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Roycroft returns to East Aurora

Roycroft Returns to East Aurora
Two weekends of chamber music begin this Saturday

The identity of the village of East Aurora is inextricably entwined with Elbert Hubbard and the influential Roycroft community of craft workers and artists that he founded in 1895. A group of community activists helped to preserve the legacy of that community and movement by founding the Roycroft Campus in 1989. Just a few years later in 1993, two talented locally-based musicians, violinist Nancy McFarland Gaub, who was then a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and her husband, pianist and educator Eugene Gaub, decided to build on that synergy by founding the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival, a two weekend event that featured some of the finest area musicians along with equally talented, but geographically distant performers.

For the past 21 years, the artistic director couple has continued to organize and lead their festival, attracting the same high caliber musicians, year after year, which in itself is a noteworthy achievement for any classical musical series. Their accomplishment is even more remarkable since the Gaubs moved to Iowa 20 years ago to take up teaching positions at Grinnell College, yet, like many other of their out of town musician friends, they have come back for the festival every June since, managing from a very considerable distance to keep the music playing, year after year.

Eugene Gaub attributes the continuing success of the festival to the fact that “it seems to satisfy desires and needs both of the community and for musicians. We hoped it would last forever, because chamber music is something that we and most musicians think of as the best, most exalted form of music-making, which can provide incredibly enriching experiences for listeners as well. So, first and foremost, I would like to express our gratitude to the community for its support, as each year has been like a dream come true for us.”

All concerts take place at St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church at the corner of Maple and Main Streets, and begin at 8pm, except for the Sunday, June 7 concert which begins at 7pm.

The opening concert on Saturday June 6 includes a quartet from Beethoven’s first set of early string quartets that prefigured his eventual and still unsurpassed mastery of the genre, with violinists Nancy Gaub and Andrew Jennings, violist Robert Donowick and cellist Eva Herer combining for the String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No.5. University of Michigan violinist Andrew Jennings, who recently delivered a breathtakingly effective multi-media version of Rochberg’s virtuosic Caprice Variations for Solo Violin at UB, will be joined by pianist Eugene Gaub and cellist Michelle Gaub in a performance of the Piano Trio in D Minor by Anton Arensky. The Russian composer Arensky had studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and taught Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. Four cellists, Robert Hausmann and Eva Herer from the BPO, along with Sarah Markle and Michelle Djokic will join forces for two works: the 1884 Cello Quartet, Op. 6 by Josef Werner, principal cellist for the Munich Hofkapelle, and Libertango, by the modern master of “nuevo tango,” Astor Piazzolla.

For the Sunday June 7 concert at 7pm, the festival’s artistic directors Nancy and Eugene Gaub will perform Gabriel Fauré’s irresistiblely singing Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 13. Violinists Rebecca Ansel and Sarah Abendfritz, violists Maria Hardcastle and Donowick, along with cellist Markle will perform Mendelssohn’s String Quintet in B-flat Major, Op. 87 According to his fellow composer Ignaz Moscheles, Mendelssohn chose not to publish the quintet because he considered the finale, in particular, “not good,” but posterity has reached a different opinion, enjoying the work’s overtly dramatic style. On an edgier note, violinists Andrea Cone and Ansel will join Hardcastle and Djokic for the area premier of the Suite from Arcanum for String Quartet, by Benjamin Houge. Based on the soundtrack for a computer game, one critic described the works as “sophisticated enough to pass muster on its own as an extended string quartet.”

The Friday June 12 concert finds both Nancy and Eugene Gaub joining violist Megan Prokes and Djokic for one of Mozart’s two much-loved works for piano quartet, the Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478. The last time that Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking 1918 neoclassical septet The Soldier’s Tale was performed locally, it was in a 2009 semi-staged version by the Buffalo Players. The Roycroft version will not be staged, but it will feature several BPO principals, including Amy Glidden, associate concertmaster, John Fullam, clarinet, Glen Einschlag, bassoon, Alex Jokoppi, trumpet, Jonathan Lombardo, trombone, along with Ed Gnekow, double-bass, with Geoffrey Pictor as the Narrator.

The festival wraps up on Saturday June 13, when Columbus Symphony assistant concertmaster David Niwa teams with his wife pianist Gail Niwa for a performance of Schubert’s Sonatina in A Minor for Violin and Piano. Niwa returns to the keyboard, where she will be joined by Nancy Gaub and Michelle Djokic for Debussy’s Piano Trio. The evening and the festival will come to a close with a performance of Dvorak’s expressively lyrical Piano Quintet No.2 in A Major, Op. 81, featuring pianist Eugene Gaub, violinists David Niwa and Andrea Cone, violist Megan Prokes and cellist Eva Herer.

Tickets: Advance: $15 Door: $20.


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