About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



None Are More Equal Than Others

New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art
11/08/2000 -  
Leon Kirchner: Trio # 1
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, K. 493
Anton Webern: Five Movements for String Quartet
Ludwig van Beethoven: Quintet in C, Op. 29

Musicians from Marlboro
Mitsuko Uchida (piano)

When Adolf Busch founded the Marlboro Music Festival in 1950 he did so with one unifying principle in mind: that all musicians have the need for learning, teaching and sharing. Busch died after only one season and so the mantle of leadership was passed to his son-in-law Rudolf Serkin, who added an impish flair to the proceedings (he is the inventor of the napkin ball, a seriously deadly missile thrown in the dining hall) and molded the summer event into a memorable experience for all concerned. Under Busch's system, older musicians were paired with neophytes to perform the great chamber works of our shared heritage. Concerts were merely an afterthought; no programs are ever announced in advance, the night's performance simply being a compendium of groups who feel that they are "ready". The symbiosis of young and old has produced the marvelous effect of teachers learning from their students. Venerable violist Boris Kroyt used to love to tell tales of what he had learned at Marlboro from the teen-aged Murray Perahia. Over time, this small college campus in Vermont has earned a reputation for hosting the absolute best chamber music in America.

2000 is not only the 50th anniversary for the festival, but also the beginning of a new era. Mitsuko Uchida and Richard Goode have taken the helm and are in the process of exhibiting their charges to the outside world. Those of us in the flatland still need program announcements and so there are published itineraries for our guided musical journeys which began last evening at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and will continue this Friday at Carnegie Hall. Ms. Uchida, beginning to spend considerably more time in New York, participated in this communal event as both performer and fan. In the egalitarian spirit of Marlboro, she alternated between stage and audience, singing the praises of her new commission both with her light touch at the keyboard and her incredibly soft touch while pressing the flesh of well-wishers.

Leon Kirchner was one of many who studied with Arnold Schoenberg in California. Seemingly destined for greatness as the contemporary composer of choice in the 1950's, Kirchner rose high and fast in the exciting New York of Dmitri Mitropoulos. But the serial movement was stillborn. Mitropoulos died and Bernstein had no feel for the idiom. Kirchner ended up at Harvard where he developed a curmudgeonly reputation as his music veered severely behind the walls of ivy. His chamber works of the '50's emphasize the Romantic side of dodecaphonism, the violin melodies of this particular work (so expertly conveyed by Catherine Cho) evocative of Berg at his Viennese best. Kirchner was himself a presence at Marlboro and conducted dense pieces such as his mentor's Serenade with considerable scholarship. It is gratifying to see this tradition kept alive into the new century.

Madame herself led a charming reading of the Mozart. Ms. Uchida was very busy during this performance, coaching her charges and exhorting even more elegance out of them at every turn. She has a positively infectious love of great music that produces an electricity among audience members as well as a shining example for young musicians. Unlike many other aloof members of her sorority, Ms. Uchida is a frequent visitor to the concerts of others around town, just another expressive face in the crowd. Her dedication is obvious to anyone who spends even the shortest amount of time with her; at Marlboro she will undoubtedly transform mere technicians into true musicians.

Another guiding force at the festival was Felix Galimir. For 45 years he taught generations to perform in all styles, but was particularly notable for his direct link to the Second Viennese past. Galimir played the music of Berg and Webern directly for these composers and was able to convey to his colleagues in Vermont that particular brand of technique necessary to properly communicate this difficult music. Last evening, Samuel Rhodes and three young artists presented a very fine performance of the Webern, notable indeed for their fluency in the miniaturist vocabulary of this truly revolutionary composer. I was especially struck by the combination of power and delicacy coupled with strong technique. The extremely compact third movement was played at full tilt and extroadinarily nimbly. Unfamiliar music to virtually everyone in the crowd, played this expertly these pieces cannot fail to move and impress. Galimir's legacy will live on as long as this type of superb musicianship is allowed to flourish. Parenthetically, it is astonishing to realize that these pieces are almost 100 years old! They still sound fresh and new, so much more radical than virtually anything on the contemporary scene.

Although I have never been there, I know intuitively that there is something special going on at Marlboro. Every musician who has spent time there, both young and old, waxes poetically about not only their experience, but, more importantly, what they were able to share. With Mitsuko Uchida involved, I can only imagine that the magic will continue unabated for many years to come.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com