The Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival will present its annual series of five concerts, a cabaret evening, and a free community concert from September 6 – 23 at venues across Charlottesville. The Festival kicks off its 19th season with a free concert at The Paramount Theater on Thursday, September 6, at 12:30 pm.


This year, Artistic Directors Timothy Summers and Raphael Bell are bringing music from far-away places, programming pieces by Asian composers alongside music from the more familiar Western repertoire. The concert on September 16th, for example, will feature the “Ghost Opera” for string quartet and pipa by Chinese composer Tan Dun, whose soundtrack for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon brought him worldwide recognition. “Ghost Opera” is a performance piece in which the musicians must create sounds from nature using traditional Western and Eastern instruments, as well as water, paper, and stone. It will share the evening with a giant of the chamber music repertoire, Schubert’s String Quartet in C Major. Works by Japanese composers Toshio Hosakawa and Tōru Takemitsu, and Korean composer Isang Yun likewise will be performed next to works by Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms at the concerts on September 9th, 13th, and 20th. Closer to home, American composers John Cage, John Adams, David Lang, Elliott Carter, and Keith Lipson have also found places on the programs.


Each year Bell and Summers recruit top musicians from around the globe, each of whom stays for about a week during which they rehearse intensively with other invited musicians before performing together. Among the featured performers this season is Lin Ma, one of China’s top ten pipa players, who will participate in Festival concerts on September 13 and 16. The pipa, a four-stringed pear-shaped instrument, is often described as a Chinese lute – one that goes back two thousand years. A musician who bridges cultures, Lin Ma is the first Chinese folk instrumentalist invited to perform on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations Peace Concert and has given recitals in dozens of countries. She began to play the pipa when she was 3 years old. Her parents, both engineers, believed that practicing the complicated finger movements needed to play the instrument would foster brain development. Lin Ma took it a step further and decided she wanted to be the best player. “There was always a hole in my winter sweater because I held a pipa in the same position for hours every day,” she recalls. She performs both folk and classical music on the pipa.


Making their first appearance at the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival, the University Chamber Singers conducted by Michael Slon will join Festival musicians at the closing concert on September 23rd. They will perform a chorale by Bach as well as “Plainscapes,” a hauntingly beautiful piece by the Baltic mystic Peteris Vasks. Mozart’s Piano Trio in G Major will close the series. “This season promises to offer audiences a truly world-class musical experience,” says Festival Manager Maggie Graff, “one that will remind us all of the universal beauty, power, and relevance of music.”


In addition to the concert series and the free community concert, the Festival will offer a cabaret-style event. A few years ago Bell and Summers were inspired to add an improvisational evening to the lineup and invited Festival musicians to bring whatever music they were particularly excited about at the time. This concert, which they call “Music Fresh Squeezed,” has become a regular part of the Festival, and will take place at Live Arts on Monday, September 10, at 7:30. Joining Bell and Summers will be: violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Mayuko Ishigami, flutist Sooyun Kim, clarinetist Keith Lipson, Lin Ma on pipa, and Gregory Beyer, I-Jen Fang, and Matthew Gold on percussion.

Information about the concert programs, composers, and outstanding musicians arriving from China, Japan, Europe, and the United States is available on the Festival’s website, or by contacting Manager Maggie Graff at 434-295-5395. Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone, or at the door on the day of each concert.


● Thursday, September 6 at 12:30pm – The Paramount Theater Free Community Concert

● Sunday, September 9 at 3:00pm – Old Cabell Hall at UVA

● Monday, September 10 at 7:30pm – Live Arts Music Fresh Squeezed

● Thursday, September 13 at 7:30pm – Old Cabell Hall at UVA

● Sunday, September 16 at 3:00pm – Dickinson Theater at Piedmont Virginia Community College

● Thursday, September 20 at 7:30pm – Dickinson Theater at Piedmont Virginia Community College

● Sunday, September 23 at 3:00pm – The Paramount Theater