piano

Chamber music and pianists: seamless interaction, ensemble, and musical growth

Most piano students don’t get ample opportunity to play piano trios, quartets, quintets, etc. because they’re consumed with learning solo repertoire and developing their technical/musical skills. Thankfully, the ongoing Cliburn International Piano Competition, in progress, fills this common void by reminding us that chamber music is integral to the development of a well-rounded musician. It underscores that pianists are not accessories to an ensemble weighted toward string or wind players. (Both Murray Perahia and Richard Goode enjoyed years of chamber music making well before their solo careers blossomed. Perahia was a regular, collaborating with the Budapest String Quartet on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, while Goode was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.)

My own ensemble experiences date back to my adolescent years when I was a dual piano/violin student, savoring participation as second fiddle in a string quartet coached by Boston Symphony Principal violist, Eugene Lehner. (Merrywood Music Camp in Lenox, MA)

Simultaneously, I was assigned a keyboard role in the Gigue movement of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg 5 to be performed as the Camp Finale. A blog about my errant entrance “at the recapitulation” might have caused most players to cringe at any further group interactions, but I carried on, finding myself many years later, immersed in the Beethoven “Ghost Trio” with an insecure page turner (food columnist of the Fresno Bee) who advanced two pages forward while my nursing infant at a glitzy dinner party scowled for a feed. Ironically, the lavish home was enlisted for a shoot in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds with Tippi Hedren, which added a hauntingly perfect cloaking of our ensemble. Immersed in eerie tremolos and diminished harmonies, we were at one, in an ebb and flow of undulating phrases.

… such a musical encounter nicely flowed into a few more chamber music opportunities that interspersed my solo repertoire studies. I played the Mozart Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478 at the 92nd Street Y, coached by Yuval Waldman while my unreliable page turner snored through the Development section. Randomly occurring misfortunes such as these inspire pianists to draw on a repository of thorough preparation and increased Mindfulness.

Singular focus and sensitive interplay among players also apply to performing a Mozart piano Concerto which is the epitome of a chamber music framing. I was lucky to play the Mozart Piano Concerto no. 17 in G Major, K. 453 at the NYC H.S. of Performing Arts Winter Concert. And having had a number of prior interactions with musicians in quartets and quintet settings amplified my understanding of a needed responsiveness between music-makers. One can certainly apply the study of Bach counterpoint to chamber music preparation, with voicing so paramount to both, but unless a player is in the center of forces within the ensemble environment, he/she cannot fully appreciate the requirements of a cooperative, collaborative undertaking.

The Cliburn Competition, in progress, recently showcased 12 semi-finalists who each performed a selected Mozart Concerto that preceded the official Chamber Music Round. In the Concerto segment, the Fort Worth Symphony seemed over-sized for music that should have had a clearer, more transparent, ensemble inspired dialog between soloist and orchestra. Even the full dimension D minor, K. 466 came across sounding like a late Beethoven symphony in tutti (orchestra) sections. The added acoustical reverberation of Bass Hall contributed to the drowning out of crystalline keyboard passages as pianists labored to compete with woodwinds, timpani, and audibly loud streams of string choirs.

The official “Chamber Music” round at Cliburn with six surviving Finalists, was in full bloom during the last two evenings. It produced notable performances of Antonín Dvořák’s Quintet for Piano and Strings No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81 featuring the magnificent Brentano Quartet. (My connection to the second violinist, Serena Canin, is through her uncle Stuart Canin, my violin teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory.) He was the brilliant first violinist of the Oberlin String Quartet. Years later, Canin relocated to the Bay area to become Concertmaster of the San Francisco Orchestra. Serena’s father, Martin Canin, is the distinguished pianist/teacher, and emeritus Professor, the Juilliard School. Without doubt, less than six degrees of separation hallmark the music world.

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At the Cliburn event, pianists, Kenneth Broberg and Georgy Tchaidze rose to the occasion in the Dvorak chamber work, while Daniel Hsu delivered a heart-rending reading of Cesar Franck’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor. His uniquely sensitive solo opening seamlessly flowed into an ethereal collaboration, inspiring Brentano to pulsate with more passion than usual. It’s clear that quartet members respond in kind when a pianist is fully engaged and intertwined with them–one who is attuned to structure, harmonic rhythm, counterpoint, thematic motifs, and dynamic give and take.

