Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Davidson, Queens help launch music season

If there were a hall of fame for those who make their resources count, my latest nominee would be Davidson College.

The school's music department had a half-time faculty slot open. So it divided that into a pair of quarter-time jobs and landed two musicians who are much more than fractional: Alan Black, the Charlotte Symphony's principal cellist; and violinist Rosemary Furniss, who moved from England last year with her husband, Charlotte Symphony conductor Christopher Warren-Green.

The two will start into their new posts by sharing the stage at Davidson on Sunday -- one of a pair of Charlotte-area chamber-music concerts helping launch the music season. Saturday night, Queens University of Charlotte will host a trio composed of a violinist from Uzbekistan; a clarinetist from Azerbaijan; and a pianist from Russia.

Before Davidson came up with the more-formal job, Black was already pitching in as an ad hoc chamber-music coach. It was an example of how an orchestra's players, even beyond their main jobs, are a cultural resource for the communities around them.

While I'm no expert on liberal-arts colleges, my hunch is that it's a coup for Davidson to land a teacher and player with Furniss' kind of experience. As a violinist-about-town in London, she played in an array of groups, including the Academy of St. Martin the Fields and the very different Fires of London -- a modern-music ensemble led by Scottish composer Peter Maxwell Davies. She taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School, whose famous founder was one of her own teachers.

In Sunday's concert -- at 3 p.m. in Davidson's Tyler-Tallman Hall -- Black and Furniss will be joined by Belgian-based pianist Dana Protopopescu, a frequent collaborator of Black's. (The three are pictured above.) They'll play one of Franz Schubert's greatest feasts of melody, the Trio in B-flat; Chopin's Trio; and the "Serenade lointaine" by Georges Enescu, the early 1900s violinist and composer best known for his two Romanian Rhapsodies.

The three musicians will in part be setting an example for the Davidson students in Black's chamber-music program. The school, Black says, has "a lot of great kids -- a lot of musically talented kids" who aren't necessarily even music majors. They'll be working toward a concert of their own.

"They're doing it completely voluntarily," Black says. "They just want to do it -- which is remarkable."

Academia was also the breeding ground for the Prima Trio, which plays at Queens' Dana Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday. Its three members came from their faraway homelands to study at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. They banded together musically there in 2004.

Their program at Queens will be international above all. It will include music by Armenian-born Aram Khatchaturian; the very cosmopolitan Frenchman Darius Milhaud; Germany's Max Bruch; Peter Schickele, an American whom many people know best as P.D.Q. Bach, his comic alter ego; Argentine tango king Astor Piazzola; and Srul Irving Glick, a Canadian who died in 2002. If the trio plays with spirit, the concert should be quite a round-the-world trip.