Lakes Area Music Festival presents ‘Beethoven Cycle’

The Lakes Area Music Festival presents Sphinx competition-winning cellist Gabriel Martins in a cycle of the complete works for cello and piano by Beethoven on March 1, 4 and 6 in Brainerd. Martins will be accompanied by pianist Audrey Vardanega.

Gabriel Martins cellist headshot
Gabriel Martins
Contributed / Geneva Lewis

BRAINERD — The Lakes Area Music Festival continues its Winter Series with a series of three different concerts March 1, March 4 and 6 at the Gichi-zibi Center for the Arts in Brainerd.

Featuring the award-winning cellist Gabriel Martins, the performances serve as a cycle of the complete works for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven, with additional pieces by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms.

California-based pianist Audrey Vardanega will collaborate with Martins in the 7:30 p.m. performances Tuesday and March 4, and the 2 p.m. matinee March 6.

These performances will also be the debut performances for the center’s new Steinway Model D grand piano, newly rebuilt by PianoCraft in Maryland and donated to the Brainerd School District by Dutch and Irma Cragun.

“We are excited to feature our first complete ‘cycle’ of repertoire here in Brainerd. Whether presented over one night, one week or an entire season, performance cycles enable audiences to learn more about a particular composer and to hear the development of their work — in this case, Beethoven’s,” Artistic and Executive Director Scott Lykins said in a news release.


Martins has established himself as one of the world’s most compelling young artists, with a deep commitment to the timeless masterpieces of classical music, according to the news release.

Gabriel Martins the cellist headshot
Gabriel Martins
Contributed / Geneva Lewis

His accolades include the 2020 Concert Artists Guild - Young Classical Artists Trust Grand Prize, the 2020 Sphinx Competition Gold Medal, the David Popper International Cello Competition Gold Medal, the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians Silver Medal, the Schadt String Competition Gold Medal, the Orford Music Award and the Prague Spring Czech Music Fund Prize.

These successes have led to a number of high-profile debuts including Wigmore, Carnegie, and Merkin Halls, 92nd Street Y, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Maison Symphonique in Montréal, and the Arkansas, Memphis, Indianapolis, New Russian State, Pacific, and Phoenix Symphony Orchestras.

According to legendary cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, he has "revealed heart, passion, intellect and a finely-nuanced palette of colors in a compelling manner worthy of a seasoned artist."

For Martins, great masterpieces require great patience and solemnity in order to reveal their true, extraordinary capabilities, according to the news release, and hiis powerful belief in this is what drives his distinctive, emotive performances.

We are excited to feature our first complete ‘cycle’ of repertoire here in Brainerd.
— Scott Lykins

In 2021, Martins gave his first complete Bach suite cycle, in collaboration with Kaufman Center and the Alphadyne Foundation, where he played all six cello suites back to back in New York City.

Martins composes his own works and arranges others. His "Songs of Solitude" received their world premiere in 2021 in collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library, and his new cello arrangements of Bach’s solo violin sonatas and partitas have received high acclaim and a feature in “The Strad.”

Martins’ performances have been broadcast on NPR and he also teaches privately and gives a number of masterclasses. He served as a teaching assistant at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.


Born of American and Brazilian heritage, Martins grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. He began playing the cello when he was 5, studying with Susan Moses at the Indiana University String Academy.

His festival appearances include Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, where he toured with Miriam Fried, and the Aspen Music Festival, where the Boston resident won the concerto competition.

Audrey Vardanega the pianist
Audrey Vardanega
Contributed / Lakes Area Music Festival

Vardanega has performed as a solo and collaborative pianist across Europe, China and the United States with a “bewitching musical presence,” according to the Piedmont Post.

She is the founder and artistic director of Musaics of the Bay, a nonprofit chamber music series, and the co-founder and chief operating officer of Arium TV, a free online streaming services devoted to connecting global viewers with the stories of world-class classical artists.

She has been featured as a solo and chamber musician with the Hangzhou Grand Theater, Festival Napa Valley, the Santa Cruz Symphony, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music, the Teatro del Libertador San Martín in Córdoba, Argentina, just to name a few.

Vardanega resides in Berkeley, California, and New York City, but her festival appearances include the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, IMS Prussia Cove and the Carnegie Hall Workshops.

She has received instruction from notable artists including Leon Fleisher, Thomas Adés, Gidon Kremer, Robert Levin, Miriam Fried, and Jonathan Biss. She currently studies with Richard Goode.

“Extraordinarily engaging young musicians, Mr. Martins and Ms. Vardanega are the perfect guests to bring such an ambitious program to the Gichi-ziibi Center,” Lykins stated.


  • The duo will present two sonatas and a set of variations from the early years of Beethoven’s career, alongside Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. 
  • The 7:30 p.m. March 4 performance will feature the third sonata from his middle period, as well as Mendelssohn’s second sonata and Schumann’s “Fantasy Pieces.”
  • The 2 p.m. matinee on March 6 will bring the cycle to a close with Beethoven’s fourth and fifth sonatas, as well as Brahms’ second sonata.

Tickets may be reserved online with “name-your-price admission” (suggested donation $20). For assistance in reserving tickets, call 218-831-0765.
More information — including program information, tickets and COVID-safety protocols — is available at .

These concerts are the mid-point in a series of eight concerts being presented live at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts through May, featuring favorite festival artists and internationally acclaimed guest soloists.

The Lakes Area Music Festival is a nonprofit based in Brainerd. To find out more or to make a tax-deductible gift, visit or call 218-ASK-LAMF.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

Hi, I'm the Brainerd Dispatch. I started working a few days before Christmas in 1881 and became a daily paper two years later. I've gone through a lot of changes over the years, but what has never changed is my commitment to community and to local journalism. I've got an entire team of dedicated people who work night and day to make sure I go out every morning, whether in print, as an e-edition, via an app or with additional information at News, weather, sports — videos, photos, podcasts and social media — all covering stories from central Minnesota about your neighbors, your lakes, your communities, your challenges and your opportunities. It's all part of the effort to keep people connected and informed. And we couldn't do it without support.
What To Read Next
A listing of area meetings and events in the Brainerd lakes area.
With the recent death of a Brainerd student, mental health resources in Crow Wing County have stepped in to help their friends and neighbors through a difficult time.
Stink bugs overwinter in Minnesota as adults in a hibernation-like state in woodlots, houses, sheds and garages. Adults may emerge as early as March and April and produce offspring in June.
Calendar of events at The Center in Brainerd.