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World-class musicians to perform at 24th Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival

Aaron Hines
The Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival opens its 24th season next week. The monthly concert series is known for attracting some of the world’s most talented musicians to ECU’s campus in Greenville.

The Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival opens its 24th season next week. The monthly concert series is known for attracting some of the world’s best musicians to ECU’s campus in Greenville.

Ara Gregorian began the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, 24 years ago as a beginning college professor and solo violinist.

“Getting it off the ground, we were spreading the word kind of like we are now, talking to people over the radio, letting people know what we do,” Gregorian said.

Now, the festival has a large and loyal base of support. From talking with audiences, Gregorian says people keep returning for the talented performers, who come to Greenville from around the world.

“If you come and check it out, you’re going to feel the vibrancy, you’re going to enjoy being up close with the musicians, Gregorian said. "You’re going to get to hear something that’s world class, presented here in your own backyard.”

Chamber music is classical music played by a small ensemble in an intimate setting, like someone’s home or a palace chamber. The festival's concerts take place at ECU's Fletcher Hall on Fridays and then at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church in Raleigh on Sundays.

Ensembles typically consists of a mix of strings, piano and occasionally winds. In the opening concert, Gregorian performs with Jesse Mills on violin, Marcy Rosen on cello, and Rieko Aizawa on piano.

“This will be the first time that the four of us performed together," Gregorian said. "That is one of the neat things we get to do is to bring all these different musicians together in unique combinations so the audience can hear something I’ve never heard before – that no one’s ever heard before.”

The Season Opening Extravaganza features familiar works by Beethoven and Brahms, but the work Gregorian is looking forward to is the opening piece — Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 45.

“It's an unbelievably stormy and exotic piano quartet," he said. "You really get to experience sound worlds and emotional context in a way that no one but Fauré does.”

The novel quartet will then tackle Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, a three-movement piece filled with drama. The piece is "quintessential Beethoven," according to Gregorian. They close the program with Brahms’s Piano Quartet.

Performers arrive in Greenville just a week before the concert and stay with local residents. The festival is well-known among musicians, who clamor to participate. One recurring fan-favorite Alan Kay.

“He has this great stage presence,” Henry Michaels, Four Seasons' managing director, said. "He stands out on any program to a certain extent because people that have been coming for a long time know one of these things is not like the other.”

Kay, a clarinetist, performs in the festival’s October concert. A performance titled ‘Contrasts.’ That concert will pivot between classical music and folk-inspired works, from the well-known Brahms and Bach to folk-inspired Bartok.

“In some sense, it's a taste of something different," Michaels said.

Other concerts include a night devoted to the Romantic period and one highlighting the string quintet.

Concerts run monthly, first at Fletcher Hall at ECU and then in Raleigh at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church. The opening extravaganza is next week, Friday September 29.

Editor's Note: PRE is a media sponsor for the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival.

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée.