Music

Marlboro at 60 – a Look Back, with a Schedule of Touring Concerts 2010-11

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Scenes from Marlboro
Scenes from Marlboro

So much is out of joint in the United States, that it is easy to fall into the direst of pessimistic attitudes. When I find myself sinking too deep into thoughts of decay and dissolution, the first thing to buoy up my spirits is the ubiquity of chamber music in this country. This is only an impression, but in no other place in the world does it seem so easy to find chamber music on any given weekend. I am writing from the Berkshires, of course, a small region with an extraordinary concentration of summer chamber music festivals. But even now in November, an hour’s drive will almost invariably lead me to chamber music, which has become a fixture among regional arts centers, music programs, churches, museums, liberal arts colleges, and universities, and not only in the Northeast.

This past summer this hour’s drive took me to Marlboro on several occasions, thanks to the generosity of Frank Salomon — an administrator of many years service and great knowledge of everything Marlboro — for a series of public and private concerts: a proper immersion in the school and festival, as they are today, and all seemed right with the world — very much so. Present-day Marlboro, led by Artistic Directors, Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida, is in some ways quite different from the Marlboro of Rudolf Serkin, but the basic principles haven’t changed very little, and the music is fresher than ever. Marlboro and its principles are familiar to many: seasoned professionals (always among the greatest chamber music artists) and chosen “students” come together in a family atmosphere which is free from hierarchical distinctions for a total, undistracted dedication to music-making. There is constant rehearsal and experimentation, far beyond the usual for busy professional musicians — making for extremely complex schedules for all. Hence Endel Kalam’s famous scheduling board is another thing that hasn’t changed at Marlboro. For now, it will suffice to say that Marlboro is not only responsible for the popularity of chamber music in America, it has provided a great many of the leaders in the field over the past generation. The Guarneri, Cleveland, and Vermeer Quartets were formed at Marlboro, as well as the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson-Trio and the legendary TASHI. Wu Han, Murray Perahia, Paula Robison, Yo-Yo Ma, Jeremy Denk, and many other outstanding individual artists have passed through Marlboro. The key chamber music organizations in America, like the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Music@Menlo would not be what they are without Marlboro.

It would be incorrect to attribute this happy abundance entirely to Marlboro, but the accessibility, high quality, and the particular character of what we enjoy today is most definitely the legacy of the Marlboro Music School and Festival, which is in the process of celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding, officially in 1951, when the first independently organized summer session took place on the campus of Marlboro College, a small, alternative school, which got its first funding from the G.I. Bill. When Walter Hendricks founded it, its first business was to educate soldiers who had come back from World War II — mature independent-minded men, who might not have gone to college in the pre-war scheme of things. Marlboro belonged to a world quite different from the elite chamber music institutions of the Berkshires and western Connecticut.

The Norfolk Music Festival emerged in the 1890’s from the interest of two generations of the Battells, a wealthy Norfolk family, in Yale University, which brought about both the founding of the Yale School of Music and the Litchfield County Choral Union. Choral and chamber music concerts were originally held in the Battell mansion, and later in the Music Shed, which opened in 1906. Special trains from New York were arranged for the distinguished musicians and the society audience. Ellen Battell Stoeckel, wife of the son of the first professor at Yale Music School, announced her intention to donate her estate to Yale as a music school, and the first classes were held there in 1937. This distinguished summer school and festival continues to flourish today.

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge fostered chamber music on a grander scale. She began in the Berkshires, founding the South Mountain Concerts in Pittsfield in 1918. These are still held in the purpose-built hall every September, which was once considered the height of the season by the wealthy summer residents. Six years later, she founded the center of her activities as a patron in Washington, DC in both a building, the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, and the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, to fund commissions, concerts, and festivals of chamber music. Mrs. Coolidge crowned the endeavor with the donation of her collections of musical manuscripts and other documents. Another benefactor, Gertrude Clarke Whittall (1867-1965) added a collection of five Stradivarius instruments and a foundation to maintain them in 1936-37. Shortly thereafter, the Library established a resident quartet to play the instruments in regular concerts, the Budapest Quartet (1940-62), followed by the Juilliard (1962 to the present).

