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'Once in a Lifetime'

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Whatever else you were planning to do next Tuesday, February 9, you might think about this instead: The internationally renowned violinist Mark Steinberg will be at Saint Michael's College playing a program of Dvoák, Mozart and Prokofiev with Shelburne pianist Paul Orgel.

Steinberg is the first violinist of the Brentano String Quartet, which he cofounded in 1992 with fellow students from the Juilliard School, all of whom were also participants in Vermont's Marlboro Music Festival that summer.

"It's no exaggeration to say that Mark is one of the finest violinists in the world," says Orgel. A University of Vermont affiliate artist and one of Vermont's most respected pianists, Orgel traveled to New York City to rehearse with Steinberg for the occasion.

The Brentano String Quartet perform constantly around the globe — including at UVM last year as part of the Lane Series — and took up residency at the Yale School of Music in 2014. Steinberg rarely performs outside the quartet; "maybe a few times a year," he estimates during a phone call.

That special occasion and the opportunity to hear two accomplished musicians play Prokofiev's gravely despairing Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor are reasons enough to attend. Written between 1938 and 1946, the work reflects the horror of its historical period.

The Prokofiev is the final work on the program. Balancing its haunting tone are the light, straightforward sonatina that Dvoák wrote for his children and Mozart's Violin Sonata in E-flat Major (K. 481).

Steinberg is no stranger to Mozart's sonatas for violin and piano, of which he says there are 16 (others put the figure as high as 40). With pianist Mitsuko Uchida, Marlboro's artistic director, Steinberg began an exploration of the sonatas that extended for more than a decade, from a performance of the entire cycle in London's Wigmore Hall in 2001 to a 2011 Decca Records recording of four of the sonatas.

Nat Lew, St. Mike's fine arts department chair and a music professor, organized the concert and the funding that enables the college to present it free to the public — the Marc A. and Dana Lim vanderHeyden Fund, bequeathed by the former president and his wife.

Lew and Steinberg met 35 years ago as 12- and 11-year-olds in the Juilliard precollege program, where they attended classes every Saturday through high school.

Lew says he's been "plotting" to get Steinberg here to play with Orgel since the Brentano's UVM appearance. When the funding came through, he says, "I slowly saw the stars aligning. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."


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