Black Oak Ensemble
The Black Oak Ensemble appears in Marin on Jan. 28, 2024, to perform string trios by Jewish composers silenced during the Holocaust

The history of chamber music in Marin goes back about a century, thanks to amateur and professional musicians living in the county, some busy at the seven-decade-old Marin Symphony or in the College of Marin’s vital music program and others in orchestras in San Francisco, just over the Golden Gate Bridge. And as always in the Bay Area, there is the “Freeway Philharmonic.”

Besides the Mill Valley Concert Series (in the 1940s), the 90-year-old Marin Music Chest, and Anne Pinsker’s Marin Music Fest (1980–1992), there was — and is — the half-century-old Mill Valley Chamber Music Society.

To expand its geographical domain (and — a journalist would like to believe — to more easily fit its name into headlines), MVCMS has renamed itself Chamber Music Marin, and this weekend, it will open its 50th season.

Ilya Yakushev
Pianist Ilya Yakushev opens the Chamber Music Marin season on Oct. 8

Board President Jane Rogers explains:

“The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society was founded in 1973 by a group of amateur classical musicians who wanted to play chamber music together. They soon began inviting community residents to their gatherings.

“This humble beginning evolved into an all-volunteer presenting organization that has brought national and international chamber music soloists and ensembles to Marin County for decades.

“When I became president in 2020, we decided that it was past time for our name to reflect what we have become and the audience that we serve. Mill Valley Chamber Music Society is too local, it sounds old-fashioned, and ‘society’ suggests that perhaps you have to be a member to participate. Chamber Music Marin reflects who we are and have been for many years.

“We present an annual series of five concerts by national and world-renowned musicians in an intimate auditorium with ideal acoustics at Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church. Our concerts are among the lowest-priced concerts in the Bay Area, with excellent access from Highway 101 and ample free parking.”

All concerts are held on Sundays at 5 p.m. A subscription to all five concerts this season is $190 (or $38 per concert). A flex subscription to three concerts is $130 (or about $43 per concert). Single tickets are $48. Youth (18 and under) are always free. Seating is general admission. All subscribers receive a free ticket to the Marin Music Chest’s Young Artists Concert on May 19, 2024.

Artistic Director Bill Horne is presenting this season:

On Oct. 8, pianist Ilya Yakushev — a native of St. Petersburg, winner of the World Piano Competition in 2005, and a featured soloist in recitals and with orchestras around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony — will present a program including a Mozart fantasia, Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata, an Alexander Scriabin nocturne, Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz” No. 1, three pieces by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Yakushev has an unusual hobby: “I enjoy doing things with my own hands. While I know that this is something a pianist shouldn’t be doing, I own all of the power tools one can imagine and enjoy tremendously making/fixing things around the house. I also love cars and love working on my cars. Very simple hobbies which are very helpful in everyday life.”

Alexander String Quartet
The Alexander String Quartet performs in Marin on Nov. 12 | Credit: Martyn Selman

On Nov. 12, the Alexander String Quartet, a 42-year-old ensemble, a force in the Bay Area, and directors of the Morrison Chamber Music Center at San Francisco State University since 1989, will be performing quartets by Haydn, Sergei Prokofiev, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

On Jan. 28, 2024, the Black Oak Ensemble — violinist Desirée Ruhstadt, cellist David Cunliffe, and violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli, currently in residence at Chicago’s New Music School — will play selections from its concert and recording project Silenced Voices, which features string trios by Jewish composers who were silenced during the Holocaust.

On Feb. 25, 2024, the trio of violinist Jennifer Frautschi, clarinetist Jon Manasse, and pianist Jon Nakamatsu will perform works by Claude Debussy, Frédéric Chopin, Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky, and John Novacek.

On May 5, 2024, the Viano Quartet — violinists Lucy Wang and Hao Zhou, violist Aiden Kane, and cellist Tate Zawadiuk, in residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia when not touring — will play a program that includes a Haydn string quartet, Bedřich Smetana’s “From My Life” Quartet, and Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartet No. 2.