The first concert of the Berkshire Music Festival, later the Tanglewood Music Festival, began in 1934, partly from Mrs. Coolidge’s initiatives in the Berkshires. Although organized around orchestral concerts, the festival has also played an important role in promoting chamber music, especially after the foundation of the Berkshire (now Tanglewood) Music Center in 1940 and the building of a dedicated chamber music hall in 1941.

All of these festivals and/or schools were the creation of wealthy patrons, who wished to provide a source for their favorite music in their summer retreats. The emphasis was primarily on bringing the most prestigious musicians to the country to play for the patrons and their friends, although tickets were sold to the general public. Very early in its development, the Berkshire Music Festival made cheap lawn seats available to an  even broader public. Norfolk was somewhat different, since an educational mission was central at its inception. This came to Tanglewood secondarily, after Serge Koussevitzky assumed leadership.

Among these early festivals, Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut (not far from Norfolk) stands out, because it was founded by musicians, the Gordon String Quartet, as a summer home. The musicians may have wanted to enjoy country life themselves, but as a working holiday, presumably near the summer residences of their patrons.

This historical background should make it clear just how different the circumstances of Marlboro’s creation actually were. Walter Hendricks sought the advice of the great violinist, Adolf Busch, and his son-in-law, the pianist, Rudolf Serkin, on starting a music department. Southern Vermont was hardly the Berkshires. It was no summer colony for the wealthy. The affordability of farm houses in the area was what made it attractive to the musicians in the first place, and presumably to Walter Hendricks as well. Marlboro was quite rural, although Brattleboro is hardly more than ten miles away. Less than thirty-five miles to the north, Scott and Helen Nearing had been working for almost twenty years to create an agrarian utopia. Large-scale ski tourism had barely touched Vermont. Route 9 was not what it is today, and the Interstate 91, which opened Eastern Vermont to tourism and summer residents, didn’t exist at all. Hendricks was indeed fortunate to have found major musicians close by his college, and he showed no restraint in taking advantage of it, but, as modest as his facilities were, he offered Busch, a devoted teacher, the opportunity to realize a dream, which was to create a “school” in which professionals, professionals in the making, and amateurs could make music together, studying the literature of chamber music profoundly and playing only when they felt willing and ready to do so. All this remains at the core of Marlboro today, although there is little room for the amateurs. Their presence in Busch’s original scheme, however, is significant, in that it suggests that Adolf wished to recreate the musical world of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when patrons and the most devoted music-lovers were fully literate musically, that is, active performers alongside the professionals.

The origins of Marlboro really go back to Rudolf and Irene Serkin’s decision to buy a 125-acre farm, complete with a large, modern house, fit for a large family, in Guilford, Vermont, just south of Brattleboro. This house became a retreat for Adolf in the summers and other breaks in his intensive concert tours in Europe and North and South America as leader of the the Busch Orchestra, the Busch Quartet, and as a soloist. At this time, Busch began to develop the heart condition that was to kill him only weeks before the second Marlboro summer began. His technique was also becoming unreliable, because his broad interests left him little time to practice. In 1947 he suffered a breakdown, followed by a depression. (One source states that a music school at Marlboro was discussed in the family as a salutary activity for him.) He recovered in Guilford, nursed back to health by a friend of Irene’s, who became his second wife that very summer. In 1949 the couple bought a more modest farm house of some age and character just down the road from the Serkins, firmly establishing themselves in the area, while Busch and Serkin actively continued their concert tours.

The Brattleboro musical community began to grow, when the Busch clan and Hendricks “rescued” the Moyses from Argentina, where they had unhappily settled after the war — most notably father and son, Marcel and Louis Moyse and Louis’ wife, Blanche Honegger. In November 1949, they took up underpaid positions as music faculty at Marlboro College. About this Louis said, “The teaching was more than miserable (no students!) and the salary even worse, but we survived.” [1] One of the great wind players of the twentieth century and a vastly influential teacher, Marcel had been a friend and colleague since before the war. The extent of their musical energies did not stop with their work at Marlboro, but included the New England Bach Festival and the Brattleboro Music Center.

