It Takes a Village to Make This Festival Happen

Hosting Norfolk Chamber Music Festival Fellows is an integral part of the program’s success and the Fellows’ experience. We talk to two long-time hosts about why they open their home year after year.

Fellows greeting a Host

Most people who come to a Norfolk Chamber Music Festival performance understand that the Festival doesn’t just “happen,” that it takes a dedicated staff — everyone from administrators to grounds crews and cooks — to ensure the Fellows have what they need and that each concert goes off without a hitch. What people may not realize is how much residents of  the of the town of Norfolk itself are involved. It literally takes a village to make the Festival work. MORE

Published June 8, 2018
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Melvin Chen on the Summer of 2018

It may still be frosty and cold in Connecticut, but Director Melvin Chen is already thinking about summer breezes and what’s going to happen at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival for the summer of 2018.

By just about any measurement, Chen’s inaugural season as Director was a rousing success. Last summer he expanded the performance opportunities of the Fellows to include regular performances with the Artist Faculty performing on the Friday evening concerts, created a themed mini-Festival within the overall summer schedule (the focus was Dvořák and his musical influences), and he expanded pre-concert talks. MORE

Published February 16, 2018
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How Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Helped Us Win an Award

Rolston String Quartet (from left to right): Jeffrey Dyrda, violin – Luri Lee, violin – Jonathan Lo, cello – Hezekiah Leung, viola

The Rolston String Quartet (Norfolk ’16) credits attending the Norfolk Festival’s Chamber Music Session with helping them win the 2016 Banff International String Quartet competition. Cellist Jonathan Lo explains why. MORE

Published December 5, 2017
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Donna Yoo (Norfolk ’04) On How The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival Informed Her Life

It’s been over a decade since Donna Yoo (Norfolk ’04) attended the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival’s Chamber Music Session, and she’s still close to the quintet she played with that summer. Not bad for a group that was randomly formed by the Eastman School of Music faculty when they were freshman.

They called themselves Destino Winds. “It was as if we were put together by destiny,” Yoo says of the name. “Historically, these groups don’t stay together. We were the only freshmen quintet that stayed together all four years.” MORE

Published December 5, 2017
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Pianist Ilya Poletaev On The Art Of Listening

By Janet Reynolds

Pianist Ilya Poletaev (Norfolk ’04) is a musical triple threat, as at home on the piano keyboard as he is on that of the organ or harpsichord. He’s also a master of many musical tasks and styles. While many musicians focus on orchestral careers or perhaps that of a soloist, Poletaev literally has his fingers in many worlds. MORE

Published August 12, 2017
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Violinist Jennifer Frautschi

By Janet Reynolds

Violinist Jennifer Frautschi Performs at Norfolk Chamber Music FestivalThis summer may mark violinist Jennifer Frautschi’s first visit to Norfolk, but it’s also is a reunion with her long-time friend, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival Director Melvin Chen.“I’ve known Melvin since he was a teen from the Aspen Music Festival,” she says. “I started attending when I was 12, and Melvin and his brother were there.”

Frautschi has led a busy professional life since those teen years. She’s a two-time GRAMMY®- Award nominee and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient who performs with orchestras around the world. And she is a regular at music festivals as well, including Ojai, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Moab, Bridgehampton, and Salt Bay. Today, when she’s not performing, Frautschi teaches at Stonybrook University. MORE

Published August 8, 2017
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Violinist Harumi Rhodes’ First Visit to Norfolk

By Janet Reynolds

Harumi Rhodes on Performing at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival

This summer may mark violinist Harumi Rhodes’ first visit to Norfolk, but in another way it’s a return to her past. She and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival Director Melvin Chen are close friends, who have played together in chamber music ensembles before.

The music Rhodes will be performing is a return to the familiar as well. In her first performance, the August 4th concert devoted to Dvořák in America, Rhodes will be playing in Dvořák’s Viola Quintet, a piece she calls “one of the most fun pieces to play.” The String Quartet in E-flat Major, sometimes called the “American” String Quintet, was written while Dvořák was living in Iowa and reflects the native influences Dvořák was hearing at the time. “It’s a piece of all kinds of flavors,” Rhodes says. “There are Native American and African American spiritual folk songs embedded, a combination of voices.” The extra viola, meanwhile, “adds a beautiful richness to the texture.” MORE

Published July 25, 2017
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Joshua Gindele on Dvořák, Norfolk
and Yes … Tennis

By Janet Reynolds

The Miró Quartet is a Norfolk alumni group, having been at the Festival in the summers of 1996 and 1998. Since then, the Quartet, which is the quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas at Austin, has won numerous awards, including being chosen as the first ensemble to win the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2005.

Cellist Joshua Gindele remembers those summers fondly. “We love it there. It was a formative place for the quartet,” he says. (The Quartet formed in 1995.) “We love that there are not many distractions.”

