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Van Ryzin: Chamber Music Festival programs eclectic mix of music

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Emerson String Quartet plays the Austin Chamber Music Festival on July 25.

Michelle Schumann didn’t intend to form a tango ensemble when she invited bandoneonist Raul Jaurena to join her and several other Austin musicians for a concert six summers ago as part of the Austin Chamber Music Festival.

But the pianist and artistic director of Austin Chamber Music Center — the festival producers — realized something in the course of the concert with Jaurena.

“I fell in love with Piazzolla,” say Schumann, referring to Astor Piazzolla, the legendary Argentine tango composer and bandoneon player whose music revolutionized traditional tango by incorporating classical and jazz elements.

“And Raul and I have become friends now,” she says. “He’s even played for (my 1-year-old daughter) Ivy!”

Jaurena returns July 27 to Austin to play the final concert of the three-week Austin Chamber Music Festival along with the Texas Tango Five — the name Schumann has given to the ensemble that joins the New York-based Jaurena. The concert will feature a mix of Piazzolla and some traditional tango.

In fact Piazzolla appears on other festival programs, too.

Grammy-winning clarinetist Richard Stolzman and his wife, pianist Mika Stoltzman, play a concert July 19 that features Richard’s innovative transcriptions of short works by Bach, Ravel and yes, Piazzolla.

And one of the festival’s free concerts includes Piazzolla in a celebration of Latin American music, performed at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Open to a very broad definition of what chamber music can be in the 21st century, Schumann’s always curated an eclectic festival.

“Nobody wants to hear the same music every night of a festival,” she says over coffee recently.

To wit: Not only will Schumann play with her Texas Tango Five, she’ll also perform a duo concert July 20 with cellist Sara Sant’Ambrigo that yes, includes a piece by Piazzolla, as well as music by Gershwin, Barber and Robert Schumann (the Austin pianist is no relation).

In addition to tango, the year’s festival also features the Dallas-based swing group the Texas Gypsies and Austin world music group Atash, who will play an original score to accompany the silent movie “The Unknown,” a 1927 thriller staring Lon Chaney. Both concerts will be at the North Door, a downtown concert club.

Still, for all of Schumann’s genre blurring, netting the renowned Emerson String Quartet to make a rare — and arguably first — appearance in Austin feels like quite a coup.

“The classics endure,” Schumann says.

Austin Chamber Music Festival