September 18, 2014

Final Concert of Essex Winter Series Celebrates Johann Sebastian Bach, April 13

Tara O'Connor

Flutist Tara O’Connor

The final concert of the 2014 Essex Winter Series season will be a celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the most prominent musician of the Baroque period, and a composer revered by many as the greatest composer of all time.  The concert, which takes place on Palm Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m., offers some of Bach’s most beautiful soprano arias as well as several instrumental masterworks.

The featured soloists are Lisa Saffer, soprano; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Ani Kavafian, violin; and Linda Skernick, harpsichord.  Rounding out the instrumental ensemble are Benjamin Hoffman, violin; Colin Brookes, viola; Jerrian van der Zanden, cello; and Samuel Suggs, double bass

Violinist Ani Kavafian enjoys a prolific career as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician.  She has performed with virtually all of America’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and many others.  Her numerous solo recital engagements include performances at New York’s Carnegie and Alice Tully halls, as well as in major venues across the country.

Kavafian has served as a guest concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and was recently appointed to the concertmaster position of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.  She is a participant in numerous summer festivals, including Virginia Waterfront Festival, the OK Mozart Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Music@Menlo, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, and Music From Angel Fire Festival among many others.

Kavafian has appeared frequently over the past thirty years with her sister, violinist and violist Ida Kavafian. A sought-after chamber musician, Kavafian is an Artist Member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and with violist Barbara Wesphal and cellist Gustav Rivinius she is a member of the Trio da Salo.  She has teamed with clarinetist David Shifrin and pianist Andre-Michel Schub to form the Kavafian-Schub-Shifrin Trio with whom she tours frequently.  With cellist Carter Brey, she is co-artistic director of the New Jersey 10 concert chamber music series “Mostly Music.”

Kavafian has premiered and recorded a number of works written for her, including works by Henri Lazarof, Tod Machover, Michelle Ekizian, and Aaron Jay Kernis.

Kavafian has received the Avery Fisher Career Grant and was a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, an organization where she now serves as president of the Alumni Association.  She has appeared at the White House on three separate occasions, and has been featured on many network and PBS television music specials. Her recordings can be heard on the Nonesuch, RCA, Columbia, Arabesque, and Delos labels.

Born in Istanbul, Turkey of Armenian heritage, Kavafian began piano lessons at the age of three.  At age nine, in the United States, she began the study of the violin with Ara Zerounian and went on to study violin at the Juilliard School with Ivan Galamian, eventually receiving a master’s degree with highest honors.  Kavafian is Professor of Violin at Yale University and plays the 1736 Muir McKenzie Stradivarius violin.  She lives in Westchester County in New York with her husband, artist Bernard Mindich.  Their son, Matthew, lives and works in the Lost Angeles area.

Flutist Tara Helen O’Connor is a charismatic performer sought after for her unusual artistic depth, brilliant technique and colorful tone in music of every era.  This past season she premiered a new chamber work by John Zorn, gave her a debut performance at the Mainly Mozart festival with Windscape and a concerto with Maestro David Atherton and made appearances at the Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival and the Avila Chamber Music Celebration in Curaçao, premiered Jonathan Bergers new opera with the Saint Lawrence String Quartet in Stanford and performed concerts in Hawaii and Georgia with CMS.

A frequent participant in the Santa Fe chamber music festival, she has also appeared at Zankel Hall, Symphony Space, Music@Menlo, the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Spoleto USA, Chamber Music Northwest, Music from Angel Fire, the Banff Centre, and the Bravo! VailValley Music Festival.  O’Connor has appeared on A&E’s “Breakfast for the Arts” and Live from Lincoln Center.  She has recorded for Deutsche Gramophon, EMI Classics, Koch International and Bridge Records.

She is a founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning New Millennium Ensemble and a member of the woodwind quintet Windscape, teaches at the Bard College Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music, is professor of flute and head of the wind department at Purchase College Conservatory of Music and holds a summer flute master class at the Banff Centre inCanada.  Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a two-time Grammy nominee, she was the first wind player to participate in the CMS Two program and is now an Artist of the Chamber Music Society.

