The fourth season of the Piedmont Chamber Music Festival gets underway this week, with three programs that show just how fluid the definitions of ‘classical’ and ‘pop’ can be… Co-founders and Artistic Directors Juliana Han and Wayne Lee will be bringing back the Formosa Quartet, as well as several special guest artists: violinists Charles Yang and Zachary DePue, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Clancy Newman.

There’s more information at the Piedmont Chamber Music Festival website.

“Part of what we’d like to do with Chamber Music in particular, is to have the broadest possible interpretation of it,” Juliana Han says. “I guess at its root, it’s just a bunch of musicians playing together, and that can mean any kind of music, really.  I think we’ve come to interpret chamber music as only the quintets of Brahms, or only the string quartets of Beethoven, and part of this festival is expanding that horizon as far as possible.” And that can be seen represented in their guests – Nicholas Cords is in the ensemble Brooklyn Rider, and both Charles Yang and Zachary DePue have been in Time for Three, known for playing a variety of styles with the rigor of classical training. And Clancy Newman won the Naumburg International Competition and an Avery Fisher Grant, but is also an accomplished composer. In programming the concerts, it was clear arguments could be made for many of the pieces to be played on any of the programs. “You may ask why does a Mongolian-inspired piece appear on ‘Not Classical,’ when you have a Persian culture-inspired piece on the classical program? And that’s exactly the point, right?” The same way the ‘Pop’ concert opens unexpectedly. “Haydn, of course, is maybe the most Classical of all composers, and we ended up putting him at the beginning of a pop concert,” Lee says, and Han adds: “Just a little bit of a cheeky reference to the ‘Pop’ or the “Father of String Quartets”, we had to have a Haydn string quartet in there, to show off the Formosa Quartet, and to kick off the program in I suppose a somewhat unexpected way, by reference to a few centuries ago, and what might have been popular then.”

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