For the first time in three years, about 60 young musicians will gather in Sarasota to study with professionals and perform three weeks of chamber and orchestral concerts during the annual Sarasota Music Festival.
The Sarasota Orchestra-sponsored festival, which began as a one-week event in 1965, was canceled because of COVID in 2020. Last year, Artistic Director Jeffrey Kahane organized a series of concerts performed in front of limited audiences and no students, or fellows, studying.
“We can call it a renewal and a return as we celebrate as many different aspects of what we do,” Kahane said.
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Each week, the fellows, who are chosen from hundreds of applicants, perform in their own concerts called Rising Stars, and join with faculty members for chamber and orchestra programs. This year’s festival runs June 5-25.
Kahane said he wanted to mix up the standard schedule, which usually called for chamber concerts on Fridays and orchestra programs on Saturday nights. And he is expanding musical styles while putting a new focus on composer/performers.
They include Jeffrey Scott, a prominent French horn virtuoso in both the classical and jazz worlds. “And he is a fantastic composer,” Kahane said. “He’ll be introducing one of his pieces, a tribute to ragtime, that he’ll also be coaching and teaching.”
Scott’s “Startin’ Sumthin’,” will be performed June 17 in the Sarasota Opera House in a program that also features Caroline Shaw’s “Stucco & Brocatelle” and works by Bach and Handel.
Shaw will appear in person with Kahane’s son Gabriel Kahane for a “Creative Voices” program on June 21 in Holley Hall.
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“They are two of the most gifted composer/performers/instrumentalists around,” Kahane said, adding that he is not just trying to promote his own son. “It’s a whole evening of their own music, where they’ll be playing and singing and playing with eight of our string fellows in a string ensemble.” There also will be a question and answer session following the concert.
Gabriel Kahane’s most recent album “Magnificent Bird” was released in March.
The Calidore String Quartet, which performed last summer, returns to open the festival (and to teach) in concerts on June 9 and 10. Two of its members, Ryan Meehan and Jeremy Berry, are alumni of the festival. On June 11, another alum, pianist Ya-Fei Chuang, will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor in a concert led by guest conductor Yaniv Dinur. The concert also includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and Jessie Montgomery’s “Starburst.”
Jeffrey Kahane and longtime faculty member and former artistic director Robert Levin will talk about musical topics related to the festival, providing insight on some of the pieces and composers being featured at 1 p.m. June 15 in Holley Hall.
Levin will be the piano soloist for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in a June 18 program that Kahane will conduct also featuring Brahms’ Sextet for Strings No. 2, Op. 36 and Rameau’s “Entree de Polymnie.”
Violinist Francesca Anderegg, another festival alum, will be the guest soloist for Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor in a concert that also features George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings” and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major (“Italian”). The Mendelssohn piece will be performed by the Sarasota orchestra at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Kahane said the festival will take some COVID precautions, including having participants wearing masks when possible. “We’re doing everything in our power to make it as normal as possible as a festival. There may be fewer master classes open to the public.”
This year will feature about seven new faculty members, and about the same number of fellows who expected to be part of the 2020 festival are returning this year.
Kahane said despite the challenges of the pandemic and its impact on the arts world, “one of the things that was particularly heartwarming was the number of applicants was huge. I believe it was the most we’ve had in at least a couple decades.”
And Kerry Smith, the orchestra’s director of artistic planning, said “the adjudicators said it was one of the highest quality” group of fellows they have had.
Kahane said that isn’t a surprise. There is a pent-up demand for such programs “and a hunger to do things that they hadn’t been able to do, but the level of players in our conservatories and younger players keeps getting higher. It’s just amazing and I think we will hear that in the performances.”
Sarasota Music Festival
Concerts are presented in Holley Hall, 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Ticket information: 941-953-3434; sarasotaorchestra.org
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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Young musicians return for June training at 2022 Sarasota Music Fest