Music Enthusiasts Alert!

Concerts, here and there; past and present

May I begin by stating that I am not a Critic, but a musical (not merely music) music enthusiast. My personal history includes the 12 year study of the violin, residence for 18 years as a member of a talented family, in a home with 3 professional musicians and teachers of violin, orchestra, band, and piano. My father, a graduate of the Leipzig Conservatory played the viola in the Gewandhaus Orchestra as a young man in the 1920's under notable conductors, such as Wilhelm F├╝rtwangler, Artur Nikitsch, and Bruno Walter, and as principal viola in the Jacksonville Philharmonic and the early years of the Jacksonville Symphony. My sister has performed in Europe and Asia and served on the piano music faculties of two major conservatories. And my mother was a violinist performing throughout this city from the age of 16 as a soloist and as member of three different orchestras, the W.P.A Orchestra, the Jacksonville Philharmonic, and the Jacksonville Symphony.

I am old enough to have heard in recital in Jacksonville, Jascha Heifetz, Ruggiero Ricci, Albert Spalding, and Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dmitri Metropolis conducting the Detroit Symphony, Charles Dutoit, the Montreal Symphony, in Philadelphia, Wolfgang Sawallisch, the Philadelphia Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach for 3 full seasons, again, Philadelphia, Kurt Masur conducting the New York Philharmonic for a full season (his last), Riccardo Muti, the Philadelphia Orchestra with Luciano Pavarotti at Carnegie Hall, Maurizio Pollini performing the complete Books I and II of Bach's Preludes and Fugues, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Itzak Perlman, in three concerts of the Beethoven Violin and Piano Sonatas at Carnegie Hall, Mistislav Rostropovich at Carnegie Hall, Rudolph Serkin performing Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dietrich Fischer-Deskau in a Schubert Lieder concert, also at Carnegie Hall, Lang Lang's debut with the New York Philharmonic, Christian Tetzlaff, violinist, playing the iridescent Alban Berg Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and so many "greatest of the great" musicians of the 20th and 21st Century, too numerous to list.

So, those biographical facts are part of my musical environment, and I hope, entitle me to my enthusiasms and the expression, thereof.

As someone who has lived for 10 years in New York City, attended the best performances by many of the greatest artists of our time, I have come to have certain expectations from performers, along with a critical ear for those who don't practice enough, aren't exceptionally insightful, interpretively, having a "bad" night in an otherwise illustrious career, and those whose performances don't add up to their recordings. But, most of all, I am keen about the tendency of contemporary performers to "rush" through music caused by misunderstandings of historical data about tempo, dynamics, etc. The zest for supposedly "authentic" performances is a denial of what the ear and heart should tell the musician. And, so many times, metronomic readings were highly inaccurate, especially in Beethoven's time. Beethoven, in particular, has been ill-served by this rethinking of tempo markings. Even so, if performers want to do unto Beethoven this deed, they had better play it cleanly, clearly, and with feeling, because Beethoven was quite adamant about the expression of his music. Frankly, I haven't heard anyone, even the most acclaimed performers who have taken this tact of "speediness," live up to Beethoven's expectations in this latter regard. After all, we aren't trying to run after and catch the last train leaving from the station!

This post is meant to be a celebration of Chamber Music in Jacksonville, which is abundant, varied, frequent, mostly free and appearing in many different venues: The Civic Auditorium, The Cummer Museum (in the past 60 seasons; what the future promises is more problematic), The Friday Musicale, University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, the Ponte Vedra Beach Concert Hall, various churches: the St. Mark's Lutheran Church,  St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Riverside Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's-by-the-Sea, The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, All Saint's Episcopal Church, and others, which I may have overlooked. There are also concerts at the two universities, although not always free.

For instance, last week, beginning on Monday night, some of the Faculty of Prelude Chamber Music Inc., an entity established by three members of the Jacksonville Symphony (Jeanne Majors, violinist, Chris Chappell, violinist, and Vernon Humbert, cellist) 12 years ago, performed at Fleet Landing a varied program, billed as a "String Quartet Sampler" which included complete compositions by Mozart and Beethoven, as well as excerpts from Borodin, Haydn, and Mendelssohn, ending with lighter fare and on a lighthearted note, underscoring the joy these musicians derive from playing Chamber Music in their not-so-spare time. This faculty which is only part of a much larger one teaches at the annual two week Prelude Chamber Music Camp which is designed for all ages of participation. They also bring internationally known chamber groups, such as the Enso String Quartet, the St.Lawrence String Quartet, and, in the coming year, the Dover Quartet for concerts and Master classes.

(See www.preludechambermusic.org for more information. They are a  IRS deductible 501 ( c) ( 3 )organization which offers scholarships to deserving students of chamber music.)

Then, the newly-resident Florida Chamber Music Project, also made up of
Symphony Members performed on Sunday afternoon a program which included a world premiere of a composition by Piotr Szewczyk, also a violinist in the Jacksonville Symphony, which was commissioned  by the Project. This was another outstanding work we have come to expect from Szewczyk, known for his virtuoso performances of commissions for short, solo violin pieces from composers around the world, as well as his own works, which have been performed by him at Carnegie Hall, by the Symphony and by other solo musicians and chamber groups.

Two Beethoven Quartets, an early work, Op. 18 #4, and a middle period work, Op. 74, "The Harp" followed. The group of five  women (they alternate in various pieces requiring additional personnel), violist and artistic director, Susan Pardue, Anna Genest, violinist, Annie Morris, violinist, Laurie Casseday, cellist, and Patrice Evans, violinist, obviously enjoy playing together, as their sound was well-blended and rhythmically coordinated.

(For more information, contact www.FLChamberMusic.org)

As I earlier posted (November 13) that same Sunday, I attended an extraordinary concert by the San Marco Chamber Music Society at St. Mark's Lutheran Church. This group has been performing in that venue for several years.

(They are also an IRS deductible 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) organization, and can be contacted at www.sanmarcochambermusic.org)

Music is alive and well in Jacksonville ( "well".......only if we attend and contribute to what are usually free concerts). Generally speaking,  concerts at universities and churches are being "subsidized" by the university and the Jacksonville Symphony. Concertgoers have an obligation to not only attend, but contribute to their continuance, especially, the chamber music groups, so that we can develop Jacksonville into a more enlightened, culturally sophisticated city.