Francis A. Lonsway
To provide world-class music for audiences in Southwest Florida; and to educate, encourage, and promote the appreciation and enjoyment of classical music.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF MUSICAL EXCELLENCE
The colorful history of Classic Chamber Concerts dates from 1995, when the Philadelphia Piano Quartet began its 13-year run of providing the Naples area with world-class chamber music. Bert Phillips, a cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and his wife Toby Blumenthal, an acclaimed pianist, started it all. They were joined by violinist Norman Carol, then concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and violinist and violist LaMar Alsop, then concertmaster of the NYC Ballet Orchestra.
In the early days, the group gave three concerts a week – Sundays at Edison College and Mondays and Tuesdays at the Sugden Theater, still the main concert venue. To ensure broad audience appeal, a variety of music was offered, ranging from the classics to jazz and even Latin rhythms. Guest ensembles like the Emerson Quartet and the renowned Tokyo String Quartet became regular visitors.
As part of its mission, Classic Chamber Concerts started a “Concerts in the Schools” program, an educational outreach that continues today, with visiting musicians providing master classes to local high school students. FM radio broadcasts were begun during this period, and CD recordings were offered to audiences.
In the fall of 2008, Bert Phillips passed away. Toby Blumenthal retired in 2009, and Maestro William Noll was appointed Artistic Director. As previous head of the Atlanta Orchestra Chamber Music series, Noll brought with him the experience of conducting and performing in concert venues around the globe.
When Noll’s tenure began, the music scene in Naples had changed. Classic Chamber Concerts was not the only group in town. To meet the growing competition, Noll drew on his overseas contacts and introduced performers like the fiery pianists Michael Berkovsky and Philip Kopachevsky and dynamic chamber groups like the Jasper String Quartet and the Manhattan Piano Trio.
Noll summarized his job in a 2017 interview: “I get out of bed in the morning and work with geniuses – Mozart, Bach. My job is to entertain and educate through the music of geniuses.”
Maestro Noll retired in 2018, and the baton was passed to Michael Finn, an extraordinary talent serving at the time as artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach. An accomplished bassoonist, Finn has performed with the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and international chamber ensembles. As impresario, he has produced orchestral and operatic performances at the Spoleto Festival in Italy and the BBC Proms in London.
Continuing Classic Chamber Concerts’ long tradition of excellence, Michael Finn has engaged the best chamber musicians in the world – the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio, the Philadelphia Orchestra Brass Quartet, the David Shifrin Trio, the Formosa Quartet.
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, Classic Chamber Concerts is well positioned to bring the very best in chamber music to Naples in the years ahead.