A conversation with Solenne Païdassi
I’m still coming down from the summer– Schoenberg, Shostakovich, “The Jury,” everything and everyone who turned up
Thanks to an older kid in my orchestra back in 1982, I attended a chamber music camp in Vermont. It was there that I played my first string quartet (Haydn’s Op. 64, No. 5). I’d had no idea a guy could have so much fun. Decades later, sitting down to make music holds the same visceral thrill it did for me back then.
This summer we’ll push the limits in our ongoing exploration into the range and potential of the string quartet. Haydn’s convivial Opus 20, No. 3 (1772) is part of the set that established the string quartet as an independent genre. Shostakovich’s sparse 13th quartet (1969) swings to the other emotional extreme and is a paean to isolation from a man tormented relentlessly by the Soviets. Webern’s lush fin de siècle “Langsamer satz” (1905) features romantic music at its zenith just before the tonal structures that undergirded it began to collapse.
Indeed, three years later (1908), halfway through his Second Quartet, Schoenberg pushed tonality over the cliff, while also challenging the definition of what a string quartet is by adding a soprano (!?). Then, this summer’s commissioned piece, “The Jury” (2023), by Pulitzer-nominated composer Jon Deak, erodes the line between music and theater. Based on a poem by Rhina P. Espaillat, the soprano stalks behind the musicians during the performance while the string players inhabit characters from the text. (Yes, I’m ridiculously excited about performing this.) Finally, the festival spotlights two solo violin works by Fritz Kreisler (Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice from 1911) and Eugene Ysaye (Sonata No. 3 in D Minor “Ballade” written in 1923). Over the next few months I’ll be sending out sneak peeks into the program notes.
We’ll have two hausmusiks this summer, our popular reading parties where I show up with a stack of quartets and the audience chooses the composer; a panel discussion where you can get to know the artists and in which we’ll play selections from the summer’s program; a family-friendly free concert, the annual Nachtmusik in Brown Chapel played in the dark; two intimate performances in small spaces, and a grand finale in St. Paul’s on High Street that includes the world premiere.
After a three-year hiatus, we’ll kick off the festival with the return of the much-loved collaboration between NCMF, Teddy Speck, and Theater in the Open for an afternoon of storytelling, music, and puppetry. If you like Peter and the Wolf, you’ll find these two concerts irresistible. They are also free, so bring your kids or come on your own.
As it has been since it was founded in 2001, the heart of the festival are the open rehearsals where the audience can witness the process by which a piece of music is brought to life. The most unique aspect of NCMF is this close access to the musicians: you’ll see us rehearsing and performing all around town in libraries, coffee shops, churches, bookstores, and private homes.
For the first time, we are pricing tickets for the final concert in St. Paul’s as pay-what-you-can. While the financial challenge to put on a concert is daunting and we rely upon that ticket income, it is painful to think that only people who can afford expensive tickets should have the opportunity to listen to great music. Students, young people starting out in their professions, people on a fixed income, or even those just going through a tight spot, can all attend the final concert this year without having to break the bank.
Artists for 2023 are violinists Solenne Païdassi (First Prize winner of the 2010 Long-Thibaud Competition and concertmaster of the National Orchestra of Belgium) and Danbi Um (Menuhin International Violin Competition Silver Medalist and artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center) with returning musicians Clancy Newman (cello) and Elaine Daiber (this summer’s soprano). The Composer-in-Residence is Jon Deak and our Poet-in-Residence is Newburyport’s very own Rhina P. Espaillat. I can’t imagine a finer group of artists and human beings.
I’ll send out a post when ticketing goes live on June 10th. The smaller concerts and hausmusiks sell out fast so sign up quickly. Below is a quick reference guide to the schedule. This will be available as a downloadable pdf on the website.
See you in August!
David Yang, Artistic Director