Thirty years ago this month, three orchestral musicians from Palm Beach County stepped out on Stage West at the Duncan Theater in Lake Worth and ushered in a summer series of chamber music.

Because all three – flautist Karen Fuller, clarinetist Michael Forte and bassoonist Michael Ellert – were woodwind players, the pieces they chose for their Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival strayed from the string quartets that feature generally featured prominently in such programs, and instead leaned towards a broader repertoire that allowed the group of performers they assembled, and their audiences, to discover lesser-known but very rewarding music.

And this audience was there from the beginning, even during this first concert.

“We actually joked backstage that the only people that were going to be in the audience were Michael Forte’s parents,” Ellert said. But the 125-seat venue was packed, laying the groundwork for an event that has been a staple of South Florida summers ever since.

The festival musicians recorded six recordings on the Klavier label of their programs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and these records were regularly featured on classical music radio programs across the country.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival played four weeks of concerts in July, one schedule each weekend at three different locations in North, Central and South County venues. But the pandemic forced the festival to go entirely virtual in the summer of 2020, with three 30-minute concerts presented on video over a three-week period. Digital editing expenses and a lack of normal income have reduced the festival’s operating budget.

“There was no real fundraising, so people weren’t really giving a lot of money,” Ellert said on Friday. “It made us use our savings, everything we had.”

The summer of 2021, during which musicians faced continued COVID restrictions such as audiences limited to just 50 people, also marked a break with the past: three different concerts, played twice in three venues in one week. .

This, too, put a strain on the band’s finances. Still, spectators came to the festival in decent numbers, he said.

“It didn’t really replenish the coffers,” Ellert said. “We did pretty well, but there was no money coming in.”

This summer, the festival will play a program, over three concerts starting Friday evening in West Palm Beach, continuing Saturday in North Palm Beach and ending Sunday afternoon in Delray Beach. The program will include two major works: a nonet (nine players) for strings and winds by the 19th century Liechtenstein Romantic composer Josef Rheinberger, and the best known of Beethoven’s piano trios, the one nicknamed “Archduke”.

“We decided to go with one program because that’s all we can afford this summer,” Ellert said.

Rheinberger, who lived from 1839 to 1901, is best known today for his organ music and sacred choral works. He began his professional musical career at the age of 7, when he became organist at the parish church in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.

He then moved to Munich, Germany, where he spent the rest of his life, and became an important teacher whose students included a long line of distinguished musicians, including composers Engelbert Humperdinck and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari as well as Wilhelm Fürtwangler, who became a famous conductor.

Le Nonet (Op. 139), which dates from 1885, is written for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, as well as violin, viola, cello and double bass. It is akin to the music of Brahms, with abundant melody in its four movements.

“It’s well-crafted and the way it uses the instrumentation is really amazing,” Ellert said, noting that Rheinberger moves melodies from one instrumental combination to another while exploring their different sonics. “I really like it. It’s a beautiful piece.

Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio (Piano Trio No. 7 in B flat, Op. 97), composed in 1811 and dedicated to his pupil and patron the Austrian Archduke Rudolf, is one of the trio’s most imposing works. with piano (piano, repertoire for violin and cello). Ellert said the best-selling concert the festival has ever presented was the one devoted to the music of Beethoven.

“The thing about ‘the Archduke’ is that if you have different personalities playing him, the play changes so much,” he said. “One will be so majestic, and another will be so melodious and flowing.”

The trio will be played by violinist Dina Kostic, cellist Susan Bergeron and pianist Lisa Leonard, who also perform as the Paradigm Trio.

These three musicians have played in the festival for years. It’s typical of this annual event, and it’s something that Ellert and his co-founders are proud of.

“It’s a family, and we really learned how to make music together,” Ellert said.

If you are going to

What: The Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Helen K. Persson Recital Hall, 326 Acacia Road, West Palm Beach; 7:30 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 717 Prosperity Farms Road, North Palm Beach; and 4 p.m. Sunday at Unity of Delray Beach, 101 NW 22nd St., Delray Beach.

Tickets: $35. Donations to the festival are welcome. Send a check to Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival, PO Box 15541, West Palm Beach, FL 33416.

Information: 561-547-1070 or www.pbcmf.org