March 16 2011 12:00 AM

MSU festival highlights the international appeal of chamber music

Students in the Michigan State University College of Music will get a chance to see how their instruments are played in other countries when the 11th annual Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival comes to East Lansing.

Professor of cello Suren Bagratuni, the artistic director and founder of the festival, said it is a great educational experience for violin students at MSU to see how the violin is played in France, for instance.

“Sometimes students come from the countries that are represented in this concert and they see musicians who are very famous in their own country, and they make friends with them,” Bagratuni said. “Music sometimes makes much easier contact with people than politics or anything else.”

Bagratuni, who has been involved in music performance since he was 10, has traveled all over the world for music. He has been to every continent, except Antarctica. He started the Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival when he lived in Illinois, bringing musician friends he had met throughout his travels to play together.

“When I started I had no financial support whatsoever, it was just the pure enthusiasm and friendship,” he said. “My friends would come and stay in my house and would go and play free of charge. Sometimes it’s not about money; it’s about having fun on stage, playing and meeting new people and performing.”

Bagratuni was asked to continue the series when he came to MSU as a cello professor, and he said people now expect the concert every year. He also is able to bring in a broader range of musicians by being able to compensate them for travel and their time. Musicians come from Germany, France, Taiwan, Courtesy Photo Switzerland and Korea.

James Forger, dean of the College of Music, said preview lectures are scheduled at some of the performances, to educate audiences about the music being played and allow them to interact with the guest musicians.

“Guests bring new ideas and ways of doing and thinking about things,” Forger said. “It’s always good to work with new artists. It’s fundamental to any music making.”

Bagratuni said he enjoys bringing in guest musicians that might not otherwise come to the area.

“This is very important for our students to see what is going on around the world and to see that the professors here are as great of players as the other people abroad,” he said. “The teaching process itself is not just teaching how to play but teaching them that there are so many other things available and possible.”

Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival

Music Building Auditorium Michigan State University

8 p.m. Saturday, March 19: "Music of Schubert";

7:30 p.m. Monday, March 21: "Music of Haydn";

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23: "Music of Shostakovich and His Followers";

8 p.m. Friday, March 25: "Music of Bach"

$10 per concert; $8 seniors; free for students (517) 353-5340