Interview in Aspen with Augustin Hadelich: the Ligeti Violin Concerto border=0 align=

Interview in Aspen with Augustin Hadelich: the Ligeti Violin Concerto

July 17, 2018, 12:25 PM · ASPEN, Colo. -- During the last few days I've been visiting Aspen, a place where many musicians have spent their summers studying, performing and teaching. In the winter the main attraction is skiing, but in the summer, it's classical music, in the form of Aspen Music Festival, which was founded in 1949.

What this means is that during the summer, this small ski resort town suddenly bursts with a population of classical music lovers and musicians. Music is everywhere. There are newspaper reviews of classical concerts every day, and copies of the festival schedule lying around everywhere. Yesterday I encountered a college-age couple talking over coffee about the merits of various violin players, while at the next table sat young man who sang a lead part in a performance of Rossini's "Barber of Seville," which I'd seen on Saturday. And there are also things like a bluegrass festival atop the mountain -- you have to ride a gondola up to see it.

It's that kind of place -- just walking down the streets, you might run into any number of people who are celebrities in our classical music world -- this summer you might pass artists such as Augustin Hadelich, Daniel Hope, Midori, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham. Or you just might bump into one of the world's finest violin or viola teachers such as Paul Kantor, Robert Lipsett, Sylvia Rosenberg, Almita Vamos, Bing Wang, Masao Kawasaki -- the list goes on and on.

Over a period eight weeks, the Aspen Music Festival attracts a staggering number of top-flight musicians, playing host to more than 130 artists and faculty members who represent nearly every major conservatory, music school, and orchestra in the United States. During that period, more than 600 young musicians between the ages of 10 and 37 study at the Aspen Music School, from about 40 states and 40 countries. And there are some 300 performances, master classes, lectures, and panels, many of them open to the public as well as the students.

It's actually a little overwhelming.

I'm fortunate enough to be here while several violinists are visiting, including Grammy award-winning Augustin Hadelich, who is giving a recital Wednesday night, playing the highly unusual Violin Concerto by György Ligeti -- a piece that I must admit, I have never heard -- but I will! A few days later, on Sunday, Hadelich will perform the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in a 4 p.m. concert with the the Aspen Festival Orchestra.

On Monday I spoke with Augustin about Aspen and about this unique and interesting concerto, for which he has become a champion. The Ligeti concerto, written in 1992, requires several of the orchestra players to tune their instruments to unconventional pitches ("scordatura" tuning, but to microtonal pitches), while the soloist tunes to conventional pitches. The music also requires four wind players to play the ocarina, an ancient kind of clay flute. At Aspen Hadelich will play a new cadenza by Thomas Adés, which he first premiered in January with the composer conducting the Boston Symphony (a performance that received glowing reviews). Keep reading...

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 230: Vilde Frang; Joshua Bell; Igudesman and Joo border=0 align=

The Week in Reviews, Op. 230: Vilde Frang; Joshua Bell; Igudesman and Joo

July 16, 2018, 4:33 PM · In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Vilde Frang performed the Britten Violin Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • "On her Cleveland debut, the Norwegian violinist made a deep impression with a searing, thoughtful account of a work that's only been played here by one other. Not every violinist, frankly, is equal to Britten. It's a daunting, quasi-ritualistic work that lingers long in a stratospheric register and seems to unfold eternally, like a single, 30-minute breath. Frang, though, was very much up to the task. Her tone was slight but piercing, her upper register a realm to die for."
Keep reading...

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Playing a Happy Scale: My Return to Heifetz International Music Festival border=0 align=

Playing a Happy Scale: My Return to Heifetz International Music Festival

July 14, 2018, 8:58 PM · One summer afternoon in 2009 I was practicing in my dorm at the Heifetz International Music Institute, in a sprawling basement room where I lived with three other girls my age. I was studying Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy—a piece I found difficult, but loved very much. Something from the communication class that afternoon reverberated in my mind, and I was feeling newly free. I paced around my room while I played, exploring different sounds, colors, and possibilities of phrase structure. As I walked around, my eyes landed on a bug on the wall. I stopped for a moment to consider the bug and its existence. Suddenly, I felt a rush of emotion, a tenderness. I began to play again, this time for the bug (which probably had no idea it was the recipient of such attention). I felt the power and delight of channeling my musical energy somewhere specific, connecting to someone (well, something). Daniel Heifetz often talks about sending your energy over the footlights, all the way to the back row of the hall, so that you reach each person in the audience. Now I strive to reach each insect in the concert hall, as well.

Flash forward nine years. This summer, I am on the violin faculty for the Institute’s PEG (Program for the Exceptionally Gifted), designed for students ages 9–14. My three-week session with seven violin students is coming to a close, and I’ve been reflecting on my own studies at the Heifetz Institute. It’s a joy to take what I’ve learned and pass it on to young musicians. The students of HeifetzPEG are at a pivotal point in their musical lives, as they go through middle school. Yes—scales, etudes, and understanding of the fingerboard are important. But at Heifetz, students are working on more than that. Keep reading...

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