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Classical At Its Best: Sanibel Music Festival to feature seven performances in March

March 2, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

An opportunity to experience the highest standard of classical music is just around the corner.

The 32nd annual Sanibel Music Festival will kick off on March 3 with the first of seven concerts planned throughout March. Held on Tuesdays and Saturdays, each of the performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, at 2050 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.

"We're very excited about this season," Jana Stone, vice president of the festival's board, said. "There isn't one that isn't going to be sensational this year - we really really have outstanding artists."

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The Sanibel Music Festival will wrap up with the big finale, the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The Boston Trio will start off the series, followed by 2017 Cliburn gold medalist and pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, the Jasper/Jupiter String Octet, pianists Olga Kern and Vladik Kern, and the Opera Theater of Connecticut's "The Gems of Broadway's Golden Age, with a Tribute to Leonard Bernstein" and "Love, Passion and Revenge." The festival will wrap up with the big finale, the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

"We try to introduce new groups and then we try to have at least a headliner," she said.

The committee assigned with picking the acts aims for balance and variety.

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"We listen to dozens and dozens of CDs," Stone said. "We try to vary the program, like a trio, quartet, piano artists and what I call classical Broadway, then we have an opera program, too."

There are some firsts this year that are raising some excitement.

Considered one of the great pianists of these times, Olga Kern has performed at the festival before. This year, she will play again - but joining her will be her 16-year-old son and pianist, Vladik Kern.

"Her son, who she thinks is more talented than she is, is going to be playing with her," she said.

"We're very excited about that," Stone added.

Held every four years in tribute to one of America's greatest pianists, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is perceived as the Olympics of the piano. Yekwon Sunwoo, the 2017 gold medalist, is scheduled perform this year. Stone explained that the festival has a contract with the competition.

"We get their gold medalist," she said.

The Jasper/Jupiter String Octet is another first for the event - its first octet.

Stone explained that the Jupiter String Quartet and the Jasper String Quartets, which are partly made up of siblings, have each played separately at the event in the past. Now, they have combined into a octet.

"They're playing actual music that was written for an octet, so that is something very new this year," she said. "It should be very interesting."

Tickets are $50 per concert, with a seven-performance deal available for $50 off.

They can be purchased online, by calling 239-344-7025 or at the door before a show.

"The box office will be open a half-hour prior," Stone said.

The church seats about 350 people, and seating is first come, first served.

"The reason we use the church is that they have wonderful wonderful acoustics in that facility," she said, adding that the festival has been held there for years. "There's not a bad seat in the house."

Casual or comfortable dress is welcome.

According to Stone, the festival began with a female musician and impresario. Violist Marilyn Lauriente would visit Sanibel during the month of March, but found it lacked something.

"There was no culture on the island at that time," she said. "So she and her friends started playing chamber music on the beach. People would bring chairs and listen."

Over three decades, the festival evolved into what it is today.

"This season is dedicated to Robert Orrell," Stone said.

Orrell, 81, who passed away in September, worked with the festival for 31 years. Until his sudden death, he had been serving as the festival board's president and treasurer for the past 13 years.

The community is encouraged to pick up their tickets and be awed.

"If you come, you're going to have a wonderful experience," she said. "You're going to hear chamber music at its best."

For information, contact 239-344-7025 or visit

The 2018 Sanibel Music Festival series is as follows:


Violinist Irina Muresanu, cellist Jonah Ellsworth and founding pianist Heng-Jin Park each have distinguished careers as soloists, recitalists and chamber musicians, and have each appeared with major orchestras and premier chamber music festivals through the United States and Europe.

Park made her solo debut with the Boston Pops at the age of 15. Eldredge has performed as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony and is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Muresanu has won top prizes at the Montreal International Competition and the Queen Elizabeth violin competition.

Program to include Beethoven's "Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 No.3," Smetana's "Piano Trio in G minor, Op.15" and Dvorak's "Piano Trio No.3, Op.65."


