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Endless Summer

New York
Tisch Center for the Arts
04/05/2000 -  
Carl Stamitz: Trio in G
Ludwig van Beethoven: Quartet # 9
John Musto: Divertimento
Franz Schubert: Trio # 1

Vail Valley Music Festival
Eugenia Zukerman (artistic director)

There is a special joy reserved for the parents of classical musicians. All of the long hours of practicing which fill the hearth and heart with pride, all of the hours of driving from venue to venue, all of the pain and suffering of anticipation culminate in a wonderful sense of fellow-feeling when summer comes and the child heads out for music camp. Here young people who know how to play the notes are magically turned into musicians and accumulate a lifetime of experience and memories as well as a sense that they are part of something much larger and more vibrant than their own individual rehearsal regimens. There is an indescribable feel to all of these places, hidden from the public but dear to all who have walked the walk. It was therefore a treat to enjoy an evening of summer music in the midst of the first hints of a New York spring as Eugenia Zukerman brought a pastiche of Colorado mountain experience to the quiet Upper East Side of the city. Evocative of camp in every detail, the crowd was primarily family members of the performers and showed the exact degree of sophistication required by clapping wildly after the first movement of the Stamitz. This faux pas seemed very comfortable to those of us who love the graceful informality of these types of concerts.

Each piece was performed by different chamber musicians but the common denominator was a very high standard of quality. I could smell the pine trees and hear the crickets (my East Coast orientation) as I lavished in Ms. Zukermanís leading of the Stamitz trio. The entire Mannheim school is virtually unknown today except as a footnote to Classical history (they did invent the symphony after all) but their music is quite delightful. Carl is a second generation member of the family and showed remarkable melodistic abilities. Chee-Yun was particularly lyrical performing the violin part.

The third Razumovsky shows that Beethoven had completely matured and embarked on his own path, far from the nurturing bondage of Papa Haydn. The intense chordal opening is one of the most attention grabbing in all of the masterís output and the Borromeo Quartet used this intensity to set the stage for a thrilling performance, full of blood, sweat and tears and trembling Sturm und Drang. Given the somewhat pedestrian sound of their instruments, this performance was close to ideal, reminding me of the digging in so associated with the Budapest Quartet. The breakneck tempo of the final section brought everyone to the edge of their chairs, each string member implicitly challenging their colleagues to play even more crisply as the fingering got more and more complex. Enthusiasm and athleticism sent us out to the streets for intermission in an exhilarated state of ear.

There is always a class clown at summer camp and Iím guessing that John Musto filled this role in his youth. He undoubtedly played the Sextuor of Francis Poulenc (a perennial favorite of wind players) during his years of learning vacations because his Divertimento is an homage (plagiarism being such a dirty word) to this insouciant work, with a little dance band drums thrown in. The lively young group of Oberlin students, known collectively as eighth blackbird, played their hearts out and handled the syncopations adroitly. Even their costume was summery, running the gamut from shirts out of their pants to cocktail dresses in true casual "we donít have good showers" style. Great fun and Mr. Musto was there to share in the applause.

The best for last, Andre-Michel Schub, Chee-Yun and Andres Diaz launched into an upbeat reading of the first of the two great Schubert trios. Mr. Diaz was woefully mismatched here (another summerlike phenomenon) but labored valiantly to achieve the level of excellence of his mates. Chee-Yun took the reins from the start and really captured the Schubertian lilting spirit and the work, with its many false endings and total annihilation of linear time, seemed destined to go on forever as a lovely, swirling dream. Not the greatest sound perhaps, but a sense of elan hard to surpass. This is a spectacular way to end a summer festival and we all felt buoyant as we strode out into the still cold night, each of us knowing deep down that summer is almost here.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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