It seems particularly felicitous that this first concert review in The Berkshire Review for the Arts celebrates the very fine performances of two young musicians, who are not far from the very beginning of their careers. Pianist Shun-Yang Lee from Taipei, Taiwan, is a student of Melvin Chen and Peter Serkin at the Bard Conservatory of Music, and Korean baritone Yohan Yi is also a Bard Conservatory student. Lee performed this weekend as winner of the Second Annual Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition, and Yi recently performed at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in the Golijov/Upshaw Young Artists concert. This was a great evening for seasoned musicians as well. Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra in a thoroughly Brahmsian performance of the Academic Festival Overture and a truly revelatory reading of Dvorak’s Symphony “From the New World.”
Tradition has been lurking under every stone this summer, between local controversies about change at Tanglewood and the host of anniversaries which are being celebrated, beginning with the 60th of the Juilliard Quartet, the historic 59th of the Bartók Quartets at Tanglewood, Aston Magna’s 35th, and now the 30th anniversary of the renowned Tokyo Quartet’s residence at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Yale Summer School of Music. When they were officially founded in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music under the tutelage of the members of the Juilliard String Quartet, the world of the string quartet seemed to be thinning out, in spite of the appearance of the Guarneri in 1965, and the youthful, mop-headed string players from the Toho School of Music in Tokyo were most welcome. Cultivating a lean tone and an incisive, energetic style, they seemed the antithesis of the aging Budapest Quartet, which still actively represented the middle European Menschlichkeit of the early twentieth century.
The multi-talented Richard Giarusso continues to explore single-mindedly one vitally important and fascinating area in music—the relationship between music and text. Last summer he offered an original and moving interpretation on Franz Schubert’s Schwanengesang, and, before he goes on to Die Winterreise this coming summer, he has given us an all-too-rare opportunity to hear perhaps the most sophisticated and eloquent fusion of text and music before Schubert, Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien, a Lutheran funeral Mass to German texts, which Schütz wrote for the funeral of Prince Heinrich Posthumus Reuss, a member of the ruling family of the region in which Schütz was born. The eleven participating singers of the Aoede Consort (based in Troy, New York) and Giarusso’s direction were superb, but first, I’d like to provide some background.
The Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood closed on Monday, July 31 with Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Blood on the Floor,” a long, ambitious piece for chamber orchestra with expanded winds and percussion, and a jazz quartet consisting of soprano saxophone, solo electric guitar and bass, and percussion. Now a mature ten years old, the suite has enjoyed fairly frequent performances in Britain and the U. S. over the years, not only because of the composer’s reputation, but clearly also because of its accessibility and quality. Both a recording and a DVD are easily available.