The Chamber Music Society (CMS) presents a special benefit concert Tuesday, May 1, at 8:00 p.m. at Drew University.  The all-Mendelssohn program features CMS Co-Artistic Directors cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, joined by long-time colleague and Emerson String Quartet violinist Philip Setzer.  Finckel and Wu Han will perform the Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58 and, joined by Setzer, the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, and the Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66.                                                          

The Chamber Music Society’s connection to Drew University and Madison, New Jersey,  began in the spring of 2006 and, with the establishment of an annual series of concerts, the ties with the university and community have only deepened over the years.  For David Finckel and Philip Setzer, the connection is particularly meaningful, as David explains:

Having grown up in Madison, on Alexander Avenue, my personal attachment to Madison could not be stronger. In fact, Philip Setzer and I met and performed together in the Colonial Symphony at the Madison Junior School, right around the corner from my home. Even more coincidental is the fact that my first concert series I presented as a teenager was right here at Drew University.  So it feels entirely natural that I return here to pick up where I left off.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was among the most successful musicians of the 19th century.  His career showed none of the reverses, disappointments and delays that were the rule for the other great Romantic composers; indeed, it was precisely the overwork and exhaustion to meet the demands for his presence, his performances, and his compositions, that led to his untimely death at the age of 38!

Busy as he was with touring, conducting, and composing, on March 28, 1837, Mendelssohn took on the additional responsibilities of family life when he married Cécile Jeanrenaud. “A conscientious chronicle of Mendelssohn’s next few years [after 1835] would merely weary the reader,” noted the late George Marek in his fine biography of the composer. “It would link work with more work, string success after success, place tribute next to tribute, and enumerate an ever larger register of acquaintances and friends.”

One of the most engaging creations of those demanding and rewarding years of Mendelssohn’s life was the Cello Sonata in D major, which he sketched in April 1841 but only completed in the summer of 1843; it was first heard on October 29th at the Gewandhaus. The score was dedicated to the Russian Count Mathieu Wielhorsky, St. Petersburg’s most powerful impresario and a cellist of masterful accomplishment: when Clara Schumann played Mendelssohn’s two cello sonatas with him in 1844 she declared him to be “a real artist.”

Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, was composed in 1839 and was greeted with great and immediate enthusiasm.  Today, it remains one of his most popular and beloved instrumental creations.  The legendary cellist Pablo Casals played it with  Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Alexander Schneider when he was invited by President John F. Kennedy to perform at the White House in 1961.

Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 was written in 1845. A thoroughly enjoyable work, it is, however, less familiar than the first trio.  This program therefore offers the opportunity to compare both of the composer’s piano trios side by side.

The May 1 performance by the CMS will be held in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Drew’s Madison campus.  Tickets to the concert are $70 for season subscribers and $80 for members of the general public.  All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit future classical music presentations at Drew.  To purchase tickets or for more information, please call the box office at 973/408-3917 or visit www.drew.edu/community/the-concert-hall.

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