A conversation with Yonah Zur
This summer I will occasionally post conversations with the artists who were scheduled to come to Newburyport this summer.
Some of you have been wondering what we are going to do this summer with COVID-19 followed by the foundation-rocking and (hopefully) transformative events of the last few weeks. We stand in solidarity with those raising their voices in the fight against racism and in support of justice and equality. We aren’t cancelling NCMF summer 2020 but instead of our usual events we’ll have a kind of summer version of Christmas caroling.
Recently I’ve noticed the call of a Very Loud Bird I don’t recall hearing outside my window in the morning. It is entirely likely it’s been there all along, I just never had the space to listen pre-lockdown. Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?
If Bach is God, Beethoven is Man. Where Bach speaks of eternal truths and the mysteries of the universe. Beethoven defines the essence of what it is to be human. I’ll show you in 40 seconds of music.In 2018 we played Beethoven’s string quartet, Opus 130. The fifth movement, titled “Cavatina” by the composer (a cavatina is a type of song) begins and ends with a slow melody that sandwiches six extraordinary measures. Over those measures he writes “beklemmt.”
While we all sit at home in our pajamas struggling to recall what day of the week it is, let’s look back at an extraordinary solo piano recital at St. Paul’s in 2016 when friend of the festival, Amy Yang, brought the house down with “Pictures at an Exhibition.” I not-so-secretly wish I were a pianist; imagine having what amounts to an entire orchestra at your fingertips. OK, real conductors actually do have an orchestra at their fingertips but that’s different. Take it from me: I actually tried conducting once and my debut turned out to be my retirement concert (which is just as well).
As we all hunker down indoors, “socially distanced” and grimly tracking the progress of COVID-19 across our communities, I thought some kind of distraction might be welcome. In particular, I’ve been thinking about revisiting favorite works from the last nineteen (!) seasons of NCMF. Of course, any such list of favorites will be highly subjective. One friend recently provided me with his personal ranking system:
March is coming, spring is not far behind, and that means piano recital. I’m pleased to report that Michael Brown will be returning for a concert (Saturday, March 28) and, the next day, a demonstration on musical interpretation (Sunday morning, March 29).
Playing baroque music is a kind of going back to the basic ingredients of our art form. The groundwork for rampant chromaticism and atonality, tone poems, symphonies of a thousand, even epic operatic cycles, was laid down well over three hundred years ago. The Baroque era is when classical music coalesced into the art form we recognize today. And the music of the baroque is as sophisticated and profound as anything that followed.
With Jay Reise’s retirement concert at the University of Pennsylvania coming up in a few days, I thought this would be a good time to look back at one of the most extraordinary pieces I have ever commissioned. Jay was Newburyport Chamber Music Festival’s composer-in-residence in 2015. Based on a Japanese folk tale with Rip van Winkle overtones, “The Gift to Urashima Tarō” was the result of a collaboration between NCMF and EXIT Dance.
Just think what was going in the Roaring '20s in art, literature, science, politics, society. The rule book had been thrown out the window following the war to end all wars. Art Deco and Surrealism swept the Continent as the automobile and radio transformed American society. Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic making the world smaller as astronomer Edwin Hubble turned his telescope to the night sky, discovering other galaxies and changing our perception of the cosmos.
In advance of this summer’s festival, Artistic Director David Yang offers some of his program notes on the repertoire: Robert Bradshaw Commission
After another successful Book Salon on Tuesday, June 18th focusing on Shostakovich and the book "The Noise of Time" (by Julian Barnes), David Yang offered the program note for Shostakovich’s 6th String Quartet featured on the festival this summer.
An Introduction to Summer Season #18 (August 2019) - Part I (Part II will contain links to all the pieces.
David Yang shares some of Michael Brown's favorite performances by other artists of the works on Michael's March 30th NCMF concert.
October update from one our 2018 artists and preview of Winter Baroque 2018