Samuel DeCaprio wanted to give back to the community — the eastern Connecticut community where he grew up and first gained an interest in music, the classical music communities he’s thrived in as a student, teacher and performer, and the community of music lovers he hopes to attract.
He’s doing that with free concerts at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford as well as the Community School of the Arts in Mansfield as part of the second annual Arazzo Music Festival June 11 through 24.
“I’ve been playing cello a long time,” said DeCaprio, who studied at UConn, Yale and Juilliard. “I wanted to bring the people I’ve worked with to Connecticut.”
The festival began last year, offering free performances of classical music — both old and new — by established professional musicians.
The festival’s name comes from the Italian word for tapestry. The idea is that the event “weaves” together artists, audiences, mentors and students, as well as local businesses and organizations.
Besides offering opportunities to perform and appreciate classical music, the Arazzo Music Festival will also commission new works.
“It’s a trifold mission — events for free, opportunities for classical musicians from the area and opportunities for local students,” DeCaprio said.
Last year, the festival held four events during a single week. This year there are six events — three concerts, two workshops and a lecture — held over two weeks. “We have already expanded budget-wise and donations-wise since last year,” DeCaprio said. Before next year, he hopes to incorporate the festival as a nonprofit.
While the concerts tend toward strings and quartets, DeCaprio said he thinks of Arazzo as “a music festival, not a chamber music festival. I don’t even limit myself to classical music, but that is the tradition I come from. Every year might change.”
This year, cellos and violas and violins are prominent, but there are no pianos.
All but one of the performances this year take place at Lenard Hall at the Community School of the Arts in Mansfield. Admission is free, but registration is required at Mansfieldcc.com.
DeCaprio chooses the programs himself, looking for a mix of works by established and contemporary composers. He also welcomes input from those he’s invited to perform. Some of the works in the culminating concert at the Wadsworth were suggested by DeCaprio’s colleagues.
The 2023 Arazzo Music Festival begins June 11 at 4 p.m. with “Cello + Cello” featuring DeCaprio himself and Iona Batchelder performing cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach (“Rushing Wind” and Suite No. 3), as well as works by Jean-Baptiste Barrière (Sonata for Two Cellos in G major), Luigi Boccherini (Sonata for Two Cellos in C major) and Michael Schachter (Capriccio for Two Cellos).
“Exploring the String Quartet,” on June 17 at 4 p.m., features violinists Russell Iceberg and Julia Mirzoev, violist Hannah Burnett and cellist Iona Batchelder playing works by Josef Haydn (“Emperor Quartet”), Gyorgy Kurtag (“Microludes”) and Robert Schumann (Quartet No. 3 in A major). There’s a pre-concert talk at 3 p.m. by Dr. Simon Frisch.
On June 21 at 1 p.m., DeCaprio is offering a cello master class followed at 3 p.m. by a cello choir reading session for local musicians who want to take part in an ensemble piece.
The festival concludes on June 24 at 7 p.m. in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall with performances spanning the 18th, 19th and 21st centuries: Mozart’s String Quartet No. 3 in C Major, Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in B-flat major, Paul Wiancko’s “American Haiku” and Jesse Montgomery’s Rhapsody No. 1 for solo violin. DeCaprio is part of the ensemble, which also includes violinists Ariel Horowitz and Oliver Neubauer and violists Rosemary Nelis and Nicholas Gallitano.
“In general in Eastern Connecticut, there are not as many opportunities to hear high-quality chamber music,” DeCaprio said. With the Arazzo Music Festival, he is changing that.
The Community School of the Arts is at 450 South Eagleville Road in Mansfield. The Wadsworth Atheneum is at 600 Main St. in Hartford. For more information on the Arazzo Music Festival, go to arazzofestival.org.