Over the years, the Tokyo String Quartet has staked its strongest claim on a relatively small portion of the musical map – Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert and their kin – but it has explored this terrain with remarkable depth and vigor. The same can be said for the Maverick Concerts, known as America’s oldest summer chamber music festival. The group will open this year’s string of performances on July 4.
But which Tokyo Quartet? The group was founded in 1969, yet in recent years personnel changes have made for a bumpy road; only the estimable violist Kazuhide Isomura is an original member. The biggest blow came in 1996, when the staggeringly good first violinist Peter Oundjian was forced to step down for medical reasons.
During those golden Oundjian years, the group was unsurpassed in its combination of expressive depth and unified ensemble virtuosity. The search for his successor was a rocky one; the Ukrainian violinist Mikhail Kopelman took up the job, but the group never jelled sonically or stylistically under his leadership. Since 2002, Martin Beaver has been in the first fiddle chair, and will continue to be when they perform “Mendelssohn & Friends I.”
The famed foursome will render interpretations of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 95, “Quartetto Serioso”; Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”; and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 3 in D, Op. 44, No. 1. The following evening, the esteemed Shanghai Quartet will arrive, performing “Mendelssohn and Friends II, ” which features Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 13; Penderecki’s String Quartet No. 3, “Leaves from an Unwritten Diary,” the area premiere of a Shanghai Quartet commission; and Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10.
Finally, to close out an action-packed first week of the season, the 18th annual Woodstock Beat takes place to benefit the Woodstock/Byrdcliffe Guild on July 11. This year, the featured artist is the legendary Paul Winter Consort. Now almost 70, Winter formed a jazz sextet at Northwestern University back in the late ‘50s and is about to begin his 43rd anniversary season with the Consort, whose membership varies with the season. An early lineup spun off into the renowned fusion quartet Oregon. Over a distinguished career that has led him down many byways, including music of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Russia, he has eschewed such labels as “New Age” and “World Music” in favor of such all-encompassing, more descriptive categories as “living music” or “earth music.” Most importantly, he is a friend of wildlife, having incorporated into his repertoire prerecorded sounds of nature, including birds, humpback whales and wolves. Thus, expect audience participation during a set that serves as an ideal sampler of his musical evolution through the decades.
For Paul Winter Consort tickets, contact the Guild at (845) 679-2079. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. The cost is $100 for seating in the first three rows, including a pre-concert party with Winter himself in a private home; $70 for rows 4 through 6; $50 for rows 7 through 10; and $30 for outside seats under a tent. Visit www.maverickconcerts.org for ticket prices to other shows.