Viano String Quartet – April 29, 2022

What a wonderful concert tonight.  We both thought that the musicianship was outstanding. Thank you! L & H

Aspen String Trio – November 17, 2018

The Aspen String Trio graced the RCA on Saturday with a performance befitting the high quality usually brought to us by Chamber Music Kelowna. It is the case that ensembles performing here might recently have played, say, NYC or Toronto. Mobility is the key: Three or four ladies and/or gentlemen with violins and such are easily transportable. Thus, the quality is almost always at the highest level or thereabouts. The Aspen String Trio was thereabouts.

The first half was works of two composers, Hans Krása and Gideon Klein, who met their ends in Nazi camps, at respectively 44 and 25 years of age.  Indeed, Krása’s Passacaglia and Fugue for String Trio (1944), his Tanac (1943-44) and Klein’s String Trio (1944), were all written while they were in the camps.

But therein is the dilemma. Do we listen to these pieces strictly on their musical merits?  Or do we take into account the dire circumstances of their creation? And how exactly do you do the latter?

Alas, I fear we would not be listening to the music of Krása and Klein had they been spared the Holocaust. The music was quite mid-20th century competent, and certainly well played, but it just didn’t seem to be developing once started. I think I heard traces of Les Six, Bartók, even shades Shostakovich-like – but alas that was not enough. Where was the quality uniquely Krása or Klein? But it is difficult: how do you find fault with a 25-year old writing in a concentration camp?

The second half was a gem of the repertoire: Mozart’s Divertimento, K. 563. This trio is a conversation between three equal voices. This is lovely for viola admirers. Violas often get the necessary but yeoman work of filling in harmonies in so much of the repertoire, but Mozart was the best of writers for the viola – he did after all play the thing himself. During the playing, I wondered if the delightful variety throughout was at least partially due to Mozart’s plans to be part of the trio that first performed it. It sounded as if it might be as much a delight to play as to hear, and the Aspen Trio did not disappoint in this regard. I am duty bound to say something equivocal, so I should have wished for a wider range of tempi, dynamics and other contrasts.  But I quibble. Overall, I could not have wished to have been anywhere else in Kelowna that night – references to one of the lowest points in history followed by a straightforward example of one of the highest.

Goya Ys is a former anthropologist, lawyer, researcher in overseas development, and in a previous century a finalist at the Canadian Music Competition.

New Orford String Quartet – April 2019

                Chamber Music Kelowna concluded their 39th season Friday night with an absolutely stellar concert featuring the New Orford String Quartet. Comprised of some of North America’s finest orchestral musicians–violinists Andrew Wan and Jonathan Crow, violist Eric Nowlin, and cellist Brian Manker–the New Orford String Quartet delivered a program of profound depth and brilliant virtuosity that was enthusiastically received by their Kelowna audience.

                The program opened with a playful piece by the young clarinetist/conductor/composer Uriel Vanchestein titled Les Veuves (The Widows). Based on a somewhat bizarre poem by Richard Desjardins, the pieces tells a grim tale of disruption and deception in an indigenous community when a group of loggers raid the land of all the trees. Despite the peculiar story-line, the piece was cleverly composed, and showcased many special effects on all four string instruments including an extended passages of col legno stroke, mimicking the sound of trees being chopped down.

                The highlight of the evening was a riveting performance of the String Quartet in A minor Op. 51, No. 2 by Johannes Brahms. Featuring violinist Wan in the first violin chair, this performance clearly demonstrated why the ensemble’s recent recording of the Op. 51 Brahms Quartets won them a Juno Award in 2017. Wan’s playing was of particular note throughout the piece with all four members of the group blending seamlessly with every harmonic and rhythmic turn. The Hungarian czardas-inspired Finale was played with great gusto, style, and abandon while still remaining tastefully precise. 

                The second half of the program was dedicated to a rare performance of Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131. Comprised of seven movements played without a pause between them, this work is unlike any other string quartet written previously in terms of form and structure. While the two outer movements are written in C sharp minor, the middle movements foray into many other keys, representing a rather unusual composition style for the time. With Crow occupying the first violin chair for this work, the ensemble played with an appropriate restraint and interiority for this work. Cellist Manker’s extensive on-stage remarks gave the audience a depth of perspective about this piece that certainly enhanced the overall experience. Given the extensive amount of fugal, contrapuntal and imitative writing in this piece, the work requires exceptional interplay between the inner voices and second violinist Wan and violist Nowlin were nothing short of brilliant.

