French horn play­ers spic­ing up sum­mer cham­ber mu­sic fes­ti­val

Palm Beach Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By JAN SJOSTROM Daily News Arts Editor

If it weren’t for a cou­ple of French horn play­ers, this year’s Palm Beach Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val might have taken a dif­fer­ent turn.

It started with horn player Eva Conti.

“Last sum­mer when she was play­ing with us, she dropped the bombshell that she’s also a pro­fes­sional fla­menco dancer and gui­tar player,” said bas­soon­ist Michael Ellert, one of the fes­ti­val’s three mu­si­cian founders.

Conti has danced with sev­eral or­ches­tras and cham­ber mu­sic groups, some­times leav­ing her place in the en­sem­ble to shed a black cloak and re­veal her­self in brightly col­ored fla­menco splen­dor.

Conti, whose grand­mother was born in Spain, has stud­ied fla­menco danc­ing for many years.

“Peo­ple who love fla­menco get taken with its rhyth­mic com­plex­ity,” she said. She’s also at­tracted to the strong lines, proud car­riage and flam­boy­ant cos­tumes of fla­menco dancers.

Conti’s dance tal­ents in­spired Ellert and fel­low founders flutist Karen Fuller and clar­inetist Michael Forte to shape a Span­ish mu­sic pro­gram around her.

Conti will dance to As­tor Pi­az­zolla’s Lib­er­tango and three dances from Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cor­nered Hat in the se­cond week of the four-week­end fes­ti­val. She will play the French horn in pro­grams three and four.

The fes­ti­val, now in its 27th year, opens Fri­day and will run through July 29 at He­len K. Persson Recital Hall at Palm Beach At­lantic Univer­sity in West Palm Beach, First Pres­by­te­rian Church in North Palm Beach and the Crest The­atre at Old School Square in Del­ray Beach.

Ellert, Fuller and Forte, who per­form with the Palm Beach Opera Orches­tra, Mi­ami City Bal­let’s Opus One Orches­tra, the Sym­pho­nia Boca Ra­ton and other groups dur­ing the sea­son, aim to pro­vide a va­ri­ety of mu­si­cal styles, in­stru­men­ta­tions and pe­ri­ods with ev­ery fes­ti­val.

The pro­grams also blend sta­ples with lesser-known mu­sic.

An­chor works in­clude Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach’s Brandenburg Con­certo No. 4 in G ma­jor in pro­gram one, An­tonin Dvo­rak’s String Quar­tet No. 12 in F ma­jor (“Amer­i­can”) in pro­gram three and Franz Schu­bert’s Quin­tet in A ma­jor (“Trout”) in pro­gram four.

Au­di­ences might not be as fa­mil­iar with 19th cen­tury flute vir­tu­oso Al­bert Franz Dop­pler’s Para­phrase on Gae­tano Donizetti’s opera La Son­nam­bula for two flutes and pi­ano in pro­gram one or Juan Crisostomo de Ar­riaga’s String Quar­tet No. 1 in D mi­nor in pro­gram two. Ar­riaga, who died in 1826 at 19, is of­ten re­ferred to as the “Span­ish Mozart.”

Au­di­ence mem­bers cer­tainly have never heard An­drew Lewin­ter’s Nonet, a piece he wrote for the fes­ti­val that will be pre­miered in pro­gram three.

Lewin­ter was the prin­ci­pal horn player for the now-dis­banded Florida Phil­har­monic Orches­tra from 1988 to 2001. He’s now an em­ploy­ment at­tor­ney in Ore­gon and a long­time friend of fes­ti­val co-founder Fuller.

Lewin­ter ex­per­i­mented with com­pos­ing in high school, then set it aside for the French horn. He picked it up again a cou­ple of years ago.

“I missed mak­ing mu­sic,” he said.

In its struc­ture and har­monic lan­guage, the nonet is “not much dif­fer­ent from what could have been writ­ten in 1900,” he said. The com­poser will in­tro­duce the piece at each con­cert.

Once the fes­ti­val com­mit­ted to the nonet, pro­gram three evolved into From Sea to Shin­ing Sea, an all-Amer­i­can pro­gram.

In fact, thanks to Conti and Lewin­ter, all the pro­grams have ti­tles. That’s a de­par­ture from past years, as themes tend to com­pli­cate pro­gram­ming, the founders said. But it’s enough to call this the year of the French horn.

Photo by Davis Sus­san

French horn player and fla­menco dancer Eva Conti, pic­tured here with mem­bers of the Stam­ford Sym­phony, will dance in the se­cond week of the four-week­end Palm Beach Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, which starts Fri­day.

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