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North Shore Chamber Music Festival Begins June 5

North Shore Chamber Music Festival Begins June 5

May 23, 2024, 1:18 PM · Musicians may dream of starting a music festival, but not too many are able to make it happen and keep it going – and growing – for more than a decade.

But that is exactly what violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe have done. Internationally-known performers in their own right, the married team created the North Shore Chamber Music Festival (NSCMF) back in 2011, and this year they celebrate its 14th season with a three-concert series featuring some of today’s finest classical musicians – who also happen to be their personal friends. (It’s June 5, 7 an 8 at The Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook. Click here for more information.)

North Shore Chamber Music Festival Begins June 5
Violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe, founders of the North Shore Chamber Music Festival.

In addition to Gluzman and Yoffe, this year the festival features a cream-of-the-crop list of musicians from around the world: violinists Paul Huang, Danbi Um and Njioma Grevious; violists Jan Grüning and Katie Liu; cellist Ani Aznavoorian; pianist Alessio Bax; bassist Kurt Muroki; and clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg. Their instruments alone could also make for a fine show – when it comes to violins, there will be an Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù.

Some of the violin-centered highlights of the Festival will be Gluzman and Bax performing Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata; Huang and Um playing Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins on the festival’s first night, and on the final night a series of pieces by Tchaikovsky (Meditation, Scherzo and Melody, Sérénade mélancolique and Valse-Scherzo), featuring each of the week’s violinists solo, with Bax. Here is the full program.

Paul Huang and Danbi Um
Violinists Paul Huang and Danbi Um.

“Our festival is a labor of love for Angela and for myself,” Gluzman told me this week in an interview. “Of course Angela is the heart and the motor of the festival, singlehandedly organizing the logistics, raising funds, creating schedule of rehearsals, promoting the events, selling tickets and also managing to perform – she is a superwoman! I get to do what I love the most – programing and gathering our dear friends, wonderful musicians from all over the world to get together on Chicago’s North Shore for a week of extraordinary music making, food, wine and lots of laughter. We wait for the festival the whole year, so every edition is truly special.”

I have been watching this festival grow for years, along with the special projects Gluzman and Yoffe have spearheaded – and so I will actually be traveling to Chicago in early June to see the performances meet all the people involved. You can watch my blog here on Violinist.com, and if you are in Chicago and come to the performances, please say hello.

Something that makes NSCMF unique is the way Gluzman and Yoffe also have expanded its mission to include a program called the Arkady Fomin Scholarship Fund, named for one of Gluzman’s former teachers and mentors, the late violinist Arkady Fomin, who played in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and was founder and artistic director of the New Conservatory of Dallas. The program has been giving scholarships and promoting the careers of promising young musicians since 2015. (At the moment three of those musicians happen to be in the Finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition – Joshua Brown, Julian Rhee and Elli Choi).

Joining for this year’s festival is their 2024 Arkady Fomin Scholarship Fund recipient Njioma Grevious – who also was the winner of the 2023 Sphinx Competition.

Njioma Grevious
Violinist Njioma Grevious.

“Our recipients are chosen by artistic advisors committee, who also have opportunity to nominate candidates. Such was the case with Njioma,” Gluzman said. “She is a sensitive musician whose chamber music sophistication is absolutely admirable. Since becoming the Arkady Fomin Scholarship Fund recipient, she also has won the 2024 Avery Fisher Career Grant – we are very happy for her and are looking forward to welcoming Njioma to NSCMF!”

Joining them for the first time in a “solo” capacity is Jan Grüning, the violist of the Ariel Quartet.

And about those fine violins? “There are actually three extraordinary violins representing works of three greatest makers in history – Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù,” Gluzman said.

Danbi Um plays on the 1683 “ex-Petschek” Nicolo Amati violin, on loan from a private collection. Paul Huang plays the 1742 “ex-Wieniawski” Guarneri del Gesù, on extended loan to him through the Stradivari Society of Chicago. And Gluzman, a longstanding recipient of the Stradivari Society, plays the 1690 “ex-Auer” Antonio Stradivari.

“To witness these three instruments together on one stage is a very special treat!” Gluzman said.

Some of the artists onstage have been with the Festival for its entire 14 years. “One of the musicians I have to mention in particular is Ilya Shterenberg – we call him ‘the Festival’s favorite clarinetist,'” Gluzman said. “Ilya is a dear friend, we go back decades to our student days and he has been with us since the very first edition of NSCMF. As far as I remember he has only missed one year. Ilya is a fabulous player, an incredibly sensitive musician, combining true virtuosity and musical depth.”

Vadim Gluzman and Ilya Shterenberg
Violinist Vadim Gluzman and clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg.

“This year we present him in a special program – ‘Tribute to Benny Goodman.’ Son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, The King of Swing was born in Chicago – not many people know that!” Gluzman said. “We felt it was a wonderful way to celebrate Chicago’s fantastic musical heritage. Of course the program features the clarinet, with works written for and premiered by Benny Goodman, from Bartok’s ‘Contrasts’ to a set of arrangements of Goodman’s singles made especially for the Festival by Ljova – such as ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and ‘Sing Sing Sing.’ That’s a program you wouldn’t want to miss!”

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For more information about this year’s North Shore Chamber Music Festival, please click here.

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