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Gateway Chamber Ensemble to perform evening of nonets at APSU

Dont feel bad if youve never heard of Louis Sphor. Many people havent, which has led to him earning the nickname The Forgotten Master. But for a time in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this German composer was as well known as Mozart and Beethoven.

Sphors obscurity is somewhat of a mystery today because he was a prolific and innovative musician. He developed a chin rest for the violin, and he wrote a masterwork symphony for only nine players, in a form known as the nonet.
Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Louis Sphor. Many people haven't, which has led to him earning the nickname “The Forgotten Master.” But for a time in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this German composer was as well known as Mozart and Beethoven.

Sphor's obscurity is somewhat of a mystery today because he was a prolific and innovative musician. He developed a chin rest for the violin, and he wrote a masterwork symphony for only nine players, in a form known as the nonet.

“It's a string quartet and a woodwind quintet,” Gregory Wolynec, APSU associate professor of music, said. “It creates a really beautiful collection of timbres of sounds.”

At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, the Clarksville Community Concert Series will present an evening of nonets performed by the Gateway Chamber Ensemble in the APSU Concert Hall inside the Music/Mass Communication Building. And the pinnacle of the show will be a performance of Sphor's symphony in this format.

“He wrote this grand nonet,” Wolynec, who will be conducting the ensemble, said. “It was a huge hit. A number of nonets were written by prominent composers from that moment forward.”

Among those future nonet compositions was a piece written in 1959 by famed composer Bohuslav Martinu. That piece will open the Feb. 22 performance.

“The Martinu is very lively,” Wolynec said. “It reflects that fact that Martinu, a Czech-born American citizen, spent much of his life in Paris. It's sort of Czech meets French. The piece is very rhythmic, dance-like, wonderful.”

At one point in the evening, the viola and bass will leave the stage, and a saxophone musician will replace the horn player. This will allow the ensemble to perform the third piece of the night's program, “Choros No. 7” by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

“That's for seven players,” Wolynec said. “It's all based on Brazilian Street music.”

The ensemble's eclectic mix of music and penchant for performing difficult but rewarding pieces has led to its growing popularity within the local community. The group formed a little more than a year ago, and it consists of APSU faculty members and professional musicians from around the region.

A wind serenade concert of works by Strauss and Mozart performed last February by the ensemble proved so successful, they were approached about recording a CD with Summit Records.

That CD will be released officially in early March, but the group will have copies available for purchase during the Feb. 22 performance. Members of the ensemble will be available to sign the CDs that evening, and half the proceeds will go to support the Clarksville Community Concert Association.

The CCCA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting musical performances of high merit to Clarksville-Montgomery County. The CCCA is partially funded by the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.
Tickets to the Feb. 22 performance are free for APSU students, $12 for all other students and $25 for everyone else.

Information about the concert series is available online at www.clarksvillemusic.org. -- Charles Booth