Performing this Week
L. P. How
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Summer 2011 — Program 6
Welcome to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series production blog, home of program out takes, artist commentary, and other related tangents we like to call "web extras."
Week 6 of our concert broadcasts from Santa Fe featured music by J. S. Bach and César Frank.
One of the great things about this Festival is the way artistic director Marc Neikrug juggles the arrivals and departures of visiting musicians so that every once in a while he has a dream team in town who can perform a Brandenburg Concerto as beautifully as this group did. In some ways, you could say it's similar to the situation that Bach had at the court of Cöthen, which included some of the best musicians of his day. The ensemble who performed the virtuosic Concerto #3 in G Major, BWV 1048 consisted of violinists Helen Nightengale, Bella Hristova, and Giora Schmidt; violists Lily Francis, Michael Tree, and L. P. How; cellists Eric Kim, Gary Hoffman, and Lynn Harrell; bassist Marji Danilow, and on harpsichord, Kathleen McIntosh.
Also on the program, pianist Jeremy Denk collaborated with violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Jennifer Frautschi, violist Teng Li, and cellist Peter Stumpf to play César Franck's dramatic F Minor Piano Quintet.
Scroll below to hear a number of audio out-takes from the program...
Thanks for stopping by,
PS - These nationally syndicated radio concerts of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival can be heard in the Chicago area Saturdays at 5pm, from April through June 2011, on 98.7 WFMT. You can also listen anywhere there's Internet. WFMT provides free, live streaming at wfmt.com and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 (1721)
- Helen Nightengale, violin
- Bella Hristova, violin
- Giora Schmidt, violin
- Lily Francis, viola
- Michael Tree, viola
- L. P. How, viola
- Eric Kim, cello
- Gary Hoffman, cello
- Lynn Harrell, cello
- Marji Danilow, bass
- Kathleen McIntosh, harpsichord
Marc tells Kerry he can plan a big piece like this Brandenburg Concerto by carefully planning weeks where artists' schedules overlap. This is an unusually accomplished and intriguing group of people who would usually not be together for something like this.
In this clip Marc and Kerry note that Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major is about string sounds and vibrant energy. They also ponder the lingering mystery surrounding the score for the middle movement and what seems to be a lack of notation in some passages. Was this an impetus for improvisation? It reminds Marc of "Sphinxes," the ambiguously orchestrated movement from Robert Schumann's Carnaval, op.9.
Piano Quintet in F Minor, M. 7 (1878-79)
- Cho-Liang Lin, violin
- Jennifer Frautschi, violin
- Teng Li, viola
- Peter Stumpf, cello
- Jeremy Denk, piano
When César Franck's intense and emotion-packed Piano Quintet in F Minor had its premiere, it was received with a great deal consternation and astonishment. Marc and Kerry discuss possible reasons why, and observe, "no one gets appalled or shocked when something is extraordinarily boring." The mild-mannered organ professor stunned a lot of people with this personal, revealing, tumultuous work.
Félicité Franck turned on her husband's pupils one day and blamed them, not without reason, for the hostility he encountered and for the advanced style of his later works. 'You don't have to tell me that Franck has once written some beautiful works,' she cried, 'I am a musician myself. … But that quintet! Ugh!"
"It certainly takes a group that can throw themselves into a piece in order to play this right," observes Kerry, and Marc laughs, "this is not a stand-back, intellectual piece, ... it takes a pianist who can play with abandon – and that doesn't mean abandon the right notes! ... It's a very exuberant, on-the-edge, full-out performance."
Violinist Cho Liang Lin remarks that this concerto-like piano quintet has endured very well, despite a humiliating public rejection at the premiere from the dedicatee, Camille Saint-Saëns. Perhaps that's because to play it well, the ensemble has to play it "almost completely over the top."
When Louise asked Jeremy Denk about the piece, he told her, "it begins with a big string expostulation, and then the piano does this amazing meditation…" He also recalled his teacher and mentor Gyorgy Sebok who said "music is not the notes but it's always in between them."