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.
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.