For nearly six decades, Chamber Music Houston has brought the best chamber music ensembles from around the world to Houston audiences, with programs that include classical favorites spanning 300 years while introducing contemporary classical pieces. The success of CMH is due not to an Artistic Director but, rather, to the consistent Artistic Direction provided for nearly six decades by the Board of Directors! It is rare, if not unique, to find an organization that can collaborate on the selection of ensembles and programs, yet CMH has been doing this for 56 years with a board of more than 20 individuals.
The process begins with the solicitation of recommended favorites and new talents from everyone on the Board. Many Board members, for example, visit Aspen or Spoleto Festivals, or travel abroad, where they always attend concerts. Some read The New York Times; others read The Strad and Chamber Music America. All listen to broadcasts and CDs, attend concerts, making notes on chamber groups. This exercise has led to a consistently high-level concert series with the introduction of many new talents to CMH over the years. CMH identified the Tokyo and Emerson String Quartets soon after they were founded, and then nearly every year thereafter for 30 years and more. In this same fashion, CMH has also introduced other great chamber groups to Houston audiences, including Miro, Jerusalem, Artemis, Pavel Haas and Pacifica String Quartets, Vienna Piano Trio, Faure Piano Quartett and Academy of St. Martin Octet.
Each season, the Programming Chair begins whittling down the field of eligible talents to group availability and touring schedules. As the choices narrow, the Board comes together for energetic discussions and debate over past performances, reviews, audience appreciation, and balance to the entire season. Once the performing groups have been selected for a season, then begins the programming selections. The Board members rally for their individual favorite pieces and composers, while working within the proposed repertoire of each group. The respect these board members share for one another, throughout these passionate and intense meetings, is key to their compromise and remarkable success.
Creating a mix of string ensembles, while still providing a vocal group and perhaps a wind or brass ensemble, is a challenge – yet, each year, CMH has presented a nine-concert season that delights Houston audiences and chamber music lovers!