Sunday Concerts, the Phillips’s time honored music series, began in 1941. Before then music had always been a part of life at the museum, but the formal inauguration of the series aimed to bring the same level of ambition and experimentation that Duncan Phillips had for the visual arts, to music. The charge was led by the inimitable Elmira Bier, Duncan Phillips’s secretary from 1924 onwards. Phillips could scarcely have found a stronger advocate in Bier, who although not formally trained in music, schooled herself out of necessity across a broad range of artistic areas. Her lack of musical preconceptions may have been her strongest suit, as it led her to take risks, especially in her encouragement of young artists. This remains a central tenet of the concert series today as we carry the torch into the current 73rd season and beyond.
On Sunday May 26, in the concluding concert of the 2012/2013 season of Sunday Concerts, The Phillips Camerata performed a program of string octets by Felix Mendelssohn and George Enescu. It was a first in the museum’s musical history to present eight string musicians and a unique opportunity to hear works written for this unusual form. The rich combination of strings produces a compelling sonority in any acoustic, but in the intimacy of the wood paneled Music Room, these two wildly contrasting works were heard up close and personal, with all their depths and intricacies on view.