Soprano Lisa Saffer has graced opera and concert stages worldwide with her versatility, intelligence, and musicality in a range of repertoire.

Saffer is recognized for her skill as an interpreter of contemporary scores and of the music of Handel. She has been particularly associated with the music of Oliver Knussen and was a participant in a landmark series of Handel recordings and performances with conductor Nicholas McGegan.

She has worked with opera companies all over the world including the Metropolitan Opera, the Liceu in Barcelona, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera National de Paris, English National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, the Netherlands Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, and has had particularly close relationships with New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera.

Saffer has appeared with major symphony orchestras including those of New York, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, and Philadelphia. She has also sung with the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta , the Orchestra of St Luke’s and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

She loves chamber music and has worked with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Schoenberg Ensemble and the New York Festival of Song among others.

She has recordings on DGG, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Telarc and Virgin Classics. For her portrayal of Berg’s Lulu at the English National Opera, she was honored to receive the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best vocal performance and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award.

A native of Ann Arbor, she now makes her home in Maine, where she has built a house in Brownfield with her partner, Andy Buck, a timber framer.  She teaches at her alma mater, the New England Conservatory, and is on the faculty of Songfest. She is a voracious reader, loves to cook and is contemplating gardening.

Linda Skernick‘s career as a harpsichordist includes solo recitals at the Los Angeles Harpsichord Center, Washington DC’s Phillips Collection, the Cleveland and Birmingham Museums of Art, New York’s Lincoln Center, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, as well as at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments and at Wesleyan University.

She has toured with Alexander Schneider’s Brandenburg Ensemble and performed with Gerard Schwarz’s Mostly Mozart Festival, as well as the Seacliff Chamber Players’ Long Island Bach Festival, and many local CT series, including the Robbie Colomore concerts, in Chester, the Essex Winter Series, in Essex, the George Flynn Classical Concerts, in Clinton, and Music Mountain, in Falls Village.

Skernick was a member of New York’s “Tafelmusik” Ensemble and the New York Baroque Consort, and has been soloist with many of the orchestras and chamber series throughout Connecticut; she has performed with Philip Setzer, violin, Abraham Skernick, viola, baritone Richard Lalli, and flautist Michael Parloff, and cellist Carter Brey, among others; she was on the distinguished roster of Affiliate Artists, during that group’s existence, and has twice been the recipient of grants from the Sylvia Marlowe Harpsichord Society.

Skernick appeared both as soloist and in chamber music with the Connecticut Early Music Festival and John Solum’s Hanoverian Ensemble.  She was also a founding member of “The Klezzical Traition”, a group playing traditional klezmer and classical music.  Many of Skernick’s performances, including several guest concerts at Music Mountain, Falls Village, CT, have been broadcast by National Public Radio.  She appeared live on WQXR’s”The Listening Room” (New York City) and WGBH’s “Morning Pro Musica” (Boston).

Recently, during the 2010-2011 season, she is played solo concerti with Orchestra New England and the Falmouth (Massachusetts) Chamber Players Orchestra featuring works of J. S. Bach.  At this time she is working on a series of solo harpsichord recordings.  Skernick has been a member of the music faculty at Connecticut College, teaching both piano and harpsichord since 1979, and is on the faculty of the Thames Valley Music School in New London. She also teaches and coaches privately.

It is unremarkable to have Bach’s sacred and secular music performed together; for Bach, there was no sharp divide between the two.  To his mind, all music was a celebration of God’s glory, and his output in both genres was extraordinary.

The Essex Winter Series program will include six arias chosen from various cantatas, St. John Passion, and Easter Oratorio.  The instrumental works include Sonata No. 1 in E-flat for Flute and Harpsichord, Trio Sonata in C minor from The Musical Offering, and the popular Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, which features flute, violin, and harpsichord soloists.

The concert will take place at Valley Regional High School, Kelsey Hill Road, in Deep River, Connecticut.

Tickets, all general admission, are $30 ($12 for students) and may be purchased online at www.essexwinterseries.com or by phone at 860-272-4572. The concert is sponsored by the Edgard and Geraldine Feder Foundation

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