Arts & Culture

Summerfest chamber music is back, featuring fan favorites and delightful discoveries

Summerfest concerts are held on Sunday afternoons at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church throughout July.
Summerfest concerts are held on Sunday afternoons at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church throughout July. Summerfest

It’s starting to feel like summer, and soon it’s going to sound like it, too. Summerfest, the annual celebration of chamber music, begins July 6, with performances every Saturday evening at White Recital Hall and Sunday afternoon at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church throughout July.

Summerfest is composed of some of the areas finest musicians, including Kansas City Symphony musicians and professors at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance as well as visitors from other cities. Every year, Summerfest presents just the right mix of favorite classics by beloved composers and delightful off-the-beaten-path works.

On the first weekend, July 6 and 7, a Divertimento by Michael Haydn and a Flute Quartet by C.P.E. Bach will be featured, along with “Short Stories” by Giovanni Sollima, an Italian composer known as the Jimi Hendrix of the cello for incorporating rock influences in his music.

The second weekend, July 13 and 14, will open with a piece of Americana, the Quartet for Winds by Arthur Berger. Kansas City composer Virgil Thomson, who was also a hard-to-please music critic, called the quartet “one of the most satisfactory pieces for winds in the whole modern repertory.” “Stories from My Grandmother” by Lembit Beecher draws on the memories of Beecher’s Estonian grandmother who survived the German and Russian occupations of her country. Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3, which some believe expresses Brahms’ unrequited love for Clara Schumann, will round out the program.

Summerfest ventures even more deeply into uncharted territory on the third weekend with works by Lior Navok and Gernot Wolfgang, two composers with whom I am totally unfamiliar. And for classical geeks like me, that’s exactly what makes Summerfest special, discovering composers and music we would otherwise have never heard.

Summerfest will conclude its season with one of Franz Joseph Haydn’s charming and witty string quartets and, as on previous weekends, works rarely heard in the concert hall, at least in Kansas City. English composer Arnold Bax’s Elegiac Trio was written in memory of his friends who died in the 1916 Irish Rebellion and Andre Jolivet’s Pastorales de Noël will provide a little Christmas in July. Bryce Dessner’s “Murder Ballades” will bring the concert and the season to a rather grisly close with music inspired by folk songs about real and imagined murders.

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Summerfest members include Kansas City Symphony musicians and professors at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance as well as visitors from other cities. AJS Summerfest

Week one: Music by Franz Joseph Haydn, Michael Haydn, Giovanni Sollima, C.P.E. Bach and Sergei Prokofiev. 7:30 p.m. July 6 at White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. and 3 p.m. July 7 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1307 Holmes.

Week two: Music by Arthur Berger, Lembit Beecher and Johannes Brahms. 7:30 p.m. July 13 at White Recital Hall and 3 p.m. July 14 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Week three: Music by Lior Navok, Frank Bridge, Gernot Wolfgang and Beethoven. 7:30 p.m. July 20 at White Recital Hall and 3 p.m. July 21 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Week four: Franz Joseph Haydn, Arnold Bax, Andre Jolivet and Bryce Dessner. 7:30 p.m. July 27 at White Recital Hall and 3 p.m. July 28 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

$10-$24. 816-235-6222 or www.summerfestkc.org.

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@kcartsbeat.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.

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