OTTAWA—When Roman Borys, artistic director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society and cellist with the Gryphon Trio, announced the 2015 lineup for the International Chamber Music Festival on March 24, the room was abuzz as patrons, classical music lovers, and festival volunteers applauded the quality and diversity of the roster of artists and programs.
The 15-day festival, known as Chamberfest, is the world’s largest chamber music festival and this year boasts several firsts as it branches into new territory.
Opening night on July 23 features the premiere of the Canadian National Brass Project, a large ensemble of brass players from orchestras across Canada that will play Copland, Bernstein, and Mussorgsky.
Another first is Haydnfest, a celebration of the music of Joseph Haydn, the father of the string quartet, with a focus on the six Opus 20 string quartets.
“Haydn was known to say, ‘I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.’ And this is exactly what he did,” explained Borys.
Haydnfest is the brainchild of Borys and Geoff Nuttall, first violinist with the St. Lawrence String Quartet and host of the eight concerts and five learning events. In all, six quartets from around the globe will participate in Haydnfest including the St. Lawrence String Quartet from California, the Danel String Quartet from Brussels, and Toronto’s Eybler Quartet.
“Throughout the festival there will be four Haydnfest mini-marathons that start at 10 in the morning and run through till 1 [p.m.],” said Borys.
Conductor, composer, and music commentator Rob Kapilow will enlighten audiences about the secluded Haydn’s music as he delves into how the pieces were composed, how they are played, and other elements that come together to make them so great.
André Laplante’s recital will be the first time the award-winning Officer of the Order of Canada plays at Chamberfest. The internationally acclaimed romantic piano master will fill the stage with his interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, and Liszt.
This year will also be the first to include theatrical productions and multimedia events.
Mozart’s Don Giovanni has been “reimagined” by Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre opera company. The libretto for this updated version will be sung in English and the actors will be texting each other on cellphones and sharing images on tablets. A sneak preview of the opera now called “#Uncle John,” was presented at the launch event.
“Illusions” is a multimedia program, including a projected background, incorporating early 20th-century burlesque and American carnival with music provided by Gryphon Trio and ECM+ (Ensemble contemporaine de Montréal), and vocals by baritone Vincent Ranallo. Pieces include Charles Ives Piano Trio, and new works by Simon Martin, Gabriel Dharmoo, and Nicole Lizée.
Other premieres include Chile’s Inti-Illimani delivering traditional Latin American and Afro-Latin folk styles. The group’s compositions incorporate Andean, Argentinian, Brazilian, and Spanish influences.
The Danish String Quartet presents tracks from their new CD “Wood Works,” including Scandinavian folk music and their stock of Romantic pieces.
Chamberfest runs from July 23 through Aug. 6. With over 100 events to choose from, see chamberfest.com for the full program schedule and ticket information.