Daniel Hsu’s interaction included all the aforementioned.

June 8, 2017

http://cliburn2017.medici.tv/en/performance/finale-2

Finally, pianists should not seal themselves in a vacuum of solo repertoire study, but should branch out and add a significant amount of chamber music experiences to their musical journeys.

Both solo and collaborative undertakings complement each other, enlarging and enriching a musician’s universe.

Alessandro Deljavan, blog metrics, blogmetrics.org, pianist, piano, piano blog, Uncategorized

Alessandro Deljavan is a uniquely gifted pianist

Sometimes winners of piano competitions are not true messengers of great musical artistry. They might succeed in pleasing a panel of judges who often reward interpretive conformity and convention bundled in pyrotechnical displays, bestowing the Gold medal upon the least offending contender. Yet such a career launch may be short-lived once the round-by-round environment is no longer a convenient safety net. A truly creative musician must ultimately emancipate himself from a competitive framing and develop an unbridled, form of individual expression.

Alessandro Deljavan is one of the few young pianists of his generation whose participation in the renowned Cliburn Competition brought singular adulation from audiences far and wide, but did not attach a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal. His BIGGER THAN LIFE talent, LIVE-STREAMED from Fort Worth, Texas, in 2009 and 2013, drew a chorus of praise from pianists, teachers, and listeners around the world who enthusiastically mouse-clicked their way to his scheduled offerings. Yet, when the Italian pianist did not make the Finals, global sighs of outrage were funneled into Discretionary honors that would not soften international waves of disappointment.

Fort Worth arts critic, Gregory Sullivan and others summed up the reaction to Deljavan’s playing during the course of the Cliburn rounds:

“Deljavan’s performance was revelatory in every respect. Everyone in the hall knew that they were hearing something special-something wonderful from the very first notes. At the end, the spontaneous eruption of cheers was so different from the perfunctory ovation that any decent performance is awarded, that being part of the thrilled crowd was a unique experience in itself.”

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It’s no surprise that Deljavan is a virtuoso and poet of the piano without needing the rubber stamp of Competition juries. (Yet, he’s amassed a generous serving of first place awards at International concours)

With a mellifluous singing tone, deft technique, and immaculate phrasing, his deeply probing art serves the music and composer.

(I must admit to having shed tears listening to this Concerto excerpt) Deljavan’s riveting emotional connection to a score comes through in all style periods.

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I had a rare opportunity to converse with Alessandro who was in the Silicon Valley area (CA) performing chamber music with violinist, Daniela Cammarano, and cellist, Eugene Lifschitz. The group will showcase the works of Beethoven and Brahms at the School of Music and Arts at Finn Center, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View, CA. Sunday, April 16th, 2017 at 3 p.m. Otherwise Deljavan is jet-setting around the world giving concerts to appreciative audiences.

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Alessandro shared his thoughts about the role of chamber music in the development of a pianist, along with providing a profile of his earliest exposure to the piano, journeying into the present.

LINKS:

Deljavan’s OFFICIAL WEBSITE: (Click “MEDIA” for more performance samples)

http://alessandrodeljavan.welltempered.com

Discography:

http://alessandrodeljavan.welltempered.com/#discography

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/alessandro-deljavan-is-a-cliburn-winner-for-me/

chamber music, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Menahem Pressler, music, practicing the piano, Pressler Masterclasses, wordpress, you tube

Facebook puts Menahem Pressler center stage, practicing “with love.”

An encore tribute to Maestro Pressler caught my eye on FB’s Art of Piano Pedagogy forum. Deborah Rambo Sinn, a fine musician and teacher in her own right posted “My violinist’s interview” with the octogenarian plus ten. It was the perfect supplement to a 2012 blog that I’d dedicated to Menahem that resonates into the present.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/menahem-pressler-mozart-and-masterclasses-videos/

Snips of folkore surround this elder statesman of the piano, but aside from occasional slights about his teaching etiquette and temperament, I’ve always adored Menahem Pressler’s artistry.

An “old” 1974 recording of the pianist’s Mozart’s Bb Concerto, K. 450 is an ambrosian delight. The playing is pure singing poetry permeated by impeccable phrasing. An attentive listener will imbibe music that is like fine wine.

