I’m ashamed to admit that it’s taken me until the final weekend of the festival to hit up one of the twice-daily — and greatly beloved — chamber music concerts in the Dock Street Theatre, but, well, it did. This program, Program X, featured a set of three Elizabethan pieces, a French song cycle by Gabriel Fauré, Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F Minor, and Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet, op. 11.

Geoff Nuttall, a co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet and the emcee, as it were, for Spoleto’s Chamber Music series, started us off with one of his characteristically informal, enthusiastic introductions to the program we were about to hear. The Elizabethan works and the Fauré were on the more restrained side — though the Fauré was also very romantic and evocative — while the Bach and the Shostakovich were “gnarly, gritty, and dirty,” as Nuttall said. 

I don’t remember whom I heard say this, but I know I’ve heard that Spoleto audiences are some of the most appreciative chamber music listeners that there are. That is largely due, of course, to the world-class musicians who come to play these concerts, but it’s also thanks to Nuttall, whose humor and energy never seem to flag. He’s always got a fun story or weird tidbit about the music to share. It keeps these concerts from being anything like the typical stuffy chamber performances that classical music fans often suffer through for the sake of being a supporter of the arts.

And the music was sublime. Especially the Shostakovich — quick, dark and, yes, gnarly, it’s become a new favorite for me. If you think you don’t like chamber music, I’d encourage you to try one of these shows before the festival is through. The final performances are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. 

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