Some of the sweetest musical “cherries” topping Spoleto’s lavish banana split can be found amid the chamber music line-up. Charles Wadsworth’s grueling concert schedule features 33 performances — 11 different programs offered at the rate of one or two a day over the entire festival. If you miss the first go at any program, you’ll have two more chances to bully or bribe your way in. Good luck — the Dock Street is always packed to the rafters for these.
Wadsworth has been scouring the known universe for chamber treasures for nearly half a century now, and the best of them get heard here — be they beloved masterpieces or complete novelties. You’ll hear everything from Baroque bonbons to stuff that the ink hasn’t dried on yet. He follows festival tradition in keeping you in the dark about each program until you show up for it. And it works, taking potluck rather than picking programs based on what they know has opened the ears and minds of many, in spite of themselves. But one thing’s for sure: something by Mozart will grace every program.
Then there are the musicians. After 20 shining seasons doing his thing at Lincoln Center, Wadsworth knows all of the best ones — anywhere. They’re all from the global A-list. And he has a sure nose for emerging talent, having helped launch the careers of folks like Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell.
Wadsworth is especially pleased with this year’s potential for harmonious teamwork. His roster, as always, is studded with both cherished regulars and brilliant first-timers. The exuberant St. Lawrence String Quartet will again be the resident ensemble, but with double-threat string virtuoso Daniel Phillips subbing at violin II (he’ll be heard elsewhere on viola). Depend on him to match colleagues Geoff Nuttall (violin I), Lesley Robertson (viola), and Chris Costanza (cello) as they generate their usual excitement.
Other returning notables include star violinist Chee Yun-Kim and American sensation Corey Cerovsek. The reigning cellists are the rich-toned Andrés Díaz and Alisa Weilerstein, a recent Spoleto discovery who emotes like Jacqueline du Pré used to. Piano masters are the versatile Wendy Chen and Jeremy Denk, another recent festival standout. Keyboard whiz Wadsworth doubles on piano and harpsichord. From the woodwind realm are the mercurial Todd Palmer on clarinet and flute sorceress Tara O’Connor.
There’s already some promising buzz about this year’s festival rookies. Renowned harpist Catrin Finch has already won rabid fans worldwide, and emerging viola-meister Masumi Rostad is sure to please. This year’s composer-in-residence is the eclectic young Kenji Bunch. His recent string of global successes tells us he’s a note-slinger to reckon with.
Dr. W. keeps his art down to earth with his laid-back and often hilarious running commentary about the music. He’s the Robin Williams of chamber music. He and his musical cohorts have created an appetite for chamber music in Spoletians that’s unsatiable.
CHAMBER MUSIC • Spoleto Festival USA’s Bank of America Chamber Music Series • May 26-June 11: 11 a.m. and/or 1 p.m. daily • $35; some shows $25 • 1 hour 10 min • Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. • 579-3100