For more than six decades, Candlelight Concerts have brought memorable music and superb performers to generations of music lovers. From the beginning, in the1920’s, the Wilton Congregational Church has been the ideal location to enjoy some of the finest chamber music being played anywhere. And performers seem to feel the same way: Cellist Peter Wiley said that the church is the ideal setting. “It’s beautiful to look at, the acoustics are excellent. The music we play is historic and so is the church.”
Margaret Gregory of Wilton has been the heartbeat of the series, gathering only the most outstanding musicians and groups to perform. On Sunday, April 12, at 4 p.m., the tradition continues with Opus One, a brilliant quartet that has won accolades wherever it plays. The individual musicians are also members of the world’s most prestigious chamber groups: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The Beaux Arts Trio, the Orion and Guarneri String Quartets.
Perhaps one of the reasons Opus One concerts have a rare quality of depth and feeling is that the four musicians are all friends and created Opus One together. They live nearby, in Danbury, New Fairfield and New York. The ensemble consists of Ida Kavafian, violin, her husband Steve Tenenbom, viola, Peter Wiley, cello, and Anne-Marie McDermott, piano. They have played all over the country at recital debuts, world premiere performances, and festivals since their 1998-99 inaugural season, with a debut at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Ida Kafavian, the violinist, has been surrounded by music all her life. “My parents both played instruments. My older sister Ani, now a world famous violinist, was taking lessons, and her teacher decided to test my musical ability. I was six. He said he would bring me a small violin and give me lessons, keeping it a secret from my parents. I loved the idea of having secrets from my parents. When I finally played for them, my father approved, but my mother, who knew my tomboy tendencies, didn’t think I would amount to much, but she soon changed her mind and became my ally and motivator.” Ida teaches at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia and at Juilliard. Her husband also teaches at Curtis and Juilliard as well as at Bard College.
“We’ve played several times at the Wilton Congregational Church, Tenenbom recalled. “ It’s a wonderful space, with great acoustics, a marvelous place to play. The April 12 program will be two piano concertos, by Mozart and Brahms. We’ll also introduce a young American composer, Chris Rogerson, 27, who was a student at Curtis. Ida has always championed American music and supporting American composers. Chris is a member of the Young Concert Artists. We recently played with the group at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.
“For the Candleight Concerts, we offer program suggestions to Margaret Gregory and she and the church music committee make the final decision,” said Tenenbom. “Margaret is a shining example of a great presenter and lover of music. She has an eye for quality and she likes music to be played in a traditional way, so when the musicians do their job, you can appreciate it on a deeper level.”
When asked about the audiences of chamber music, Tenenbom agreed that there should be more of the younger generations at concerts. “Back in 1875, the audience was also mostly gray-haired people. It seems that people come to chamber music when it’s the right time in their lives. The music will always be there, but people should take the time to sit down and really listen to it. It doesn’t take any kind of skill. It just takes trust and commitment. Really listening to great chamber music becomes a spiritual experience. It will always be, if people truly listen. It takes patience. The music will never change. It will still move people a thousand years from now. You don’t have to know a lot, but when you become sensitized to the composition techniques and the history, you can appreciate it on a myriad of levels.”
A surprising discovery: Ida Kavafian and Steven Tenenbom breed Hungarian Vizsla dogs. Opus One was the name of one of their first dogs. So their quartet is probably the only one named after a kennel. The Opus One concert will take place Sunday, April 12, at 4 p.m. at the Wilton Congregational Church, 70 Ridgefield Road. Tickets are only available at the door, with unreserved seating: $30, adults, $25, seniors, and free for those 16 and younger.