Next month San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM) will return to the Legion of Honor to host a monthly series of weekend concerts. This is their Legion Listening Series, and 2016 will be the year of its seventh season. Five concerts will be presented between February and June, each serving as a platform for a chamber ensemble based in San Francisco. All concerts will last about 90 minutes and will begin at noon. The specific dates and groups will be as follows:
Saturday, February 6, 2016, Chamber Music Society of San Francisco: While the name may suggest a large group, this is a string quartet, all of whose members are active in making music throughout the Bay Area. They are violinists Natasha Makhijani and Jory Fankuchen, violist Clio Tilton, and cellist Samsun van Loon; and they began playing as a quartet in 2013. Their recital will coincide with the opening of the exhibit Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia, and they have prepared a program of French masterworks suitable for the occasion. It will include the string quartet of Maurice Ravel, the third movement of Claude Debussy’s string quartet, and arrangements of piano music by Debussy and Erik Satie. The program will also include an arrangement of Ottorino Respighi’s third Ancient Airs and Dances suite, originally composed for string ensemble.
Sunday, March 6, Amaranth Quartet: This is another relatively new string quartet, founded in 2014. Its members are violinists Katie von Braun and Abigail Shiman, violist Erica Zappia, and cellist Helen Newby. They have commissioned and premiered new music by composers including Nick Benavides, Lucas Floyd, Andrew Vickers, and Kenji Oh. They also recently completed an extended project with composer, arranger, and producer Nahuel Bronzini called The String Quartet Experience, which resulted in an album of the same name and a release concert held last month at the Red Poppy Art House. They will also present a program of French music from the beginning of the twentieth century. Not only will they offer Debussy’s quartet (in its entirety this time); but also they will pair it with the only string quartet by Gabriel Fauré, who achieved some notoriety as the first director of the Conservatoire de Paris to add Debussy’s music to the curriculum. There is also be a bit of notoriety in their performance of the string quartet by Germaine Tailleferre, the only female among the six composers of Les Six, united through their common advocacy of Satie’s music.
Sunday, April 10, Trois Bois: Those who know French will recognize that this is a trio of wind players, oboist Laura Reynolds, clarinetist Patricia Shands, and bassoonist David Grainger. They are a somewhat more seasoned ensemble, since they formed in 2009. Their focus is on the wind trio repertoire from the eighteenth century to the present day. However, to recognize the Legion of Honor exhibit Sublime Beauty: Raphael’s “Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn,” they will perform Fortuna desperata, a suite of music by Renaissance composers Antoine Busnois, Heinrich Isaac, Felice Anerio, and Francesco Spinacino, as well as a suite of dances compiled by another Renaissance composer, Joan Ambrogio Dalza. The remainder of their program will be devoted to French composers Charles Koechlin, Joseph Cantaloube, Georges Migot, and Jacques Ibert.
Sunday, May 1, Madroña Trio: This group was formed in 2007 by three principal musicians of the Sacramento Philharmonic, harpist Anna Maria Mendieta, violist Emily Onderdonk, and flutist Matthew Krejci. They chose to name themselves for the winery in El Dorado County where they gave their debut recital. They, too, specialize in French music; and their program will include music by Ibert, Ravel, and Debussy, as well as Darius Milhaud, Jules Massenet, Jean-Michel Damase, and Maurice Duruflé.
Sunday, June 19, Thalea String Quartet: The series will conclude with another relatively new string quartet. Consisting of violinists Christopher Whitley and Kumiko Sakamoto, violist Luis Bellorin, and cellist Bridget Pasker, the group formed in 2014 at the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival, held in Courmayeur in Italy. This season they are the first quartet-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM); and they gave their debut recital in that capacity this past October. Except for Whitley, all members are or have been SFCM students. They have not yet announced their program.
All of these concerts will be offered free of charge for those who have paid for admission to the Legion on Honor museum. The museum is located in Lincoln Park at 100 34th Avenue. It is accessible by public transportation, but getting there can be a bit tricky. There is a small parking lot located around the fountain in the front of the museum. Parking can also be found along El Camino del Mar, which is a short walk from the museum.