St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble performs "Mendelssohn: The Boy Genius" at Quick Center


St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, New York's preeminent chamber group, will perform an all-Mendelssohn concert on Friday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The evening will feature three pieces by the "boy genius," including an octet considered one of the great works of chamber music.

St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble is the artistic core of the larger Orchestra of St. Luke's of New York City. The smaller group includes 21 virtuoso musicians who perform nationally and internationally with a repertoire ranging from the baroque to the contemporary.

The Feb. 28 concert begins with Mendelssohn's "Sinfonia No. 4 in C minor" and "Sinfonia No. 5 in B-flat major," both of which were written when Mendelssohn was a mere 13 years old. The pieces show the young master already well advanced in technique and imagination. His "Octet for Strings in E-flat major," composed when Mendelssohn was 16, follows, offering a look at how the composer grew in three years.

"After playing and listening to these pieces for over a year now, I am still amazed by them," said Krista Bennion Feeney, St. Luke's Director of Chamber Music. "In his outer movements, Mendelssohn can almost sound like a Baroque composer. He looks to the past and honors it, and at the same time, his own spirit shines through with incredible clarity. The Octet is generally regarded as perhaps the greatest musical creation by a child so young."

The members of the chamber ensemble who will perform at the Quick Center are: violinists Bennion Feeney, Naoko Tanaka and Mitsuru Tsubota; violists Maureen Gallagher and Louise Schulman; cellists Myron Lutzke and Daire FitzGerald; and bassist John Feeney.

The ensemble began in 1974, when St. Luke's President and Executive Director Marianne Lockwood and music entrepreneur Michael Feldman spearheaded a recital series at the Church of St. Luke's-in-the-Fields in New York City's Greenwich Village. Since its humble beginnings, the ensemble and the orchestra have branched out, now performing in small groups and larger orchestras, accompanying opera singers in recital and playing children's concerts. The ensemble doesn't have a permanent home, shuttling between concerts in Carnegie Hall and frequent recitals at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Caramoor Music Festival in Katonah, N.Y. It's also known for its free rush hour concerts at Temple Emanu-El, the world's largest Jewish house of worship.

The ensemble has gained a reputation for being able to tackle the masters and quirky newer programs with equal zeal. In its rigorous performance schedule, the group has made time for Bach and Brahams, as well as André Previn, Zhou Long and Philip Glass. The ensemble even joined Metallica in concert for a performance of the heavy metal band's greatest hits.

"St. Luke's serves up a diverse feast for the ears year-round," according to Chamber Music magazine.

The ensemble's more than 70 recordings include two Grammy winners, John Adams' "Nixon in China" and Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915." Recent recordings include "Haydn: Morning, Noon and Evening," "Bel Canto" with soprano Renée Fleming and a soon-to-be-released double CD of Bach's Brandenberg concerti.

The members of St. Luke's are as passionate about education as they are about playing. Through the St. Luke's Arts Education Program, the artists go into schools as an ensemble and play, then show their instruments to the students and talk about their lives and how musicians work together. This year, the Quick Center created a residency with St. Luke's at Fairfield High School working with three of the school's orchestras. Feeney and Gallagher are also creating master classes to help students work on their technique.

"There is a communication while we're playing," Bennion Feeney told Chamber Music magazine. "When we're playing, we're often able to communicate what we don't say. That's the human stuff that goes into making music - and that's what's so important."

Tickets to the Quick Center concert are $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 29, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 178