The first session of the Marlboro School of Music took place in the summer of 1950. It is not officially counted today, since it was organized by the college and in fact “barely got off the ground.” Although donors had been mustered to provide scholarships, almost no students came, only a few flautists and one violinist, Philipp Naegele, who had to be persuaded to stay, after he saw that he was alone. There were in the end more teachers than students, including Bruno Straumann, the second violinist of the Busch Quartet, and the cellist, Adolf’s brother Herman. Adolf made the situation work through his own efforts, privately tutoring Naegele, playing second violin and viola, and calling on various friends, both local and from New York, to join in. He was even able to form an orchestra for the Bach Brandenburgs and Handel Concerti Grossi. The college dining hall was put into service as a concert hall, as it remains today for the private weekday concerts. The Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro was hired for a larger-scale event.

The following year Serkin took matters in hand, and the Marlboro School of Music was established as an entity separate from the college. Hence, 1951 is regarded as the year of inception. Adolf, whose health continued to deteriorate, was sheltered from this responsibility. A committee was assembled to organize fund-raising. When the season ended with a deficit, Serkin himself, along with some other benefactors, covered the shortfall. An announcement had gone out in good time, and there was a more complete complement of students. Between students and faculty all the primary strings and winds of the orchestra were covered, as well as percussion, with a preponderance of violinists and flautists, as one might expect. An informal concert was held every Sunday at 5 pm. Between these and even less formal events a broad range of the chamber repertoire was covered, from a sight-reading of Mozart violin sonatas, through Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio and the Schubert E Flat, to Schubert’s Octet and works for chamber orchestra, including Mozart and Haydn symphonies. The range of these programs, suggests that, in spite of the principle that there was no pressure to perform, there seems to have been a powerful will to play, at least among the faculty. At the end of the summer, the Busch Trio repeated the Beethoven-Schubert program at the aforementioned South Mountain Concerts in Pittsfield, and the Quartet played at the Southern Vermont Arts Center, initiating in a way the “Music from Marlboro” travelling concerts, which are such a fixture in chamber music life around the country.

Adolf lived only to see one successful summer at Marlboro. His vision and his musicianship had already set its stamp on the school, and his passing seems only to have reinforced it, in spite of his physical absence. As late as 1976, Serkin wrote, “Of course Marlboro itself is a living memorial to Adolf Busch, who founded it, and I try to continue as well as I can in his spirit.” [2] There are different opinions about how close Marlboro remained to this spirit. Of course institutions have to evolve to meet the demands of the real world, if they are to remain alive, and other influences effected change as well: Pablo Casals above all, and perhaps the Schneiders. Others, like Mieczyslaw Horzowski, were old friends and associates of Busch, and Philipp Naegele is still there. Felix Galimir, who specialized in the music of the Second Viennese School, took over the violin program. Continuity balanced change, and Serkin presided over the whole process. His loyalty to his father-in-law’s purpose was nothing short of incredible, considering the  expediency that has reigned in late twentieth and twenty-first century arts management. (Koussevitzky should have been half as lucky!) As the music school first took form, Serkin seems to have studiously avoided any onerous role of administration or leadership. The school was seen in the family very much as “something for Adolf.” [3]

However, there were compromises and changes. The amateur musicians, so important to Adolf Busch, disappeared in the late fifties. Serkin attributed this to Isaac Stern’s advice, but Galimir considered it the result of Serkin’s own dedication to excellence: “…he could not stand a bad performance…” [4]. Serkin also brought in certain strong personalities, and it seems that he was as aware as any critic that everything came with a price. Pablo Casals, undeniably one of the greatest musicians of his time, taught and conducted at Marlboro between 1960 and 1973. From 1962 on, he spent the entire summer there. Musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Arnold Steinhardt have attested to the power and value of his influence. On the other hand, an orchestra had to be maintained for him, and much more of the students’ energy went into the orchestra than Busch envisioned, not to mention its predominance in the concert schedule. Casals also put Marcel Moyse into the background, which he found objectionable. It is to Serkin’s great credit that he addressed this with a pre-season “wind seminar” and other opportunities. Casals’ extremely conservative taste was another matter. Nonetheless Serkin had excellent reasons for keeping Casals at Marlboro, and he expressed them most precisely:

He is our only link with a great past; his accumulated knowledge and wisdom, his genius for his instrument, and his genius for music, combined with an incredible gift to teach and say in very simple words the results of a lifetime of studies — all this is a feeble attempt to describe the inspiring, and with many of the students transforming effect his visit has made…his playing and teaching gave courage to so many of the listeners and participants, who (although technical experts on their instruments) are afraid to show feeling in their playing, and Casals shows that being emotional does not mean being sentimental. This seems to me the main message he has to give this generation. [5]

This concern with the past may also seemed like a divagation from Busch’s principles, which seemed to have been entirely rooted in the needs and resources of the present day. On the other hand, Casals could be seen as an inspiring presence like Busch himself, who was some fifteen years younger than Casals, and Serkin felt the need to replace Busch’s charismatic energy.

Another, more dubious choice was Alexander Schneider, who was a friend, and Serkin clearly enjoyed playing with him. His ebullient spirit was clearly a counter-force to Serkin’s perfectionism, and the great music they made together is documented above all by the famous recording of the Schumann Piano Quintet in E Flat. Nonetheless, Schneider’s rough tone and intonation was then and remains now hard to listen to, and as a conductor his enthusiasm could not compensate for his narrow emotional range and sloppiness. In the sixties and seventies Marlboro performances were often criticized for exaggeration and forced intensity, and his influence may well have contributed to this.

The violinist Sandor Végh was another exuberant figure, who exercised a more positive influence, both as an instrumentalist and as a conductor. The orchestra was entirely alive, both physically and intellectually when he conducted, and his extravagances were endearing, whatever damage they may have caused. I can remember one sound blow he delivered to the microphones that were recording his performance on Sunday afternoon. No one could ever have accused Végh of being limited in his expressive range.

If Rudolf Serkin was at all seriously controversial, it stemmed from his personal relationships with students and colleagues. He was not nice to everyone all of the time, and, it seems, this came in extremes. He could radiate immense charm, enthusiasm and perhaps warmth (as he did when I had the pleasure of meeting him), but he could be stinging as well. Was this Viennese part of his background? It is clear that music was everything for him, and his personal attainment of his artistry was not easy. He was acutely self-critical, and his severely classical style of playing left him little room for error. A bad performance was painful and offensive to him, and at Marlboro he was known to have “protected” certain works, restricting them to himself or a few trusted players. With his thorny experience of artistic development, one could imagine that his own work may have seemed like enough to him, without the administrative and social burden of Marlboro.

Another of Serkin’s admirable qualities was his detestation of commercialism. He took pains to root out even hints of it in Marlboro releases and publications. The “Music from Marlboro” tours, which remain popular with audiences today, caused him some anxiety, both in the time and effort they absorbed and in the problems stemming from the public face they gave to Marlboro. Serkin saw these as a potential cause of compromise in the concentration of the summer’s work. What’s more, they exposed the faculty and students’ common work to reviewers — which was not desired. The fame of Marlboro was expanded even further by the recordings that were made there. From 1964 on, every performance has been recorded. Columbia Records (now Sony Classics) released some commercially, and others were issued on Marlboro’s private label and were available only by mail order from the Marlboro Recording Society.

At one point, contrary to Serkin’s wishes, the summer enterprise became known as the Marlboro Festival, which was entirely against his intentions and those of his father-in-law. Tully Potter in his biography of Adolf Busch (II 892) praises the current administration’s return to the title Marlboro Music School and Festival, which properly emphasizes the educational core of the tradition. However, although the book was only published this year, I notice that current Marlboro materials avoid both the word “school” and ” festival” and define the institution in vaguer terms, which actually describe the non-hierarchical structure of it rather well:

A DYNAMIC COMMUNITY:  At Marlboro master artists and leading young professional musicians from around the world…create an exciting and diverse cultural community. They share music, seminars, meals, and social activities, inspiring and learning from one another and developing life-long relationships.

