Season 14 of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival has begun!

Aloysia Friedmann opening Season 14.

A Poet’s Love took its audience on a musical journey so extraordinary that when I polled concertgoers at the post-concert reception and asked “So, what traditional element of a chamber music festival concert was missing?!” nobody came up with the answer. (More on that later.)

Artistic Director Aloysia Friedmann eschewed the usual pre-concert amble and went straight into a solo Telemann violin sonata, then switched to viola backstage for the Mozart Kegelstatt Trio with clarinetist Owen Kotler and myself. I am personally in awe of this ‘switching’ thing. Imagine playing the piano your whole life, then sitting down to a piano where every key is 7 millileters wider…

Baritone Philip Cutlip then took the stage and joined me in a presentation of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Philip is incredible, and provided the emotional center of the program. Aloysia worked with Philip in the Houston Grand Opera’s production of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking. As Joseph DeRocher, he was terrifying. I’ve also seen him charm a full house as Mozart’s Papageno. But Dichterliebe is something else entirely. Both performances became emotional confessionals, and when the last notes of the postlude died away we almost didn’t make it back to ‘reality.’

On the 2nd half of the program, Owen Kotler and I were joined by violinist Chee-Yun in a slinky version of Gershwin’s Summertime. Given that we’re all classically trained, this gave us a chance to get our toes wet in the world of jazz improvisation. I suspect that this short addition of programmatic spice was at least a few people’s secret favorite moment in the concert.

Owen Kotler relaxing backstage

Chee-Yun and I concluded with the Fauré A Major Violin and Piano Sonata. What can I say? This is why I love being a musician. My impression was of riding a roller coaster and taking turns steering.

Oh, yes…that thing that was missing?

Aloysia put together this brilliant program without a cellist.

Not to worry. Desmond Hoebig and Roman Borys have just arrived…

Philip Cutlip, Jon Kimura Parker, Chee-Yun, Aloysia Friedmann, Owen Kotler