There’s a new face in town bringing chamber music to the region: Cheshire County Classic Concerts.

The free concert series, sponsored by a grant from the Cheshire County Board of Commissioners, kicked off the summer at the old Cheshire County Courthouse—the space that inspired the idea.

Guitarist/composer and Keene State College lecturer, Jose Lezcano, had a conversation about a year ago with Cheshire County administrator, Chris Coates, about using the recently renovated old courthouse space for concerts. Coates took the idea to the delegation, and from there the concept expanded to include venues in other towns in the region.

Lezcano then reached out to former colleagues Virginia Eskin, world-class pianist; and cellist Rebecca Hartka, to help get things started.

Cheshire County Classic Concerts was born. The first concert featured the Keene Guitar Quintet (Alyssa Becker, Andrew Szmauz, Zach Dafeldecker, Sandy Perron, and Lezcano) playing a program of the music of Beethoven, Granados, Albinoni and more.

The next program in the lineup is “Spanish Nights”: Music of Albeniz, Torroba, Lezcano and more with Lezcano on guitar and Eskin on piano this Friday, September 3, at the Jaffrey Civic Center.

Eskin’s musical background includes championing and recording music written by American composers; neglected works by American women composers; and music written by composers who perished during the Holocaust.

She has taught and given lectures at colleges and universities throughout the United States and Europe, including New England Conservatory, Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, Northeastern, American College of Greece (Athens), and the International Institute (Madrid). She has appeared as a guest on national radio and television, including the CBS “Sunday Morning” television program.

As guitar soloist and composer, Lezcano has appeared in major venues and festivals, including Carnegie Recital Hall, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, China, Germany, and the Czech Republic as recitalist and concerto soloist. He has earned numerous professional recognitions, including a Fulbright Award.

For his Guitar Concerto, he received two nominations and was semi-finalist for Grammys in the categories “Best Contemporary Composition” and “Best Soloist with Orchestra.”

The September 10 concert program, which remains unknown, will be performed live at 7 p.m. at the Winchester Town Hall featuring the Swist Family Trio (Keene State College faculty members Chris Swist on percussion, Marcia Lehninger on violin and their 9-year-old son, Willy, on piano).

Next on September 18 at 3 p.m. at the Nelson Congregational Church, the concert program, “Mediterranea! Music of Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Boccherini” will feature Eskin on piano and Lezcano on guitar (masks and social distancing requested; bring a lawn chair).

With this program, the duo will pay tribute to the music of Spain and Latin America. Works for piano will include Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s “Sonata,” Boccherini’s “Fandango,” Brazilian tangos by early 20th-century pianist Ernesto Nazareth, and “Evocacion” from Spaniard Isaac Albeniz’ virtuoso suite, “Iberia.”

Lezcano’s guitar solos include “Plainte” by Brazilian guitarist Marco Pereira, and Joaquin Malat’s “Serenta Española.” The program will conclude with Lezcano’s own three-movement composition for guitar and piano, “Fantasia Latina,” which includes a tribute to his late brother, Gustavo, a founding member of Miami Sound Machine and frequent performer with the Bee Gees.

The series ends with a performance September 24, at 7 p.m. at the Swanzey Congregational Church featuring the music of French and English composers by Rebecca Hartka, cello; and Barbara Lysakowski, piano. The evening’s program will include the Sonatas by Claude Debussy and Frank Bridge.

Lezcano looks back on the livestreamed concerts he offered during the pandemic and realizes how much he missed performing for an audience.

“Just the hopefulness of it, getting people to come to concerts again and getting to play live music again—I’m so grateful,” he said. “I’m also grateful to all the people who have offered (performance) spaces without charging a rental fee in order to support the arts.”

He’s already looking toward planning next year’s schedule.

“If the (Cheshire County) delegation wants it, we’ll do (the series) every year,” he said.

For a complete list of programs, times and locations for Cheshire County Classic Concerts, visit www.joselezcano.wordpress.com


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