How can I wrap up MMF’s 2018 Season? Is there really anything that can be written now that will add to the joyful experience of the five Thursday evening Chamber Concerts, four Sunday afternoon Young Artists Concerts, a Vocal Recital, A Night at the Opera, an Orchestra Evening, eight Master Classes, five pre-concert recitals, five pre-concert talks, and a Family Concert and Ice Cream Celebration? Perhaps another Bravi for all the superb artistry I enjoyed over the four plus weeks would cover it…that certainly would be brief and to the point! BUT, this is Fran’s rambling Corner and here I sit ready to expound one more time this season.
A look back at the programming of the Chamber Concerts reveals the threads of musical experience Adam Neiman used to “sew” the series together. From the first concert, the most intimate; three trios, a jovial Beethoven, the lyrical, dark Neiman, and a mournful romantic Tchaikovsky (all with Adam Neiman at the piano) to the final concert giving us Schubert’s famed “Rosamunde” Quartet and Chausson’s huge and romantic Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, the timbres of chamber groupings demanded our attention as we discerned the complexities and textural variety the different instrumental ensembles presented. The size of the group , the sound of the group as a whole, the individual voices of the clarinet, the oboe, the flute, the violin, the cello and even the double bass, as each soloed and joined the ensembles, led us to appreciate the particular tone of the particular instrument and the color it brought to the work at hand.
Love of homeland, “nationalism”, as a theme or integral part of many works was to be heard in most of the concerts. The Russians, Tchaikovsky, Tanayev, (Tchaikovsky’s student and close friend) and Shostakovich each gave us idiomatic folk inspired passages or messages of political fervor. Dvorak, Grieg and Sibelius celebrated their ethnicity, as did Bloch and Achron, with their harmonic settings and Hebrew melodies. The French composers painted scenes of their French world; Parisian salons for Dubois, pastoral impressionist watercolors for Gaubert.
Chamber music allows for grand exploration of individual instruments. The range of expression and virtuosic skill was demonstrated each night as the program highlighted an instrument both as a solo instrument and as a major voice in an ensemble. For me, the piano as a chamber group mainstay always grabs me. It is the ability of the artist through the repertoire, to cover the waterfront, so to speak, in emotion, power, dynamics, and technical skill that continues to astound me. The energetic Neiman Piano Trio, the well loved Dvorak Piano Quintet and the Chausson Concerto allowed the pianist to “play to his heart’s content”, thrilling the listener all the while with the grand heroic sounds or the nuanced melodic capabilities of the percussion instrument. The amazing diversity of flute literature in the fourth concert ranged from the operatic sublime “arias” of Mozart’s Quartet to the agonizing cries of grief in the Jolivet work, Chant de Linos. I never heard the flute so compellingly played and I certainly did not know Gaubert’s Trois Aquerelles until that concert. It was a standout experience.
The rave comments above certainly apply to the terrific Young Artists concerts. The skill of each musician was so readily apparent. Their futures are bright. The joy of watching each of the artists move freely to the music was wonderful to behold. The communication they developed with each other over the few weeks time was so good to see. A nod of the head, a raised eyebrow, a leaning towards a colleague are all so vital to the intimate art of chamber music performance and made their excellent skilled performances all the more exciting. Another separate BRAVI to all these artists and to the oh, so generous sponsors of the Young Artists Program. The Master Classes were particularly exciting for me as I watched and heard each student absorb the comments of the ‘master’ and then translate the suggestions into reality. Wonderful work to witness.
I digress once again. Here is a question for all…honest answers only, please. Did you know most of the works you heard this summer? Yes, surely, you know Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and so on… But did you know the particular work you heard? Did a concert provide a new experience and expand your knowledge of the breadth of a given composer’s output? How about the monumental Shostakovich? Assuredly difficult, but so worth the time getting to understand and appreciate. It is often called the “consummate” chamber work of all time. Even esteemed above Beethoven’s Late Quartets. Now you have experienced it played most beautifully and emotionally. Perhaps you will go back and listen again. Each time brings something new to the experience.
I, personally, believe that it is the obligation of Maestros, Artistic Directors, and musicians and educators to provide a vast look at the literature in any genre out there to be heard. The aim of public performance is most certainly to entertain, to move emotionally, and to excite with technical “tours de forces”, but also so importantly to open audiences’ ears and minds to new musical experiences. Education is not just for enrolled students; it is for engaged listeners. The happy comfort level of Dvorak, the beauty of Schubert’s and Mozart’s lyricism, the grandeur of Grieg’s and Sibelius’ symphonic works…all are so important and basic to our enjoyment of a concert. Yet, for me, and I hope for most of you, when a composer and work, unknown to us, enters our world it brings not just some new knowledge, the experience opens up a new journey in sound. Not all these exposures will be positive for us. Having heard the piece we are able to make informed opinions and decisions as to whether we liked what we heard, want to try it again, or reject the work. Particularly exciting for me this summer was the discovery of Gaubert and Jolivet and my first “live” hearing of Tanayev’s Piano Quartet and Bridge’s, “Phantasy”.
What was all that about you ask? It was me waxing, not poetically at all, but ardently, about my feelings and the joy of music. As a part time educator, I feel a clue, a hint, and few minutes spent listening carefully to a piece can make a huge difference in our appreciation of this ephemeral art we call music. “Hear” today and gone immediately!!! Never to be played the same way. Never to be heard the same way. No sculpture to touch, no painting to scrutinize, just our ears and the moment… Look back at the 2018 MMF season and try to hear the music as it wafted out in Arkell. We certainly had a summer of wonder. 2019 is being programmed as I write. There will be old favorites a-plenty, some works not familiar to most audiences, and exciting new music to hear. You may be sure that the musicianship will be excellent. Do be with us in Summer 2019! Enjoy music where you find it until we meet again.
I leave you with a few thoughts from the best of composers:
Shostakovich: “A creative artist works on his next work because he is not satisfied with his previous one.”
Mendelssohn: “Art and life are not two separate things.”
Schumann: “In order to compose all you need to do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of.”
L. Armstrong: “All music is folk music, I ain’t never heard a horse song!”
But Stravinsky said it best!!!! “I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.”