Pressler insists that we must be “in love” with a composition we are studying or performing–to own a passion for the composer’s creation and do our utmost to realize the style, emotion, affect and nuance that was intended. By example, the pianist shows us the way.

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As for the maestro’s attitude about practicing and teaching, Rambo-Sinn’s posted interview by Monique Mead is perfectly inserted here:

http://centerforartsinnovation.com/2014/10/30/menahem-pressler-on-practicing/

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The Backdrop:

In the late 1960’s, as a Merrywood music camper exposed to Tanglewood’s riches, I made a weekly journey to the Chamber Music Shed to hear performances of the Budapest String Quartet and The Beaux Arts Trio of New York, among others.

On one special Wednesday in 1961, Menahem Pressler’s Trio that included Bernard Greenhouse, cello and Daniel Guilet, violin, played a program of Beethoven, Chausson, and Schubert.

The evening was made memorable not only for its inspired music-making and autographed program insert but for a spiritual essence that became my constant companion.

Though the Beaux Arts Trio is no longer, the Internet brings cherished music-making back to life in many forms:

BIO: Menahem Pressler

The Official Website, http://menahempressler.org

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/a-long-lost-concert-program-turns-up-on-dusty-grand-piano/

Does Practice Make Perfect?

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/does-practice-make-perfect/

chamber music, classissima, classissima.com, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, Elaine Comparone, harpsichord, Irina Morozova, Irina Morozova pianist, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Kremer violinist, pianists as collaborator, piano, salas violist, Shirley Kirsten, shirley kirsten pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, word press, wordpress.com, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

A pianist is a COLLABORATOR NOT an “accompanist”

The “A” word is officially banished from my vocabulary, even if its residual usage in books, newspapers, old reviews, can’t be controlled.

To boot, anyone who’s been handed a stack of music by the High School vocal teacher to ready for the mid-year Christmas program and a few others in between Thanksgiving and semester break, knows that practicing sonatas, etudes, nocturnes and preludes is ON HOLD for a term of “ancillary” musical service.

NO not ancillary! according to Merriam-Webster
1: subordinate, subsidiary 2: auxiliary, supplementary

Purge this “A” word from the music-related vocabulary!

I must confide that the original verboten “A” word slipped into an e-mail I’d sent to a NY Times editor. And it ruffled the feathers of a world-class soloist and COLLABORATOR who received my prompt apology.

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Now here’s a supreme collaborator in a Brahms Piano Quartet performance.

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Those of us who’ve “COLLABORATED” know the practicing requirements. They upend family obligations at times, and turn our lives inside out and upside down if you factor in practicing prep, rehearsal schedules and performances.

Take the Beethoven “Spring” Sonata, for example, scored for violin and piano. It’s glaring that the interactive counterpoint between players, precludes thinking of the composition as placing the violinist in a starring role. The SOLOIST domain days are over!

And while pianists may be sitting, THEY WILL INEVITABLY also SIT-IN for proper recognition.

Same for harpsichordists, one of whom stands, gaining long-delayed attention– Elaine Comparone has championed harpsichord rights, erecting a “Brooklyn Bridge” to lift the spirits of her instrument, though she remains a superb collaborator.

***

In the chamber music venue, I played the Brandenburg Concerto 5 at the Merrywood Music Camp, and my part in the Gigue movement, was no small task. I was “conversing,” overlapping, chattering, through a quick-paced reading with an instrumental group of equals. If I failed, which I did at one point, the music crumbled like a house of cards.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

And this whole chatter-boxing dimension of interactive, collaborative performance, brings up the subject of Deborah Tannen’s Book, That’s Not What I Meant.

Collaborators have the challenge of saying what they mean in a musically harmonious fashion.

I remember reading about how Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, with his “strong personality” asked Sviatoslav Richter to tone it down more. And Richter having a robust persona, perhaps didn’t always agree that his contribution should be diminished.. (not literally, of course)

How many times have we heard one collaborator drown out the other, unsettling a balance between them, especially where one of the two had a riveting passage that needed fleshing out.

***

Naturally, the ART of making musical decisions is pivotal to a convincing performance and begs for good interpersonal communication skills. (consult again, Deborah Tannen, That’s Not What I Meant, You Just Don’t Understand, and I Only Say This because I Love You)

Now back to the High School or Middle School venue.

I remember hauling a stack of albums home, and grimacing at the very thought of practicing a medley of Christmas Carols. Being paid $9 per hour at the time (while holding a Master’s Degree) my classification was “associate.”

Oops, that’s my cue to EXPUNGE still another “A” word from the language! For heaven sakes, NO ASSOCIATE practices for HOURS, DAYS, WEEKS having a back-up pile of spirituals and movie themes to plow through.

And what about navigating those first, second, third and fourth endings sandwiched between dal segnos. DC al Fine–not to mention sifting through slash marks, revisions, and last-minute cuts made by the conductor.

Case in point–On the day of the BIG Holiday performance, the music director did the UNTHINKABLE!

He slashed 4/4 to 2/2 without a word of warning and sent us all hurtling into musical space at break speed tempo!! (I watched his index finger rise and fall like his twitching nose)

Luckily, we made it in one PIECE to the final cadence amidst earth-shattering applause.

Sadly, this death-defying effort, sealed my retirement as a secondary school collaborator! Kaput! Finished! I was off and running back to the serious practice room where I bathed myself in Bach, Brahms and Beethoven.

Fortunately, earlier opportunities, outside the public school venue, were heaven sent by comparison! And these are enumerated:

Mozart G minor Piano Quartet (Appel Farm Arts Camp, Elmer NJ)
Brandenburg 5–Gigue (Merrywood Music Camp–Lenox, MA)
The Beethoven “Ghost” Trio–Fresno CA
Beethoven: Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano in B flat major, Op. 11 (with NYC HS of Performing Arts alums–I recall cellist, Marcia Patelson Popowitz)
Schubert Fantasie in D minor.. 4 hands, one piano (with a student)
Beethoven “Ghost” trio again, 92nd Street Y (Yuval Waldman, violin) don’t remember cellist.
Diabelli duets with my cousin Gregory.. 4 hands, one piano
Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV1060 (My cousin Greg played the oboe, alongside Uncle Joe on violin)
Bach Double Concerto (I played violin) so I was still collaborating.
Mozart Concerto K. 453 (collaborating in the orchestra) before stepping out as a “soloist” do I dare say!

Shall we ban the word “soloist” from the musical UNIVERSE!!! !

I think there’s movement in this direction!

And speaking of the soloist venue, here’s Morozova playing the very concerto I performed at the New York City High School of Performing Arts Winter Concert.

We can all agree that Mozart in this orchestration, IS chamber music. (Even the pooches heard in the distance were willing “collaborators”)

LINKS:

The Collaborator Blog Spot

http://collaborativepiano.blogspot.com/

Harpsichord.org
http://www.harpsichord.org

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Mozart memories, reflections and revisits (Videos)

Andante: second movement, Mozart Sonata K. 545 played on my Steinway, 1917, M.

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My relationship to Mozart and his music began with the violin. At the Merrywood Music Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, only a stone’s throw from Tanglewood, I encountered Eugene Lehner, first violist of the Boston Symphony when I played second violin in a string quartet. At the time, in 1960 I was simultaneously fiddling and tickling the ivories.

In the company of more seasoned chamber ensemble, I was privileged to rehearse and refine one of Mozart’s most divinely beautiful works:

The Quartet in G, K. 387 (first movement)

Lehner, in his 50s at the time, danced around us with a warm smile, conducted as we played, cajoled, hummed, gestured in every which way to make us “sing” with warmth radiating through our very beings. He wanted each of us to give everything we had, and we did, slipping into a universe of imagination, inspiration and pure beauty. I’ll never forget the experience.

At Performing Arts High School in the mid 60s, I had the unique experience of playing the first movement of Mozart’s piano Concerto in G, K. 453 at the Winter concert where a radiance flooded the stage creating a special ensemble between orchestra and soloist. It was my second Mozartean journey that followed my having studied the Mozart Sonata in D K. 311.

My teacher, Lillian Freundlich, the next inspiring individual to flow out of my music camp experience came backstage in the glare of the spotlight to remind me of what we had worked on for months, and how all my practicing was worth the effort. (Ironically, her nephew, Douglas, a Merrywooder had led me to his aunt when I most needed a teacher to guide me through the basics of producing a singing tone)

Mozart became the staple of my practicing as I branched out following my years as a student at the Oberlin Conservatory. Once settled into my own studio apartment on W. 74th Street and Amsterdam, I selected the Sonata in A Major, K.331 composed uniquely in Theme and Variations form, with a culminating Ronda Alla Turca as the final movement.