They are excited as well, Gindele says, with the overall focus on Dvořák. “The thing with Dvořák for us is he was innovative,” he says. “He wrote very distinct textures for each part. He was able to make sometimes three or four textures work brilliantly together. Playing music like that lets us each play with a lot of character. When Dvořák is played really well, you can hear all those voices playing in harmony.” MORE

Published July 15, 2017
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Chris Brubeck and Triple Play

By Janet Reynolds

Editor’s Note: Every summer Norfolk Chamber Music Festival opens its doors and grounds to the community for an afternoon of  free events. Want to introduce your children to live music in a family-friendly setting? This is the way to do it. The Open House, which is on Sunday, July 16 beginning at 2:00 p.m., is entirely free and includes an ice cream social, tours of the historic Whitehouse, a concert by the Festival’s Fellows, games, and for the finale, a performance by Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play. We caught up with Brubeck — yes, son of Dave Brubeck — on his busy touring schedule to talk a bit about how he got into music and why he’s excited about this particular gig.

Chris Brubeck is no stranger to Norfolk. He has played at the Festival with his father, the legendary jazz pianist and composer, Dave Brubeck. “Norfolk is one of the greatest situations in all of Connecticut in terms of musical traditions,” Chris says.

As a child, Brubeck was also conscious of Norfolk because his brother took cello lessons from Yale School of Music professor and Festival regular, Aldo Parisot, who was also a good friend of Brubeck’s father. “All his kids are contemporaneous with me,” Brubeck says. “We’re all still good friends.” It makes Norfolk feel, he adds, “more of an extended family concept.” MORE

Published July 11, 2017
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Tara Helen O’Connor On Why the Flute and Why She Loves Norfolk

By Janet Reynolds

For flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, her upcoming performance on Friday, July 14, at the Norfolk Festival is a homecoming.  She was a Fellow in 1989, at the beginning of her career, an experience she calls “life changing.”

“The faculty was incredibly generous with their time and expertise,” she says. “We worked really hard, practiced all day. The whole vibe there was so enriching, so warm, so life changing. It really cemented my desire to pursue music as a career at all costs.”

Yale School of Music faculty member and flutist Thomas Nyfenger was O’Connor’s teacher while she was at Norfolk. “I had such wonderful coaching from him,” she says, “and then the whole Faculty was in the dining room and we got to hang out together. My fondest memories are from Norfolk playing chamber music.” MORE

Published July 11, 2017
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Jeffrey Douma on Conducting the Human Voice

Conductor Jeffrey Douma may have grown up playing the cello, but when he was a junior in high school, he heard a really good choir and that, as they say, was that. “The first time I really heard a good choir, I realized how remarkable the sound of an a cappella choir could be,” he says, noting he had always sung but never taken it seriously. “I realized that’s where my heart was.”

“I love orchestral and instrumental music, but I do think there’s something even more direct and emotionally profound about the sound of human voice,” he continues. “It’s very personal and also very mysterious.”

While some might assume that singing is easier to do than, say, playing the trombone, Douma doubts it. “Most people don’t have a lot of ideas of how vocal sounds are produced,” he says. “As I’m speaking to you, I’m creating all these different vowels and consonants. My mouth and tongue are creating a complicated series of small manipulations to create these sounds.” MORE

Published June 15, 2017
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Martin Bresnick on The Passions of Bloom

By Janet Reynolds

Editor’s note: Composer Martin Bresnick has a long history with Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. We did a profile of him last year that you can read.

 Martin Bresnick

This year, however, marks a very special event: the premiere on June 21 of Bresnick’s Whitman, Melville and Dickinson—Passions of Bloom with the Yale Choral Artists. The oratorio, which is inspired by Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, celebrates three American literary icons—Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman—and Yale literature professor and renowned American literary critic, Harold Bloom. We talked to Bresnick about his inspirations for this work. MORE

Published June 9, 2017
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Meet the Festival’s New Director

As most of you know, Melvin Chen has joined the Festival as the new Director. We begin our “Meet The Director” Series with a few questions and answers that we hope will help you get to know him a little.


What was the first work of music that grabbed your attention? Any thoughts of what specifically hit you from that piece? MORE

Published November 14, 2016
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A Chat with Simon Carrington

By Janet Reynolds

SimonCarrington.by.unknownIf you want a musical sampler of choral music, you won’t want to miss the Norfolk  Choral Festival, a concert of music from the Renaissance to the 21st century performed Saturday, August 20. Conducted in part by the acclaimed choral director  Simon Carrington, who leads the Festival’s week-long choral workshop, the concert will feature works by Mozart, Bach, Byrd, as well as 21st century composers Trumbore, Whitacre and Crabtree. Twenty-four professional singers from around the world will perform, accompanied by the Norfolk Festival Chamber Orchestra. MORE

Published August 11, 2016
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A Chat with Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

By Janet Reynolds

RichardStoltzman.byLisaMarieMazzucoClarinetist Richard Stoltzman is well known to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival-goers. He started as a student there in the 1960s and has returned to perform many summers since.

