By Randi Bjornstad

Chamber Music Amici will round out its 2023-24 concert season on June 9 and 10, with a performance titled Opus One.

The program includes Piano Quintet in G Minor by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (and no, that’s not a dyslexic reference to English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge) as well as Ernõ von Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in C Minor.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

For a bit of background, composer-conductor Coleridge-Taylor was born in England in 1875 to an English mother, Alice Hare Martin,  and an African father from Sierra Leone, Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, who had left England before Samuel’s birth, not knowing that Alice was pregnant. Coleridge-Taylor’s father was descended from African-American slaves who, after the U.S. Civil War, evacuated in various years to various countries, including to Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Alice named their baby  Samuel Coleridge Taylor, without the hyphen, in honor of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Musical prowess ran in her family, and Samuel’s talent was obvious from an early age. He learned violin, his grandfather’s instrument, in childhood and began to study at the Royal College of Music at age 15, where he switched from performance to composition and was quickly lionized by musicians of the day, including Edward Elgar. His reputation grew quickly, to the point that he was received by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt at the White House during his first U.S. tour, in 1904. It is said that he added the hyphen to become Coleridge-Taylor after a printer’s error had accidentally inserted it in a publication.

His most famous compositions include three cantatas based on poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s, The Song of Hiawatha. In fact, he and his wife, the former Jessie Walmisley, named their son Hiawatha. Both he and his sister, Gwendolen Coleridge-Taylor, became musicians in their own right, he as an adapter of his father’s work for various productions and she as a composer/conductor.

Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia in 1912 at age 37.

Ernõ von Dohnányi

As for von Dohnányi, he was born two years after Coleridge-Taylor but lived considerably longer, until 1960. He was Hungarian, born into a noble family, first studying music with his father, who was a professor of mathematics as well as an amateur cellist, as well as from age 8 years with the organist at a local cathedral. While still a teenager, von Dohnányi moved to Budapest and enrolled at the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music, where he studied piano and composition and graduated before turning 20 years old.

Ernõ von Dohnányi

He quickly became a musical sensation with his piano skills, making his London debut with a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. But he also was composing at the same time, completing his Symphony No. 1 in 1901. He married a pianist, Elisabeth “Elsa” Kunwald. They had a son, Hans, and a daughter, Greta. Hans grew up to be a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in World War II and was executed by the Nazis in the late stages of the war.

Von Dohnányi also had other relationships, including with a German actress, Elsa Galafrés, with whom he had a son, Matthew, and whose older son, Johannes, he adopted. Shortly before World War II, by then separated from Elsa, he met Ilona Zachár, who was married with two children. They married years later, after emigrating to the United States, and became U.S. citizens in 1955.

He died of pneumonia in 1960 in New York City, 10 days after performing his final concert. He is buried in Tallahassee, Fla., where he taught at Florida State University for more than a decade.

The performers

Chamber Music Amici’s cast of characters for Opus One includes violinists Jessica Lambert and Sharon Schuman, violist Lillie Manis, cellist Steven Pologe, and pianist Alexander Tutunov.

A pre-concert talk will be presented by Terry McQuilkin, whose credits include a doctorate in musical composition from the University of Oregon and is himself a composer, conductor, musical arranger, music reviewer, and member of the School of Music faculty at the University of Oregon.

Chamber Music Amici presents Opus One

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9; and 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 10, with pre-concert talks beginning 45 minutes before each concert

Where: Wildish Community Theater, 630 Main St., Springfield

Tickets: $32, $40, $42, $45 ($5 for students and parents accompanying students, except Rows A and K); available at the door or in advance online at or