In my confined creative space that was dominated by an imposing Steinway grand, gifted by my father, I learned the Piano concertos in D minor, K. 466, and C Major, K. 525.

From there it was on to learn and teach more of Mozart’s sonatas.

The composer has always presented a special challenge for the performer. One cannot over pedal, or under pedal his music. The Alberti, “broken chord” bass must not sound monotonous or grinding, but supply a warm underpinning for an operatically spun melody, especially in Mozart’s slow movements.

Certainly the impetus for playing Mozart in a molto cantabile style was aided by suggestions from Eugene Lehner and Lillian Freundlich.

It has also been awe-inspiring to hear the composer’s trios played with a harpsichord instead of piano, creating a timbre, that perhaps Mozart intended. I’ve included a link to performances of this genre.

In a word, I thank those who’ve helped me realize the spirit and soul of the Master’s music so that it’s realized in a style that is convincing and aesthetically pleasing.

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BIO (Eugene Lehner, Wiki)
Eugene Lehner (1906 – 13 September 1997) was a violist and music educator.

“Mr. Lehner, as he preferred to be addressed, was born in Hungary in 1906. Originally named Jenö Léner, he performed as a self-taught violinist from the time he was 7. When he was 13, the composer Bela Bartok heard him play, and arranged for him to pursue his studies formally. At the Royal Conservatory of Music in Budapest, he studied the violin with Jeno Hubay and composition with Zoltan Kodaly. In 1925, soon after his graduation from the conservatory at 19, he joined the Kolisch Quartet.

“Lehner was a violist with the Kolisch Quartet from 1926 until 1939, performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 39 years (the only player to be invited to join without an audition by Serge Koussevitzky), and continued teaching chamber music at the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University well into his retirement. Late in his life most coachings were given at his home in Newton. The modest upstairs room he coached in contained photographs covering every wall from all the quartets that he mentored – a real “wall of fame”. Lehner was widely regarded as one of the greatest living experts of the interpretation of chamber works by Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg, and Béla Bartók, having been involved in the premieres of several of such works during his time with the Kolisch Quartet. As a member of the quartet, Lehner gave the premieres of Berg’s Lyric Suite, Schoenberg’s Third and Fourth String Quartets, Bartok’s Fifth Quartet and Webern’s Second Quartet.

“When the Juilliard Quartet was formed, they spent a summer in intensive coachings with Lehner. He advocated playing string instruments with tempered intonation, in the spirit of Bach.

“Lehner studied violin with Jenö Hubay and composition with Zoltan Kodály.”

Related Links:

A Breathtaking Camp Finale: About Merrywood

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

Mozart: The 1788 trios Elaine Comparone, Peter Seidenberg, Robert Zubrycki & The Queen’s Chamber Trio

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-the-1788-trios/id257027599

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Appel Farm Music Camp and the Chicken Coops

Was I dreaming? Did I wake up in a chicken coop on a hot and humid July morning? The summer before I was a Merrywood camper, encapsulated in a forest of pines bordering Lenox, Massachusetts. A short journey to Tanglewood for a Sunday morning BSO rehearsal, was followed by a breakfast of sizzling waffles and maple syrup. It was a thoroughly New England experience.

Twelve months later, I was sweating bullets in south Jersey, not too far from Philly. A town called Elmer had a rusty sign pointing to a music camp down a bumpy road.

How did my mother manage to find this place owned by Albert and Claire Appel? Was it a real farm with goats, cows, horses, hens, etc. or a dignified place to make music?

Flashback to Age 6:

Mother loaded me on a train bound for Camp Northover, located in this same God forsaken state of New Joisey. It felt like a punishment for being bad, answering back, wolfing down a dozen Dugan’s muffins on the sly before dinner. Or all of the foregoing.

Joanna, my best friend, who’d coined me “shrimpy” because she enjoyed an extra two inches of height, was my traveling companion and bunk mate-to-be. Together, we boarded a New York Central passenger train feeling like orphans, clutching our pink metal lunch boxes, packed with Super Coolers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and two hostess cupcakes. It would be our last decent meal before treacherous Northover grub was spooned out in a musty recreation hall. I nearly gagged when something resembling vomit passed off as creamed pork rinds with mushrooms.

