Charting new territory in Rochester's chamber music

06:50 AM, Jan 20, 2013

Husband and wife Juliana Athayde and Erik Behr will lead the Society for Chamber Music. (HANLON-FISKE STUDIOS INC./)/

Written By Catherine Roberts | Lead Local Editor/Life

Juliana Athayde and Erik Behr will be charting new territory together with their new appointments as artistic directors of the Society for Chamber Music in Rochester.

The married couple already have key positions in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, she as concertmaster and he as principal oboist (a position that functions as concertmaster for the woodwinds and brass). They also perform together in summer festivals.

They follow their RPO colleagues Stefan Reuss and Joseph Werner, who after a decade as artistic directors decided to make this their last season. As guest musicians with the Chamber Society in the past, Behr and Athayde say they have gotten to know the members and the donors.

They are an incredibly loyal and knowledgeable bunch of people,” says Behr, a South African who also has experience playing with several chamber groups in Europe.

He hopes to bring some of that experience into his influence over the schedule. In Europe, chamber music is seen more as “a living art form, not museum pieces.” Groups there are able to convey that classical — and chamber — music “isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.” He sees that as key to attracting a younger audience.

Athayde, a California native, hopes to bring her knowledge and love of women composers to the mix, as well as her jazz influences. She has been crossing over in several concerts, adding jazz pieces to her repertoire.

They will also be looking at possible new partnerships — more interactions with the art at the Memorial Art Gallery, for example, where many of the chamber music concerts take place. And they’ll be looking at new venues that tie into music choices, plus a possible family concert in the yearly mix.

The chamber group, now in its 36th season, is one of only two national winners of the 2012 CMAcclaim award from Chamber Music America.

We have been very successful over the past dozen years to build audiences for chamber music in Rochester through the dedicated work of Joe Werner and Stefan Reuss, SCMR’s out-going co-artistic directors,” said Don Hunsberger, chair of the SCMR board, in a release. “They have worked diligently to continue to create programs that have attracted audiences both at the Memorial Art Gallery and Hochstein. We look forward to continuing that tradition with Juliana and Erik.”

Athayde and Behr say their RPO experience will influence the group. They’ll be researching their favorite composers for chamber works to consider.

Besides their RPO positions, Athayde is an associate professor of violin at Eastman School of Music and Behr is on the faculty of Hochstein School of Music and Dance and also teaches at Roberts Wesleyan College.