Making a connection

Forums, chamber music bring artists to life

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— French lectures and music will expound at the base of Steamboat Ski Area next week as Strings in the Mountains celebrates its fourth week of the season.

Following Tuesday's sold-out magic and illusion show with Bradley Fields and a recital from the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medalist, Wednesday at the Strings tent in Torian Plum Plaza offers the highlights of French chamber music and its musicians.

For the free musical talks and small pieces of the sounds, Kenneth Greene offers "Debussy and the French Connection" at 5:30 p.m. The free presentation gives a more in-depth perspective on the chamber music and composers presented at Thursday night's "The French Connection."

Betse Grassby, executive director of Strings, said she thinks the Thursday chamber music always is so special because of the musical talks the night before.

Katherine Collier and husband Yizhak Schotten compose the classical music programs for Strings. Collier said the musical talks originate from Thursday night's theme.

"He looks at the music that we've picked and picks one composer to highlight and tie in as the most interesting," Collier said of Greene's selection.

Greene said he particularly chose Debussy to highlight because the piece Collier and Schotten chose to play is not reproduced very often.

"At that time, French music was coming out of a long period where Germanic music was more popular," Greene said of the French composers finally getting into the spotlight. "(Debussy) wrote this piece toward the end of his life."

And because the harp is not used very often in chamber music, he thought talking about the beauty and sound of a harp for the musical lecture would be most inspiring to the audience.

Greene currently is a professor and the chair of the music department at Trinity University and has a long list of musical performing experiences with the violin and the viola dating back to the early 1970s.

Grassby said the chamber music Thursday night is an international gathering of exceptional artists: Lorna McGhee, a Scottish flutist; Piers Lane, an English pianist; Martin Beaver, a Canadian violinist; Heidi Krutzen, principal harpist of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra; and David Hardy, principal cellist of the National Symphony.

"You know what's really going to be fun is the instrumentation," Grassby said. "McGhee is an incredible flutist. You have flute, harp and the regular strings."

Collier said she and Schotten outline which musicians and instruments they have playing that week.

"When you have harp, it's a given that you do French music. There is so much chamber music written with harp from French composers," Schotten said.

Thursday evening will begin with McGhee, David Harding and Krutzen performing Debussy, a Sonata for flute, viola and harp.

Debussy was a French composer of the early 20th century.

McGhee came to North America in 1998 and has established her presence by performing solo concerts in music festivals while continuing to tour around Europe. McGhee is on the music faculty at the University of British Columbia and once served at the University of Michigan.

Martinu is presented next by McGhee, Beaver and Collier in a madrigal sonata for flute, violin and piano.

Although Martinu is not French, he lived in France as a Czech composer and wrote a lot of chamber music, Schotten said.

"He's a wonderful Czech composer and immigrated to the U.S.," Schotten said of the mid-20th century composer.

Beaver has a lengthy history of playing with outstanding orchestras and teaching the brightest new stars throughout the world.

Lane, considered a genius pianist, will perform Faur Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 15, with Beaver, Harding and Hardy.

Faurived in the late 19th century and was a French composer.

"There is a standard in the musical repertoire that the last piece (of chamber music) should always be a romantic piece. It's most exciting to the audience and the players," Schotten said.

Lane, born in London, raised in Australia and based in London again, teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and has reaped success since childhood.

Hardy is a native of Baltimore, Md., and began his cello studies at 8 years old. In 1982, Hardy received international recognition as the top American prize-winner at the Seventh International Tchaikovsky Cello Competition in Moscow. Hardy plays a cello made by Carlo Guiseppe Testore in 1694.

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