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PREVIEW: West Stockbridge Chamber Players’ Spring Concert on May 26, a celebration of the town’s 250th birthday

The West Stockbridge Chamber Players, by giving many benefit performances over the years, have helped the West Stockbridge Historical Society restore the Old Town Hall and turn it into a community gathering place, museum, and performance venue.

West Stockbridge — The West Stockbridge Chamber Players have no tubist and no bass drum. But on Sunday, May 26, at 5 p.m., the group will perform a string quintet, a quintet for clarinet, and a march. Yes, a march. This feat has been made possible thanks to the curiosity and arranging skills of the group’s artistic director, clarinetist Catherine Hudgins. We go to hear this group perform because we know Ms. Hudgins is always on the lookout for interesting repertoire for clarinet and strings that we will hear almost nowhere else. And in this program, we will hear her own arrangement of Mozart’s March in D major, K.237.

Also on the program is Mozart’s String Quintet No. 1 in B flat major, K. 174, written when the composer had just turned 17. This piece is the reason Sunday’s lineup includes two BSO violists. “This viola quintet, on the one hand,” writes the Brentano Quartet’s Misha Amory, “bears the stamp of a light, genial divertimento; on the other hand one senses a brilliant young composer just starting to test his wings, to investigate his own potential for surprise and innovation.”

Gramophone magazine took the words right out my mouth when they described the music of Robert Fuchs as “unfailingly tuneful and enjoyable.” The Austrian composer and teacher of Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote piano trios the magazine calls “an easily accessible way to get to know a composer whom Brahms greatly admired.” And, yes, one easily imagines Johannes Brahms approving of the piece Ms. Hudgins has selected for the 26th, Fuchs’ Quintet for Clarinet in E flat Major, Op.102. When Brahms writes of Fuchs’ work, “everything is so fine and so skillful, so charmingly invented,” we had better take him seriously, because Brahms is known to have been stingy with such praise. A professor of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory, Fuchs was one of Gustav Mahler’s teachers.

The lineup of the West Stockbridge Chamber Players varies with each program, all of these musicians having played in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

On the 26th, the lineup will be:

  • Catherine Hudgins, clarinet
  • Sheila Fiekowsky, violin,
  • Jennifer Elowitch, violin,
  • Daniel Getz, viola
  • Mary Ferrillo, viola
  • Oliver Aldort, cello

Clarinetist Catherine Hudgins performs with her husband, Boston Symphony clarinetist William Hudgins, most recently on Daniel Crozier’s “Spirit,” which was written for Mr. and Mrs. Hudgins and premiered with the Knoxville Symphony in 2019. Other solo appearances include duo-soloist performance with the Boston Classical Orchestra, as soloist with Assisi Performing Arts, and with the Plymouth Philharmonic in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.

The West Stockbridge Chamber Players, by giving many benefit performances over the years, have helped the West Stockbridge Historical Society restore the Old Town Hall and turn it into a community gathering place, museum, and performance venue.

Hear the West Stockbridge Chamber Players’ Spring Concert on Sunday, May 26, at 5 p.m., in the West Stockbridge Old Town Hall, 9 Main St, West Stockbridge. Tickets are available here.

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