Violist Miles Hoffman to Perform in Chestertown Feb. 17th

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The viola will emerge from the shadow of the violin, its smaller, higher-voiced sibling, when Miles Hoffman performs in Chestertown on Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church, Kent County.

Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States. However, he is equally — if not more — well known to radio listeners as the classical music commentator for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition news program. He is also the author of The NPR Classical Music Companion, a listening guide.

Pianist Reiko Uchida will accompany Hoffman in a program including works by Robert Schumann, Bach, Brahms and Chopin as part of the National Music Festival’s Resonance music series. Uchida has appeared often as a guest artist with Hoffman’s chamber group and has also collaborated with the Borromeo and the Tokyo String Quartets.

Several of the pieces on the program, such as Schumann’s “Adagio and Allegro Op. 70,” were originally written for other instruments, in this case for the valved horn. “It’s a wonderful nine minutes of music, and everybody who can has borrowed it from the horn repertoire,” he said. “It’s quite brilliant and flashy and fun — fun for the player and fun for the audience.”

Music written expressly for the viola will also figure into his program:“Two Pieces for Viola and Piano” by English composer Frank Bridge. Its slow movement has been described as “restrained and elegiac” while the second is “exuberant and expansive.”

Pronounced “vee-OH-lah,” the instrument is one inch to four inches longer than the violin. Compared to the human voice, the violin performs in the soprano range while the viola is more of an alto.

If the viola has been eclipsed by the violin as a solo instrument, Hoffman says blame it on musical trends of the Baroque period, from roughly the year 1600 to 1750.

In instrumental music and opera of the era, “high voices” were favored causing the viola to become“essentially devalued as a solo instrument,” he said. In the later Classical period, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven started writing “very interesting, very difficult viola parts in their chamber music,” Hoffman added,“but it wasn’t until … the late 19th and into the 20th that the viola came back into its own as a solo instrument.” The Frank Bridge pieces, for example, were written in 1906.

“Reiko and I are really looking forward to coming to Chestertown for the recital,” said Hoffman, who played a concert here “many, many years ago” at Washington College. “I’ve been looking forward to coming back to town ever since; it’s such a beautiful town and this is a wonderful series, and Reiko and are just delighted to have been asked to play on this series.”

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for students with ID and children under 14. NMF 2019 Combination Pass holders are guaranteed admission to all of this season’s Resonance performances — and all ticketed events of the 2019 National Music Festival, June 2-15, which will include more than 35 concerts ranging from small ensembles to symphony orchestra with chorus, plus 200 free open rehearsals.

Following the Feb. 17 performance, the Resonance series, formerly known as Kent Chamber Music, will continue with the following two Sunday concerts, also at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s, 7579 Sandy Bottom Rd., Chestertown:

March 24 – Karen Slack, soprano, international opera singer

April 28 – Gwen Krosnick, cello, NMF mentor

For more information about the National Music Festival and Resonance, visit www.nationalmusic.us.

RES·O·NANCE /ˈrezənəns/ Noun: the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating … a quality of richness or variety.

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