Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Island Music Festival returns with cantatas, quintets and virtuosos

Countertenor Ian Howell will perform his acclaimed interpretation of the Bach cantatas accompanied by solo oboist Debra Nagy at the Whidbey Island Music Festival Friday, Aug. 15 and Sunday, Aug. 17. - Photo courtesy of Ian Howell
Countertenor Ian Howell will perform his acclaimed interpretation of the Bach cantatas accompanied by solo oboist Debra Nagy at the Whidbey Island Music Festival Friday, Aug. 15 and Sunday, Aug. 17.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Ian Howell

The early music gods are smiling on Whidbey Island again as the Whidbey Island Music Festival returns.

Whidbey Island will host a number of talented soloists and ensembles this year, including the Novello Quartet, La Monica, countertenor Ian Howell and oboist Debra Nagy from Friday, Aug. 8 through Sunday, Aug. 17.

This summer’s programs explore Mozart and Boccherini’s crystalline counterpoint for oboe and strings, the charm and romanticism of Schubert and Beethoven, the beauty and depth of emotion of 17th century Germany and Johann Sebastian Bach’s profoundly moving cantatas.

Four different programs will be performed throughout two weekends, for a total of six performances at Greenbank Farm, Bayview Community Hall and St. Augustine’s Church in Freeland.

Novello Quartet will get things started as it opens the festival at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 at Greenbank Farm.

Whidbey Pies Cafe will be open until 7 p.m. for those music lovers who would like to enjoy supper, a glass of wine or a slice of pie before the concert.

Opening night music includes the Boccherini Quintet in D minor, Op. 45, No. 6 and the Mozart Quintet in

C minor K 406.

Mozart and Boccherini exemplify chiaroscuro — the contrast between light and dark. Boccherini’s sensuous and velvety layering of textures provides a lovely contrast with the luminosity and brightness of Mozart’s crystalline writing.

The Novello Quartet is quickly becoming known as an ensemble that’s not afraid to caress the music with its non-obsessive brand of polish as the musicians are willing to relax enough to let those delightful moments in the music that other groups might gloss over shine through.

Novello will be joined by one of the most in-demand oboist of her generation, Nagy.

Nagy is making her mark all throughout the country for her work as a collaborative artist and soloist. She has been praised for her “dazzling technique and soulful expressiveness” on an instrument that is sure to bring the festival crowd a good dose of mellifluous joy.

Nagy will also play in programs with La Monica and countertenor Howell.

San Francisco Classical Voice magazine noted Howell’s “polished sound, clear resonance and powerful enunciation.”

He has performed on major concert stages across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Taiwan and recently took first place at the American Bach Soloists International Solo Competition with an acclaimed performance of Bach’s cantata, which islanders will be able to hear during the festival program.

La Monica, along with the rest of these performers, seems to be making a big splash everywhere it performs.

Passionate and with a noticeable affection for the music, this ensemble has been known to spice up each program with their dramatic flair. La Monica has found a dynamic combination of the solo soprano voice and string ensemble that has put them at the forefront of the American early music scene.

It will be interesting to hear what this collaboration of artists will do with the closing program of the festival, the Bach cantatas and some other German-influenced pieces.

Following the ruin of the Thirty Years War in Europe, there was a creative explosion in Germany.

Music was being created based on a new taste for cosmopolitan living and political ideas. Into this heady period of sophisticated thought, musicians and composers of Germany, Italy and France were thrown together and had a great influence on each other.

The end result was the evolution of music that explored new depths of emotion.

It was in that new world of sound that Bach would develop his particular style of music that would later emerge on the world stage.

Now, Whidbey Island Music Festival visitors can hear what these 21st century musicians can do with this 17th Century music.

To see a schedule of the full program, visit www.whidbeyislandmusicfestival.org.

Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $15 for students and are available online at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Tickets will also be available at the door. Children are admitted free with a paying adult.

The Whidbey Island Music Festival is made possible with help from the Island Arts Council.

Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or pduff@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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