Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

Rockport Chamber Music Festival announces summer season

Aizuri Quartet comes to this summer’s Rockport Chamber Music Festival, June 27 and 29.

Aizuri Quartet comes to this summer’s Rockport Chamber Music Festival, June 27 and 29.

The 38th Rockport Chamber Music Festival returns this summer, its second season under music director Barry Shiffman. Continuing his mix of established musicians and younger performers, Shiffman also blends evening chamber music concerts with films, community events, and late-night cabaret. 

The lineup for this summer’s festival includes familiar names like pianist Richard Goode, the Parker and Takacs quartets, and well-respected orchestra principals like clarinetist Anthony McGill and violist Gilad Karni.

Many Boston-based favorites return: the string ensemble A Far Cry, pianist Max Levinson, cellist Allison Eldredge, the Parkers, and, in a festival annex performance in August, the Handel & Haydn Society.

But there are many newcomers is this year’s list of artists as well. Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwy, Italian vocalist Cristina Zavalloni, pianists Brian Douglas and Piers Lane, violinist Philippe Graffin, guitarist Grisha Goryachev, and mandolinist Avi Avital all make their festival debuts. Ensembles like JCT Trio, Aizuri Quartet, the Art of Time Ensemble, Venice Baroque Orchestra also make their first RCMF appearances. 

A Roaring 20s evening begins the festival on June 14, with music from that decade and a Buster Keaton film (“College,” with original score by Stephen Prutsman). More films, community concerts and young artist presentations are among the free events during the five-week festival. 

The popular late-night cabarets—upstairs in the Shalin Liu Performance Center—continue on select Saturday evenings. The Rockport Fellows program also continues, with young professionals—including the Fellowship Quartet—performing on the main stage and in pop-up concerts in town all throughout the month.

The programming continues Shiffman’s mission of blending familiar favorites with new music and unusual presentations. His biggest changes—introducing the pop-up concerts; presenting young artists in free concert settings; bringing back pianist Stephen Prutsman for a special presentation to the autistic community—have created an all-day, every-day energy for the festival that is welcome and healthy. 

But even the most ambitious festivals can’t accomplish everything. Despite this summer’s forward looking programming and roster, there are only two works by women composers all month long—on the same concert no less. Many presenters are casting a more critical eye on overall programming choices, and offering a more balanced mix of composers. 

Subscriptions to the summer festival go on sale March 29, single tickets on April 12. Many programs free. Visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.

RCMF 019 Summer Schedule at a Glance

By Keith Powers

Week One

Friday, June 14, 8:00 p.m.

Parker Quartet; Blake Pouliot, violin; Stephen Prutsman, piano; Vera Quartet; Cristina Zavalloni, soprano

Roaring 20s wasn’t just about can-can and Zelda. Ravel was Roaring 20s. And Buster Keaton. And tons of jazz songs. An original score (by pianist Stephen Prutsman) performed with Vera Quartet to Keaton’s film “College” highlights opening night program.

Saturday, June 15, 7:30 p.m.

Parker Quartet; Anthony McGill, clarinet; Barry Shiffman, viola; Ani Aznavoorian, cello

Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet anchors program that includes Mozart’s clarinet quintet and the Brahms string sextet.


Saturday, June 15, 10:00 p.m.

Cristina Zavalloni, soprano; Stephen Prutsman, piano; Blake Pouliot, violin

Sensational Zavalloni highlights the opening of this summer’s late-night cabarets. Songs by Weill, Eisler, others.


Sunday, June 16, 5:00 p.m.

Barry Douglas, piano

Ani Aznavoorian, cello; Anthony McGill, clarinet

Douglas performs Mussorgsky’s grand “Pictures at an Exhibition”; selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Seasons,” Brahms A minor clarinet trio.

Week Two

Thursday, June 20, 8:00 p.m.

Homage to Eugene Ysaÿe

Philippe Graffin, violin

Marisa Gupta, piano; Piers Lane, piano; Festival Quartet (Benjamin Bowman, violin; Danny Koo, violin; Barry Shiffman, viola; Tom Wiebe, cello)

Graffin not only discovered the manuscript and completed Ysaÿe’s solo sonata, he performs it in this program of 20th century string works (Dohnanyi, Chausson, Enescu as well).

Friday, June 21, 8:00 p.m.

The Complete Chopin Nocturnes

Piers Lane, piano

Twenty-one of the composer’s signature compositions, composed over the course of his life. Australian-born, London-based Lane explores the great nocturnes.

Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.

Pieter Wispelwey, cello

Pei-Shan Lee, piano; Benjamin Bowman, violin

Great Dutch cellist makes his first RCMF appearance. Solo and duo sonatas by Brahms, Debussy and Ravel.

Saturday, June 22, 10:00 p.m.

Piers Lane, piano; Andrew Burashko, piano; Barry Shiffman, viola

Featuring works by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dudley Moore. That Dudley Moore.

Sunday, June 23, 5:00 p.m.

Art of Time Ensemble

Andrew Burashko, piano; Pieter Wispelwey, cello; Pei-Shan Lee, piano; Festival Quartet

Vintage video by the great Glenn Gould introduces a Beethoven cello sonata and the Shostakovich G minor piano quintet. 

