Banquetto Musicale

March 30, 2008

b6b6c0a3eb07e755982b089e06f2360d.jpg You may have noticed that we live in a time of publicity. But many worthwhile events succeed while remaining independent of the massive media-saturation.

A good example of a musical phenomenon that goes along in the background of all the noise of billboards and screaming ads is An Die Musik. Now in its thirtieth season, the stable ensemble of oboe, violin, viola, cello, and piano, whose artist-members are gathered from the entire length of the continent, has toured the world round but is at home in its consistently sold-out programs at the Merkin Concert Hall. The afternoon of March 16, which incorporated a number of guest artists, culminated in a memorable performance of the Mendelssohn Octet. Outings of this great work are not exactly rare, but iterations on this level certainly are. The loyal audience seemed suitably transported by a remarkably skilled three-quarter hour of unusually elevated music-making. The pianist Constance Emmerich, a significant part of whose life work is embodied in An Die Musik, is a public benefactor for causing such irreplaceable experiences to take place. Their worth is inherent and resistant to mere hype.

A few nights later I was reminded not only of the heroic work that Charles Hamlin’s Classical Action continues to do year in and year out, but of the distinguished house concerts that they produce in New York residences. This one presented Denys Graves and Brian Zeger (who had also played with An Die Musik three days before and would play at Zankel Hall with Isabel Leonard two days later) to an appreciative audience of a hundred or so. Again, something of great value that continues on year in and year out, doing enormous good.

During the past few days, The Juilliard School’s constantly provident Dance Division has been presenting Masterworks of the 20th Century. The three featured dance works also involve significant music (played by Axiom, the new-music ensemble noticed earlier on this site): Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring (Aaron Copland); Anthony Tudor’s Dark Elegies (Gustav Mahler); and José Limón’s There is Time (Normon Dello Joio). While the 1977 Tudor piece uses the much earlier Kindertotenlieder, the Limón and, very famously, the Graham were based on specifically commissioned works. (Dello Joio’s Meditations on Ecclesiastes, for the Limón work, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and deserved it.) The dancing was wonderfully fresh and committed, and it was invigorating to hear the original instrumentation of the Copland, so much more appealing than the comparatively cloying concert version.

Then this past Friday there was the considerable surprise of a new light in the solo-violin firmament, young Augustin Hadelich with the Gingold Stradivarius in his Carnegie Hall debut. Presented by the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, whose latest laureate he is, his playing of a daunting program was above praise. Two extra-musical facets of the evening are worth mentioning: First, the place, as an acquaintance put it, was “filthy with fiddlers.” Every third or fourth person in the audience seemed to be a young violinist. (It’s hard to put a finger on what identifies them, but you often know them when you see them.) There were also some stars of their world in attendance, and all seemed united in their enthusiasm for this young man’s playing. A second peripheral point about the 23-year-old artist was sent to me by the publicist Bob Gallo:

On a visit to his family’s farm in Tuscany December 13, 1999 young violinist Augustin Hadelich was caught in a terrifying fire caused by an exploding container of tractor fuel. He was 15, with an impressive array of European awards and stellar reviews for his numerous performances to his credit. After sustaining third degree burns over the right side of his body, which damaged his bow arm and hand, his life hung in the balance. His doctors predicted he would never play the violin again.

His playing doesn’t need the sympathetic interest that this story contributes, but as an added evidence of his character and spirit, it certainly amplifies one’s admiration.

Such a variety of processes, often unheralded, are going on all the time to prepare the rich repast that is our musical life.

3 Responses to “Banquetto Musicale”

  1. […] We owe these concerts to the River to River Festival, Pace University, and Classical Action (which has been lauded here before). […]

  2. […] have already had something to say about the violinist Augustin Hedelich when he received a negligent review for a heroic Carnegie […]


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