This focuses on education and musical development without stressing the teacher/student relationship, which was more acceptable in earlier generations, and for quite a few years now Marlboro has been serving young musicians in the same situation as the Tanglewood Music Center, where it has never been appropriate to call the fellows students. In the early days, Rudolf Serkin invoked Robert Schumann in calling the school “a republic of equals.” Reality lay somewhere between that and a family. [6] In this way, Marlboro began with European émigrés embracing a non-hierarchical learning environment they considered American, but in fact it was still to come in America. The G. I. Bill and its mature students did much to set this trend in motion. Busch and Serkin learned about it from Walter Hendricks, who was a pioneer.

Musically, Marlboro began with Busch’s straightforward, modern German manner of playing, which stressed the honest respect for the composer’s text and the avoidance of virtuosic effect. Understanding of the composition, a warm response to it, and enthusiastic collaboration lay at its heart. On Serkin’s immigration to America, Toscanini found him a congenial soloist, and Serkin came under the influence of a musical aesthetic even more severe than than his own. Later, less understated musicians influenced the culture at Marlboro, and a more intense mode of interpretation and interaction evolved. Throughout this phase, which lasted into the 1990’s, German and Central European musicians formed the majority of the faculty, excluding of course the Moyse-Honnegers and Casals. Today, the demographic is quite different and much more widely spread about the globe, reflecting the migration of European classical music to the Western Hemisphere and the Far East, and the style of playing is quite different, perhaps rather more like that of the founders at the beginning. But more of that below…

Few people who visit Marlboro go only once, and most fall in love and come back whenever they can. If you ask any of these devotees about their first experience, I believe, you will hear of something unique and highly personal. I knew about Marlboro from recordings as a student, and I was thrilled when my friend from high school and college, Tonu Kalam, [7] who is now Music Director and Conductor of the UNC Symphony Orchestra, invited me to come for the closing concert, one of the five occasions on which Tonu conducted Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, for Rudolf Serkin. It had been a tradition to close the session with this remarkable work since 1957, and very few years were missed until Serkin’s final performance of it in 1989. Serkin loved the work like no one else, and it was a privilege to hear him play it. The event brought the Marlboro community together at the end of the season. In fact it was one concert in which amateurs continued to make an appearance…in the chorus. It was after the concert that I was introduced to an ebullient Rudolf Serkin, who was liberally spicing his conversation with what seemed to be his favorite adjective, “fabulös.” On that occasion, the end of what seemed to be a very happy season, everything was fabulös.

I came back when I could, which wasn’t nearly often enough, but I did hear some of Sandor Végh’s amazing work as violinist and conductor, among others. One aspect of these concerts that has become clearer for me through the lens of today’s Marlboro has to do with the relationship between the younger and the older musicians. In 1969 Peter Heyworth describe the Marlboro style in the New York Times as “a blend of young fire with searching musicianship.” [8] I’d be inclined to turn that on its head. The older musicians were as volcanic as the young ones, and often even more so.

The Marlboro I’ve known in recent years, and especially on this summer’s immersion, is the variety of age, origin, and the nature of the participants’ contributions. Under Serkin, in spite of the declared egalitarianism of Marlboro, there was a trace of deference among the students in performance. When Alexander Schneider led a group, for example, he was most clearly the dominant figure. Today, under Uchida and Goode, that is less apparent. Both of the leaders have a subtler way of leading the performances and pay special attention to stimulating the younger musicians to take an active role. Also many of the senior musicians are younger than the old hands who remained more or less fixtures in times past. The violinists Viviane Hagner, who has been present in recent seasons, is 33, Soovin Kim is 34, and pianist Jonathan Biss and clarinettist Sarah Beaty, who was in residence last summer and has just played in one of the Music from Marlboro programs, are 30, almost young enough to belong to the “students,” although their authority as fully-formed musicians of the highest caliber is not only clear, it is impressive. These younger masters are able to work with the “students” in a way that doesn’t work as naturally for their elders, who are of course still there in force. One factor that affects the “student/teacher” relationship is the prodigious technical ability and musical understanding of even very young musicians today. The young musicians at Marlboro play and interact on an extraordinarily sophisticated level, which creates a special balance among the players.

