Rembrandt Chamber Musicians Announces 2022–2023 season of concerts in Evanston and Chicago

Rembrandt Chamber Musicians Nichols Hall credit: Michael Brosilow
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The opportunity to enjoy beautiful music in an intimate setting awaits you. The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians’ program this year is outstanding, promising listeners a relaxing and rewarding experience.

 ‘All Mozart’ program offers melodious medley of intimate masterworks November 6 and 7’Holiday Baroque’ beckons with theorbo, harpsichord, and an acclaimed early-music soprano.

December 2 and 4

‘Dvořák’s Prophecy’ pairs the Czech Romantic with Afro-English Composer Coleridge-Taylor January 20 and 22

‘The Mad Decade’ explores rare and innovative work of the early 20th century March 10 and 12 ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ leads listeners through the stages of life May 7 ‘All Mozart’ program offers melodious medley of intimate masterworks November 6 and 7 Holiday Baroque’ beckons with theorbo, harpsichord, and an acclaimed early-music soprano

January 20 and 22

‘The Mad Decade’ explores rare and innovative works of the early 20th century March 10 and 12 ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ leads listeners through the stages of life on May 7

Rembrandt Chamber Musicians

The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians (RCM), Chicago’s flagship ensemble covering the full spectrum of classical chamber music, has announced details of its 33rd concert season, 2022–2023, comprising five programs to be performed at venues in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois.

John Macfarlane

Violinist John Macfarlane, who is entering his second season as the ensemble’s artistic director, says, “What sets us apart is how we design our programs to keep listeners intellectually and emotionally engaged from the first note to the last.

“Each of our programs has a through-line, a narrative thread that connects the compositions and takes the audience on a communal journey,” he says. “We take the audience experience very seriously.” 

While RCM will present many worthy but rarely heard works by both familiar and lesser-known composers, the ensemble isn’t overlooking audience favorites.

“We’ll open and close the season with the most celebrated and captivating clarinet quintets in all of classical music,” Macfarlane says, referring to Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581, in November, and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, op. 115, in May.

The RCM’s core ensemble consists of Macfarlane, violist Carol Cook, and cellist Calum Cook, all of whom will perform in each concert alongside guest artists.

Rembrandt Chamber Musicians ensemble members, Caleb Cook, John Macfarlane and Carol Cook, credit Michael Brosilow

November season-opener makes the most of Mozart

The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians will offer an “All Mozart” program of three diverse masterworks, each groundbreaking for its era, at 3 p.m. Sunday, November 6, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston; and 7:30 p.m. Monday, November 7, at PianoForte Chicago, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

“Some of our loyal fans mentioned that music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had gone missing from recent seasons,” Macfarlane says, “so we’re making amends.”

Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E Minor, K. 304 — an unusual key for this type of work, especially for Mozart — was written in 1778 in Paris during a period of loneliness and despair as his mother lay ill and dying.

His three-movement, 1785 Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478, with its high-spirited finale, is widely credited as having launched the piano quartet genre.

The Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581, written in Vienna in 1789, is an enduring audience favorite for its lyricism and clear, transparent textures.

Guest artists are Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) violinist Yuan-Qing Yu; Stephen Williamson, the CSO’s principal clarinet; and award-winning pianist Jessica Choe, whose chamber music collaborators have included classical headliners Avi Avital and Marc-Andre Hamelin.

Theorbo debuts at December’s ‘Holiday Baroque’ 

The RCM’s popular  “Holiday Baroque” concerts will underscore “Baroque” with guest appearances by theorbo virtuoso Brandon Acker; soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, an internationally acclaimed Baroque music specialist; and harpsichordist and organist Stephen Alltop, who has performed with many of today’s leading early-music proponents and conducts the Baroque Music Ensemble at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.

This will mark the first appearance of a theorbo, a long-necked lute that’s a Renaissance and Baroque ancestor of the guitar, at an RCM concert. The instrument will be heard in solo and ensemble settings.

It also marks the ensemble’s debut at the Epiphany Center for the Arts in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

The program includes Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto for 2 Violins in G Major, TWV 52:G2; Henry Purcell’s “An Evening Hymn,” a sacred song for soprano solo; Italian Baroque composer (and accomplished violinist) Nicola Matteis’ “Diverse bizzarie Sopra la Vecchia Sarabanda ò pur Ciaccona,” George Frideric Handel’s Organ Concerto in F Major, op. 4, no. 5; and Johann Sebastian Bach’s secular cantata “Non sa che sia dolore” (He knows not what sorrow is), BWV 209.

Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 2, at the Epiphany Center for the Arts, 201 S Ashland Avenue, Chicago; and 3 p.m. Sunday, December 4, at Northwestern University’s Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

Holiday Baroque

‘Dvorak’s Prophecy’ pairs contrasting, late-Romantic works in January

The Rembrandt Chamber Musician’s March concert program takes its name from “Dvorák’s Prophecy

And the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music,” the 2021 book by former New York Times music critic Joseph Horowitz.

