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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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November 11, 2005

Still Waters

The very first recording session I ever attended here (cryptically known in our program files as “SPSM #292”) presented a brilliant young violinist from Berlin playing music of Bach, Beethoven, Schönberg, and Hartmann.

I’d started listening to Saint Paul Sunday Morning as a college student some years earlier until that day, when suddenly I found myself at its nerve center—a control room banked with glimmering diodes and potentiometers, and a spacious wood-walled studio with a Steinway D gleaming behind groves of precisely arranged mike stands. For such a down-to-earth program it seemed to marshal a formidable degree of expertise.

So I’ve always been grateful that the guest from Berlin was Thomas Zehetmair. Without any flash, he cut through all the unfamiliar stimuli like a laser beam. In some deep sense he still embodies for me much of what Saint Paul Sunday is about—which may sound a little odd because that partly means conversation, and Thomas is hardly a talker. He’s more like the unassuming former Olympic speed skater I know who used to practice without socks to get the sheerest possible feel for the ice beneath the blades...

It’s all there—blazing intensity, with no loss of elegance or lightness; individuality, with great faithfulness to the composer, even when to our modern ears that fidelity can sound at times almost bashful. This week Thomas returns to the studio with two equally attuned companions, violist Ruth Killius and cellist Rosie Biss, for rare string trio music of Mozart, Schubert, and Gideon Klein. In my time with Saint Paul Sunday (last week we logged “SPS #584”), this trio’s performance of the Adagio from Mozart’s E-flat Divertimento is, and will always be, an unqualified peak experience.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at November 11, 2005 10:50 AM



I agree with Mr. Ormseth, and indeed recall the most enjoyable experience playing with him on that SPSM 292, as well as several other occasions. He is truly an exceptional and most interesting, dedicated musician. I am most pleased you have invited him for this return engagement which I am now listening to via streaming audio on the web at KUAT, Arizona, since there is lamentably no longer a station in the Bay Area that carries SPSM.

By Dave Gross at November 13, 2005 11:29 AM


When I hear this trio play Mozart as they did early this morning I know civilazation is not all lost.

By Jessica C at November 13, 2005 12:57 PM


This week's program proves (yet again) why SPS is the best musical program in any medium. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that the program were 90 minutes--clearly the minimum length this music deserves.

And what a fine fiddle player Thomas Zehetmair is. I'm now a big fan.

The piece by Gideon Klein was almost unbearably moving. To know that a man produced such beauty in spite of such horrific and dire circumstances should serve as guidance to us all in our daily travails.

One final thought: any chance of bringing in Sharon Isbin? How about Renee Flemming or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson? Each of their art forms is under-represented on SPS.

John Niesyn

By John Niesyn at November 13, 2005 10:14 PM


Renée Fleming show is online:


By Preston Wright at November 14, 2005 7:22 PM


Hi Dave: Wonderful to hear from you! And thanks for writing and listening. We've really enjoyed our programs with you and hope you're back in the studio one of these days.

By Vaughn Ormseth at November 16, 2005 10:56 AM


Jessica and John,
Thanks to you both for your responses. Thomas Z and his companions are truly wondrous musicians, and it's good to know that got out over the airwaves. The Gideon Klein work is extraordinary and was brought to this program by violist Ruth Killius, who serves (among many other things) as the ensemble's music researcher. John, your comment about the work is especially apt in light of Jessica's...

Regarding Renée Fleming and Sharon Isbin: we've had wonderful shows with both of them. It's definitely time to have them back.

By Vaughn Ormseth at November 16, 2005 11:01 AM


John, I meant to also write that I'm a big Lorraine Hunt Lieberson fan too. Lately I've been dipping into her JSB Cantata recordings.

By Vaughn Ormseth at November 17, 2005 5:28 PM