One of the birthday cards my beloved father received on his 90th birthday this past Sunday included a quote by Leonard Bernstein: "The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another…and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world." Day after day throughout this pandemic, musicians across the globe have proven that music will go on — one note following the next. I am heartened and inspired by the artists featured here this week, as I have been heartened and inspired over the past four months. My hope is you find something in this roundup that speaks to you personally and brings you joy.
Behind-the-scenes of socially-distanced performing
In a slight departure from our usual format, I wanted to draw your attention to members of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, stage management, and production crew who discuss the challenges of socially-distanced performing and the joys of being together again. (This leads directly to our next clip, below, of the performance being discussed.)
Sheku performs Saint-Saëns
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, conductor John Wilson, and the Philharmonia Orchestra bring us Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1, in partnership with Classic FM. The magnificent Battersea Arts Centre provides an atmospheric backdrop for this socially-distanced performance. Despite the fact the winds and brass are about a block away from the podium, the coordination is quite simply amazing. (Scroll to 28:47 for Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, in which the strings are arranged into two mini-orchestras and a string quartet.)
Interlochen continues 93-year tradition
Continuing a 93-year tradition, Interlochen Arts Camp ended its season with a performance of Franz Liszt’s "Les Préludes," albeit a virtual one. Over 400 performers in 21 countries on five continents participated. It begins with a montage of archival photos and footage before segueing to this year’s performers, conducted by Cristian Macelaru. (Don’t miss the traditional breaking of the baton at the end, or what is called "The crack that ends everything that starts so much.")
Kelly Hall-Tompkins stuns as the fiddler
The happiest hour of violin music on the Internet has now been dubbed the "No Fret Zone!" Gil Shaham and Laurie Niles prove once again that Gilharmonic on violinist.com might just be the antidote to stress. This week’s celebrity guest was violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, who delivered a stunning performance of an ingenious arrangement of tunes from Fiddler on the Roof, which she commissioned and recorded, titled The Fiddler Expanding Tradition. (Kelly was the Broadway show’s star fiddler in over 400 performances)
Yale Symphony Orchestra and its orbiting spheres
In an ironic twist, the Yale Symphony Orchestra performs Missy Mazzoli’s "Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)" which works quite remarkably in this virtual performance. Conductor William Boughton noted, "The work's title took on new meaning to us, as the orchestra migrated from being a congregation of musicians that performed together to more disparate and isolated individuals, still related to one another through art, but no longer together." (Bravo, Yale!)
Aspen, Ehnes, and Beethoven
As part of the Aspen Music Festival’s series of virtual performances, violinist James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong performed Beethoven’s Sonata No. 1 in D major and Sonata No. 5 "Spring." The artists inserted the Adagio from Violin Sonata No. 6 in A major between the other two works. According to critic Harvey Steinman’s review, "If audiences can’t share Harris Hall with these performers, they at least got a performance made specially for Aspen, with excellent sound, fluid camera work, and musicians that did everything they could to connect with a remote audience they could not see from Seattle’s Center for Chamber Music."
Other performances of note
Toronto Summer Music had to cancel its live festival (as well as its coached sessions for pre-professionals and for adult amateurs) this summer, but instead TSM is presenting a three-week free online festival. The festival began last Thursday with James Ehnes playing Beethoven sonatas. More information is available at Toronto Summer Music.
Summer of change ideas welcome
With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of "summer of change" activities. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, teaching experiences, camps, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.
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