Arts & Culture

Home is where the music is

After two years, the 23rd annual La Musica International Chamber Music Festival returns to the Sarasota Opera House. The popular five-part concert series kicks off at 8 p.m. Monday and ends April 19.

This year’s theme, “Coming Home,” is fitting for the occasion, said festival executive director Sally Faron. It represents a sense of place that’s not only tangible, but can resonate in music and musicians.

“Home is very important to musicians because they lead peripatetic lives,” Faron said.

For the last two years, La Musica has been held at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Sarasota as the opera house underwent a $20 million renovation. Faron said patrons are excited the festival is back ‘home,’ so to speak. The opera house has hosted the event for more than 15 years.

The theme of home will be explored during the festival through the contrasting lives of composers such as Antonin Dvorak and Erwin Schulhoff.

“Dvorak was always carrying his home with him in his music — his Bohemian influences.” Faron said of the Czech composer.

As for Czech-born Schulhoff, the composer was denied “home” after being captured by the Nazis. He was trying to escape to Russia.

“Hitler thought his music was degenerate,” Faron said.

Schulhoff died in 1942 in a concentration camp.

La Musica draws the finest international musicians. This year, 15 musicians from four countries will be represented. They include Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States.

This will be the first time in nearly 10 years that violinist Isabelle Faust will be returning to the festival. She began performing at the event in the 1990s as a teenager.

As her career grew, she received many invitations to play with various orchestras throughout Europe, Israel and the United States.

“She got terribly popular,” said Faron.

Also returning after a long hiatus is award-winning violist Hsin-Yun Huang. She has performed at prominent festivals worldwide.

The public will have the opportunity to greet Faust, Huang and others at the Meet the Musicians annual cocktail reception and dinner 6:30 p.m. April 15 at the home of La Musica board president Piero Rivolta. Tickets are $150.

Each year, an average of 700 people attend each festival concert. Guests, especially those who can’t attend evening performances, are also welcome at the rehearsals held in the Mildred Sainer Pavillion at New Collge of Florida, Faron said.

Each rehearsal requires $10 admission for the day, but is free to teachers, students and subscription holders. There will be a free rehearsal open to the public at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lakewood Ranch’s Polo Grille on Main Street.

The chamber music concept grew out of small groups of friends gathering to perform each others’ music in their homes. It has served as an enjoyable and intimate entertainment experience for several hundred years.

The tradition continues with La Musica. “That’s what we try to exemplify,” Faron said.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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