Persons Auditorium at Marlboro. Photo © 2010 Michael Miller.
Persons Auditorium at Marlboro. Photo © 2010 Michael Miller.

The concerts I heard also offered a broader range of repertory, instrumentation, and musical history than ever before, although the composers traditionally at the core of Marlboro remained firmly in place: Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, and Dvořák. What were these concerts like? If I do not mention every performance or every performer, it does not mean that I found them lacking in any way. None were below the very high standard one would expect.

SUNDAY JULY 18TH AT 2:30PM

HAYDN – Piano Trio in C Major, Hob. XV:27
Kuok-Wai Lio, piano
Hiroko Yajima, violin
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, cello

BRAHMS – Duets, Op. 20
Susanna Phillips, soprano
Jennifer Johnson, mezzo-soprano
Lydia Brown, piano

RAVEL – Introduction et Allegro
Sivan Magen, harp
Joshua Smith, flute
Moran Katz, clarinet
Joseph Lin, violin
Benjamin Beilman, violin
Luke Fleming, viola
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, cello

DVOŘÁK – Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87
Richard Goode, piano
Joseph Lin, violin
Dimitri Murrath, viola
Sæunn Thorsteinsdottir, cello

The second public (Sunday, July 18) began with a well-grounded reading of the Haydn Piano Trio. This was an especially serious approach to the work, steady in tempo, with careful management of the counterpoint and voice-leading. Three expressively sung Brahms duets for soprano and mezzo-soprano followed. The first half concluded with a an especially satisfying Introduction and Allegro by Ravel. The musicians were keenly attuned to the contrasts and multiplicity in the work, and the result went far beyond what we are accustomed to in that work. A lively performance of the Dvořák Piano Quartet in E Flat Major concluded the concert. This last was a good indicator of the change in style, since Dvořák has been such a favorite at Marlboro over the years. The familiar high spirits were tempered somewhat in favor of more refined playing, detail in texture and phrasing, and closer attention to the full range of moods in the music and the contrasts among them.

SUNDAY, JULY 25TH AT 2:30PM

Haydn – String Quartet in D Major, Op. 76, No. 5, Hob. III:79
Bella Hristova, violin
Ying Fu, violin
Samuel Rhodes, viola
Bronwyn Banerdt, cello

Brahms – Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60
Mitsuko Uchida, piano
Miho Saegusa, violin
Dimitri Murrath, viola
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, cello

Beethoven – Septet in E-flat Major, Op. 20
Sarah Beaty, clarinet
Benjamin Jaber, horn
William Winstead, bassoon
Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violin
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Peter Wiley, cello
Zachary Cohen, double bass

The Brahms Piano Quartet was magnificent, and of course Uchida’s intense, subtle playing had something to do with.that, as well as the complex way she interacted with the others: deferent, in a way, and influencing more through stimulus than control. The Beethoven was finely nuanced and blessed with remarkable wind playing, especially that of Sarah Beaty, at thirty already a great master of the clarinet. She uses her tall, slender body in a remarkable way to control the phrasing and shading of her line. Apart from the captivating expressiveness of her playing, Beaty has an exceptionally strong musical personality, and this cannot help but make an impression on her fellow musicians. The chains of interaction among the seven musicians was indeed complex, but ensemble never suffered, and the performance was totally alive and finely nuanced. I’ll long remember this as one of the finest performances of the Septet I’ve heard.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 1

Barber – Dover Beach, Op. 3
Nathaniel Webster, baritone
Elena Urioste, violin
Benjamin Beilman, violin
Hélène Clément, viola
Marcy Rosen, cello

Wolpe – String Quartet
Robin Scott, violin
Hiroko Yajima, violin
Samuel Rhodes, viola
Paul Wiancko, cello

Lieberson – The Coming of Light
John Moore, baritone
Frank Rosenwein, oboe
Soovin Kim, violin
Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violin
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Matthew Zalkind, cello

