Imagine yourself back in March 2020, before we carried masks everywhere, learned that “Zoom” was a noun as well as a verb, and had groceries brought out to our cars. In the times before the pandemic, few of us realized how life-giving attending a concert was. We took it for granted that live music happened almost every night in Kansas City, and if we wanted to stay home one night, we could go out the next. Join Summerfest this year as we celebrate how important it is to come together, experience music, and leave enriched and transformed.
Week One: Rhapsodies
Saturday, July 8 | 7:30pm | White Recital Hall, UMKC
Sunday, July 9 | 3:00pm | St. Mary's Episcopal Church, KCMO
The first week we’re focusing on that rhapsodic feeling you get hearing expressive music played passionately. While you might know Giacchino Rossini for his operas, he also wrote Six String Sonatas when he was learning to compose, works that display youthful passions in a delightfully mature musical setting. Charles Loeffler might not be as familiar a name, but his Two Rhapsodies will have you searching out the songs he used as the basis for these aching and contemplative works. Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s String Quartet #1 “Quartettino” said composition was like gardening, with sounds growing organically in a wild display of color. Finally, Jessie Montgomery’s Strum brings American folk dances into the concert hall, ending the week with a glorious celebration.
Week Two: Atmospheres
Saturday, July 15 | 7:30pm | White Recital Hall, UMKC
Sunday, July 16 | 3:00pm | St. Mary's Episcopal Church, KCMO
Our second week moves outside the individual experience of attending a concert to explore the different music that swirls in the air around us every day. Henriëtte Bosmans grew up in a musical family, and her compact String Quartet demonstrates how much she was influenced by the music she encountered in Europe between the world wars. Stacy Garrop has always been open to the music around her, and in Bohemian Café, she imagines the music of Prague’s buskers floating through the city’s plentiful outdoor cafés. The Light is Same, Reena Esmail’s attempt to make sense of the world in late 2016, joins two Hindustani rāgas that share similar notes but seem worlds apart. And Swedish composer Franz Berwald likely heard Beethoven’s incredibly popular Septet in Stockholm and wrote his own Grand Septet in Bb Major in response, a work meant to be shared and treasured in a group setting.
Week Three: Musical Influencers
Saturday, July 22 | 7:30pm | White Recital Hall, UMKC
Sunday, July 23 | 3:00pm | St. Mary's Episcopal Church, KCMO
You’ve certainly heard of social media influencers, people who sway opinions based on their reputations and expertise on different topics. But what about musical influencers? Certainly, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would rank as one, taking genres meant as disposable entertainment and turning them into concert-worthy works others would emulate like in his Divertimento in B flat major, K. 439b, No. 1. For many years Mozart’s contemporary Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was forgotten, but in the past few years, he has regained his rightful place and young composers are learning from his exquisite pieces like his String Quartet No. 5. Franz Schubert’s vocal writing has inspired generations of composers, but even his own instrumental writing was shaped by those songs. His Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 is subtitled the “Trout” because it uses a Schubert melody of the same name which in turn became the basis of the second movement of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Quintet which she called “The Moody Trout.” Karol Beffa’s Blow Up brings the influence of the movies, jazz, and popular music into the concert hall. Finally, perhaps no composer is more of an influencer than J.S. Bach, and his Well-Tempered Clavier was passed around and studied by composers even when his other pieces were forgotten. You’ll hear those keyboard works anew in an arrangement of his Prelude in D Major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, BWV 873 for flute, clarinet, and bassoon.
Week Four: Angels and Demons
Saturday, July 29 | 7:30pm | White Recital Hall, UMKC
Sunday, July 30 | 3:00pm | St. Mary's Episcopal Church, KCMO
Summerfest’s final week balances the angels of our better nature with the desire to dance with the devil. Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich first became known for the more devilish Dance of the Blind, but this summer he’ll present our musicians in dialogue with Angels in Flight. Instead, Dana Wilson will take us Dancing with the Devil in a driving work that suitably never lets you know where you are going. You may not know the name Nora Popescu, as she is a young pianist just beginning as a composer, but with The Angel, she is giving us a beautiful and lush portrait of an angelic messenger while making us eager to see what she produces yet. And the familiar name of Astor Piazzolla rounds out our final week, combining the angelic with the devilish through a selection of his works including the delightfully danceable La Muerte del Angel.