A conversation with Sébastien van Kuijk
David chats with Sébastien van Kuijk, a Festival Artist in August 2019 whose 2020 visit here was foiled by COVID-19
You’re going to have to indulge me in this week’s post just a bit. You see, when we started the festival in 2001 I hoped Newburyport would become a kind of second home for my family and me. Now, as my daughters have grown older they’ve been coming up alone even as they pursue their own nascent musical ambitions. Eliana is now a sophomore at Juilliard (cello) and Alessandra (viola) studies at Juilliard Pre-college on weekends, commuting up from Philadelphia. Of course, we are all now on lockdown at home in Philly.
Eliana, of course, has played on festival concerts and both my girls have participated in the chamber music readings we call “Hausmusiks.” Life does not get any better than making music with your kids.
Eliana was planning to come up to Newburyport with her piano trio from Juilliard for a concert at St. Paul’s on April 18th but obviously that didn’t happen. Here they are playing the first movement of Brahms’ C Major Piano Trio, Opus 87 (there were also slated to play a Beethoven trio). You can’t fake chemistry like this.
Eliana wrote: “Beethoven's idiosyncratic trio in Eb Major allows the composer's classic genius to shine through with its sudden bursts of oppositional emotions, abrupt dynamic changes, and poignant lyrical lines. Brahms' second trio is a joyous, youthful-sounding work, despite being written during the later years of his life. Innocent in a fashion rather atypical of the composer, it is energizing and delightful to perform.”
A piano trio is a different beast from a string quartet. Quartets have the advantage of featuring four related instruments that blend naturally, covering the full range from low, middle, to high (cello, viola, and violin). A piano trio, on the other hand, consists of two string instruments (violin and cello) far apart in range pitted against a nine-foot piano. A piano trio is often described as three soloists playing together whereas a string quartet is more like siblings working together.
The concert at St. Paul’s was to be an early test of the church’s newly acquired Steinway. We’ve had a long collaboration with St. Paul’s since the earliest days of the festival and, while we love playing all around town, St. Paul’s will always feel like home.
A shout-out to Bronson de Stadler, Senior Vestry Warden at St. Paul’s, who has been a steadfast supporter. The tireless energy and enthusiasm of people like Bronson is what really gets things done in the world.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that both Alessandra and Eliana’s summer music schools will be cancelled. The silver lining is that, assuming NCMF is still on in August (and I’m monitoring the situation closely), I might have both my girls with me once more this summer.
David Yang, Artistic Director