Organized by Chamber Music San Francisco, the new series of concerts starts on March 9 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts' SecondStage. Concerts will be held on Monday evenings through June 1.
The musicians, who include the Prazak Quartet, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and cellist Lynn Harrell, often perform in such venerable venues as Carnegie Hall. They have agreed to stay in the Bay Area an extra day or so partly because of the enthusiasm of Chamber Music San Francisco patrons, who wanted more chamber music on the Peninsula, organization director Daniel Levenstein said.
The musicians, too, say they are enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Violinist Jaime Laredo, for example, has played widely in Europe and North America, both as a soloist and with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, which made its debut for Jimmy Carter's inauguration at the White House in 1977 and will play in Mountain View on March 30. Also a conductor and viola player, Laredo has performed and recorded with major orchestras and such musicians as Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma and Glenn Gould.
Despite such credentials, Laredo said that a small recital hall like the Mountain View center's SecondStage, which seats 200 people, is "the kind of place I love to play the most." He added, "There's something about the interaction with audience where you really feel the intimacy, playing for someone you can almost touch."
Cellist Lynn Harrell, who has played with Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy, also said that he loves to play in intimate venues.
"That's how most of the music for a small string ensemble was intended, meaning that the subtleties and gentle strokes of color and sound painting can be capitalized upon. ... The communication of the music itself is enhanced," he said.
Harrell plays a 1720 Montagnana cello and also once owned a 1673 Stradivarius that had belonged to the renowned British cellist Jacqueline du Pre. His wife, Helen Nightengale, a well-known violinist, will be playing with him in Mountain View on June 1, along with three other musicians.
Both Harrell and Laredo know the Bay Area, having performed often in San Francisco. Laredo spent part of his childhood in Menlo Park, living on Middlefield Road in the mid-'50s. His family had moved from Bolivia, where Laredo was born, to San Francisco where he could get a more specialized music education.
"Every time the plane lands in San Francisco, I look at my wife and say, 'Oh God, it feels so good to be back,'" Laredo said. His wife, Sharon Robinson, is the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio's cellist (they also recently celebrated their 35th Valentine's Day).
The trio is scheduled to play Beethoven's most famous trio, the "Archduke Trio," Op. 97, in Mountain View on March 30. The concert will also include a piece by Shostakovich, who was "obsessed by Beethoven," Laredo said. While Shostakovich was writing the Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, "he found out about the death of a close friend in a concentration camp," Laredo said. "He was an incredibly depressed, brooding individual ... but this is one of the most powerful pieces I've ever heard."
The 1717 Stradivarius violin that Laredo plays will also be returning home to California, where it spent many years of its life — under glass, as part of a collection of rare instruments owned by the banker Samuel Crocker and displayed at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. It was there that Laredo played his first big recital when he was 8 years old, though he did not possess the instrument until years later.
The violin "has the power to carry a 5,000-seat hall if I need it, yet it has a sweetness and tender quality that suits an intimate place, even a living room," Laredo said. "It's more than my baby; it's part of me."
Pianist Nelson Freire, scheduled to give a solo piano recital in Mountain View on April 27, is usually to be found performing with major orchestras. His program will include several lively Chopin pieces, works by Debussy, Brahms and Bach, as well as the dancing rhythms of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (Freire is also Brazilian).
The series opens on March 9, with the Prazak Quartet, which originated in Prague and performs in Europe and North America. The group's concert will showcase the highly rhythmic music of Eastern Europe, with works by Dvorak and Janacek, as well as an early quartet by Haydn.
On April 13, the young violinist Corey Cerovsek and pianist Paavali Jumppanen will play music by Janacek, Schubert, Faure and Symanowski. Cerovsek completed his doctoral course work in mathematics and music at age 18. Jumppanen is a pioneer in the field of new music, and has already distinguished himself in new interpretation of established repertoires.
Organizers hope the Peninsula chamber-music series will become an annual event.
What: Concerts presented by Chamber Music San Francisco, which also holds performances in San Francisco and Walnut Creek. The Prazak Quartet plays March 9, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio on March 30, Corey Cerovsek on April 13, Nelson Freire on April 27, and Lynn Harrell and friends on June 1.
Where: SecondStage, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
When: All performances are at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Ticket prices vary. Tickets for the first event, the Prazak Quartet on March 9, are $45 general and $42 for seniors and students.
Info: Go to www.chambermusicsf.org or call 415-759-1756.