Duke Performances is now Duke Arts presents. Learn more.

Duke Arts Presents

2023-24 Chamber Arts Series

Subscriptions for the Chamber Arts Series remain open until Sunday, November 5, 2023.

Featuring eight concerts by the world’s leading Chamber Arts ensembles, the Chamber Arts Series is one of the most popular programs in our season. Concerts are selected by the Chamber Arts Society of Durham at Duke University and presented by Duke Arts. View full concert details below.

Subscribers save 20% off single ticket prices, access the best seat locations, and receive a 15% discount on all other events in the Duke Arts Presents season (some exceptions may apply).

Single tickets are available for all Chamber Arts Series concerts.

For questions and customer support, please contact the Duke University Box Office at 919-684-4444 or email tickets@duke.eduBox Office Hours: Tue – Fri, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Emerson String Quartet

Friday, September 8, 2023, at 8 pm

Our Chamber Arts Series opens with a final visit from the Emerson String Quartet, a group that has been at the forefront of chamber music-making across the globe for the best part of a half century. With more than 30 acclaimed recordings, nine GRAMMY Awards, three Gramophone Awards and an Avery Fisher Prize to their name, this year the American quartet bids adieu to the concert stage.

On their farewell tour, the Emersons will bring a range of classic quartets, opening with Mendelssohn’s passionate String Quartet No. 2, a work significantly influenced by the late string quartets of another featured composer on the program: Beethoven. The final of Beethoven’s trio of late string quartets – and the composer’s personal favorite – is thought to be one of his most original and ambitious, with shifting chromaticism and contrapuntal movement. Sandwiched in between these two works is Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 12, the second of four quartets dedicated to each member of the Beethoven Quartet. Shostakovich wrote this for the ensemble’s first violinist, Dmitri Tsyganov, who had a famously vigorous style of playing. This energy is matched in the piece, with the players pushed to extremes in both intensity and dynamic range. Indicative of the composer’s great love of numbers, the 12th Quartet pays homage to the serialist 12-tone row, before entering into a more tonal soundworld. 

Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, op. 13
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 12 in D-flat Major, op. 133
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, op. 131

Merz Trio

Saturday, October 7, 2023, at 8 pm

Outstanding solo musicians, the Merz Trio has grabbed headlines across the globe for their ‘entrancing, dynamic performances’ (BBC Music Magazine) and ‘stunning virtuosity’ (Reading Eagle). Juxtaposing dynamic new music with forgotten and familiar works, they are an ensemble to watch. 

The trio brings a typically dynamic program to the Chamber Arts Series, with works spanning over 300 years. This program explores a central element in the music of Latvian composer, Pēteris Vasks: the struggle between the forces of darkness and light. Movements from Vasks’ Episodi e canto perpetuo find musical foils in episodes along the way: Weinberg’s Op. 24 Piano Trio, a work written in 1945, a product of war and refuge, the sense of mirroring and reflection in Schumann’s canon for pedal piano, our arrangement of Landi’s Augellin which takes ideas from Messiaen’s Quatour, conceived as a pairing for Vasks’ work that itself pays homage to Messiaen. Midway, you’ll find a moment of reprieve in Purcell’s lullaby before the disintegration and sense of refraction that ensues in Sokolovic’s Portrait Parle. Schumann, as a composer who embodies this struggle vividly in both his music and his life, finishes the program with his glorious F major trio, at times a sublime bath of light though not without its moments of shadowy uncertainty and inner search.

Weinberg: Piano Trio, op. 24
Peteris Vasks: Episodi e Canta Perpetuo (1985), Movement 1.
Robert Schumann: Six Studies in Canonic Form, Op. 56 (arr. Theodor Kirchner)
Stefano Landi: Augellin
Peteris Vasks: Episodi e Canta Perpetuo (1985), Movements 2-5.
Purcell: ‘Hush No More’ from The Fairy Queen
Ana Sokolovic: Portrait Parle (2006)
Peteris Vasks: Episodi e Canta Perpetuo (1985), Movements 6-8.
Robert Schumann: Piano Trio No. 2 in F Major, op. 80

Jennifer Koh

Sunday, November 5, 2023, at 7 pm

Violinist Jennifer Koh’s dazzling virtuosity and technical brilliance have won her praise from audiences, journalists and competition juries alike. Working across a wide range of diverse repertoire, Koh has been pioneering in commissioning new material for her instrument, premiering over 100 works written especially for her. She has been described by The New York Times as a ‘masterly Bach interpreter.’

For her Chamber Arts Series appearance, she returns to the complete solo partitas and sonatas by Bach. She has recorded and performed these works for her critically acclaimed three-part ‘Bach & Beyond’ series, in which she pairs the sonatas and partitas with works by living composers. ‘When Koh plays Bach, the world dissolves,’ wrote Fanfare of this series, while BBC Music Magazine applauded her ‘impeccable sense of style.’

Complete Bach Solo Partitas/Sonatas

Viano Quartet

Saturday, December 9, 2023, at 8 pm

The Viano Quartet is a chamber ensemble that commands attention. Since winning the prestigious Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2019, the quartet has established a reputation as one of the most exciting and dynamic young groups on the classical music scene today. The Viano Quartet makes their Duke Arts debut this season, bringing together a vibrant range of works for chamber quartet, both established and new additions to the repertoire.

The first piece in Piazzolla’s Suite del Ángel opens the program: an elegant tango, packed full of unusual jazz-infused harmonies. Just as Piazzolla was renowned for pushing the envelope stylistically, Bartók’s String Quartet No. 3 incorporates an array of colorful effects and pioneering extended instrumental techniques, such as strumming, pizzicato and playing with the bow close to the bridge or with the wood rather than the hair of the bow. A new quartet by the versatile young Canadian composer Kevin Lau is at the center of this program, before the Viano Quartet finishes with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 and its dramatic original final movement, theGroße Fuge.

Piazzolla: Introduccion del Angel
Bartók: String Quartet No. 3 in C-sharp Minor
Kevin Lau: new work (2023)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op. 130
Beethoven: Große Fuge, Op. 133

Escher String Quartet

Saturday, January 20, 2024, at 8 pm

Former BBC New Generation Artists, season artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and recipients of the Avery Fischer Career Grant, the Escher String Quartet is among the leading chamber ensembles in the United States.

Bringing with them a program of wide-ranging emotional moods, the Eschers start off with one of the most popular of Haydn’s eighty-three string quartets, referred to as ‘The Lark’ thanks to its perpetually lively tempo and soaring main theme. They then cycle forward to an early 20th-century masterpiece by Bartók, richly imbued with elements of Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian music, utilizing a wide range of extended instrumental techniques and folk harmonies. Bringing us back to an elegiac mood is Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet, the last major work the composer completed before his death in 1847 – while he was mourning the unexpected death of his sister Fanny.

Haydn: String Quartet No. 5 in D Major, op. 64 (‘The Lark’)
Bartók: String Quartet No. 4 in C Major
Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor (‘Death and the Maiden’)

Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields Wind Ensemble

Saturday, February 10, 2024, at 8 pm

Wind players from one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, return to the Chamber Arts Series with a vibrant program of small-scale chamber works.

There are two milestone quintets featured in this program by Mozart and Beethoven respectively, referencing one another both in their scoring and key signatures. After the premiere of his Quintet, Mozart wrote to his father saying ‘I myself consider it to be the best thing I have written in my life.’ With extensive sketches in existence for this piece, it was clearly a project Mozart had laboured over – surprising for a composer not usually known for rewriting material. Beethoven takes his lead from Mozart in his youthful Quintet, written in his twenties when he was exploring the sonic possibilities of instruments in a chamber setting. We’re also presented with two trios in this concert, one by the French neoclassical composer Jean Françaix and another lively offering by the German Romantic composer Reinecke.

Reinecke: Trio for Oboe, Horn, and Piano, op. 188
Mozart: Quintet for Winds and Piano in E-flat Major, K452
Jean Françaix: Divertimento for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon
Beethoven: Quintet for Winds and Piano in E-flat Major, op. 16

Fauré Quartett

Saturday, March 16, 2024, at 8 pm

Fauré Quartett has been captivating audiences worldwide for over two decades with their innovative approach to classical music. Having met during their studies in 1995 for the 150th anniversary of their namesake Gabriel Fauré, the Fauré Quartett have established a reputation as leading interpreters of not only the French composer but also of works outside the mainstream repertoire.

Their selected program opens with Mahler’s Klavierquartettsatz, a hauntingly beautiful single movement piece and the composer’s only known piece of instrumental chamber music. Next up is a work by the group’s namesake, Fauré’s Piano Quartet in c-minor, a work of stunning lyricism and emotional depth that perfectly captures the composer’s romantic sensibilities. Finally, the program culminates with Brahms’ Piano Quartet in g-minor, a monumental work that is regarded by many as one of the greatest chamber music compositions of all time. With its fiery passion, soaring melodies, and intricate counterpoint, Brahms’ masterpiece will bring the evening to a thrilling close.

Mahler: Klavierquartettsatz
Fauré: Piano Quartet in C Minor, op. 15
Brahms: Piano Quartet in G Minor, op. 25

Doric String Quartet

Friday, April 26, 2024, at 8 pm

The Doric String Quartet is one of the leading quartets of its generation, widely celebrated for its approaches to a wide range of repertoire and, as The Observer has noted, its ‘warmth, finesse and exciting attack.’

The ensemble begins with Schumann’s jovial String Quartet No. 3. which was penned in 1842 – a year in which the composer was preoccupied by ‘constant quartet thoughts’, as he noted in his diary. This gives way to an exuberant early quartet by Beethoven, whose agile writing and deft handling of counterpoint make for an engaging listen. The Dorics end with Schubert’s final quartet, written around the same as Beethoven was completing his own late string quartets. This is a substantial work, with a wide range of dynamic contrast and texture. Lyrical ideas and structural ambiguity take precedence here over traditional harmony, with many facets of Schubert’s musical personality brought to life in a vibrant juxtaposition.

Schumann: String Quartet No. 3 in A Major, op. 41
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 5 in A Major, op. 18
Schubert: String Quartet No. 15 in G Major