Celebrating its 60th season, the all-volunteer New Orleans Friends of Music has consistently presented a wide variety of styles within the repertoire of chamber music.
The offerings have ranged from classical to baroque to more modern styles.
Over the years, NOFOM has worked to present a balance, according to the organization’s president, Margaret Shields.
On Feb. 11, NOFOM presents the fifth of its seven-concert 2014-15 season. The Danish String Quartet will be making its New Orleans debut in Tulane University’s Dixon Hall, performing a song list of both classics and traditional Scandinavian folk pieces.
The quartet consists of Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen and Frederik Oland on violins, Asbjorn Norgaard on viola and Fredrik Schoyen Sjolin on cello.
They have been performing together since 2002, a short span compared to many chamber groups. However, during that time they have won numerous prestigious awards, including first prize in the Eleventh London International String Quartet Competition, and have garnered rave reviews in the international media.
The Danish String Quartet’s program will open with Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s “String Quartet No. 1,” a half-hour-long opus composed in 1909 during what is considered to be Bartok’s most productive period.
They will also perform a seven-minute piece, “Quartet No. 4 in F Major” by Carl Nielsen, widely considered to be Denmark’s greatest composer.
Sandwiched in between these two classical pieces will be some lively traditional Scandinavian folk music with new arrangements by the quartet.
Some of the selections are expected to be joyful wedding songs the group unearthed during their forays into Scandinavian villages and incorporated into their catalogue. Strains of these traditional melodies can be heard in today’s Scottish and Irish folk songs, leading musicologists to conclude they were brought to the British Isles by Viking settlers as far back as the 11th century.
Finishing up the third and final year of her tenure as NOFOM president, Shields noted that this will be the second concert this season to feature a Bartok string quartet.
In November, the Ebene String Quartet performed Bartok’s Quartet No. 4, composed in 1928.
“I think it’s going to be fun comparing the two periods of Bartok’s life through his music,” Shields said.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the NOFOM season, Shields noted that the next concert, on March 10, also at Dixon Hall, will feature the Poulenc Trio. The trio, consisting of Irina Kaplan on piano, Vladimir Lande on oboe and Bryan Young on bassoon, will also be conducting a master class before their concert and performing for an NOFOM fundraiser, Shields said.
The Poulenc Trio’s master class will be coordinated with a new organization titled NOLA ChamberFest. The winners of a competition at the end of the class will have an opportunity to perform together before the Trio’s concert.
The final concert of the NOFOM season will be on April 15, also at Dixon Hall, featuring the world-renowned Emerson String Quartet.
The Quartet has performed in New Orleans on other occasions but it will be their first appearance here since the departure of their longtime cellist, David Finckel in 2013. He was replaced by Paul Watkins and the other members are Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer on violins and Lawrence Dutton on viola.
Shields, who played viola for 40 years in orchestras in Kansas City, Winnipeg, Dallas and New Orleans, explained how the season selection process works for NOFOM.
She credited Harvey Green, chairman of their Programming Committee, with a major role in that process.
“Harvey has connections with a lot of agents,” Shields said. “He goes up to Tanglewood every year and listens to all the great groups that are coming up. He brings his information back to the committee and the committee may have ideas of its own. Then they all figure out what would be a balanced season, in terms of repertoire and a variety of ensembles.”
New Orleans Friends of Music is expected to announce its 2015-16 season in March.