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Music in the Nave concludes season with “Mozart in May”

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KENT—Music in the Nave will close out its 2024 season at St. Andrew’s Church with the start of a new tradition, according to the church’s Director of Music Matt Harris. The final concert of a season will focus on “Mozart in May,” a program performed by the renowned Manhattan String Quartet.

The Manhattan String Quartet will present “Mozart in May” as the next program in the Music in the Nave series.

Harris said his inspiration came for the program when Lincoln Center decided to retire its Mostly Mozart Festival, held virtually every summer since 1966. “For the first time in almost 60 years, there was no Mostly Mozart series,” Harris said. While Lincoln Center was struggling to find a new focus, Harris, who has been promoting a new vision for the Music in the Nave programs, seized the moment.

“It occurred to me that Mozart, rather than this group or that group, would be the draw for our final concert of the season,” he said. “The music has an essence you get in May; it would be the right music at the right time. There will be different artists every May, but the music will all be Mozart’s. It will be something people can expect as much as Handle’s ‘Messiah’ at Christmas.”

The 2024 season of Music in the Nave has already seen considerable innovation. The season has seen a concert of bluegrass and acoustical music by Sam Reider and the Human Hands, the ever-popular Christmas “Messiah Sing-in,” a children’s concert in February, and a performance by local folksinger George Potts last month. It ends May 18 at 4 p.m. with the Manhattan String Quartet performing Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor and No. 16 in E-Flat Major, from a set known as the “Haydn Quartets.” 

“We’re starting to get a rhythm with our concerts,” said Harris. “We had our first children’s concert this year and are planning another one for next February. We have been having cabaret concerts in the parish house and now we are going back to the sanctuary for a chamber concert. We’re getting a lot of people from Litchfield County and beyond and we’re very happy about that. We’re now one of the primary sources of music for Litchfield County, but we keep prices low so those who are not used to going to concerts will come.”

Cellist Chris Finckle of the Manhattan String Quartet said the music to be played is particularly interesting when considered in the context of Mozart’s life. “Haydn was at least a generation older than Mozart, who is better known as an opera composer,” he reported. “When Mozart met Haydn, they struck up a relationship that was more than a friendship. It was a relationship filled with high esteem and respect. Mozart was still young, and his father thought he would never make it as composer, but Haydn, who is considered to be the father of the string quartet, wrote to the father and said, ‘Your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.’” 

Haydn termed Mozart “the incarnation of music.”

The pieces to be performed are part of a set of six string quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn. “Both Mozart and Haydn shared a great sense of wit, and both pieces are filled with little inside jokes,” continued Finckle. “You can almost feel Mozart was paying homage to Haydn’s sense of humor by injecting his own wit into the music.”

Harris said the music “is so intimate, more of an experimental thing. I feel this is a good mix—it’s not fluffy at all, but very audience friendly.”

Finckle will be joined by quartet members Marka Gustavsson, viola, Sunghae Anna Lim, violin and Curtis Macomber, violin. 

The Manhattan String Quartet is celebrating its 51st season. It is well-known for its performances of 20th-century “classics,” and has established a significant international reputation with regular concert appearances throughout America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. 

Tickets for the May 18 concert are $20 and are available online or at the door.

Kathryn Boughton
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