Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) for Three Masked Players

Noon on Wednesday, July 17, New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Avenue

The sounds of the humpback whale came to public attention in 1970, when a recording of them became a surprise surprise hit. George Crumb’s Voice of the Whale premiered a year later, with the composer successfully invoking the creatures’ eerie, haunting world in a piece for flute, cello, and piano. The players are called upon to use an enormous range of techniques. The flutist must play and sing simultaneously; the pianist plucks strings by hand and alters their sound using a paper clip, a chisel, and a glass rod; and the cellist engages in call-and-response whistling with the flutist. It may sound gimmicky, but the effect is magnificent. Works by Schubert and Debussy are also on the program.

Pianist Kirill Gerstein plays Brahms

6 p.m. on July 24, New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Avenue

Largely self-taught, Tōru Takemitsu became one of the most important Japanese composers of the late 20th century, manipulating instrumental timbres with great subtlety and skill in works that blended Asian and Western aesthetics. His incantatory Rain Tree, for three percussionists playing marimbas and vibraphone, opens the concert. Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor initially puzzled listeners with its opening movement, in which an enormous structure is built from a simple theme. It’s now recognized as one of his signature pieces, beloved especially for its concluding Rondo alla Zingarese (Rondo in Gypsy Style), with its rhythmic drive and lightning-fast alternations in mood. The concert opens with Beethoven’s early String Trio in C minor. 

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Jon Kimura Parker and Mahler

Noon Aug. 7, New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Avenue

Susan Graham, Santa Fe’s favorite mezzo, teams up with pianist Jon Kimura Parker to perform Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder and Hector Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été (Summer Nights). Graham excels in the French song repertory, so her performance of Berlioz’s ravishing set of six songs on love, loss, and renewal should be a special treat. The Rückert-Lieder addresses many of the same themes in an intimate and intensely personal manner. Mahler asked that they be performed only in small halls, and the Chamber Music Festival has obliged.

Stefan Dohr plays Brahms

6 p.m. on Aug. 11, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St.

Mozart’s writing for wind instruments is extraordinary, and this concert opens with a delightful example: his Gran Partita, the Serenade in B-flat major for 12 wind instruments and string bass. Schubert wrote Auf dem Strom (On the River) as an homage to Beethoven, who had died a year earlier. Scored for the unusual trio of tenor, horn, and piano, it includes a musical quotation from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Brahms’ Horn Trio in E-flat major features Stefan Dohr, principal horn for the Berlin Philharmonic, which is internationally renowned for its brass section.

Bruckner Quintet

6 p.m. on Aug. 12, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St.

Manuel de Falla wrote his Harpsichord Concerto for Wanda Landowska, the Polish-French virtuoso who almost single-handedly revived interest in the instrument during the early 1900s. De Falla used Spanish musical themes, to be sure, but everything else was a surprise. The piece is really a chamber concerto for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, cello, and harpsichord in which the six instruments play equal roles and the musical style reflects Stravinsky’s spikiness and wit. The concert also includes Anton Bruckner’s String Quintet, his only major piece of chamber music, and Mendelssohn’s Konzertstück (Concert Piece) in F minor for clarinet, bassoon, and piano. 

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