Classical music picks up the pace in Wilmington this week when the Vivace International Music Festival returns Thursday for its second season of solo and chamber music performances and masterclasses by some of the world’s finest musicians.
For 10 days starting Aug. 4, a remarkable group of pianists including Richard Goode and Alexander Kobrin, and string players including violinist Ani Kavafian and cellist Seth Parker Woods, will give evening concerts and teach during the day.
Most concerts will be held at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center or in Thalian Hall’s upstairs ballroom, but more than a half dozen venues are involved, including a festival-closing showcase in Southport on Aug. 14.
The classical music star power of this year’s Vivace is impressive.
Richard Goode, regarded as the foremost interpreter of Beethoven’s piano works, plays the Wilson Center on Aug. 6. Violinist Ani Kavafian, renowned for her work with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is returning this year. And Ursula Oppens, multi-Grammy nominated pianist and a champion of new music, makes her festival debut. (See below for a list of festival highlights.)
Besides the six Wilson Center concerts this year, at least eight public offerings by faculty and students will go on at venues from Landfall’s Kenan Chapel to DREAMS Academy, with popups aboard the Vivace Concert Truck. Public and online masterclasses are on the schedule as well. Details for each day are available at VivaceMusicFoundation.org.
For its more than 100 American and international students, Vivace offers an opportunity for promising young musicians to learn from some of the world’s most accomplished players and show off what they have learned to audiences.
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John Holloway, who with his partner, Ludovica Punzi, founded the Vivace Foundation, said he’s believed from the start that Wilmington is the perfect place to grow a festival, with an ultimate goal of achieving a status akin to Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA.
Debriefing after its inaugural season in Wilmington, Holloway gave many reasons why Wilmington makes sense for such a significant classical music event, citing its lodging, venues and restaurants, plus one more critical ingredient.
“It’s the people, how friendly everyone is,” Holloway said from his base in Seattle.
Initially, however, it took help from elsewhere to birth the festival.
“We were able to subsidize a lot of the financial needs from friends of Vivace from around the world,” Holloway said. “So people who didn’t necessarily have a commitment to Wilmington at all, or a relationship with Wilmington as a city, helped make it possible.”
Holloway went on to say that as more and more people find out about Vivace, its growth will be determined by the degree to which just the city of Wilmington wants it to be here. Tuesday morning’s Wilmington’s City Council meeting was scheduled to include a proclamation honoring the festival.
“We’re excited,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “This is a celebration of classical music that brings attention and tourism to Wilmington
Saffo liked Vivace to a classical music version of Wilmington’s long-running Cucalorus Film Festival, which is celebrating its 28th year this fall, and referred to the way the Spoleto Festival transformed Charleston.
“I spoke with (former Charleston Mayor) Joe Riley about this years ago and how Spoleto affected his city in significant ways,” Saffo said, adding that he’s pulling for Holloway and Punzi to make the dream of Vivace happen.
See below for the big concerts planned to start this weekend. For a complete list, go to VivaceFoundation.org.
- Friday, Aug. 5: “A Metamorphic Journey” with pianists Marina Lomazov and Joseph Rackers. Vivace Music Foundation artistic directors Lomazov and Rackers kick off Vivace’s second season in Wilmington with Brahms’ Sonata for Two Pianos along with music by Rachmaninoff, Bach, Scriabin and more. 7:30 p.m., CFCC Wilson Center.
- Saturday, Aug. 6: Richard Goode, one of the world’s greatest pianists, presents Beethoven’s expansive Diabelli Variations. Hear for yourself how a simple waltzan forms and transcends. 7:30 p.m., CFCC Wilson Center.
- Sunday, Aug. 7: The Master Trio of Our Time – Bonnie Thron, cello; Axel Strauss, violin; Jason Moon, violin; Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Dmitry Vorobiev, piano Principal cellist of the North Carolina Symphony, Thron teams up with Naumburg Violin Award winner Strauss and virtuoso pianist Vorobiev to perform Mendelssohn’s C minor piano trio. Music by Shostakovich and Strauss complete the program, kicking off Vivace’s string festival. 7:30 p.m., CFCC Wilson Center.
- Wednesday, Aug. 10: Grandly Heroic – Thomas Sauer, piano, and Colin Carr, cello. British cellist Carr has appeared worldwide as a soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist. With Sauer, he will present Rachmaninoff’s sublime Cello Sonata. 7:30 p.m., CFCC Wilson Center.
- Thursday, Aug. 11: “Hats off Gentlemen, a Genius!” – Ani Kavafian and colleagues. Violinist Kavafian has performed as a soloist with virtually every major orchestra in the world. For Vivace, she performs Schumann’s brilliant Piano Quintet in E-flat with an all-star cast, featuring festival artistic advisor Jennifer Frautschi, violinist Jason Moon, cellist Natasha Brofsky and pianist Alexander Kobrin. 7:30 p.m., CFCC Wilson Center.
- Saturday, Aug. 13: “The Van Cliburn of Today” – pianist Alexander Kobrin. Winner of the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, concert artist, and Eastman School of Music faculty member. Program to be announced.