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VOL. 126 | NO. 148 | Monday, August 1, 2011

Luna Nova Honors Late Patron

Aug. 7 Dixon concert celebrates memory of Dr. Efrim Fruchtman

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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In pop music, the latest thing is always in demand, but with classical music, new names work hard for their audiences. This season, the Luna Nova Music Ensemble will kick off its season with a little of both.

Luna Nova, a chamber ensemble dedicated to performing new works by rising composers, will honor the memory of one of its patrons with a concert at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m.

Cellist Craig Hultgren, violinist Gregory Maytan, and pianist Adam Bowles will perform works by Ravel, Debussy and Thoresen in Luna Nova Music Ensemble’s memorial concert for the late Dr. Efrim Fruchtman at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens on Aug. 7.

(Photo: Courtesy of John Rone)

“We thought, wouldn’t it be great to do the concert at the Dixon with the Impressionism exhibition because the Debussy and Ravel tie-in perfectly with that,” said Patricia Gray, executive director of the nonprofit ensemble, referring to two composers slated for the concert.

Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel were both at the height of their careers as painter Jean-Louis Forain, whose works are now on exhibition at the Dixon, came under the wing of Edgar Degas.

Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano and Ravel’s Trio in A minor were favorites of the late Dr. Efrim Fruchtman, a Julliard-educated musicologist and teacher of viola de gamba at the University of Memphis who died in October. In 2006, when Luna Nova was transitioning from a grant-funded academic ensemble to nonprofit status, Fruchtman and his wife Caroline were among the first supporters to offer a sizeable donation to the group.

“When we were first thinking how we could make this work, we had the Fruchtmans to dinner and they were both so enthusiastic about the idea because there’s not really any on-going new music ensemble outside of the university,” Gray said. “I thought, what a vote of confidence. The Fruchtmans have always been there and it’s been wonderful to know that people believed in you that much.”

Performing are three Luna Nova members, violinist Gregory Maytan, pianist Adam Bowles and cellist Craig Hultgren.

The ensemble last performed the Ravel Trio in June at its annual Belvedere Chamber Music Festival. It’s a four-movement piece for cello, violin and piano of contrasting calm moments and jazzy, uneven rhythms that reflect the friendship between Ravel and Ira Gershwin.

Debussy’s Sonata was to be the first of six “Sonatas for Diverse Instruments,” but only two more were ever written. It is comprised of three movements and is considered a standard repertoire piece for cello.

But the ensemble will open with something a little more off the beaten path. Specifically, a trio titled “YR” by composer Lasse Thoresen, which was written for the concertmaster of the Oslo Symphony Orchestra. Never heard of it? That’s the point, said Gray.

“You have to be careful when you program chamber music so that you have a nice variety,” Gray said. “It’s not just the same thing or there’s this sameness throughout the concert. You have to really be there and know the music and know what you’re looking for.”

YR involves melodies of Norwegian folk songs and even some scripted foot stomping. It also comes with some technical challenges, namely the use of scordatura, or the tuning down of the D and G strings of the violin to C and F, respectively.

The concert will take place inside the Dixon’s 200-seat hall, and as a memorial to Fruchtman, it will be free.

“It’s an intimate setting and it’s comfortable for the musicians because the stage is plenty big,” Gray said. “We’re delighted to play there.”

And it’s a nice stop for the 5-year-old group on the way to its debut at Germantown Performing Arts Centre on Sept. 22 featuring John McMurtery on flute and Mark Volker on guitar. The two will play in GPAC’s black box theater. Tickets are $20 and available at GPAC.

“Not a lot of people spend a lot of time listening to small groups of 20th century chamber players,” Gray said. “When we first started, I could probably name everybody in the audience, and it’s so nice to see all these people whom you’ve never seen before. Every now and then the magic happens.”

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