brahms with friends new and old

Last Thursday, at an unspeakably early hour, I headed to the Portland airport to fly to Laramie, Wyoming. I was headed there to reunite with my University of Maryland graduate string quartet colleagues ( John Fadial and Jeffrey Multer, violins and Beth Vanderborgh, cellist) to play Brahms’ G major String Sextet with them, UW viola faculty Jim Przygocki, and renowned cellist Lynn Harrell. It was a fantastic trip for many reasons, but chief among them were getting to see my old friends for the first time in 30 years (!) and to get to play with such a legendary artist as Lynn Harrell.

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A (mostly) very good year.

Personally and musically, it was on the whole a very good year. Almost an entirely very good one. But there is always the element of the bittersweet as one gets older, and one starts to get ever more particular about what may be defined as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. The mortality reflex starts to kick in at the age of 50. You don’t want to give too much importance to minor things when the time you have left might be less than the time you’ve already had. [Hm, that was way more dark than I was intending, but I’ll leave it because it’s true.]

People love lists (even when they say they don’t), so this will basically be what they call in the blog biz a ‘listicle’. It sounds like it should be a body part, but don’t fear – it’s just an amalgamation of ‘list’ and ‘article’. Enjoy! (or not, your choice.) And it’s in chronological order, sort of.

The (very) good list(icle).

*recorded for broadcast/streaming on OPB’s State of Wonder – coming January 2019

So, lots of different stuff happened in 2018, and it’s looking like 2019 might be just as interesting (in a good way) or better! I wish the same for you as well – thanks for making this blog a place to visit, and I hope to make it a little bit more populated with reading material in the coming year!

dénoument

With a luminous octave ‘C’, it was over. Not just the magnificent 50 minute long String Quintet of Franz Schubert, but my season with the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival. The music was of course vital to the experience, but not necessarily central to it. Because chamber music is, above all, about the musicians. How they interact both onstage, in the rehearsal period, and in those many informal moments shared over a simple meal, a glass of wine, and warm evenings on a porch.

I can’t think of a festival where I have felt quite as welcomed and ‘at home’ as I have here. It’s a family affair – husband and wife team Leo Eguchi and Sasha Callahan, Sasha’s mother Susan, and father John; and her sister Eve, and her husband Scott. They have all made this festival so very special, along with their friends, especially winemakers Jay Somers and Ronda Newell-Somers of J. Christopher Wines, who made their extraordinary barrel room available for two entire weekends.

What I love the most about chamber music is that making it well gets you inside of someone’s head – that you’ve never met before, or maybe knew but not very well – in a way that for non-musicians can take years to happen. There’s an intimacy there, and it’s no accident that one of my teachers, the late, great Michael Tree, said that a string quartet is a marriage with four partners. So, I feel extraordinarily lucky that I got to mind-meld with Leo, Sasha, Megumi, Greg, Kenji, Amelia, and Marilyn over these past three weeks. It made my already full and good life an even better place.

Thank you, all, my friends!

Note: click on a photo to see a larger slide show!