Week Three

Thursday, June 27, 8:00 p.m.

Aizuri Quartet

Grammy nominees this year, in residence at New York’s Met Museum, Aizuri brings some flash to the season’s programming, with works by Gabriella Smith and Caroline Shaw.

Friday, June 28, 8:00 p.m.

Art of Time Ensemble, and guests

Restlessly experimental Toronto ensemble, formed by pianist Andrew Burashko, explores the waltz through a century-and-a-half of experimentation and popularity. Music from Strauss to Brel to Schnittke to Tom Waits.

Saturday, June 29, 10:00 a.m.

Danny Koo, violin; Kevin Ahfat, piano

Free family concert. Violinist Danny Koo, who returns for his second summer with the Festival Quartet, is a popular children’s television performer in Korea. He leads this family program with pianist Ahfat.

Saturday, June 29, 7:30 p.m.

Gilad Karni, viola

Kevin Ahfat, piano; Aizuri Quartet; Danny Koo, violin

Principal of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Karni headlines a program of viola favorites, including Brahms quintet.

Saturday, June 29, 10:00 p.m.

Danny Koo, violin; Gilad Karni, viola; Allison Eldredge, cello; Andy Milne, piano; Kevin Ahfat, piano

After-hours program includes Prutsman’s arrangements and other instrumental works.

Sunday, June 30, 5:00 p.m.

JCT Trio: Stefan Jackiw, violin; Conrad Tao, piano; Jay Campbell, cello

New trio of tremendous musicians performs challenging, thought-provoking program. Christopher Trapani’s “Passing Through, Staying Put” forms the centerpiece, with Ives and Dvorak trios. Not to be missed.


Week Four

Wednesday, July 3, 2:00 p.m. 

Sae Yoon Chon, piano

Young artist spotlight, a free program. Major works by Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninov and others by South Korean winner of last year’s Dublin International competition. 


Saturday, July 6, 7:30 p.m.

Takács Quartet

Esteemed foursome plays Mozart, Bartok and Beethoven (third Razumovsky)

Saturday, July 6, 10:00 p.m.

Jens Lindemann (trumpet) and RCMF director Barry Shiffman (violin) continue late-night tradition, upstairs at Shalin Liu Performance Center.

Sunday, July 7, 5:00 p.m.

Max Levinson, piano 

Sae Yoon Chon, piano; Andrés Díaz, cello; Barry Shiffman, violin

Boston-based Levinson anchors works by Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, joins Chon for 4-hand performance of Schubert’s “Fantasie.”


Week Five

Wednesday, July 10, 7:00 p.m.

Free young artist program features students of New England Conservatory’s Morningside Music Bridge program.

Thursday, July 11, 8:00 p.m.

Reimagining Flamenco

Grisha Goryachev, guitar; Serouj Kradjian, piano; Jamey Haddad, percussion; Chee-Yun, violin; Daniela Mack, mezzo-soprano; Jeffrey Beecher, bass

Flamenco evening centered around music of da Falla and Albeniz.

Friday, July 12, 7:30 p.m.

Venice Baroque Orchestra, with Avi Avital, mandolin

A chance to hear the great Avital, playing all-Italian program of concertos by Vivaldi, Geminiani and Paisiello. Debut of Andrea Marcon’s esteemed Baroque ensemble, formed in 1997.

Friday, July 12, 10:00 p.m.

Chee-Yun, violin, Grisha Goryachev, guitar, Serouj Kradjian, piano

Cabaret presentation featuring Piazzolla’s Grand Tango.

Saturday, July 13, 8:00 p.m.

Richard Goode, piano

Goode has given memorable concerts in past RCMF summers, notably with soprano Sarah Shafer and with the Brentano Quartet. Now he solos, in a recital that ranges from Haydn to Janacek.


Sunday, July 14, 5:00 p.m.

A Far Cry

Chee-Yun, violin; Barry Shiffman, viola

From the well-known (Tchaikovsky’s “”Serenade for Strings) to the new (Lembit Beecher’s “The Conference of the Birds”). The Criers, always an audience favorite, return to SLPC.

August RCMF annex concerts

Saturday, August 17, 7:00 p.m.

Bach’s Complete Brandenburg Concertos 

Handel and Haydn Society

Saturday, August 31, 7:00 p.m.

David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano

Husband and wife innovators, among the most esteemed performers of this generation. Bach to Schumann to Grieg to Chopin.



Friday, June 21, 11:00 a.m.


Free to the public. Narrated by Willem Dafoe, the 2017 documentary film shares dazzling images and cinematography of the high peaks and mountains around the world. Music by Richard Tognetti and his Australian Chamber Orchestra.


Friday, July 12, 11:00 a.m.


Free. A 2019 Grammy nominee for best music film, tells the story of the amazing Itzhak Perlman.

Boston Lyric Opera stages Benjamin Britten's "Rape of Lucretia."

Eric Nathan's new song cycle, Some Favored Nook, in Providence at FirstWorks