The audience at the American Chamber Players concerts should not get a sense that the music has been played to death, because it hasn't been, in a number of ways.
In a historical sense, the five-piece ensemble has made an effort to put together programs that feature works by little-known composers or little-known pieces by well-known composers.
Unlike many touring ensembles, the Chamber Players do not play the same one or two lineups night after night. On three scheduled programs in Central Kentucky over eight days, the group will play 12 pieces, repeating only two of them on programs of four or five selections.
And they will play with three soloists: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra principal horn Elizabeth Freimuth at Danville's Norton Center for the Arts on Tuesday, mezzo-soprano Mary Creswell in Louisville on March 20, and pianist Reiko Uchida in Corbin on March 22.
"We do have a vast repertoire to pick from, and that's one of the things that we enjoy about this group, is the variety of music we can play," says violist Miles Hoffman, who is perhaps best known as a regular classical-music commentator for programs on NPR. "On any concert, we may have four or five different pieces with four or five different combinations of musicians.
"We get to play a variety of different styles, and everybody gets a chance to shine. There is no second fiddle in the group, literally or metaphorically."
If there is anything formulaic about the Chamber Players, it is how members put together programs, a process Hoffman compares to planning a good meal.
"You have to have different tastes; you have to have variety," Hoffman says. "Everything can't be big and heavy. There have to be contrasts.
"You always want to send people out happy, so you always want to have a closing piece on the program that's a major work that's a great masterpiece."
In the case of the concert at the Norton Center, that work will be Johannes Brahms' Trio in E-flat Major for Horn, Violin and Piano, Op. 40. But Hoffman quickly says, "We always like to present pieces that will be discoveries for the audience. Sometimes those will be recent pieces. Sometimes they'll be pieces we've commissioned, sometimes they will be recently composed pieces."
On the Danville program, Hoffman cites Madeleine Dring's Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano as a piece that will be unfamiliar to most listeners, but "everywhere we play it, people are crazy about it."
Dring might be a lesser-known name, but Maurice Duruflé should be familiar to lovers of organ and choral music. The Chamber Players' twist with him will be playing his chamber piece Prelude, Recitative, and Variations for Flute, Viola and Piano, Op. 3.
"I'd bet 99 percent of the audience are going to be discovering this piece by Duruflé for flute, viola and piano for the first time, and again, I think they're going to love it because we've played it so many times," Hoffman says.
Over 26 years, Hoffman says, the ensemble has reached a status that so many artists strive for: Audiences trust the players enough to want to hear anything they present.
Hoffman says, "The reaction we enjoy from audiences so much is, 'I've never heard that piece before. Gee, I wonder why. It's so good.'"