On Sunday September 27th, the Chamber Classics series will open at the Bijou with guest clarinet soloist Victor Chavez and Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is currently celebrating its 80th season, but a more intimate branch of the organization, the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra, will be starting its 34th season. The embryonic stage of the group and its founder, Zoltan Rosznyai is detailed on the KSO website's history page. Since it is rather hard to find, I've excerpted a paragraph…
In summer 1979 Mr. Rozsnyai almost single-handedly pulled together the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra, later called the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra, by convincing a number of KSO musicians and a few others (including David Van Vactor recruited as a flutist) – 34 in all – to perform without compensation a concert from the chamber orchestra repertoire on July 21, 1979 at First Christian Church on Fifth Avenue at which no admission was charged. It was a revelation. The performance was acoustically stunning and, at last, a Knoxville audience was able to hear just how good the KSO’s musicians had really become. With the 16-member professional core added in 1981, the orchestra’s five-concert Chamber Classics series was inaugurated by the Society for the 1981-82 season at the acoustically superior Tennessee Theatre, and then moved in 1983-84 to the more intimate Bijou Theatre where it remains today. The ready-made solution of an acoustically suitable venue for the KSO was now obvious; however, it was not until the 1985-86 season, following Mr. Rozsnyai’s tenure, that the orchestra was able to effect a move of its Masterworks series to the Tennessee Theatre. Anticipating this advancement to the slightly smaller-capacity venue, the orchestra began presenting its Masterworks subscription series in pairs for the 1983-84 season and continues to do so to the present day.
Those were the days! First Christian Church is a beautiful venue for music; in fact, the KSO used to hold its auditions there. I did a recital there about ten years ago, and it all went very smoothly until the sun went down, and we realized the piano keyboard was in total darkness! A pianist's nightmare. All of the rehearsals had occurred during the day. It was one of those “note to self” moments.
Mr. Chavez will be performing Carl Maria von Weber's pristine Clarinet Concerto No. 2 on Sunday. These days the multi-movement solo clarinet concerto genre has only works by Mozart and Stamitz (who wrote 11!) substantially representing it before Weber wrote his pair, but a life cut short at 39 by tuberculosis kept the world from knowing the untold riches that would surely have followed these works.
Two other works by composers who left us way too soon flank the Weber. Mendelssohn's rich Hebrides Overture opens the show, and Schubert's youthful Symphony No 2 closes it. These three works, all composed in a period of 20 years in the early 19th century, came from the pens of composers who were 21, 25, and 17 (in program order). The Bijou Theatre will be resounding with the (early) Romantic ideal this Sunday at 2:30.