." The Financial Times defined his playing as a "unique amalgam of fastidious tenderness and seemingly unfettered wildness."

Program: Bach/Brahms Chaconne; Bach/Rachmaninov Prelude, Gavotte, and Gigue; Bach/Liszt Fantasy & Fugue in G minor; Bach The Art of the Fugue


February 27, 2020 (Thursday) – Series B

We have had a lot of great Lieder recitals over the decades, but when Paul Groves opened the opera door three years ago with his stupendous Donizetti encore, "Una furtive lagrima," the audience was stammering. "America's favorite mezzo," Susan Graham, who wowed us with her recital in 2004, will join her old friend and opera-stage colleague in songs, solo arias, and duets that they have sung together on the great stages from New York to Tokyo to Paris. This will certainly be a shamelessly beautiful recital. It seems the singers will be "debating" the program until the last minute-even best friends are not beyond upstaging one-another before a sympathetic audience. The great piano accompanist, Malcolm Martineau, will be at the keyboard.

Program: To include duets from Berlioz Les Troyens and Lehar The Merry Widow, songs from Berlioz, Mahler and Duparc, arias from Donizetti and Mozart.


March 5, 2020 (Thursday) – Series A

The Jupiter String Quartet now approaches its 20th year as an ensemble after they burst onto the chamber music scene winning the top honors at the Banff and NY Fischoff competitions. A few years later they took the Cleveland Quartet and Avery Fischer Awards, confirming their ascendency from the crowded field of excellent American string quartets. The New Yorker calls them "an ensemble of eloquent intensity that has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber music scene." They have performed four hair-raisingly intense, beautiful, and extremely diverse programs here beginning with their truly stunning debut in 2007.

Program: Beethoven String Quartet Op. 132; Schubert String Quartet D. 810 Death and the Maiden


March 24, 2020 (Tuesday) – Series B

Garrick Ohlsson is one of the giants of his generation. Born in White Plains, NY, he was already at Juilliard in high school (where his friend Ax was also studying). His breakthrough was his victory at the 1970 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, where his is still a folk hero after 50 years. Ohlsson combines the brain of a musical intellectual with the virtuosic fire more typical of the 19th century, commanding more than 80 concertos, and taking on incredibly difficult projects like the complete Scriabin and Busoni. He seems to revel in the nearly impossible, for example the Busoni concerto that he played with Alan Gilbert in Cleveland last season. The Plain Dealer review noted that "few pianists on Earth have the desire, talent, and sheer fortitude to perform this concerto. His performance was a marvel of virtuosity, and he played with Olympian serenity and equanimity, dispatching the most strenuous passages with apparent ease. Even his tempestuous, thunderous episodes were less wild than inexorable."

Program: Brahms Scherzo Op. 4, Variations on a Theme of Schumann Op. 9, Piano Sonata Op. 1; Beethoven Op. 106 Hammerklavier


April 2, 2020 (Thursday) – Series B

Yefim Bronfman was born in Uzbekistan and came via Israel to New York for Juilliard as a teenager. Bronfman is equally a solo recitalist, chamber musician, and concerto soloist. His phenomenal abilities have attracted many of today's concerto composers including Salonen, Widmann, and Lindberg, who have dedicated their beautiful and fabulously difficult concertos to him. Jeremy Geffen, during his tenure as artistic director of Carnegie Hall noted, "It's such a journey to be one of the world's greatest artists. There's a tendency for people to be self-absorbed, but with "Fima" (as his friends and colleagues call him) there's never any sense of that, as if he just floated to the top through sheer breathtaking talent." The Chicago Sun Times recently reported, "Listening to Bronfman play Beethoven is like being in a crowded room when suddenly a profound conversationalist begins to speak, and everyone just steps back to listen with rapt attention."

Program: Beethoven Piano Sonatas Op. 10, Nos. 1, 2, and 3; Op 57 Appassionata


April 28, 2020 (Tuesday) – Series A

The Juilliard String Quartet began in New York in 1946 and have always been the most important American musical ambassadors on the world stage as well as teaching chamber music at the legendary New York conservatory whose name they bare. The Boston Globe calls them "the most important American quartet in history." Of course, none of the founding members are alive, but it is an uncanny fact that the quartet has always retained its unique and beautiful sound, which has always been marked by an energetic, modern aesthetic-equally at home with new music written for them and the core Classical and Romantic repertory. In a review last season titled, "New Faces, Same Strong Voice," The Washington Post hailed the new first violinist Areta Zhulla's "sparkling energy" as "a great fit for this long-respected ensemble"

Program: Beethoven String Quartets Op. 18, No 2 and Op. 131; Kurtág 12 Microludes