Mendelssohn offers three concerts in three days

Small Potatoes (from left) performs at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12; Mathieu Dufour with pianist Meng-Cheih Liu performs at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 13; and Michael Platt, clarinet, performs at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 14. (Photos provided)

Staff Report

Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (MPAC) will celebrate the New Year by presenting three unique concerts.

Mendelssohn’s Charlotte’s Web Concert Series welcomes Small Potatoes to the stage of the New Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (the former First Presbyterian Church), 406 N. Main St., at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12. Then, Mendelssohn’s Main Concert Series presents world-renowned flautist Mathieu Dufour at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 13, at Court Street United Methodist Church, 215 N. Court St. And finally, Mendelssohn’s “Music on Main” Concert Series will present Michael Platt, clarinet, at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 14.

Small Potatoes, the Chicago-based folk duo of Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso, say it has taken them years of careful indecision to develop a repertoire they describe as “Celtic to Cowboy.”

Superb musicianship and showmanship, award-winning songwriting, and a strong sense of tradition has made Small Potatoes, as Dirty Linen magazine once said, “one of the most polished, inventive and entertaining shows on the circuit.”

When you hear Small Potatoes perform, you will hear two great voices, some fine guitar playing, and a touch of tin whistle, flute, mandolin, bodhran and other percussion toys.

Together, they present a truly rare blend of vocal and instrumental abilities, award-winning songwriting and arranging talents. They have the unique ability to adapt to the style of music they happen to be playing, and they also pay attention to the little things: the warmth, the humor and a rapport with the audience that makes for a memorable performance.

Admission to the Small Potatoes concert is $15 for adults and $5 for students.

Jan. 13, Mathieu Dufour will take the stage with pianist Meng-Chieh Liu. Mathieu Dufour has served as principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1999. Before coming to Chicago, he was principal flute solo of the Paris National Opera Orchestra from 1996 to 1999.

Dufour began his flute studies at the age of 8 with Madeleine Chassang at the National Regional Conservatory in his hometown of Paris, France. At age 14, he was awarded the school’s gold medal by unanimous vote. He subsequently studied with Maxence Larrieu at the National Conservatory of Music in Lyon, where he was unanimously awarded first prize in 1993. Additional awards include second prize at the Jean-Pierre Rampal International Flute Competition (1990); third prize at the International Flute Competition in Budapest (1991); and second prize at the International Flute Competition in Kobe, Japan (1997).

Dufour frequently appears as soloist in recitals and concerts around the world. He made his Carnegie Hall and Lucerne Festival debuts as soloist with the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim in 2002. He has also soloed with the CSO under conductors Pierre Boulez and Christoph Eschenbach, among others. He is in demand as a coach and teacher, and has led master classes in Canada, Japan, Europe and the United States.

Dufour is a member of The Chicago Chamber Musicians and serves on the faculty of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Performing with Mathieu Dufour at 2 p.m., Jan. 13, is pianist Meng-Chieh Liu. A recipient of the 2002 Avery Fisher Career Grant, pianist Meng-Chieh Liu first made headlines in 1993 as a 21-year-old student at The Curtis Institute of Music when he substituted for André Watts on the All-Star Series at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The concert earned high acclaim from critics and audience alike, and was followed by a number of widely-praised performances, including a recital at the Kennedy Center and a concert on the Philadelphia All-Star Series; a Philadelphia Orchestra appearance was also scheduled.

Already an accomplished artist at the time, Liu had made his New York orchestral debut two years earlier. The stellar beginning of Meng-Chieh Liu’s career was abruptly halted by a rare and debilitating illness that affected his connective tissues. As he was hospitalized and almost immobile for a year, doctors believed his chances for survival were slim and, should he survive, playing the piano would be “absolutely impossible.” With arduous determination and relentless physical therapy, Liu has been restored to health and now embarks again on his concert career.

Admission for the Mathieu Dufour/Meng-Chieh Liu concert is $25 for adults and $5 for students.

Completing the three-day concert marathon will be the performance of Michael Platt, clarinet, at Mendelssohn’s “Music on Main” concert at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 14. Joining Platt will be pianist Tricia Jeske.

Platt has recently relocated to Rockford from Indianapolis, where he was actively involved with numerous music organizations. Since moving to Rockford, he has become a member of the Board of Trustees of both the Rockford Symphony and the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center.

Admission to “Music on Main” is $10 for adults and $5 for students and includes light refreshments.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call (815) 964-9713.

From the Jan. 2-8, 2013, issue

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