No waiting for summertime around here. Intimate chamber music concerts—the kind that dominate summer festivals—are popping up already like spring flowers.
The Skylark Vocal Ensemble (skylarkensemble.org), nominated for two Grammys with their “Seven Words on the Cross” release this year, continues to build audiences all around Massachusetts. Skylark creates programs equally from early music and from contemporary compositions, achieving unusual vocal textures with many fascinating arrangements.
Skylark typically performs with a dozen or more voices. The singers are all standout artists, frequently heard in top-flight groups like Lorelei Ensemble and the Handel & Haydn Society.
Led by Matthew Guard, Skylark sings its Masterpieces program—music by written in response to visual arts, including a world premiere by Nell Shaw Cohen—at the Gloucester Meetinghouse (April 5), and a Wheaton College (April 6).
The Rockport Chamber Music Festival (rockportmusic.org) dwarfs the summer schedule, and artistic director Barry Shiffman sprinkles some chamber nuggets throughout the concert season as well. This Friday the esteemed Borodin Quartet comes to the Shalin Liu Performance Center.
It’s been more than 70 years since the quartet, which included a young cellist named Mstislav Rostropovich, formed at Moscow Conservatory. They became the chamber music stars of Soviet Russia, with a storied and controversial history. Some of Russia’s greatest string players have performed in Borodin, and the current quartet is as active as ever.
Borodin plays music from their homeland. The Rockport program features quartets by Shostakovich (No. 13), Myaskovsky (his 13th as well) and the infectious second quartet by the group’s namesake, Alexander Borodin.
Cappella Clausura (clausura.org) culminates its season—which has been dedicated entirely to the works of female composers—with cantatas by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. The three settings were only discovered in the 1990s—more than a century-and-a-half after they were composed. The chorus, led by Amelia LeClair, is joined by a full orchestra for performances in Emmanuel Church in Boston (March 30) and the Eliot Church of Newton (March 31).
The Cambridge Society for Early Music (csem.org) plays host to one of early music’s most distinguished and vibrant performers. Anne Azéma, artistic director of the Boston Camerata, sings performances in Carlisle, Weston, Salem, Ipswich and Cambridge March 28 through April 1. Azéma will be joined by Shira Kammen on vielle and harp for “Léale Amie: Women’s Voice in Medieval Song,” all settings from 13th century France.
One long shot: As part of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival’s offseason events, pianist Michael Brown performs one of the festival’s Hausmusik concerts on March 30. Brown—an Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, and member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—performs Chopin, Mendelssohn, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata and other works in a Newbury residence.
It appears to be sold out. Keep trying online (newburyportchambermusic.org) or by phone (978-701 4914) and you may find a ticket.