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Artists excited for MIM shows

Violinist and violist Brian Dembow knows a good ending and a good beginning.

He has been with the Angeles String Quartet for 14 years. The members are calling it quits now, but in high style – they picked up their first Grammy on Feb. 27 and will play a final concert in Austria next month.



After years of touring one-third of the year, the members wanted to spend more time with their families, Dembow said. The 46-year-old is the father of three.




“The concert in Austria is a storybook ending at a palace where (Joseph) Haydn was the resident performer for 30 years,” he said.

The Angeles String Quartet specializes in Haydn. In June 1999, it finished a five-year project recording all 68 Haydn string quartets on the Philips label.

Dembow is still smiling after winning a Grammy.

The quartet received three nominations: best engineer, best producer and best chamber music performer. The Grammy nominations were the first the group received. It won for best chamber performance.

“In a way, I will never come down completely,” Dembow said. “There’s a rush when they call your name, and you can never be prepared.”

It was sweet for Dembow to receive such recognition.

“I’ve come to grips (with the fact that) we’re not going to get a lot of acknowledgement in this genre,” he said. “Let’s face it, chamber music is appreciated by a small audience.

“We generally pay our own expenses on our tours – food, airplanes – while we could be staying at home and being in the recording studio,” he said. “We lose money on tours, but we do it because we love to play for the people who get it.”

That’s why the Grammy award is such an affirmation.

“When a public acknowledgement comes your way, it’s overwhelming,” he said.

As for the good beginning, Dembow is in a piano quartet that debuts Sunday at Music in the Mountains’ Spring Fest of Classics in Grass Valley.

“Each of the quartet members are extraordinary colleagues, instrumentalists and friends, and it’s a privilege to play with them,” he said.

The Los Angeles group is so new, it doesn’t have a name other than Robert Thies and Friends. Thies, MIM Spring Fest’s headliner, is the pianist for the ensemble.

“The idea has been kicked around for three years to this very day on Easter at my house,” Dembow said Sunday. “We read chamber music and realized it would be a wonderful thing to put together a group and play concerts.”

But until now, the members had other performing commitments.

In addition to performing and recording, the quartet members have individually worked on shows, films and commercials.

The other members are cellist Cecilia Tsan and violinist Roger Wilkie.

Thies will perform twice at Spring Fest: solo on Friday when he plays selections from Brahms, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Prokofiev; and on Sunday with his friends.

Sunday, the repertoire includes Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor; Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat major, Opus 47; and Piano Quartet in C minor, Opus 60 by Johannes Brahms.

Thies has performed twice with MIM and twice with the Twin Cities Concert Association to crowded houses.

When he talked Sunday to his mother who lives here, Thies was surprised to hear her friends were more excited about Friday’s solo performance.

“I’m more excited to hear the piano with the combination of piano and string quartets, which to me is more interesting,” Thies said. “The way I see it, these composers chose to write these pieces for the piano quartet medium. They’re absolutely fantastic works.”

Thies is excited to play with his friends. It will be the first time he’s played publicly with Dembow and Wilkie; he and Tsan have performed together frequently.

Friday program leans toward German and Russian works.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I’ve always leaned to that, maybe because I’m one-fourth Russian and one-half German,” Thies said.

He won the gold medal at the second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1995. He was the first American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn won the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Thies, who has performed with more than 40 orchestras around the world, considers the gold medal recognition a highlight of his career.

The other Music in the Mountains Spring Fest concerts include “Soirees Musicales” on Saturday, “A Choral Tribute to David Griswold” on Wednesday and “Two by Four” piano on April 13.

Northern Californian musicians pay homage to Nevada County’s history Saturday with popular songs, serious classics and comical moments.

The Grass Valley Male Voice Choir, Grass Valley United Methodist Church Choir and MIM’s Festival Chorale will perform a tribute concert to Griswold on Wednesday. Griswold, who has volunteered and performed in the three groups for years, has cancer.

Spring Fest closes with pianists Paul Perry and Ken Hardin in a “one piano, four hands” concert April 13. They have played four-hands piano for more than 10 years at sold-out concerts throughout Northern California and Arizona. They have produced two chamber music CDs.

All concerts start at 8 p.m., with the exception of Sunday’s “Robert Thies and Friends” concert at 3 p.m. Refreshments will be sold.

Donations will be accepted at each concert for the Nevada City Fire Relief Fund, with the exception of Wednesday’s concert, after which donations will go to Griswold’s medical expenses.

WHAT: Music in the Mountains Spring Fest

WHEN: Friday, Saturday, Wednesday and April 13 at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Doors open a half-hour earlier.

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds Festival Center, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

ADMISSION: $18 and $22

INFORMATION: 265-6124 or online at http://www.musicinthemountains.org


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