Over the past months chamber music lovers have found a few important changes in their universe, above all the retirement of the Tokyo String Quartet and David Finckel’s departure from the Emerson. Both of these developments made themselves felt in the summer festivals. The Tokyo played their farewell concert at Yale’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, where they have been a fixture for years. It was a characteristically unsentimental affair, although one could see that fans had travelled considerable distances to fill the Norfolk Music Shed on that stifling summer evening. The Emerson played at Tanglewood with their superb new cellist, the distinguished soloist and conductor, Paul Watkins, and David Finckel appeared at the South Mountain Concerts with his wife Wu Han and violinist Philip Setzer of the Emerson, marking his even busier schedule as a member of a duo and trio. Listen to my interview with David Finckel and Wu Han for a full account of the changes in his life.
If the Berkshire Review appears to have been rather quiet lately, that is because New York Arts, as of the beginning of 2013, has taken over the international coverage that formerly occupied The Berkshire Review, which has returned to its roots as a local arts journal devoted on the great summer festivals of The Berkshires. While some of these—Aston Magna and Tannery Pond—have begun to simmer already in June, they will spring into full life with the American national holiday on July 4th—and so will the Berkshire Review!
This year, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the festival of the Yale School of Music, will offer yet another rich season of music played by the young artists of the Yale Summer School of Music, as well as a weekend series featuring the most renowned international artists associated with the Yale School of Music. It will begin with a weekend of new music from Martin Bresnick’s New Music Workshop on June 29 and 30. Most importantly, it will offer the main local opportunity to enjoy the final season of the great Tokyo String Quartet, as I have mentioned in my review of their appearance earlier this month at the Tannery Pond Concerts. The distinguished Artis Quartet from Vienna and the Keller Quartet, from the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, will also play.
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.
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.