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Washington Friends of Music brings fresh perspective

Washington Friends of Music brings fresh perspective

Wendy Sutter Adds Fire to WFM
By Charles Dubow

In what arguably might be one of the most agreeable ways to usher in the New Year, ever since 2013 the Washington Friends of Music (WFM) has presented a live concert featuring the gorgeous and soothing strains of such composers as Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. But in recent years, longtime patrons cannot help but notice subtle yet distinct changes to these concerts: The program has now expanded beyond the Baroque, the January 1 concerts are now held in the Gunn School’s dazzling new performing arts center, and the artistic director is a statuesque brunette in a long dress playing the cello. 

Called by The Wall Street Journal “one of the great leading cellists of the classical stage,” Wendy Sutter has brought a fresh new perspective to WFM. “My goal was to open up the repertoire, and introduce composers from the Classical and Romantic eras, such as Dvorak and Schubert, as well as Modernist American composers such as  Copland. The challenge was reassuring two Germans that the music of Beethoven was worthy of their concerts,” she says with a laugh.

The two Germans in question are WFM’s founders and guiding lights, Hermann and Waltraud Tammen. The two former bankers started coming up to Washington on weekends more than 20 years ago. “We were looking for local musical events that featured classical music,” says Hermann, “but couldn’t find any. So we decided to start our own.” 

Today WFM hosts five concerts per year: the New Year’s concert and, during the summer, four additional performances at Washington’s historic Congregational Church. “Our concerts have become a destination to an ever-growing audience of music lovers from all over Connecticut,” says founding board member Charles Raskob Robinson, “and we couldn’t be more excited to have Wendy bring it to new heights.”

“In 2022 we felt it was time to take a more professional approach and attract a new audience,” says Waltraud. “That’s why we approached Wendy. She is a renowned cellist and connected with many musicians. We asked her to organize a few concerts and were so impressed that we invited her to come on full time.” 

Sutter continues to have a rich career playing with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Symphony. (To list all the orchestras she has soloed with would take up more space than this article is allotted. Rest assured, it’s impressive.) “The chance to curate performances and work with musicians of my own choosing is what really attracted me to WFM,” says the Juilliard grad. “It’s like being in a candy store for me—but it’s also a lot of work. We are professional musicians who only get a few weeks off per year. So we have to coordinate schedules, and arrange rehearsals and transportation. One of the nicest things about playing in Washington, though, is that we don’t simply slip out the back door, like we do after most performances. It’s been lovely getting to know the people here. I feel really blessed that Hermann and Waltraud reached out to me.”

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