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Marlboro Festival 2009


The Music Mountain

The classical world's most coveted retreat

By Alex Ross
The New Yorker

Mitsuko Uchida, one of the world's leading classical pianists, could comfortably pass her summers flying from one festival to another, staying in luxury hotels and private villas. Instead, she stays on the campus of Marlboro College, a small liberal-arts institution in southern Vermont. Since 1951, the college has hosted Marlboro Music, an outwardly low-key summer gathering that functions variously as a chamber-music festival, a sort of finishing school for gifted young performers, and a clandestine summit for the musical intelligentsia. Uchida and the pianist Richard Goode serve as Marlboro's co-directors, alternating the lead role from year to year; last summer, when I visited three times, Uchida was in residence from late June until early August. She plays a variety of roles in the Marlboro world – high priest, den mother, provocateur, jester, and arbiter of style.

Marlboro, whose fifty-ninth session gets under way next week, is a singular phenomenon. The great Austrian-born pianist Rudolf Serkin, Marlboro's co-founder and longtime leader, once declared that he wished to "create a community, almost utopian," where artists could forget about commerce and escape into a purely musical realm. Marlboro has been compared to a kibbutz, a hippie commune, Shangri-La, a cult (but "a good cult"), Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, and George Orwell's Animal Farm, where "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." On certain lazy days, it becomes a highbrow summer camp, where brainy musicians go swimming in the local pond.

Read more about this at the New Yorker website (subscription and registration required):

Curious Timing


Krystian Zimerman's controversial appearance at Disney Hall

By Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times

In 1978, an unknown, soft-spoken, 21-year-old Polish pianist appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its newly appointed music director, Carlo Maria Giulini, in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The performances of Chopin's two piano concertos were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon. Krystian Zimerman's eloquence went far beyond his years, and a major career was launched.

In the '80s, Zimerman became Leonard Bernstein's favorite pianist, the conductor's choice to record the Beethoven and Brahms piano concertos. In 1992, the summer before Esa-Pekka Salonen became music director of the L.A. Philharmonic, he selected Zimerman to perform with the orchestra at the Salzburg Festival.

And now, Sunday, making his Disney Hall debut in a recital sponsored by the Philharmonic, Zimerman, who has become arguably the greatest pianist of his generation, made the surprise and shocking announcement from the stage that in protest to America's military policies overseas and particularly in Poland, he would no longer perform in the United States.

Read more about this at the Los Angeles Times website:

Silk Road Ensemble On Tour


Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma to Embark on a Six-city North American Tour as Part of the Silk Road Project's 10th-Anniversary Celebration

Program to Feature North American Premiere of a Multimedia Performance of Classic Arabian Love Story Layla and Majnun

As it celebrates ten years of connecting the world’s neighborhoods, the Silk Road Project will present the North American tour of the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma from March 6-20, 2009, with concerts in Providence, RI; Boston, MA; North Bethesda, MD; Ann Arbor, MI; Minneapolis, MN; and Toronto, Ontario. The Silk Road Project, a not-for-profit artistic, cultural and educational organization, was founded by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998 as a catalyst to promote innovation and learning through the arts.

“During the past ten years, the Silk Road Ensemble has explored connections from ancient times to the present, joining beloved traditions with new knowledge and innovation,” commented Yo-Yo Ma. “As we celebrate the Silk Road Project’s 10th anniversary, we look forward to sharing with North American audiences some of the wonderful music that has resulted from our exploration of cultural intersections.”

Layla and Majnun

The virtuoso musicians of the Silk Road Ensemble, with Yo-Yo Ma, will perform two programs during the six-city tour, each reflecting the diversity of the artists’ backgrounds and the cultures of the countries linked by the historical Silk Road. The repertoire will include traditional music arranged by and for members of the Ensemble, as well as newly commissioned works, many of which combine non-Western and Western instruments to create a unique genre that transcends customary musical classification.

Read more about this at the Silk Road Project website:

Guarneri Quartet Passes Torch

Johannes Quartet, Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Fiery Finale for Guarneri

By Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle

There may be no classier way to exit the public stage than by handing off the baton to a young successor - and the Guarneri String Quartet has always been the classiest of acts.

For at least part of its current farewell tour, the Guarneri is being accompanied by the Johannes Quartet, a young and – to judge from Thursday's performance – splendidly dynamic ensemble that needs to come back again soon as a headliner. In the potent performance of the Mendelssohn Octet that occupied the second half of the program, a listener could witness the mantle of chamber-music greatness being passed along.

The venerable ensemble made its final visit to San Francisco on Thursday night, playing to an enthusiastic crowd in Herbst Theatre under the auspices of San Francisco Performances. But the players weren't there alone.

Read more about this at the S.F. Gate website:

End of an Era


Pressler Bids Adieu To Beaux Arts Trio

By Tom Huizenga

If they had an Olympic medal for "Long-Distance Chamber Music," the gold would surely go to the Beaux Arts Trio. After a 53-year run, the ensemble – made up of one piano, one violin and one cello – takes the stage Thursday night at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, to give its final U.S. performance before calling it quits.

There is something Olympian about the Beaux Arts Trio. The group performed at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, just one of thousands of venues the ensemble has played during the last five decades.

It's fitting that the Beaux Arts Trio is returning to Tanglewood, because that's where it all began. The group gave its first public concert there on July 13, 1955. And for 53 years, one member of the Trio has remained constant: pianist Menahem Pressler. He's 84 now, but he still vividly recalls how that first concert launched a career for three separate musicians who quickly grew into a single musical unit.