                The final Allegro movement of the Beethoven garnered an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience capping off both a wonderful season, and an exceptional season-finale concert for Chamber Music Kelowna.

Sandra Wilmot is a Kelowna-based freelance musician, composer, educator, and violin instructor. She plays professionally with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kelowna Community Music School.

St. Lawrence String Quartet – November 2, 2019

               Marking their 40th Anniversary, Chamber Music Kelowna continued their season-long celebration in fine style Saturday night by hosting a return visit from a perennial audience favorite, the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Having made their first appearance with CMK in 1997, founding members, first violinist Geoff Nuttall and violist Lesley Robertson have become well-known to Kelowna audiences, along with cellist Christopher Costanza who joined the group in 2003. Saturday night’s concert marked the first appearance in Kelowna for the newest member of the quartet, second violinist Owen Dalby.

                This season the SLSQ is marking their own milestone of 30 years since the quartet was formed in Toronto in 1989; even after over a quarter-century of touring internationally and establishing themselves as veterans in the string quartet world, the SLSQ has managed to retain a sense of youthful exuberance and reckless abandon that is rarely seen in established ensembles today.

                The program opened with Haydn’s String Quartet in D, Op. 76. No. 5. After sweeping onto the stage to hearty applause from the packed house at the Mary Irwin Theatre, Nuttall immediately launched into an enthusiastic preamble about F. J. Haydn, who both founded and (according to Nuttall) perfected the string quartet genre. The ensemble’s colourful interpretation and riveting performance had the audience on the edge of their seats for the duration of this four-movement work. Thanks to the auditorium lights being only partially dimmed, and the unfiltered musical enthusiasm and theatrical charisma emanating from the stage, the audience was spared the usual dozing and general classical music stupor that too often settles in at such concerts.

                The Haydn was followed by the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 112 by Camille Saint-Saens, a somewhat rarely played masterpiece from 1899. Very symphonic in nature, this work gave all the members of the quartet a chance to shine. The lyrical third movement garnered some unexpected and spontaneous applause from the audience, and while rattling some of the stalwart concertgoers, the SLSQ was un-fazed and launched head-on into the fiery and relentless fourth movement that concluded this dramatic work.

                The concert closed with Beethoven’s final string quartet Op. 135, No.16. Nuttall described this work as a “distillation of the classical string quartet” and Beethoven’s use of the “Muss es sein?” motif has led many scholars to suggest that Beethoven was intending this work to be a “summation of the human experience.” This was certainly a highlight of the program and the quartet’s mastery of ensemble really shone in this performance.

                After an enthusiastic standing ovation, the SLSQ returned to the stage to perform a poignant encore, the second movement from Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76, No.3 the “Emperor” which brought the evening full circle.

Sandra Wilmot is a Kelowna-based freelance musician, composer, educator, and violin instructor. She plays professionally with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kelowna Community Music School.

Survey Comments – October 2020

An impressive organization professionally run by a very dedicated group of volunteer music lovers. Really a pleasure to have such high calibre groups brought right here to Kelowna for all of us to enjoy. Thank you! 
VM, Subscriber, Chamber Music Kelowna Society

Love the eclectic selections of artists and enjoy the experience this provides and always something to discover either in performing artists or selection of music. 
LM, Subscriber, Chamber Music Kelowna Society

What makes you special is the outstanding quality of the artists you engage. Thank you! 
E& FP, Subscribers, Chamber Music Kelowna Society

Thank you for keeping in touch. My husband and I look forward to a time when we can return to the concert hall to enjoy more wonderful live chamber music performances. 
Dr. CMcG, Subscriber, Chamber Music Kelowna Society

James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong: Duo masters Beethoven- January 23, 2020

Chamber Music Kelowna certainly hit the right chord on Monday night, welcoming back two outstanding musicians to the stage at the Mary Irwin Theatre; violinist James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong.

Ehnes is no stranger to Kelowna audiences having made three previous appearances with Chamber Music Kelowna, and has the distinction of being the Honorary Patron for the organization’s 40th anniversary season in 2019-20.

Returning to the stage alongside Ehnes was his long-time colleague and friend, pianist Andrew Armstrong. The program consisted of three of Beethoven’s celebrated sonatas for violin and piano, which were the perfect repertoire match for these two incredible musicians.

Those patrons lucky enough to score tickets to this memorable concert were most certainly awed not only by Ehnes’ gorgeous tone and flawless technique, but by the versatility and clarity of Armstrong’s playing as well. The Steinway piano on the stage at the Rotary Centre for the Arts sounded like a completely different instrument under Armstrong’s fingers and it is unfortunate that Kelowna lacks a grand piano equal to the calibre of such an artist.

Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 30 No. 1 opened the program. Written in 1802, this work pre-dates the tumultuous phase Beethoven was about to enter as he struggled to come to terms with his increasing deafness. An absolute master of dynamic contrast, Beethoven crafts every phrase with meticulous detail and Armstrong and Ehnes navigated this witty work with ease and virtuosity.

The first half continued with the Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2. Considerably more brooding and dramatic than the previous six sonatas, this work is almost symphonic in scope given its four-movement structure. Of special note was the Adagio cantabile movement played with tender poise by both musicians.

The Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”) consumed the entire second half of the program. This massive work is a culmination of Beethoven’s efforts through his 10 violin sonatas to establish the piano and violin as equal partners (in many cases even allocating the piano a more significant role than the violin), which deviated significantly from the treatment of the form by his predecessors.

Although dedicated to the great French violinist Rudolf Kreutzer, this sonata was ironically never actually performed by him.

As Ehnes elaborated on in his onstage remarks, upon receiving the manuscript Kreutzer pronounced it “extraordinarily incomprehensible” and promptly filed it away.

This work demands concerto-like virtuosity and stamina from both players and despite its extravagant structure, it also contains plenty of nuance and intimate conversation between piano and violin which was masterfully captured by Ehnes and Armstrong.

After an immediate standing ovation, the duo returned to play the slow movement, Adagio molto espressivo, from Beethoven’s beloved Violin Sonata No. 5 in F major, Op. 24 (“Spring”). SW

Sandra Wilmot is a Kelowna-based freelance musician, composer, educator, and violin instructor. She plays professionally with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kelowna Community Music School.

Tafelmusik – Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed last night’s absolutely marvellous performance!  The use of dialogue, photos and music was so engaging.  Coming from Toronto, I love the calibre of the performers you bring to Kelowna and I marvel at the value you provide for us, annual subscribers.  I wonder how many realize what we would pay for these experiences if we lived in the big cities?  Please pass along my remarks to your Board and other volunteers and tell them just how much my wife and I and so many others appreciate all that they do.  S.

I think the theatre is just the right size, the acoustics are good and the people well behaved (no coughing etc.).  The music and visuals were very good and “entertaining”. I liked the moving around of the musicians rather than the usual static .  The whole was well organized and Kelowna can be proud of this event.  J.

Imani Winds – April 1, 2017

I just wanted to send you this little note of feedback (see below) about yesterday’s educational session… people really enjoy it and I thought you would like to know about it.   Also, another couple mentioned to me how much they appreciated receiving the program ahead of time. They are avid Chamber members who drive in from south Okanagan and they tend to research program material before performances.   I thoroughly enjoyed the evening performance. My favourites… the Scheherazade and Mediterranean Dance. Thank you for bringing this great talent to Kelowna.          E

It was such a treat to hear the Imani Winds at the recent Chamber Music Kelowna concert. There are not a lot of professional wind quintets out there these days, but you brought in one of the best. I enjoyed their energy and fine playing, as well as their program. It was great to hear a mix of transcriptions and works originally for quintet. As a professional wind player myself, it was fun to listen to conversations in the lobby during the intermission and after the concert, and hear the opinions of other audience members experiencing a wind quintet for the first time. I so appreciate the diversity that Chamber Music Kelowna brings to the stage and am looking forward to next season’s lineup! KD

Piano Masterclass with André Laplante – Saturday Nov. 26, 2016

I had 3 students play for André….it was a delightful experience… he was so patient and helpful and encouraging…with such a kind and gentle manner….thanks to CMK for making it possible… JB

Concert and Piano Masterclass with our guest artist on Saturday Nov. 26, 2016

Amazing concert!!!! Thank you sooooooooo much!! …the masterclass was so interesting.  As a singer and not a piano player I still learned so much…thank you for generously hosting this masterclass. AJX