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Mixed Company®

Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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August 26, 2005

Ad Hoc

A long and happy tradition here is to keep the studio door open for artists and ensembles who embody chamber music in its original and perhaps truest sense—who carve themselves out of a larger pool into groups of three, six, nine, or whatever the music at hand calls for. It keeps alive the familial bonhomie small music had before it entered the concert hall, when it was performed on command in homes (albeit aristocratic homes) or as the spirit moved. It’s one of my own favorite kinds of performance, sparking the chemistry festivals like Marlboro and Menlo are beloved for.

Concertante radiates that same chemistry, and its approach shines in the performances of the two works it brings this week—especially Johannes Brahms’s B-flat Major sextet, a work shot through with anguish outlived and serenity reclaimed. Brahms apparently composed it at a remote castle in the northern Teutoburger forest. Sure enough (nature lover that I am), its opening movement never fails to calm me into something like a mystical state. Concertante doesn’t over-complicate the direct simplicity of its leading melody yet remains responsive at every point to the deep wells of world-wisdom Brahms draws from throughout.

Let us know what you think of his work, or of Concertante's take on it, or of your own ad hoc music making...

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 1:18 PM | Comments (4)


August 19, 2005

Not quite camera shy

When Antares arrived at the studio for this recording, I thought, 'here's a fun, fairly new quartet.' They seemed laid-back, chatted with the engineers a bit, sipped some coffee and then one of them said—I don’t remember if this was the exact quote, but it's the idea—"Let's get down to business."

When the quartet sat down to play, their intensity and concentration were amazing. The musicians were keenly perceptive of one another's smallest gestures, an eyebrow raise or slight rubato over one note. It was as though they were the only four in the studio.

That turned out to be the actual case, not just figurative. Saint Paul Sunday had just gotten a new digital camera. While Antares was rehearsing I was going around the studio taking pictures and experimenting with different focuses, flashes and all the other gadgets on the camera. At one point, they had stopped at a dramatic pause and the camera flashed and clicked, completely ruining the moment. I apologized and I believe it was Rebecca who said, "Don't worry. I didn't notice that you were here taking pictures."

Eric Huebner and Rebecca Patterson listen for subtle performance cues.Pianist Eric Huebner practices his solo line. Violinist Vesselin Gellev signals an entrance in the music. Before recording, Senior Producer Vaughn Ormseth and Executive Producer Mary Lee discuss the rundown of the show with the quartet.

In that way, the contrasts of this group are stunning. They play with fierce concentration, but their repertoire is fresh, engaging and charismatic which makes me believe that they are also great observers of the world around them. What did you enjoy in Antares's performance?

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 12:04 PM


August 10, 2005

Royal Family

Our programs with the great Pepe Romero (you can hear the most recent one here) are true high points of my time with Saint Paul Sunday. Pepe’s not just an absolute master of the guitar and its illustrious Spanish tradition—he's also a delightful human being. There seems to be little separation among his personal and artistic and ancestral selves—they all feel grounded in the same source, and each adds its own magic to the spell cast by his playing.

Pepe is the first to acknowledge his debt to the tradition he’s devoted his life to realizing, particularly as it was embodied by his own father, Celedonio Romero. And at one point during his last session with us, he said, “You know, I have this family…”

We did know, of course, and this week’s program is how we got to meet three of them: another of Celedonio’s sons, Celin, and two of his grandsons, Lito and Celino—all of whom play the guitar masterfully.

Traditions are often referred to as “living,” but it was amazing to experience, close up, what that actually means as these four fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, and sons passed Celedonio’s “Zapateado” and “Noche en Malaga” back and forth among themselves in the close circle of a quartet.

Please let us know of any family music making of your own...

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 10:08 AM | Comments (16)


August 3, 2005

Musical snapshots

When our guest host Ara Guzelimian asked cellist Colin Carr and pianist Lee Luvisi about their first meeting, Colin laughed at the memory. Carr and Luvisi met at a chamber concert organized by the great violinist Oscar Shumsky. Carr recalled that he was a headstrong teenager brave enough (or foolish enough) at the time to tell the revered Shumsky where his performance ideas could be improved! . Since then, Carr and Luvisi’s performing careers have crisscrossed several times, and both agree their artistry and relationship have evolved since their first meeting.

The music in this program, though, is like a snapshot of the composers at a particular time in their life. We have an uncharacteristically joyful piece from Schumann and an early work from Brahms that is missing the hint of melancholy that we usually hear in his later work. All of this makes me think of my changing relationship to particular pieces of music. At some points, one particular song will resonate quite strongly and later the connection will disappear a bit, while I suddenly appreciate much more a song I've known (and not thought about) for a long time. Do you have a piece of music that has circulated in and out of your life, or is there one song that has remained a constant?

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 5:01 PM | Comments (2)