Read more about this at the NPR website:

Ravishing Spectralism

Kaija Saariaho

Compassion, Not Revenge, After a Rape in a War Zone

By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times

SANTA FE, N.M. – Contemporary composers looking for an easy way to create a big effect often turn to what could be called the orchestral pileup technique. Want to wallop your audience? Just add pummeling percussion, thick chords and more to create a barrage of noise. Or if the desired effect is ruminative, then lay on hazy harmonies and doodling melodic bits, though the result can sound like the mindless music a massage therapist employs to get clients to relax.

Something like the pileup technique is a basic component in the music of the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. But Ms. Saariaho uses it with ravishing subtlety and to haunting effect, as was clear from Wednesday night's performance of "Adriana Mater" here at the Santa Fe Opera. The production is the American premiere of this 2006 work, directed by Peter Sellars.

Ms. Saariaho is not a mere purveyor of coloristic orchestral effects. She spent formative years working at Ircam, the center for experimental music in Paris, where she has lived since 1992. She immersed herself in the school of French composers who practice spectralism, which isolates the higher overtones of pitch to create sonorities at once amorphous yet elemental. She has one of the most acute ears in contemporary music. And during long stretches of this bleakly humane opera, elegiac vocal lines spin out over the thick-textured, nervously undulant orchestra. Striking details in this multilayered music come through with uncanny clarity.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

Would You Like A Little Wobble With That?

Roger Norrington

Vibrato wars whip up a musical storm over last night of the Proms

Voices are raised in anger after a famous conductor decides to give a controversial performance of Elgar's classic crowd-pleaser

By Amelia Hill & David Smith
The Observer

When this year's BBC Proms climax with the traditional chorus of Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory', prommers expecting the traditional rousing sing-along could feel distinctly disappointed. For the first time in the Proms' 113-year history, the march – also known as Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 – is likely to be played without vibrato, an obscure and extreme performance style that lends an icy tone to music and divides classical music fans into opposing camps.

Vibrato, a musical effect produced by a regular pulsating change of pitch, is used to add expression and vocal-like qualities to instrumental music. On string instruments, the effect is created by the controlled vibration of the finger holding down the string.

'If the orchestra agree, as I hope and think they will, to my suggestion that we play one of Britain's most patriotic pieces as its composer intended, then the last night of the Proms will sound strikingly different to ever before,' said Sir Roger Norrington, one of Europe's leading conductors and founder of the London Classical Players.

Read more about this at the The Observer website:

Bayreuth on Your Desktop

Manfred Honeck at the Verbier Festival

Taking a Dip in The Online Stream

Classical Music Makes A Play for Web Crowd

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post

Of all European summer music festivals, the Bayreuth Festival may be the hardest ticket. Devoted to the operas of Richard Wagner, presented in the theater that he built, it receives so many requests for its two-month season that people wait for years to get in. Last Sunday saw the first performance this year of "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" as produced by Katharina Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter.

Last year, it was the talk of the season among those who had managed to see it. This year, it could be experienced live on your home computer.

For if you don't travel to Europe's festivals this summer, some of them will come to you. If the 49 euros (almost $80) that Bayreuth charged to log on to its first-ever live video transmission was too steep, you could go to the Web site, which this summer has featured live broadcasts from three festivals: Aix-en-Provence, Aspen and Verbier. That same afternoon, free of charge, it was offering a live webcast from Verbier of a chamber concert with violinist Julian Rachlin, cellist Mischa Maïsky and pianists Piotr Anderszewski and Nikolai Lugansky, among others.

Does anybody actually want to watch classical concerts on their computer screens? Evidently, yes. Last year, reached 150,000 unique viewers with its broadcasts from Verbier, according to's founder and director, Hervé Boissière. This year, he says, the numbers are even better. (Check the website for information on web cast availability.)

Read more about this at the Washington Post website:

Classical Music in Turkey

Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Istanbul Music Festival seeks to expand audience with new projects

By Ali Pektas
Today's Zaman

The Istanbul International Music Festival got under way yesterday with a concert by the Vienna Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring violinist Benyamin Sönmez as soloist, at the historic Hagia Eirene Museum.

The festival has a packed schedule in its 36th year and will bring more than 500 musicians from around the world together with classical music lovers through June 30. Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) with support from Borusan Holding, the festival will realize a first this year by bringing together the musicians with the audience, students and young musicians outside concert halls as part of a new project.

Read more about this at the Today's Zaman website:

Mariachi Meets Mozart

Symphonic Mariachi Champaña Nevín

Ensemble brings music of Mexico to concert series

By Jennifer K. Mahal
San Diego Union-Tribune

Classical music and mariachi have always gone hand-in-hand for Southwestern College music professor Jeff Nevin.

Advertisement As a teenager in Tucson, the trumpet player joined the symphony orchestra the same year he became a member of Los Changuitos Feos de Tucson, a youth mariachi group whose name translates to the Ugly Little Monkeys of Tucson. For his undergraduate audition at the University of Illinois, Nevin began playing classical music, but changed to mariachi when nerves made him flub the notes.

And for his doctorate in music theory and composition, one of the three topics for his qualifying exams at the University of California San Diego was on mariachi trumpet styles. The research turned into his first book, "Virtuoso Mariachi."

Read more about this at the San Diego Union-Tribune website: