Savannah Music Festival 2020 Season Announced
From March 26 through April 11, 2020, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) celebrates its 31st season with artist residencies, thrilling debuts, unique co-bills and special projects in myriad genres. Over 17 days, Savannah's Historic District becomes home to visionaries and creative voices from across the United States, as well as from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, India, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.
Noteworthy performances include: orchestral and chamber concerts commemorating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth (March 28, April 3, April 5); a dance program with Georgia ties by Troy Schumacher's innovative company BalletCollective (March 31); a first-time trio showcase of fiddlers Martin Hayes and Jeremy Kittel with guitarist Roger Tallroth (April 9); a bluegrass concert honoring Doc Watson with acclaimed flatpickers Bryan Sutton and Jack Lawrence and bassist T. Michael Coleman (April 6); a celebration of fado, flamenco, and their offshoots featuring guitarist Marta Pereira da Costa and Canary Island timple virtuoso Germán López (March 28); and an evening of Afro-Cuban sounds with jazz pianist Harold López-Nussa and the astonishing piano/percussion duo of Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez (April 11).
This spring, Marcus Roberts and Mike Marshall return as leaders of SMF's two workshop programs for aspiring young musicians - Swing Central Jazz and the Acoustic Music Seminar. Roberts also heads the Swing Central Jazz Finale, New Orleans Swing Time (April 3), while Marshall directs a special presentation of the Ger Mandolin Orchestra Project (April 2). In his new role as Artistic Advisor, Chamber Music, festival veteran and violist Philip Dukes joins returning and new musicians for an eight-concert chamber series.
"Our organization continues to elaborate upon a programming model that is artist driven," says Artistic Director Ryan McMaken. "In late March and early April, Savannah hosts artists and music lovers from all over to experience creative collaborations, unique co-bills and residencies involving performance and education."
In his first season as Artistic Advisor, Philip Dukes builds on the incredible legacy of his predecessor and colleague, violinist Daniel Hope, to curate SMF's core chamber music series. The first three explore themes of fantasy and drama ("Tales of the Unexpected," March 30), love and romance ("From Prussia with Love," April 1), and loss and tragedy ("Futility of Conflict," April 3). Closing this four-concert series is an all-Beethoven extravaganza, showcasing some of the revered composer's most celebrated works for piano and strings (April 5). The artist roster for this year's chamber music series includes: violinists Giovanni Guzzo and Benny Kim; violists Robin Ashwell and Philip Dukes; cellists Eric Kim and Keith Robinson; harpist Bridget Kibbey; pianists Sebastian Knauer, Ana-Maria Vera, and Anna Tilbrook; flutist Tara Helen O'Connor; tenor Benjamin Hulett; and narrator Mervon Mehta.
The Beethoven celebration spreads to two other major classical programs in 2020. In its 15th consecutive season at SMF, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Robert Spano perform Beethoven's Concerto for Piano No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 ("The Emperor") with soloist André Watts, alongside his Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (March 28). Prolific mandolinists Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg offer a duet program in which they spotlight the lesser-known Beethoven Sonatinas for mandolin and pianoforte (April 3).
The Dover Quartet - comprised of violinists Joel Link and Byan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw - holds an SMF residency this season, playing three concerts on opening weekend. The first is an all-Bach program with harpist Bridget Kibbey (March 26); the second a recital that features works by Mozart, Bartók and Mendelssohn (March 27); and the third a side-by-side collaboration with the New York City-based Escher String Quartet, highlighting octet pieces of Shostakovich, Enescu and Mendelssohn (March 29).
Classical artists giving solo, duo, or vocal recitals at SMF in the 2020 season include: flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, who is an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner and a season artist at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (March 31); Dutch-Bolivian-American pianist Ana-Maria Vera (April 2) and Puerto Rican soprano Meechot Marrero (April 4); Venezuelan-born violinist Giovanni Guzzo, accompanied by Ana-Maria Vera at the piano (April 4); festival regular and pianist Sebastian Knauer (April 6); violinist Robert McDuffie and pianist/conductor Robert Spano, who are commemorating more than 20 years of musical collaboration (April 9); 2017 American Pianists Awards winner pianist Drew Petersen (April 10); and Franco-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas, who is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label in over 40 years, with pianist Julien Brocal (April 11).
On the dance front, SMF welcomes back Troy Schumacher's BalletCollective after its celebrated debut in 2017. This year's program explores the rapid evolution of communication in our day and age (March 31). The work features three ballets, one of which was choreographed by Savannah native Gabrielle Lamb and the other two by Schumacher (an Atlanta native). Members of the Dover and Escher Quartets perform two of the ballets' original scores live along with pianist David Fung, and Eliza Bagg performs Julianna Barwick's score for the featured ballet, Translation.
Jazz, Blues, and More
As the largest musical arts event in the state of Georgia, SMF's springtime offerings extend beyond classical music and dance. Jazz is off to an outstanding start this season with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Artistic Director and virtuoso trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (March 27). Pianist Christian Sands brings his new project, the Three Piano Erroll Garner Summit, in which he leads and is joined on stage by pianists Helen Sung and Tadataka Unno on three Steinway Ds, and is accompanied by bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Terreon Gully (March 29). To complete his three-part residency, the Dr. Billy Taylor protégé performs a solo show and then headlines a set with his trio and Wycliffe Gordon & His International All-Stars (March 30). 2019 American Pianists Awards winner Emmet Cohen performs with his trio (March 31). Chilean-born saxophonist Melissa Aldana appears with the André Mehmari Trio presenting Visions, a program that explores the relationship between her own experiences as a saxophone player and those of Frida Kahlo as a visual artist - both women working in realms dominated by men (March 31). The supremely talented André Mehmari presents a solo piano set, and one of the top jazz and bebop singers on the scene today, Veronica Swift, collaborates with the Emmet Cohen Trio and composer/performer Vilray (April 1).
Other jazz highlights this season include: a tour stop by pianist and NEA Jazz Masters Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland, with drummer Jonathan Blake (April 2); the annual Late Night Jazz Jam, with a band led by Emmet Cohen (April 3); the ever-popular Swing Central Jazz Finale, celebrating the origins of jazz in New Orleans (April 3); John Jorgenson Quintet's gypsy jazz, enhanced by guitarist Frank Vignola and gypsy swing band Velvet Caravan (April 9); and a co-bill by Trinidadian trumpeter-composer Etienne Charles and Cuban artist Brenda Navarrete (April 10).
Blues and funk are peppered into SMF's new season: singer-guitarist and 2007 MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris, fiddler-accordionist Cedric Watson, guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart, and guitarist/banjo player Amythyst Kiah share music and conversation during True Blues (March 26); funk pioneer George Porter, Jr. performs with his Runnin' Pardners and the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band (March 27); and singer-songwriters Ruthie Foster and Marcia Ball co-bill a concert (March 28).
In its 31st season, SMF continues to spotlight the great music of our country alongside that of other cultures. The festival opens with Americana musician Amythyst Kiah in an eclectic acoustic show and a return appearance by the southern rock band Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (March 26). The gospel/bluegrass sounds of Foghorn Stringband are showcased in a headlining show and a co-bill with the fiddle and banjo duo of Allison de Groot