This time around Stoltzman is mixing the old with the new, performing in a Beethoven trio and a piece by contemporary composer Martin Bresnick. (Bresnick directs Norfolk’s New Music Workshop. You can read an interview with him here.)

While Stoltzman is excited to revisit the Beethoven trio, he’s particularly intrigued by the Bresnick trio, which is enigmatically titled  * * * .  “I have minimal knowledge of this,” he says on the phone from a restaurant. “I don’t even know what the three asterisks are for. This is a mystery piece for me.” MORE

Published July 21, 2016
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A Chat with An Unlikely Muse Creator Harry Clark

By Janet Reynolds

Johannes_Brahms_pic_midcareer

Johannes Brahms

Cellist Harry Clark calls himself a “doubler.” But unlike other musicians who play two instruments professionally — itself fairly rare— Clark is a professional cellist and playwright.

As he notes in his website biography, “I know of one banjoist-playwright doubler — Steve Martin.” (Who, some might suggest, is actually a tripler since he’s also a comedian.)

Specifically, Clark has expanded his interest in music to create a series of musical portraits, or staged readings with live music, that portray moments in musical history. He has written nearly 50 of these staged performances since he started, featuring everyone from Tchaikovksy, Dvořák and Satie to Liszt and Astor Piazzolla. His latest portrait, An Unlikely Muse, will be performed at Norfolk on Aug. 13. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Min Jung Kim, Director, New Britain Museum of American Art

By Janet Reynolds

Music Room at Whitehouse

Whitehouse Music Room, Norfolk

The turn of the 20th century was a time when many of America’s prominent families collected art, creating mini-museums in their homes. Ellen Battell Stoeckel and her family were part of that movement, and you have a rare opportunity to see their impressive collection of American art on Saturday, July 23.

That’s when Min Jung Kim, director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, will give a talk in the room in Whitehouse where the art has been displayed for decades. Standing amongst the Hudson River School artists and others represented in this impressive collection, Kim will talk about the symbiosis between this private collection and the impressive collections of American art at the NBMAA. The talk begins at 4 and is followed by a picnic dinner and live performance by the Bretano String Quartet. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Brentano String Quartet
Cellist Nina Lee

By Janet Reynolds

Nina Lee

Cellist Nina Lee has a busy week coming up at the festival. This weekend, she’s performing Friday and Saturday nights, and next Saturday, July 23, the Bretano Quartet, where she is the regular cellist, will perform alone before being joined by Norfolk Festival Fellows, the Argus Quartet, in the iconic Mendelssohn Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20.

It’s a fairly typical week for Lee, who says the quartet, which is in residence at Yale School of Music when it’s not on the road, performs about 60 times annually. MORE

Published July 12, 2016
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A Chat With Pianist Boris Berman

By Janet Reynolds

Boris Berman, piano facultyJoining a quartet, even one that a musician has played with a number of times, can be a delicate dance. After all, the quartet is a finely-tuned machine, each player aware of every nuance of colleagues who have played together for years, even decades. Add another instrument and you’ve got the proverbial fifth wheel.

It’s a dance that pianist Boris Berman loves. “You realize they have performed it on many occasions and I have performed on various occasion,” Berman says of the coming together. “They have their vision and I have my vision. To find the way to creating one and not individual interpretations at the same time is a challenge. It’s a fascinating task. But it’s the challenge that makes it so enjoyable.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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Letters from Argentina:
A Chat With Héctor del Curto

By Janet Reynolds

People often think of rhythm when they call up tango music. But the real heart of all things tango is the bandoneón.

delCurto_playingWe caught up with Héctor del Curto, who will be performing on the opening special event on July 8 (An Evening of Tangos), to learn more about this instrument.

The bandoneón originated in Germany and was invented to replace the organ for use in processions. The bandoneon is a small portable organ that comes from the concertina.

It is also a tricky instrument to play. “The keyboard has no logic. There is no order in the buttons so all the notes are mixed. With a chromatic scale you go all over the place,” del Curto says before ending with a joke. “It was created in Germany — they drink a lot so that’s why the instrument is like that.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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[ Artist Interview ]

New Music Workshop:
A Chat With Martin Bresnick

By Janet Reynolds

Composer/conductor Martin Bresnick is a master of the new. As the longtime director of the festival’s New Music Workshop, Bresnick loves helping burgeoning composers and young musicians bring to life the notes on their pages.

And Norfolk, a festival steeped in history but forward-looking in its commitment to contemporary music, is the perfect place to do it, he says. “In some ways Norfolk is the ideal circumstance for the ideal listener. It’s so intimate and you’re guaranteed everybody is participating in it. The audience, too, really wants to be there and is excited to find out what’s next.”

What’s new in classical music is more varied these days than previous time periods, says Bresnick, a prolific composer himself. “These days audiences are more receptive because the music being created is not stylistically uniform,” he explains. “If you don’t like one, you might like another.” MORE

Published June 28, 2016
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