Music in the Vineyards, the 23rd season for the annual summer chamber music series, will present 14 concerts at winery venues up and down the valley Aug. 4-27.
The twilight concerts feature internationally renowned musicians who gather in the Napa Valley for a week to connect with colleagues, collaborate with new and returning artists, rehearse and build chemistry for each piece, and perform in settings that include barrel rooms and wine caves, where the audience plays a crucial role in the alchemy of the performance.
Michael and Daria Adams, founding artistic directors of Napa Valley’s Music in the Vineyards festival, work year-round to select both the musicians and repertoire.
“Our 2017 season will be anchored by four remarkable ensembles that represent the best and brightest in the chamber music world,” said Michael Adams. “We’ve invited the Horszowski Trio, the Escher Quartet, the Pacifica Quartet — returning for their 15th summer — and the Chiara String Quartet, which attempts the near impossible in every performance: they perform from memory.”
The season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 4 at Frog’s Leap Winery with a program of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Frenchwoman Cécile Chaminade, awarded the French Légion d’Honneur in 1913, a first for a female composer.
On Sunday, Aug. 6, the program includes Aaron Copland’s iconic work of Americana, “Appalachian Spring,” performed in its original version for 13 players. Also on the program is “ER-OS,” a wedding gift by Kalevi Aho, one of Finland’s foremost contemporary composers, for husband and wife artists Osmo Vänskä (clarinet) and Erin Keefe (violin).
“This is a very special piece for us and I am really looking forward to performing it with my husband,” said Keefe. “It is a very intimate and personal work, and this will only be our third time performing it.”
The festival continues for another three weeks on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
On Aug. 9, the highly esteemed Pacifica Quartet will return for their 14th summer with Music in the Vineyards, performing their specialty works by Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Mendelssohn at Merryvale Vineyards.
On Saturday, Aug. 12, the organization will host a fundraising gala, La Belle Époque, a Parisian-themed fête at Charles Krug to benefit the education and community-focused programs of the festival.
The evening includes a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, a chamber music concert by the Pacifica Quartet in the winery’s historic Carriage House, haute cuisine on the lawn with live café dansant music by the Baguette Quartette, and a live auction featuring getaways, parties and one-of-a-kind experiences around the globe. Tickets for La Belle Époque cost $275 per person or $2,000 for a table of 8.
The festival continues on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at The Hess Collection with the Chiara String Quartet performing works by Schubert, Pierre Jalbert, and Brahms. The Boston Globe has lauded the ensemble with possessing “highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing.”
For the finale concert at Inglenook in Rutherford, musicians will perform a Mozart sonata for piano and violin, the earthy, lusty, Piano Quintet no. 2 by Dvořák, and Schoenberg’s essay “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night).
“Verklärte Nacht is always high on my list of favorite chamber works. I don’t get to play it that often and I’m really looking forward to performing it this summer,” said cellist Nicholas Canellakis. “It’s a string sextet, which is always a very lush and rewarding genre. The piece is a single movement based on a poem, and it was created at the height of romanticism so it’s harmonically dense, rich, and emotional. It’s always quite an experience to perform.”
“Like many artists that play with Music in the Vineyards, I am a part of many summer music festivals, and each has their own vibe. Napa is such a beautiful location and an exciting place to play – it’s quite a unique experience playing in wineries and barrel rooms, often with great acoustics and amazing vineyard views,” said Erin Keefe. “We have as much fun off the stage together as we do on the stage.”
Tickets for Music in the Vineyards concerts cost $60 and are on sale now. The festival also offers free open rehearsals on Thursdays and a closing-night celebration ($145) at Meadowood Napa Valley on Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m.