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Meet Geoff Nuttall, the exuberant new artistic director for chamber music
With his whole-body bowing technique, Geoff Nuttall, the exuberant violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, has been known to fling sweat into the first row at Spoleto’s chamber music concerts. “That’s probably less likely to happen now that we have a good air conditioning system,” he says with a laugh, referring to their Dock Street digs.
Nuttall, who has taken the reins of the Chamber Music Series from the gregarious Charles Wadsworth, similarly has a gift for gab. “Expect to be depressed,” Nuttall once quipped before a performance of Shostakovich’s disturbing String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73. “It’s almost impossible to come close to Charles’ effortless humor,” says the 44-year-old fiddler. “But I think we’re cut from the same cloth in terms of the silliness factor. You want to bring audiences into the chamber music world and let them get the joke.”
Nuttall lives in the San Francisco Bay area—with his wife, violinist Livia Sohn, and three-year-old son, Jack—where the St. Lawrence String Quartet is ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University. He says he’ll need to sell his $800,000 1770 Guadagnini violin (so that he can buy a house in California) and now plays a modern instrument made in Brooklyn. “It already sounds better than my Guadagnini, and it’s worth $750,000 less!”
Nuttall calls himself “a kid in a candy shop” while programming the series. He gets to play Baroque music. He gets to play the Fauré G Minor Piano Quartet, Op. 45. But “getting to play with friends is a big part of it,” he says. He’s brought back the composer-in-residence program: Jonathan Berger will be here for a week, and soprano Dawn Upshaw will perform the world premiere of a Berger piece written for her, Nuttall says. He’ll continue the informal format, try to keep concerts under an hour and 15 minutes, and record live CDs from the concerts. “The most important thing is not to screw it up,” he says. “We almost entirely sell out 33 concerts—the Spoleto audience is passionate and knowledgeable. And they come.”
Chamber Music Series
May 28-June 13, times vary.
Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St.
Conversations With Martha Teichner
June 7, 5 p.m.
Simons Center Recital Hall, 54 St. Philip St.
Photographs (concert) by William Struhs; (portrait) by Julia Lynn; courtesy of Spoleto Festival USA