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I Soloisti Di Camerata

The Camerata di Sant'Antonio breaks tradition with a pair of concerts in new venues

How does a cultural organization continue not only to maintain itself but to grow and expand its supporter base? By constantly reinventing itself, in any way, shape, or form that may allow itself to do so.

Chris Weber, the founding music director of the Camerata di Sant’Antonio, has continuously worked to increase the public profile of his eight-year-old chamber orchestra. In the past few seasons, the Camerata has performed several concerts away from its home at St. Anthony of Padua’s RC Church, behind Buffalo City Hall, venturing out to St. Stanislaus, Our Lady Help of Christians, and Corpus Christi churches, as extra events staged outside of the four regular season concerts at St. Anthony’s. This weekend, however, marks a departure for the group, with the scheduling of a regular season concert at a pair of different venues. The group will perform concerts at 7pm on Friday, April 15, at St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church on Colonial Circle in Buffalo, and at 7pm on Sunday, April 17, at S.S. Peter and Paul RC Church, 5480 Main Street in Williamsville, with a reception to follow the encore performance. “This is the first time we’ve taken our regular season out of St. Anthony’s expressly for the purpose of increased visibility,” Weber says. “Our major problem is that lots of folks still haven’t heard of us, and very few people know about St. Anthony’s.”

Weber also notes, “This is only the second time in eight seasons that we’ve had an evening comprised of just concerti, and we’re giving two performances because we’re recording the concerts for our first CD release. We want to be sure we get some clean tracks with relatively little audience noise. Our players have put in a lot of effort over the years and I want our first recording effort to reflect that.”

The program, which will vary slightly for each event, includes the Suite for Violin and Strings by Jean Sibelius, with BPO violinist Shieh-Jian Tsai as soloist; Lars Erik Larsson’s Concertino for Cello, with BPO associate principal cellist Feng Hew as soloist; Franz Schubert’s Rondo for Violin and Strings, with BPO principal second violin Antoine Lefebvre as soloist; and Fritz Kreisler’s much-loved encore piece, Tambourin Chinois, performed by BPO violinist Nadejda Nigrin. “We have performed the Sibelius, Larsson, and Schubert works before,” Weber says. “Part of our strategy for our first recording, is to replay some works that we have under our belt.”

Naturally, a Camerata concert would not be a Camerata concert without featuring some unknown works. Both the Concerto da Camera in C Minor for Piano and Strings by Charles-Valentin Alkan and the Concertino for Oboe by Lille Bror Söderlundh are area premieres, says Weber. “Ivan Docenko is the pianist in the Alkan work, which is a real charmer, as well as a technical tour de force for the soloist,” he says. “It’s definitely been bubbling up to the top of my list of works that I wanted to program for a long time.”

Weber says that Alkan was a monumental figure in the musical life of the 19th century. At the beginning of his career he played concerts with Chopin and was close friends with all the well known Parisian figures of the time, like George Sand. “Liszt valued his musical opinions above that of all others, and he used to play for him when he came to Paris,” Weber says. “But Alkan only toured outside of Paris once, before going into seclusion for 25 years.”

Alkan, one of the greatest virtuoso pianists of his day, has achieved a certain measure of immortality due to the strange circumstances of his death. Being a strictly observant Jew, he kept his copy of the Talmud on the top shelf of his bookcase, since he felt that no other book should be shelved above the Talmud. The perhaps apocryphal story goes that he accidently toppled his bookcase, which crushed him to death, while reaching for his copy of the Talmud.

Unknown in this country, Söderlundh (1912-1957) was a Swedish composer best known in his own country as a composer of film scores. Oboist Paul Schlossman, recognized for his ability to ferret out hidden classical music gems, will be the soloist in the area premiere of Söderlundh’s Concertino for Oboe. “More than a decade ago, I bought a Swedish CD that included the Concertino,” says Schlossman, “and I fell in love with it immediately. But finding the music proved to be difficult. The publisher in Sweden was so small that they didn’t have a website or even an email address. I tried writing an old-fashioned letter but never received an answer. Then I learned that the publisher was no longer in business. Finally, about five years ago, a copy of the orchestra score turned up at a site in England. When I ordered it, I asked them if they would contact the new publisher to ask if I could buy a set of parts to perform the piece. It took about six months of pestering the publisher, but they finally allowed me to buy the parts. It’s really a lovely work, and I hope the audience will like it as much as I do.”

Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door. For more information, call 854-2563.

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