Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

Art of Time explores the waltz. Andrew Burashko discusses the Sunday, June 23 performance at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival.

Andrew Burashko, founder and director of Toronto’s Art of Time ensemble. Tony Hauser photograph

Andrew Burashko, founder and director of Toronto’s Art of Time ensemble. Tony Hauser photograph

Barry Shiffman doesn’t care. 

So what if a pianist plays Bach, improvises as well, and arranges silent film music.

So what if a singer sings Schoenberg, torch songs, folk tunes and uptempo ravers.

For Rockport Chamber Music Festival’s artistic director, all of that variety fits perfectly into the mix. A mix that sees RCMF, now deep into its fourth decade, branching into a variety of stagings that have not been seen before.

So Andrew Burashko’s Art of Time, the Toronto-based ensemble that flexes between performing with dancers, actors, jazz players, rock stars and just about anyone else, fits in perfectly with Shiffman’s vision for a successful summer festival.

Art of Time performs twice at this year’s RCMF: this Sunday, with a program called Hosted by Glenn Gould—using actual footage of the late pianist, introducing chamber works to an audience—and the following Friday, with a sweeping view of the 150-year history of the waltz. Burashko also contributes to this Saturday evening’s cabaret performance, teaming with Shiffman and pianist Piers Lane in works by Beethoven and comedian Dudley Moore—another unexpected chamber music partner.

Art of Time isn’t some once-in-a-while pickup band. Formed in 1998, Burashko regularly sits in with musicians like Branford Marsalis, Margo Timmins, Thomas Wiebe, and Rob Piltch (former Blood Sweat and Tears guitarist); choreographers like Peggy Baker and David Earle; singers like Madeleine Peyroux, Sarah Slean and Lucy Peacock; filmmakers and many other soloists. The ensemble has subscription series at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre, and tours regularly.

“I believe that classical music has the potential to speak with everyone,” Burashko says. “I could see all these collaborations—dancers, theatre people, jazz players—in other genres, and classical music was left out on its own. I wanted to program things as a context, or bridge, for listeners.”

Art of Time’s waltz program is just such a bridge. Ranging from the 19th century waltz kings to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen to Ravel’s half-crazed “La Valse,” the program creates an historical snapshot of music in 3/4 time.

“The waltz was erotic and dangerous,” Burashko says. “It was probably the first dance where a man and a woman were able to hold each other in public. But this program shows that it’s not just nostalgic, that the form is alive.”

More than a dozen musicians will be onstage to realize the waltz program, including Burashko, Andy Milne and Kevin Ahfat (pianos), the Aizuri Quartet—which performs its own program this coming Thursday evening—Piltch, violinist Danny Koo, and Slean on vocals, with brass and winds. The Glenn Gould program includes Burashko, cellist Pieter Wispelwey, and the RCMF Fellowship Quartet, in a performance that features television footage of Gould introducing two major chamber music works: Beethoven’s D major cello sonata, and Shostakovich’s G minor piano quintet.

The Rockport Chamber Music Festival continues through July 15. For tickets and program information visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.

Keith Powers covers music and the arts for GateHouse Media and WBUR’s ARTery. Follow @PowersKeith; email to keithmichaelpowers@gmail.com.

Rockport Chamber Music Festival: 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

Upstairs cabaret, 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. 

Sae Yoon Chon comes to Rockport Chamber Music Festival

Boston Early Music Festival: Steffani's Orlando generoso, reviewed