Make that Forest Hills Sound Gardens

It’s two weeks before the big day, the opening performance in this season’s Twilight Concert Series by the Con Brio Ensemble.

The quartet that will be playing together at The Church-In-The-Gardens in Forest Hills on Sept. 22 is gathered at the home of the ensemble’s co-founder, Diana Mittler-Battipaglia, for an afternoon rehearsal. Their shoes are off, they’re seated comfortably around the piano, respective instruments at hand, and they’re ready to escape into their musical world.

Despite frequent repetitions of brief snippets of music, aiming for perfection in timing, they remain in a surprisingly jovial mood, interspersing shared anecdotes with serious music-making.

Mittler-Battipaglia tickles — actually, embraces — the ivories, as she is joined by Hamilton Berry on cello, Anton Miller on violin and Rita Porfiris on viola.

They have an automatic camaraderie that comes from years of having performed together. Miller has been part of the ensemble for 30 years. Porfiris is a relative newcomer, having joined nine years ago. Berry got involved two years later.

Adding further to the ease with which they play together is the fact that Flushing-born Porfiris and Miller are a married couple, now residing in Connecticut.

“We’re used to each other,” Porfiris said, prompting Miller to add, “We seem to be able to rehearse with ESP.” They work at the same school and play together 95 percent of the time, they said.

The full ensemble, which includes approximately a dozen musicians, was founded by Mittler-Battipaglia and her husband, Victor Battipaglia, who passed away in 1992. As Mittler-Battipaglia explained it, when they formed the group, they searched for “the finest musicians we could to perform for the community.” The group is now beginning its 41st season.

The upcoming Sunday afternoon concert, the first of three by the ensemble to be presented this season at The Church-In-The-Gardens, will feature Sonata for Cello and Piano, composed by Franz Mittler, Mittler-Battipaglia’s father, an Austrian-American who was a long-time resident of Kew Gardens; Antonin Dvorak’s Quartet in D major, opus 23, for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano; Krzysztof Penderecki,’s Ciaconna for Violin and Viola; and Augusta Read Thomas’ Silent Moon for Violin and Viola.

The ensemble will return to the church for two additional performances, on Jan. 5 (highlighting the music of Beethoven, Spohr, Mittler, Debussy and Ravel) and Feb. 16 (with offerings by Beethoven and Mittler).

In an age when classical music might be believed to have lost some of its former popularity, the ensemble aims to keep it at the forefront of the music world.

Toward this aim, members of Con Brio visit schools to introduce the genre to young people. “Reaction was astounding. They were inspired,” Miller said.

Porfiris said she believes it’s important to “take the stigma out of it,” to allow the children to make a little noise during a performance.

“The issue is not that the music doesn’t connect with people,” Berry explained. “The issue is access. It’s on us as artists to engage with our communities.”

And, Miller added, it’s important to introduce music to youngsters “before they get jaded.”

For Mittler-Battipaglia, this season’s concerts hold special meaning, as each will include music by her father, who was recognized in the 2006 film “Last Stop Kew Gardens,” a documentary by Robert Lieberman that pays homage to his childhood home.

And, she promised, the concerts will all feature “beautiful melodies,” music that “really touches your heart.”

The Church-In-The-Gardens is located at 50 Ascan Ave. in Forest Hills. On-street parking is available only with a permit secured at the church. Tickets to each show are $12 or $10 for students and seniors. Three-concert subscriptions are available for $30, or $25 for students and seniors. All three performances begin at 4:30 p.m.

Twilight Concert
 
When: Sun., Sept. 22, 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Church-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan Ave., Forest Hills
Tickets: $12; $10 seniors, students
(718) 459-1277,