For three tormenting weeks, I muffled my nocturnal cries of loneliness in my pillow without a friend nearby to cushion my sorrow. Joanna was placed in another bunk, sobbing the night away, I was told. Then came an onslaught of termites that landed on my cot in a curious fall from the wood beams– followed by a full blown lice infestation that produced rows of kids, tortured with metal combs pulled through their knotted hair in front of our bunk. I was at the head of the line. More screaming, sadness, homesickness all bundled into one unique camp experience.

The total summer was well described in a particular field artillery song, verse 3, that we sang on hikes to nearby swamps where we stopped for picnic lunches.

From, “As the Caissons Go Rolling Along” by Major Edmund Grubs:

Was it high, was it low, Where the hell did that one go?
As those Caissons go rolling along!
Was it left, was it right, Now we won’t get home tonight
And those Caissons go rolling along!
Then it’s hi, hi, hee, In the field artillery
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
Where’er you go, You will always know
That those Caissons go rolling along!

Appel Farm, 8 years later.

While the chicken coop accommodations were a close match to living in Northover’s godawful bunks, there were redeeming features of the Farm experience. First off, as introduction, I hardly recall a big display of animals on the vast spread of sparsely treed acres. Perhaps one pig, a handful of goats, a small parade of ducks, and a few strutting roosters sauntered the property. The conspicuous chicks were incubated by the “coops,” where we resided.

Faculty from Temple University’s Music Department (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) lived on the grounds, a considerable distance from the chicks, and nurtured young chamber musicians along.

Since pianists were not overflowing, I felt predictably outside the mainstream. What else was new? We piano players had to fend for ourselves and scope out our own chamber music to study. Otherwise we were doomed to be loners.

Being creative, I found the score to Mozart’s G minor piano Quintet which I learned to performance standard, and foraged around for a few campers to fill in the missing string parts. Among the players, was Toby Appel, the camp Director’s son, who eventually became an esteemed concert violist with many performance credits and recordings.

The late pianist Natalie Hinderas, an Oberlin grad, strolled by one afternoon and performed the rip roaring Chopin “Revolutionary” Etude that opened my ears to a remarkable display of shimmering sonorities interspersed with clearly defined passage work. This extraordinary musician played in the camp’s one ultra modern space, custom designed by the Appels for concert appearances of this kind. The abstract, angular structure with a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence, was an architectural departure from the chicken coop quarters and other barn-like structures on the property.

My shining light of summer was dance instructor, Audrey Bookspan.
(Our musical study was enriched with allied arts activities)

A remarkable performer, once married to the late Micky Bookspan, principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, she nursed along campers enrolled in modern dance classes, imbuing them with the Eastern, Zen way of “being,” and a good dose of Jung’s Yin and Yang. Her movement was so impeccably fluid, that I could watch her rehearse alone in a second floor barn space for hours at a time. What an inspiration! I remember how Ravel’s string quartet in F Major wedded with Audrey’s mellifluous movements

The Bookspan name also carried an association to Martin Bookspan, the resonant radio voice of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who provided a more pleasant listening experience than Milton Cross’s squeaked out commentaries from the Metropolitan Opera each Saturday afternoon on WQXR F.M. (Texaco sponsored)

Not to forget, the many rumored love affairs that spiced up life at Appel Farm. I won’t go further, except to say, that an extremely thin, eccentric Arts and Crafts teacher who wore a goatee disappeared with an attractive faculty member, both having gone AWOL. The biggest mini-crisis of the summer, it was still no match for the day I got grounded in a chicken coop for hounding a concert violinist’s autograph during a field trip. The buses were backed up for over an hour.

The Memorable End of Camp

A concluding concert was scheduled as the culmination of our 6 weeks of music making, but an intruding epidemic of food poisoning zapped the event.

Laid up in the infirmary with the runs and high fever beside rows of cots with ailing camp mates, I fainted just as my parents arrived to pick me up.

It had to be one of my most unique summers with its stunning highs and lows, but nothing compared to “Camp Nowhere,” and “American Pie, Band Camp.”

Finally, here’s a riveting quote from the Appel Farm Alum Facebook Page that amply enriches my narrative.

