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Winter Chamber Music Festival presents six concerts of chamber masterworks

Two award-winning ensembles debut and CSO members play in 26th season
Isidore String Quartet
The Isidore String Quartet makes its Winter Chamber Music Festival debut at Bienen School of Music on Jan. 13. Photo by Charles Chessler

The Winter Chamber Music Festival returns for its 26th season at the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Jan. 6 to 22, 2023. The lineup includes six concerts offering classical and contemporary chamber works performed by world-class musicians. The festival is directed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist and Bienen faculty member Blair Milton, founder of the annual event. 

All performances take place in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, located at 50 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. 

Since the festival’s founding, artists from Chicago and around the world have shared their artistry in the 153 concerts that have taken place since January 1997.

“This year we are celebrating our 26th season with five exceptional string quartets,” said Blair Milton. “Appearing for the first time are the Isidore [String] Quartet, the winner of the most recent Banff String Quartet Competition, and the Horszowski Trio. The Calidore [String] Quartet is returning for the first time since 2017. We also welcome back two groups that have appeared many times in recent years — the Jupiter [String] Quartet and the New Orford [String] Quartet.

In a look back to the all-Brahms inaugural season, the first Sunday concert will feature CSO musicians and Adam Neiman presenting a program of Brahms, including the Piano Quintet, which was the final work of the opening season,” Milton said.

The 2023 Winter Chamber Music Festival is made possible in part by the generous support of the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

Calidore String Quartet with Xavier Foley, double bass
Friday, Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m.

The Calidore String Quartet is the Grand Prize winner of the 2016 M-Prize International Chamber Music Competition and a recipient of the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award. Joining the quartet is composer and double bassist Xavier Foley, who has appeared as a soloist with the Atlanta and Nashville symphonies, among others, and has been co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Sphinx Organization. Both the Calidore and Foley are recipients of the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Their program comprises music of Wynton Marsalis, Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák.

An Afternoon of Brahms
Sunday, Jan. 8, 3 p.m.

Violinists Stephanie Jeong and Simon Michal, Bienen faculty violist Weijing Michal and cellist Kenneth Olsen, all members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, come together with pianist Adam Neiman to perform a selection of masterpieces by Johannes Brahms. Included on the program is his Violin Sonata No. 2, often called “Thun” after the Alpine town in Switzerland where it was composed, as well as his Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor and Piano Quintet in F Minor.

Isidore String Quartet
Friday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Winner of the 2022 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the Isidore String Quartet has performed at Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Ravinia Festival. In addition to their appearance at the Bienen School, their current season also sees the beginning of their work as a resident ensemble with PROJECT: MUSIC HEALS US, which provides encouragement, education and healing to marginalized communities. Their program features string quartets of Joseph Haydn, Billy Childs and Ludwig van Beethoven. 

New Orford String Quartet
Sunday, Jan. 15, 3 p.m.

The New Orford String Quartet has won two Opus Awards for Concert of the Year and a 2017 JUNO Award for Best Classical Album. A Canadian quartet, they are dedicated to performing works by composers of their home country, including Glenn Gould, Sir Ernest MacMillan and Jacques Hétu. They have commissioned works by such composers as François Dompierre and Airat Ichmouratov and have collaborated with pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Menahem Pressler. The quartet takes to the Pick-Staiger stage to perform Kelly-Marie Murphy’s “Oblique Light” and string quartets by Béla Bartók and Franz Schubert.

Horszowski Trio
Friday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.

The Horszowski Trio takes its name from pianist Mieczsław Horszowski, who instructed the trio’s pianist Rieko Aizawa at the Curtis Institute. The group is Ensemble-in-Residence at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and the Leschetizky Association in New York City and has collaborated with many renowned musicians, including John Harbison, Joan Tower and the Ying Quartet’s Philip Ying. On their Winter Chamber Music Festival program, the trio presents the Chicago premiere of their “Fantasiestücke Project,” featuring new works by Derek Bermel, David Fulmer and Paul Chihara, in addition to piano trios by Bedřich Smetana and Robert Schumann.

Jupiter String Quartet
Sunday, Jan. 22, 3 p.m.

The Jupiter String Quartet has received the grand prizes in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and is a recipient of Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award and the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Their latest recording — a collaboration with the Jasper String Quartet featuring music of Dan Visconti, Felix Mendelssohn and Osvaldo Golijov — was released on the Marquis Classics label in 2021. Their program features music of W.A. Mozart, Florence Price, William Bolcom and Johannes Brahms.

In addition to the festival concerts, the Bienen School of Music’s Quartet-in-Residence the Dover Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, in Galvin Recital Hall, 70 Arts Circle Drive. The quartet welcomes a new violist, Hezekiah Leung, who has won top prizes at the Glenn Gould Chamber Music Competition and the 74th Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Standard Life Competition. The Dover Quartet’s program features music of Joseph Haydn, Antonín Dvořák and Felix Mendelssohn. This performance is an add-on for Winter Chamber Music Festival subscribers, whose subscription discount applies to the ticket price.

Abby Vakulskas is the marketing coordinator at Bienen School of Music.

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