Yekwon Sunwoo is the gold medalist in the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Held every four years in tribute to one of America's greatest pianists, it is the Olympics of the piano.

Sunwoo gave his recital and orchestra debuts in 2004 in Seoul before moving to the United States to earn his bachelor's at the Curtis Institute and his master's at Juilliard. His solo performances include the Baltimore Symphony, the Juilliard Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman, and a recital at Carnegie Hall.

Program to include Schubert's "Four Impromptus, D. 935," Strauss/Grainger's "Ramble on the Last Love Duet" from Der Rosenkavalier, Brahms's "Sonata No.2 in F sharp minor, Op. 2" and Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C sharp minor."


Two talented quartets join forces for a combined performance. The Jupiter and the Jasper string quartets have played together many times and have both musical and familial connections.

The Jasper artists include J. Freivogel, violin; Sae Chonabayashi, violin; Sam Quintal, viola; and Rachel Henderson Freivogel, cello. With three acclaimed albums and CMA Cleveland Quartet Award, it is the professional quartet-in-residence at Temple University's Center for Gifted Young Musicians.

The Jupiter Quartet includes Nelson Lee, violin; Megan Freivogel, violin; Liz Freivogel, viola; and Daniel McDonough, cello. They have won several chamber music honors, including grand prize in the Fischoff and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. They concertize from Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center to several major music festivals, including Aspen, Caramoor and Vancouver.

Program to include Beethoven's "String Quartet Op. 18 No. 2 (Jupiter)," Debussy's "String Quartet (Jasper)" and Mendelssohn's "Octet."


One of the great pianists of modern times, Olga Kern and her son, Vladik, will perform a joint piano concert. With family ties to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, Kern has been a favorite since winning gold in the 11th Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Following an international career as a soloist, teacher and competition jury member, she launched the Olga Kern International Piano Competition in 2016.

Vladik studied at Juilliard from 2011-2016. In 2012, he made Juilliard history when, as a pre-college student, he won the prestigious Van Cliburn scholarship. In 2016, he became a Young Steinway Artist.

Program to include chosen and narrated selections from Beethoven, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Balakirev for a "surprise program."


The 1940s ushered in Broadway's Golden Age, starting with the groundbreaking work of Rodgers and Hammerstein and expanding to include many of music theater's best loved artists and composers. The Opera Theater of Connecticut will present an evening of these gems, with five professional singers paying tribute to the works of Comden and Green, Lerner and Lower, Cole Porter and others.

It also features a special tribute to American genius Leonard Bernstein, in honor of his 100th birthday celebration, with some of the best-known songs from "West Side Story," "On the Town" and more.

Program to include selected pieces from shows such as "Kiss Me," "Kate," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Guys and Dolls" and "My Fair Lady," followed by all Leonard Bernstein, featuring "West Side Story," "On the Town" and others.


Love, passion and revenge are motivating themes that run through so many opera and operettas. The many facets of all of these are illuminated in concert by Opera Theater of Connecticut with six professional opera singers in a musical evening of romance, desire and vengeance.

The concert, which will have projected supertitles, is punctuated with appropriate, humorous and informative narrations by Artistic Director Alan Mann, a noted speaker and theater historian.

Program to include best-known, best-loved arias and ensembles from the works of Verdi, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Puccini, Lehar, Romberg, Strauss and others.


The acclaimed Canadian string quartet returns with a format for the first half of the concert, called Haydn Discovery. Before Haydn, in string quartets the first violin was primary and the other three instruments were mostly accompaniment. Haydn was the inventor of the modern string quartet, in which all four voices are equal. Geoff Nuttall, first violinist and founding member, will explore a Haydn quartet from various perspectives, and then the quartet will perform the work in its entirety.

Program to include discussion and performance, including "Haydn Discovery," with Haydn's "Op. 20 No. 5," and Tchaikovsky's "Quartet No. 3."



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