Writer and violinist Catherine Drinker Bowen once described chamber music as “a conversation between friends,” because chamber music is typically performed by small groups without a conductor, with musicians relying on cues from each other to create a musical conversation.
Music in May, founded by violinist Rebecca Jackson, is an event that sprung out of her passion for chamber music and the urge to spread this appreciation. This year welcomes a group of renowned musicians, including the world premiere of clarinetist and composer Jose Gonzalez Granero. The series is taking place this Friday and Saturday at Peace United Church on High street.
Jackson, the event director who will also be performing, first proposed the idea of a chamber music event to UCSC economics professor David Kaun. Kaun is known for his support of local classical music, and he gladly provided funding for the event.
“It was through [Kaun’s] generosity that my dream came to life,” Jackson said. “He was the one who made it financially possible.”
Jackson and her fellow musicians hope to bring their love of classical music to wider audiences. This season, Music in May is partnering with the music programs of Tierra Pacifica Charter School, Santa Cruz Sister City Support, Save Our Shores and Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.
The organizations chose to give free tickets to youth who might not have otherwise had a chance to experience classical music on stage.
Jackson said she is working hard to make chamber music “current and exciting for even those who never heard it live before,” which she is accomplishing through this partnership. Their mission is to broaden audiences and present classical music in fresh ways.
Every year, Jackson spends eight months planning the event, which includes creating the program and gathering musicians together. The theme she decided on this year was “Romance and Regrets.”
“I scour the Internet for recordings, and it’s largely the standard chamber music literature — classical and romantic,” Jackson said. “When I’m listening to these pieces, I very much [have] the artist in mind. It makes a difference when a musician is really passionate about a piece.”
This season features a particularly passionate clarinetist from the San Francisco Opera, Jose Gonzalez Granero. The program includes the world premiere of his String Quartet No. 1, “Noche Del Amor Insomne.”
Granero was inspired by Garcia Lorca, a poet whose tragic death Granero learned about on a middle school field trip to the Lorcas’ home in Granada. When Rebecca Jackson commissioned Granero to compose a piece for the concert, he drew inspiration from a poem by Lorca.
The string quartet is treated “like a poem, as little motifs such as verses rhyme within the music,” Granero said. “The final, more virtuosic section is lead by a cello ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase) and a combination of all previous motifs.”
Other pieces for the Friday night “regrets” themed program include a Mozart duo, a Rachmaninoff cello sonata, Joaquin Turino’s “La Oracion Del Torero” and “Regrets” by Henri Vieuxtemps on violin and piano. For Saturday night, the theme is “romance,” with a Schumann piano quintet, a Brahms piano trio and “Three Romances” for violin and piano by Schumann’s wife Clara.
Alexandra Leem is a violist who will perform the Mozart duo for violin and viola with Jackson. The piece was a gift from Mozart to fellow composer Heidn while Heidn was ill.
“There is a very beautiful second movement, which, although it’s a classical piece, feels very romantic and it’s very soothing,” Leem said.
One interesting aspect of the performance is that the musicians all rehearsed separately.
“I played with each of these musicians,” Jackson said, “but they haven’t met one another. It makes it a little more challenging, but it makes for a really exciting experience to witness on stage.”
The small set of performers also includes pianists Liang Ping How and Christine McLeavey Payne and cellist Jonah Kim. Leem likes the arrangement, saying “this year is much, much more intimate-feeling” with such a small group.
“I just can’t say enough good things about the musicians who are coming,” Jackson said, laughing. “It’s going to be like classical music on steroids. They’re going to bring this music to life.”
The series took place May 16 and 17 at 6:30 pm at Peace United Church, 900 High St. Tickets were $10 for students and $25 for general admission.