“This is the group for those crazy people who made art in a fire-trap barn, made theater in a sinking building, lived in a chicken coop, and survived the vagaries of the fastest gossip chain known to man. By that, I mean those who attended Appel Farm. It takes a special kind of person to subject themselves to that, and only Farmers can truly understand it.”

By the way, if you are out there, Audrey, Warren, Gloria, and Marvin, please get in touch.

Related:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

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A Breathtaking Merrywood Music Camp Finale!

If I let my imagination run wild, I would frame this writing around Robin Hood.

The backdrop was the Merrywood Music Camp, nestled in the Berkshires in a dense forest where a friendly outlaw could easily rob from the rich in Lenox, and retreat into the pines, practically unnoticed.

Merrywood was a stone’s throw from Tanglewood, home of the well-established music festival. The camp owner, Ruth Hurwitz, who resided for most of the year in upscale West Hartford, Connecticut brought a contingent of Hartt School of Music students and teachers to her rustic summer sanctuary where she housed two dozen or so campers in a three-story abode with a charming attic space. The place resembled a college co-op like the one I’d remembered at Oberlin. May Cottage, my Frosh digs had the same look with an added roomy basement that gave refuge during tornado warnings.

Merrywood’s space accommodated rows of cots on the two highest floors and down below in the living room was a grand piano, a quaint fireplace, and a Bay window with a view of the magnificent wooded landscape. A stone’s throw from the property, James Stagliano, Principal French Hornist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra serenaded neighbors with his mid-morning horn calls, when otherwise in the ranks of the orchestra, rumor had it he took a swig of spirits from the brass instrument itself.

Campers were awakened promptly at 6:00 a.m. to a blasting Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 piped into rooms on insensitively loud speakers. Jarred out of their sleep, they were conditioned to revile otherwise heavenly music.

By a strange quirk of fate, I was selected to play the last movement of this very Brandenburg 5 (piano part–really meant for the harpsichord) at the final concert concluding camp. The Allegro in 2/4 meter, laden with triplets and tricky rests in between, was a challenge to count, and my first entrance of the subject, imitated by a violinist, flautist, and the whole ensemble, was a hefty undertaking. All I remember was fumbling when my motif returned one last time in advance of the culminating cadence. Before I knew it, the whole composition folded like a house of cards. The music came to a grinding halt as conductor, Neil, articulately whispered, “Back to the recapitulation.”

My heart was racing! In a frenzy, I wondered if I could acquire the presence of mind to count beats leading to my encore entrance?

Like a cyclone, a string of triplets flew by as pulsations quickened.

Suddenly I lost all consciousness of what we’d rehearsed!

Like a racing car driver, revving the engine for the last lap, I skirted into the ensemble, like merging into 3 lanes of traffic!–Meanwhile, the ensemble held its own catapulting into the final cadence!

We made it! And the ordeal was over! Thankfully it was in the past, until revisited at Merrywood’s campfire farewell.

After we gorged ourselves on barbecued franks, baked beans, and s’mores, staff presented an improvised skit, highlighting the summer’s events.

On the front burner was “Back to the Recapitulation,” repeated several times over, earning a ripple of applause amidst a good deal of chuckles. Right then and there I experienced a flush of embarrassment.

To say I felt like a social outcast, was an understatement!

After my ill-fated performance, I never returned to Merrywood, but nonetheless, i cherished memories of Stagliano’s horn calls; Sunday morning trips to BSO rehearsals with Charles Munch at the helm; pint-size, guest conductor, Pierre Monteux climbing to the podium to conduct the War of 1812 Overture; Isaac Stern playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with tears rolling down his cheeks; Lukas Foss, pianist, rendering a magnificent performance of Bach’s D minor concerto, and Eugene Lehner, principal violist, coaching the string quartet where I played second violin.

A tarnished photo

lehnerandmemerrywood

And who could forget the memorable field trip to nearby Stockbridge where Norman Rockwell gave campers a personal tour of his home. It was filled with magnificent paintings, some which graced the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

Finally, if any Merrywood music campers are out there, please rekindle memories of our Brandenburg summer.

Let’s come out of the woodwork and find each other.
***
IMG_NEW Brandenburg

Brandenburg p 29
RELATED:

Memories, Memories: The Merrywood Property in its current state
http://www.berkshirepropertyagents.com/for-sale/sold/ma/stockbridge/158/

Another Music Camp Journey:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/appel-farm-music-camp-and-the-chicken-coops/