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).
Performing Caroline Shaw‘s Limestone and Felt with cellist Marilyn DeOliveira.
Playing music for string quartet and marimba with percussionist Colin Currie.
*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!
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!
Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi.
Viola and wine, not too shabby!
Lovely landscape outside of the J. Christopher tasting room.
The barrel room at J. Christopher Wines.
Megumi Stohs Lewis and Sasha Callahan rehearsing Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins. Photo: Stephanie Noble
Performing Kenji Bunch’s “String Circle”.
Amelia Lukas performing Joan Tower’s “White Water”.
Charles, Greg and Kenji before a concert at J. Christopher Wines.
String Circle plus Eve.
Saying farewell to J. Christopher for this year.
One of our week three venues.
Sasha and Marilyn at Sokol Blosser.
Warming up for Schubert’s great Cello Quinetet at Sokol Blosser.
Sasha and Leo playing Philip Glass at Sokol Blosser.
Wine and chamber music share center stage!
Amelia, Marilyn and Leo at the wrap party.
Meeka and Jesse at the wrap party.
Bromance is in the air! Greg, Charles, Josh, and Leo at the wrap aprty.
Susan and Amelia share a secret at the wrap party.
Toasting Susan for her awesome hosting these past three weeks!
Eve and Sasha, sisters extraordinaire!
Music and wine pairings.
It’s a family affair at this festival!
Our other fantastic week three venue, Elk Cove Vineyards.
This weekend the festival moves from the warm embrace of the J. Christopher Wines barrel room to two new locales. On Saturday, it’s Sokol Blosser, and on Sunday, Elk Cove Vineyards. The program is a nice mix – some newer music, music by a female composer, and a big, old favorite by a dead white guy.
Small-scale music by Philip Glass (who, like festival resident composer Joan Tower, is celebrating his 80th birthday year) opens the concert. His Four Duets for Violin and Cello (extracted from his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello), written in 2010, will be performed by festival co-directors Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi.
Poem for string quartet by the British-American composer and violist Rebecca Clarke (active in the first quarter of the 20th century) follows. Most famous for her wonderful Viola Sonata, her compositional career was limited by her gender, and she eventually stopped composition entirely after marrying. What might have been, one wonders, if she had lived in a time where being female and being a composer weren’t mutually exclusive? Callahan and Eguchi are joined by Megumi Stohs Lewis and myself.
Finally, the great String Quintet in C-major by Schubert closes the program. Oregon Symphony Assistant principal cellist (and member of the Mousai REMIX and Pyxis Quartet) Marilyn De Oliveira joins the quartet for this sublime ending to the festival’s third season. Is Schubert’s Quintet perhaps the greatest and most perfect piece ever written for chamber ensemble? Many think so. Come decide for yourself!