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  • Writer's pictureGeoffrey Dean

Humoresque: 2021 Illinois Chamber Music Festival

Updated: May 28, 2022

It has been a wonderful couple of weeks here in Bloomington, Illinois, where after a virtual festival in 2020 the Illinois Chamber Music Festival is back in person! The student ensembles have been truly committed to making the best possible music, resulting in some outstanding performances, and the faculty have worked hard to bring out the full potential of each group through daily coachings and open studio classes. I have enjoyed coaching works ranging from Schumann's piano quartet to the Five Sketches for string quartet by Bulgarian composer Marin Goleminov, and performing the Villa Lobos string trio, the Dvorak piano quintet. This evening I am excited to join Leanne League (violin) and Kent Cook (piano) in the Shostokovich Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67. Kudos to Dr. Lisa Nelson, head of strings at Illinois Wesleyan University, for the skill, dedication, and joy that she puts into nurturing and nourishing our love of chamber music each summer. And an extra-special shout-out to Dr. Nina Gordon, the founding Artistic Director of the festival and a source of so much inspiration for all of us.

Naturally this post also has an Alwin Schroeder connection. Last night the ICMF student cello ensemble played a Humoresque by Julius Klengel, Schroeder's Leipzig cello colleague in the 1880s. During the winter of 1887, Karl Davydov (Carl Davidoff), their distinguished predecessor as Gewandhaus Orchestra solo cellist, visited Leipzig for the first time in twenty years. In addition to his appearances at the Gewandhaus, where he performed his own compositions to "the highest acclaim possible" (LMW, Feb. 17, 1887, p. 96), Davydov also participated in a private concert at Klengel's apartment.

Like last evening's festival concert here, that 1887 concert at Klengel's place also featured a cello ensemble. It was made up of Davydov, Klengel, Schroeder, and Leo Schulz, “a union of truly first-rate players seldom to be found together.” (MMR, April 1 1887, p. 82) They performed Klengel's Theme and Variations for four cellos for an audience of 60, made up exclusively of cellists, including students from the Leipzig Conservatory classes of Klengel and Schroeder. (Gorst, "Masters of the 'Cello" in The Cremona, Feb. 1907, p. 25) Another example of cello comradery in action!

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