Late 19th-century Romantic composer Antonín Dvorák, who delighted in using folk themes from his native Bohemia in his works, was captivated by the African American melodies he heard after arriving in the US in 1892 for an extended stay. By 1893, he envisioned a “great and noble school” of American classical music based on that tradition.

The program pairs a work by Dvorák with a contrasting one by the younger, London-born Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a pioneering Black British composer of the same era, the son of a West African father and English mother. He was a genuine musical celebrity in his native England and in the US, which he visited frequently.

Coleridge-Taylor’s Sonata in D Minor for violin and piano, op. 28, first published in 1917 but believed to have been written in the late 1890s, shows influences of Dvorák, whom he called his “first musical love,” as well as Tchaikovsky and Grieg.

Audiences will also hear Dvorák’s sunny, optimistic Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, op. 81, “one of the glories of chamber music” (

“Coleridge-Taylor’s Sonata and Dvorák’s Quintet share harmonic similarities,” Macfarlane says. “However, they end very differently, and as such they leave a very different impression on the audience. The Dvorák ends with such optimism and hope, while Coleridge-Taylor’s violin sonata takes a sudden turn and ends with quiet resignation.”

Guest artist is American violinist Eoin Andersen, former concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The program will be heard 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 20, at The Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, and 3 p.m. Sunday, January 22, at Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston.

‘The Mad Decade’: Works by Mahler, Prokofiev, and Dohnányi in March

RCM’s “The Mad Decade,” which actually embraces music spanning several decades, traces an arc of musical innovation from “the Mahlerian aesthetic up to ragtime and jazz” in a program of rarely heard chamber gems, Macfarlane says.

The program opens with Gustav Mahler’s only surviving piece of instrumental chamber work. His Piano Quartet in A minor, written in 1876 while a student at the Vienna Conservatory, is the first movement to an abandoned piano quartet. Mahler’s widow Alma Mahler rediscovered the manuscript in the 1960s.

Sergei Prokofiev’s 1932 Sonata for 2 Violins, op. 56, is “unique to the violin repertoire,” Macfarlane says. “It’s an extremely innovative and very exploratory work. There’s no other piece like it.”

Prokofiev discussed the origin of the work in his 1941 autobiography: “Listening to bad music sometimes inspires good ideas… After once hearing an unsuccessful piece [unspecified] for two violins without piano accompaniment, it struck me that in spite of the apparent limitations of such a duet one could make it interesting enough to listen to for ten or fifteen minutes….”

Ernst von Dohnányi’s highly unusual Sextet in C Major, op. 37, from 1935, is scored for the rare combination of  clarinet, horn, piano, violin, viola, and cello. It opens with a heroic theme and much drama, followed by a dark, menacing slow march. There are moments reminiscent of Brahms and a finale in the style of 1930s European jazz. The concluding passage combines jazz, a waltz, and the dramatic opening theme. 

Guest artists include Eoin Anderson, violin; Ilya Shterenberg, longtime principal clarinetist of the former San Antonio Symphony; Fritz Foss, the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra’s assistant principal horn; and pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, hailed by The Washington Post for his “poised and imaginative playing.”

RCM will present ‘The Mad Decade’ at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, at The Cliff Dwellers in Chicago and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 12, at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

Season concludes in May with ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’

The RCM’s season finale, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” mirrors the stages of life from childhood to adulthood and old age through works by three vastly different composers at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Evanston’s Nichols Concert Hall.

Prolific composer and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violist Max Raimi’s “Four Songs for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano,” which opens the concert, was inspired by poet Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” a collection of fanciful light verse and drawings for young people.

Sri Lankan-Canadian composer Dinuk Wijeratne’s 2013 “Love Triangle” is an exotic, rhapsodic, single-movement piano trio that melds Middle Eastern-inspired melody, North Indian Classical rhythm, and Western classical structure and features improvisatory cadenzas for each instrument. Macfarlane says the works’ title and its interplay among violinist, cellist, and pianist evoke the complexities of adult relationships.

Johannes Brahms’ was so impressed with the artistry of clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld that he came out of retirement in 1891 to write the Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115, for him. Modeled on Mozart’s clarinet quintet, heard in the RCM’s first concert of the season, it has the wistful, sentimental feeling associated with the music of Brahms’ twilight years.

Carol Cook and Calum Cook, credit Michael Brosilow

Guest artists are Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Simon Michal; The Juilliard School’s Alan Kay, principal clarinet of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Santa Fe Opera; and Orchestra of St. Luke’s; and pianist Beilin Han, staff pianist at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities in Chicago and member of the collaborative piano faculty at the Heifetz International Music Institute.

Tickets and Information

General admission tickets are $43; student admission is $15 with ID. Full-season subscriptions are $179; other subscription plans start at $119. Tickets can be purchased online at  or by phone at 872-395-1754.

Subscribers and single-ticket holders can access online streamed performances of the ensemble’s 2022-2023 season concerts. 

All Evanston concerts include a complimentary ENCORE! wine reception with the musicians. Performances at The Cliff Dwellers include a post-concert cash bar and complimentary cheese and fruit.

Rembrandt Chamber Musicians follows CDC, state, and local health and safety guidelines in regard to pandemic precautions.

Photos are courtesy of The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians


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