Brahms – Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115
Sarah Beaty, clarinet
Joel Link, violin
Elena Urioste, violin
Vicki Powell, viola
Peter Wiley, cello

Barber’s early setting of Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” for baritone and string quartet is one example of a work that is not likely to have been played in the past. Vocal music in general, especially music for unusual combinations was especially well-served in the summer’s programming, providing unique experiences for the young singers who perform them. Samuel Rhodes was the prime mover in the Wolpe String Quartet, as his special note on the work made clear. The Juilliard String Quartet, of which he has been a member for so many years, had a special connection with the composer and his music. Rudolf Serkin was not an intuitive admirer of Schoenberg or of serial music, but he considered it important and saw to it Felix Galimir or Leon Kirchner presided over as rich a program as possible. Lieberson’s setting of modern and Shakespearean verse was another sign of how seriously song and the musical treatment of text is taken in contemporary Marlboro. Knowing that Sarah Beaty would be back for one of the great works in the clarinet repertoire put me in a keen state of anticipation, and I was not disappointed. Her control and expressivity were nothing short of astonishing in this deeply felt performance. She and the others truly lived up to Serkin’s view of Casals, quoted above: Beaty and the others deeply penetrated the emotional layers of the Quintet without ever seeming sentimental. In the 1960’s we had to turn to the older generations for that sort of insight. Now we find it in a musician still in the early phase of her career, which should prove a brilliant one.

I attended one of the weekday dining hall concerts, which are informal affairs intended for the immediate Marlboro community. Ms. Uchida and Mr. Goode discuss the results with other members of the staff and decide what should be put into the public concerts. In this program, I found myself most deeply moved by Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Ten Blake Songs for tenor and oboe, performed with great feeling by Karim Sulayman and Frank Rosenwein. It was preceded by a robust performance of Bach’s Musical Offering in Kenneth Cooper’s arrangement and under his direction. Mr. Cooper is of course a familiar and much-loved figure in the Berkshires. His arrangement might rile some of the more finicky purists, but I could only admire its clarity and balance. The evening came to an end with an intensely focussed and richly expressive reading of Ives’ Piano Trio with Thomas Sauer, piano, Yvonne Lam, violin, and Paul Wiancko, cello. The audience hung on every note and applauded wildly at its conclusion.

That was all of my Marlboro experience for this summer. My stay in Bayreuth was already approaching its end on the final weekend, when, I now see, Mitsuko Uchida concluded the season with the time-honored Choral Fantasy of Beethoven.

And if you go to Marlboro next summer, be sure to hear Frank Salomon’s introductory talk on Sunday afternoons before the concert. His knowledge of Marlboro is amazing and probably unsurpassed.

Notes

[1] Potter, Tully. Adolf Busch: The Life of an Honest Musician. [London]: Toccata, 2010. 2 vols., vol. II, p. 860.

[2] Lehmann, Stephen., and Marion. Faber. Rudolf Serkin: A Life. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. p. 219.

[3] Lehmann and Faber. op. cit. p. 218.

[4] Lehmann and Faber. op. cit. p. 228.

[5] Lehmann and Faber. op. cit. pp. 233f.

[6] Lehmann and Faber. op. cit. pp. 221.

[7] In addition to having his compositions played at Marlboro, as Lehmann and Faber state in the first footnote on p. 229, Tonu Kalam spent many years at Marlboro as pianist and conductor.

[8] Lehmann and Faber. op. cit. pp. 229.

Bibliography

Lehmann, Stephen., and Marion. Faber. Rudolf Serkin: A Life. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Potter, Tully. Adolf Busch: The Life of an Honest Musician. [London]: Toccata, 2010. 2 vols.

