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The switch up: Houston arts group changes its name, unveils a new lineup of more engaging concerts

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Modigliani Quartet
Philippe Bernhard, Loïc Rio, Laurent Marfaing and François Kieffer comprise the Modigliani Quartet. Courtesy of Modigliani Quartet
2 Miro Quartet preview September 2013
Austin-based Miró Quartet opens the Chamber Music Houston season. Photo courtesy of Houston Friends of Chamber Music
Houston Friends of Chamber Music, 2013-14 schedule, March 2013, Emerson String Quartet
Chamber Music Houston once again hires the Emerson String Quartet for the big bang of a curtain call. Photo by © Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Chamber Music Houston Logo
As Houston Friends of Chamber Music unveils the 2014-15 season, it also reveals a new modernist logo and a more concise name — Chamber Music Houston. Courtesy of Chamber Music Houston
Chamber Music Houston website screenshoot
The name change will simplify how the organization's mission is communicated to Houstonians. Courtesy image
Modigliani Quartet
2 Miro Quartet preview September 2013
Houston Friends of Chamber Music, 2013-14 schedule, March 2013, Emerson String Quartet
Chamber Music Houston Logo
Chamber Music Houston website screenshoot

After more than five decades of the same old look, Houston Friends of Chamber Music is freshening up its stylings to better represent what the volunteer-led classical music presenter does best: Bringing only the crème de la crème of chamber music ensembles from around the world to the Bayou City.

As Houston Friends of Chamber Music unveils the 2014-15 season, it also reveals a new modernist logo and a more concise name to sound the beginning of new tuneful adventures for concert goers — Chamber Music Houston. The name change will simplify how the organization's mission is communicated to Houstonians, particularly as Houston Friends of Chamber Music has been confused for a philanthropic venture that supports Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, which it isn't.

"The name Chamber Music Houston is easy to remember, expresses clearly what we offer, and is in a continuity with our former name," Lucile Agaisse, chair of marketing and communications, tells CultureMap. "It fits well with our new, fresh look while indicating that the organization will continue bringing the world's most celebrated chamber music ensembles to Houston."

The lineup of performances for 2014-15, aptly themed "New season. New name. New experience," promises to offer engaging concerts with more interaction between the guest artists and the audience, a hallmark of the intimate genre that can be lost in more traditional concert settings.

HOUSTON DEBUTS

The name Kavafian-Schub-Shifrin Trio (Nov. 11) — violinist Ani Kavafian, pianist Andre-Michel Schub and clarinetist David Shifrin — may imply the kind of conservatism associated with chamber music. But expect this program of 20th century jewels, including Bartok's Contrasts and Bolcom's Afternoon Cakewalk, to evince why this 25-year-old hyper-virtuoso ensemble has been praised for its intriguing programming and fierce integrity.

Friends Philippe Bernhard, Loïc Rio, Laurent Marfaing and François Kieffer comprise the Modigliani Quartet (April 9, 2015). It only took one year after the group formed in 2003 to earned international recognition, winning the Frits Philips String Quartet competition in 2004 and then the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York in 2006. The "fab foursome" (Seattle Times) will perform Mozart's Quartet in D Minor, K. 421, Shostakovich's Quartet No 1 in C Minor and Dohnányi's Quartet No. 3 in A Minor.

NEW FAVORITES

The Austin-based Miró Quartet (Sept. 16) opens the Chamber Music Houston season. After last year's sincere and virile performance, consider this engagement as a sign that Chamber Music Houston has settled on a new favorite. Haydn's String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 "Fifths" plus Schuller's Houston premiere of his Quartet No. 5 are complemented by Schubert's famed Quartet in D Minor "Death and the Maiden." Music nerds will of course be wondering how the Miró will treat the opening of Schubert's work: To down bow or to up bow? That is the question.

Cantus (Feb. 10, 2015) made its Chamber Music Houston debut in 2008. No word yet on the playbill for this men's a cappella troupe, but we suspect a melange of introspective choral, carefree songs and powerful scores performed with a superhuman breath of colors and textures.

The Jupiter String Quartet (Dec. 2), which made its Chamber Music Houston debut in 2008, will be joined by violist James Dunham for Brahms' String Quintet in G Major. Also on the program are Schubert's Quartet in A Minor "Rosamunde" and Beethoven's String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135.

GOOD OLE FRIENDS

The Vienna Trio (March 10, 2015) returns for its fourth appearance with Chamber Music Houston. An evening of Austro-German works by Mozart, Schumann and Mendelssohn will test the threesome's "telepathic gifts of communications" (The Plain Dealer). We can only hope that Chamber Music Houston supplements the performance with Sachertorte at the reception. Too much to ask?

The Canadian Brass (Jan. 20, 2015) should need to introduction. Arguably the world's most recognized brass quintet, these musicians are always out and about with concert programs that surprise and entertain, eh?

Noted for dramatic and powerful performances, the Jerusalem Quartet (Oct. 21) returns with Beethoven's String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5, Bartok's String Quartet No. 2 and Ravel's String Quartet in F Major.

ENCORE, PLEASE

At the current season's finale concert, set for April 29, Houston audiences will finally hear the new version of the Emerson since cellist David Finckel retired. With reviews that describe the veteran musicians plus cellist Paul Watkins as having a "new burst of energy," Chamber Music Houston once again hires the Emerson String Quartet (April 30, 2015) for the big bang of a curtain call. 

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Chamber Music Houston full season subscriptions start at $185 for adults, $167 for seniors and $92.50 for students. Subscription packages ranging from three to seven concerts are available starting at $70 for adults and $63 for seniors. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 713-348-5400. 

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