Rarely has there been a composer who knows no bounds—literally.
Johannes Brahms is that composer, and Market Square Concerts will turn up the temperature this summer when it shows how Brahms impacted, touched and inspired music outside of his native Germany.
Need proof? Then MSC’s Summermusic 2019, titled “Brahms Beyond Borders” on July 13, 21 and 24 at Market Square Presbyterian Church, is sure to offer plenty of evidence. Audiences will discover the stylistic similarities between Brahms’ work and those of Hungarian, Czech, Danish and other German composers.
“The idea behind ‘Brahms Beyond Borders’ is to show the influence of Brahms on composers in several different countries, some of whom were his contemporaries and some who lived well into the second half of the 20th century,” said Peter Sirotin, MSC director. “Through juxtaposition of particular pieces, listeners can recognize how these composers adapted such features of Brahms’s style as use of a particular timbre or combination of instruments to communicate a mood, use of subtle rhythmical changes in an accompanying part to transform the atmosphere of the melodic line, as well as his use of Central European folk elements.”
According to Sirotin, Brahms was a perfectionist whose own high demands resulted in his musical masterpieces being an integral part of the classical playbook.
“He burned anything that was remotely questionable to him,” Sirotin said. “Just like Beethoven before him, Brahms elevated every musical form he touched to new heights, expanding both its scope and emotional content.”
Brahms, Beethoven and other great composers of their day welcomed musical summer retreats, Sirotin said, yearning to escape the hustle and bustle of cities to the peace and beauty of nature, where their creativity thrived.
“I believe, today, enjoying live performances of chamber music is still a wonderful addition to our summer retreat, especially if it is also a retreat from ever-present technology,” Sirotin said.
That retreat is a special treat for Sirotin, who gets to share the stage with his wife, pianist Ya-Ting Chang, on July 13. With Sirotin on violin, the duo, along with Fiona Thompson, principal cellist of the Harrisburg Symphony, and violist Michael Stepniak, dean of Shenandoah Conservatory, will perform Piano Quartet Op. 25 by Brahms. Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra Maestro Stuart Malina then will join Sirotin for the A Major Piano Quartet Op. 26.
On July 21, Sirotin, Stepniak and Thompson will join up with cellist Cheung Chau, violist Blanka Bednarz and violinist Leonid Ferents to perform String Quintets by Hungarian Carl Goldmark, one of Brahms’s closest friends, and by Antonin Dvorak, a Czech composer and Brahms’s protégé. The same group of musicians will perform String Sextets by Niels Gade on July 24.
By September, summer may be winding down, but the Market Square Concerts 2019-20 series will just be beginning. Market Square Presbyterian Church will provide the backdrop for the opening recital by acclaimed violinist Midori, who will perform music by Brahms and Faure.
“Midori, one of the world’s best classical violinists, has been thrilling audiences around the world for over three decades,” Sirotin said. “She has been recognized with many awards and, in 2007, was named a ‘United Nations Messenger of Peace.’”
On Nov. 9, the Schumann Quartet will perform music by Mozart, Alban Berg and Grieg, a day after performing it at Lincoln Center.
Come January, the performance site switches to Whitaker Center, where the Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion ensemble will bring a program of music by contemporary American composers, including one percussion work by Phillip Glass. Included with this visit by the musical group will be two educational events—one for school-aged children and a masterclass for Messiah College students.
Come February, Temple Ohev Shalom will be the performance site featuring Romanian cellist, Andrei Ionita, a gold medal winner of the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Competition.
“He will be performing a wonderfully eclectic program ranging from Bach’s soulful Suite No. 1 for Cello Solo to Zoltan Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello, a pinnacle of virtuosity in the cello repertoire,” Sirotin said.
The final two concerts of the series return to Market Square Presbyterian Church with clarinetist David Shifrin, cellist Peter Wiley and pianist Anna Polonsky performing Nino Rota, Alexander Zemlinsky and others on March 21, and a celebration of Stuart Malina’s 20th anniversary as the artistic director of the Harrisburg Symphony on April 26.
Sirotin puts much thought and care into what will go into his season’s repertoire, but for him, first and foremost, it’s about which great pieces will thrill central PA audiences.
“I do a lot of research in order to bring the best established and emerging artists to our community,” Sirotin said. “The process always starts with the music. Then I try to find musicians who would offer truly extraordinary performances of these works.”