Music from Marlboro 2010/11 Tour Groups and Programs

Group One: October 23rd – October 31st

Group Two: April 3rd – April 10th

Group Three: April 1st – April 10th

Group Four: April 30th – May 8th

GROUP #1 – OCTOBER 23RD TO 31ST, 2010

Respighi – Il Tramonto (1914)

Dvorak – Two Waltzes, Op. 54, B.105 (ca. 1880)

Cuckson* – Der gayst funem shturem (2003)

Mozart – Quintet for Clarinet & Strings, K.581 (1789)

*2009 Composer-in-Residence

Ida Levin, violin | Yonah Zur, violin | Beth Guterman, viola

Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, cello | Zachary Cohen, dbl bass | Sivan Magen, harp

Angela Cordell Bilger, horn | Sarah Beaty, clarinet | Jennifer Johnson, mezzo-soprano

October 22nd, 2010 @ 8pm – Chicago, IL

Ravinia “Rising Star” Series – Bennett • Gordon Hall

October 24th, 2010 @ 1:30pm – Boston, MA

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

October 26th, 2010 @ 7:30pm – Washington, DC

Freer Gallery of Art Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium Smithsonian Institute

October 28th, 2010 @ 8pm – Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society – Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center

October 29th, 2010 @ 7pm – New York, NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

October 30th, 2010 @ 4pm – Greenwich, CT

Greenwich Library Cole Concert Series

GROUP #2 – APRIL 3RD TO 10TH, 2011

Mendelssohn – String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 13

Mozart – Songs: Abendempfindung, K. 523; An Chloe, K. 524

Schubert – Lieder: Nachtstuck, D. 672b; Wanderers Nachtlied, D. 768; Rastlose Liebe, D. 138

Shostakovich – Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 57

Hye-Jin Kim, violin | Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violin | Philip Kramp, viola

Peter Wiley, cello | John Moore, baritone | Anna Polonsky, piano

Mozart’s “An Chlöe”

April 3rd, 2011 @ 4pm – Greenwich, CT

Greenwich Library Cole Concert Series

April 5th, 2011 @ 8pm – Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Independence Seaport Museum

April 7th, 2011 @ 8pm – Washington, DC

Freer Gallery of Art Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium Smithsonian Institute

April 8th, 2011 @ 7pm – New York, NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

April 10th, 2011 @ 1:30pm – Boston, MA

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

GROUP #3 – APRIL 1ST TO 10TH, 2011

Janacek – String Quartet No. 1 (“Kreutzer Sonata”)

Mozart – String Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 614

Mendelssohn – Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20

Jessica Lee, violin | Yonah Zur, violin | Miho Saegusa, violin

Maiya Papach, viola | Mark Holloway, viola | Scott St. John, violin/viola

Susan Babini, cello | Na-Young Baek, cello

April 1st, 2011 @ 8pm – Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Chamber Music Society

April 3rd, 2011 @ 7pm – San Jose, CA

San Jose Chamber Music Society

April 4th, 2011 @ 8pm – Santa Monica, CA

The Broad Stage

April 5th, 2011 @ 8pm – Orange County, CA

Irvine at Barclay; Philharmonic Society of Orange County

April 9th, 2011 @ 8pm – Toronto, Canada

The Royal Conservatory’s Mazzoleni Hall

April 10th, 2011 @ 8pm – New York, NY

People’s Symphony Concerts

GROUP #4 – APRIL 30TH TO MAY 8TH, 2011

Mozart – String Quintet in C Major, K .515

Haydn – String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 17, No.4

Dvorak – String Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 97, B. 180

Benjamin Beilman, violin | Veronika Eberle, violin | Beth Guterman, viola

Yura Lee, viola | Judith Serkin, cello

April 30th, 2011 @ 8pm – Marlboro, VT

Persons Auditorium, Marlboro College

May 1st, 2011 @ 1:30p – Boston, MA

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

May 3rd, 2011 @ 8pm – Buffalo, NY

Kleinhans Hall

May 4th, 2011 @ 8pm – Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, American Philosophical Society

May 5th, 2011 @ 8pm – Washington, DC

Freer Gallery of Art, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium Smithsonian Institute

May 6th, 2011 @ 7pm – New York, NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

May 8th, 2011 @ 4pm – Greenwich, CT

Greenwich Library Cole Concert Series

Persons Auditorium, Marlboro. Photo © 2010 Michael Miller.
Persons Auditorium, Marlboro. Photo © 2010 Michael Miller.
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Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L'Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides' Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

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