World’s finest classical musicians perform during SpringFest!

34 musicians, 6 concerts, 3 days: SpringFest!

Join the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival for iconic works presented by musicians and young rising stars from around the world Friday through Sunday.

  • Where: ECU School of Music’s Fletcher Recital Hall, 10th Street, Greenville
  • Tickets: $10 per performance or admission to all six for $50. An online streaming option is available for all concerts for $50.
  • Four Seasons information

East Carolina University is hosting some of the world’s finest musicians for the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival spring workshop and its culminating concerts, newly named SpringFest!

Musicians from Canada, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, South Korea, the United Kingdom and across the United States began arriving in Greenville on May 23 to participate in the weeklong workshop — a precursor to the public concerts this weekend.

“It’s a great way for people who love classical music to continue to engage with that and to rediscover pieces that they love, and it’s a great way for people who aren’t classical music fans yet to discover this incredible music and performing,” said Henry Michaels, managing director of Four Seasons. “It will be a feast for the senses over the weekend.”

Of 34 total musicians, 23 are rising young artists selected to attend through a rigorous audition process. The musicians represent some of the finest conservatories in the world including Juilliard, Curtis, New England Conservatory, Mannes and Bard, Michaels said.

During the week, participants are divided to each play in two small groups led by faculty artists who serve as mentors and teach master classes in the ECU School of Music. A unique aspect is that the groups have just under a week to put together 15 pieces of music that range from classics — quartets by Beethoven and Mozart, piano trios, quartets and quintets by Fauré, Franck and Dvořák — to less well-known pieces, Michaels said.

Spring workshop musicians, Elliot Wuu (pianist), Julia Lee (cellist), and Ara Gregorian (violist), perform. Gregorian, also an ECU faculty member, is the founder of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival.

“There’s so many opportunities to hear some of the best musicians in the world play some of the best music ever written, right here,” he said. “There are certainly similar festivals but there aren’t very many places in the world where you have access in this three-day span of time, and to have access for less than the price of a movie ticket. It is indicative of the support we have from our donors that we’ve been able to make these $10 tickets available across the board.”

The workshop’s format helps draw participants, with many returning year after year, Michaels said.

“It’s an opportunity to sit down and engage in the excitement of putting together something for the first time,” he said. “Some people may have played these pieces before, some may not, but the group is absolutely a group that has never done it before in that exact configuration. It’s the fun, excitement and thrill of learning a piece for the first time or learning a piece anew.”

Rising artists have described the event as a proving ground because of the real-life experience it provides, Michaels said.

It’s not uncommon for a festival to occur over six to eight weeks, providing ideal conditions for many rehearsals over long periods of time, he said.

“But it’s not exactly how things work in the professional world, where you may arrive on a Wednesday and need to be ready to play a concert on a Friday,” he said. “This is really an opportunity not only for them to play side-by-side with some of the absolute greats of chamber music, but to work with them in what is really a professional setting, on a really limited amount of time to put this all together. You arrive on a Friday and by the next Friday you’re playing a concert. It’s a unique opportunity for everyone involved, and it’s really fulfilling to see that unfold.”

Pianist Anthony Ratinov, who is pursuing his artist diploma at The Juilliard School, is attending for the first time.

ECU faculty member and violinist Hye-Jin Kim participates in the workshop.

“I’m excited to meet new people and to get to know each other through music, performance and collaboration,” Ratinov said. “We are so lucky in our career that we are able to meet and work with such wonderful people, and it is always exciting entering a new group and making new connections.”

Another first-time rising artist, Miranda Werner, plays viola and holds a master’s in music in violin performance from the Yale School of Music and a bachelor’s in high distinction and music honors from Indiana University.

“I love playing chamber music with new partners,” she said. “I feel that this is one of the most inspiring experiences one can have as a musician, and I’m incredibly excited to explore this process at the spring workshop and SpringFest!”

Steven Tenenbom, who teaches at the Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School and the Bard College Conservatory of Music, has attended the workshop for several years as a faculty violist.

“This community is in love with music and the idea that younger and older musicians are coming together to find ways to lift the spirits of anyone fortunate to listen to this amazing music,” Tenenbom said.

SpringFest! is the first of several performances that will bring acclaimed artists to ECU this summer. The East Carolina Piano Festival will be June 22-30 and the Summer Guitar Festival and Workshop will be July 11-14. The School of Theatre and Dance will present its Summer Theatre production of “Rock of Ages” June 26-30 in McGinnis Theatre.