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World’s `finest performers’ to perform tonight in Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn

As David Shifrin, clarinetist and artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, puts it, the mission of the society is “the finest performers, playing the greatest repertoire, with the most thorough preparation.”

The Chamber Music Society has had little trouble attracting the finest artists. The current roster includes players like bassist Edgar Meyer; violinists Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, Ani Kavafian and Ida Kavafian; cellist Fred Sherry; and the Orion String Quartet, all recognized as some of the best instrumentalists in classical music.

Shifrin has no hesitation in trumpeting the greatness of the repertoire. Since 1969, the Chamber Music Society – like the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and Jazz at Lincoln Center – has been performing chamber pieces by the most noted composers, past and present, and commissioning new works to add to the repertoire.

“The chamber music repertoire is as deep as symphonic music or opera,” said Shifrin, who has been a member of the Chamber Music Society since 1989, and the artistic director for 10 years. “It’s as rich as any other genre. We explore the depths of chamber music.”

Most recently, Shifrin and his colleagues have had the opportunity to show just how committed they are to the third element of the equation, the preparation for each concert.

The group’s current tour – which brings them to Aspen for a concert tonight at Harris Hall, as part of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Artist Recital series – was to feature a sextet that included violinist Jimmy Lin. Under normal circumstances, arranging tours and rehearsal time is a challenge, as each member of the ensemble is a noted and busy soloist. But when Lin’s wife became overdue in delivering the couple’s child, contingency arrangements had to be made.

In stepped Daniel Phillips, violinist with the Orion String Quartet, the Chamber Music Society’s member quartet. Phillips not only had to clear his schedule for the tour, which stops in Chicago, Wisconsin, Edmonton, Calgary and Wyoming before hitting Aspen, but also had to attend rehearsals of the violin pieces.

The commitment to preparation paid off: Lin has had to cancel his appearance, and Phillips will join Shifrin, violist Paul Neubauer, cellist Gary Hoffman, bassist Edgar Meyer, and pianist Andr-Michel Schub in tonight’s concert.

The program will include Meyer’s New Work for Clarinet, Cello and Bass, which was premiered on the current tour; as well as Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A and Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A, the “Trout” quintet.

The Chamber Music Society’s commitment to preparation can also be gauged by the fact that, when Shifrin was two hours late for an interview with The Aspen Times, it was because the group was in a six-hour session, working on the new Meyer composition. No one from the group’s administrative department dared to interrupt the rehearsal.

Shifrin said that the members of the ensemble get as much out of their work in the Chamber Music Society as they put into it. Because of the small size of the group, and the high level of artistry and commitment of each player, the experience of participating is unusually rich.

“It’s the best chance the artists have of presenting the music at the highest level,” said Shifrin. “You have the most control, because it’s portable and it’s flexible.”

And the nature of chamber music, said Shifrin, allows for each musician’s contribution to be amplified in a way that it wouldn’t in an orchestral setting.

“It’s very personal,” said Shifrin. “You can hear each individual’s singular part. You can see and hear the individual contribution of each individual player.”


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