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Roycroft Returns to East Aurora

JoAnn Falletta (photo by Mark Dellas)

The Roycroft Chamber Music Festival celebrates its 17th season

The Roycroft Chamber Music Festival has been held at St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church on Main Street in East Aurora since 1994, but for the first time last year one of the four concerts that make up the festival was held across the street at Baker Memorial Methodist Church. The need for a larger venue necessitated that move, as BPO music director JoAnn Falletta made a rare local appearance on that concert program as a guitarist, playing to a packed house. Maestra Falletta, who will be busy this week conducting the BPO at Kleinhans during the fourth biennial edition of her namesake JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, will return to Baker Memorial Methodist as a guitarist in the final concert of the Roycroft Chamber Music series next weekend.

The Roycroft Chamber Music Festival was founded in 1994 by its artistic directors, pianist Eugene Gaub and BPO violinist Nancy McFarland Gaub, former residents of East Aurora now on the faculty of Grinnell College in Iowa. The couple have maintained strong ties to our area, recruiting highly talented classical musicians both locally and nationally, to present interestingly designed programs of chamber music every June.

On Saturday, June 5 at 8pm, the festival opens with one of the perennially favorite baroque works, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat, BMW 1051. Lucky Buffalo chamber music fans have the opportunity to hear two very different treatments of this work in 10 days: The Buffalo Chamber Players recently gave a performance of the work in its original instrumentation that included the use of a pair of violas da gamba. BPO cellist David Schmude will be making an appearance in both versions. David Niwa (violin) and Gail Niwa (piano) will perform Ravel’s Sonata in G Major, with its melancholic middle movement titled “Blues” providing an early example of the influence of African-American music on European classical composition. BPO principal French horn player Jacek Muzyk joins the Gaubs for performance of one of Brahms chamber music masterpieces, the Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin, and Horn, Op. 40.

With a nod to the bicentenary celebration of the birth of Robert Schumann, Eugene Gaub and violinist Andrew Jennings team up for a performance of that composers’ marvelously evocative Marchenbilder (Fairy Tales), Op. 113 on Sunday, June 6 at 7pm. Most of the music of English composer Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) remained unpublished during her lifetime, but in the last decade there has been a revival of interest in her work; Gail Niwa, Nancy Gaub, and BPO principal cellist Roman Mekinulov perform her 1921 Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello. To end the concert, BPO principal clarinetist John Fullam will join Jennings, Mekinulov, Niwa, and violist Donna Lorenzo in a performance of Mozart’s sublime Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K.581.

On Saturday, June 12, at 8pm, Gaub returns as pianist along with violinist Rebekah Johnson and cellist Nancy Baun in Beethoven’s popular Trio in D for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 70 (“The Ghost”). Nancy Gaub and Donna Lorenzo will join violinist Robert Hanford and cellist Scott Ballantyne in the most challenging work on the festival program, Bartok’s short 1927 String Quartet No. 3, Op. 85: The four-movement work, played without pause, uses a number of extended instrumental techniques. The programming of the Bartok is balanced out by Dvorak’s sunnier String Quartet in A-flat, Op. 105, with violinist Rebekah Johnson replacing Nancy Gaub.

The festival concludes Sunday, June 13 at 7pm in Baker Memorial Methodist Church, when Falletta (guitar) joins her husband, Robert Alemany (clarinet), and Deborah Cross (flute) in an arrangement, by another hand, of one of Beethoven’s early successes, the Trio in D, Op. 8 (“Serenade”), originally composed for violin, viola and cello. Viennese society around this time was guitar-mad, and Falletta and Alemany have recorded this version of the work on their Koch label CD release, The Viennese Guitar. BPO associate concertmaster Amy Glidden and Andrea Cone team up in Darius Milhaud’s pungent Sonatina for Two Violins, Op. 221, with its lovely barcarolle middle movement. And, in a nice example of programming symmetry, the festival ends as it began, with one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, the time the No. 5 in D major, BMW 1050.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information, visit

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