A new summertime treat: Concert series at Evermay

Summertime concerts. You stroll through a rose garden at twilight, sipping a cool drink and looking out over a vista muted by the soft, moist air. You sit in a ballroom, on hard little chairs, and listen to ardent musicians playing only a few feet from your face, sound echoing off the brick, while the light darkens into night in all the windows around you. You mingle with the musicians in the long elegant dining room afterward.

You could be on a weekend excursion to the country. But it’s the middle of the week, you’re in the heart of Washington, and the experience, far from being exclusive, is open to anyone who pays $50 for a ticket.

On Wednesday, Washington saw the inauguration of the Overtures Summer Concert Series, which should rank high on the list of local summertime treats. The setting is Evermay, the privately owned 1801 mansion in Georgetown recently restored by two doctors, Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno, as a base for their S&R Foundation, devoted to supporting young artists and scientists. Just getting into the house will be worth the price of admission for a lot of people, and there will be plenty of opportunities. The foundation gave a maiden series this spring at the Kennedy Center, and Kuno says that this spring series, coinciding with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, will be an annual Evermay event as well.

Wednesday’s concert was the least classical of the summer’s seven. The Urban Tango Trio focused on the music of Argentina, with a particular emphasis on Astor Piazzolla. The trio represented an endearing blend of high-powered music-making and coltish enthusiasm, particularly on the part of the classically trained violinist Machiko Ozawa, whose love for the music overflowed into gushing statements like, “I am Japanese, but becoming every day almost Argentinian!” The other two artists, the pianist Octavio Brunetti and the bass player Pedro Giraudo, are already Argentinian, and powerful exponents of their country’s music; the intensity of Brunetti’s playing and the soft, smooth darkness of Giraudo’s panther-like bass were particularly evident in the small room, where the sound literally bounced off the walls.

The program, about the length of a generous CD, offered a cross-section of the so-called tango nuevo — tango music incorporating different musical styles, including jazz and classical — particularly as pioneered by Piazzolla, whose work, including his signature “Adios Nonino,” made up about half the program. The trio set up polarities between fast and slow (the taut syncopated chords of “Escualo” (“Shark”) yielding to the slow fever dream of “Oblivion”); highbrow and low (the classical-virtuoso echoes of Jacob Gade’s “Jealousy” against Horacio Salgan’s “La Llamo Silbando,” with flirtatious wolf-whistles in the violin); and contemporary and traditional (“Adios Nonino” followed by the more conventional “Canaro en Paris”), making for a feel-good introduction for a willing audience. Given the resonance of the space and the intensity of the performances, you were better off sitting in the back.

Kuno, addressing the audience after the program, mentioned a desire to open up classical music to younger people, both performers and audiences. Her new series shows that you don’t have to remove the sense of privilege from classical music to make it, literally, accessible.

Overtures Summer Concert Series

continues Friday night with a performance by the guitarist Soichi Muraji and runs until Aug. 22. Visit overturesseries.org for tickets; a $50 ticket includes valet parking and refreshments.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.
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