Chamber music at its best
One of the coolest things about being a classical music lover 'round these parts is our proximity to some of the country's best summer festivals. There's something for everyone — choral music, early music, piano, opera (if you extend your reach to Lake George and Glimmerglass), and, of course, Tanglewood. But for me, nothing better fits the beauty and relaxed pace of a New England summer than chamber music. And nowhere in the world can you find better summer chamber music than at a rustic college campus in southern Vermont. Yep, Marlboro. The 2012 Marlboro Music Festival starts with a pair of concerts this weekend; check out the programs here. And Friday afternoon during the 2:00 hour, WFCR will start a weekly series of highlights from the 2011 Festival.
So why do I keep gushing about Marlboro? After all, lots of chamber festivals sport spectacular musical talent and offer stunning performances. Most follow one of two basic paradigms. They either present established chamber ensembles (trios, quartets, etc.), or a musician acting as artistic director gathers his/her friends to come by to put on concerts, typically after a week's rehearsal.
Marlboro is different. There, after a demanding audition process, talented musicians of varied ages and backgrounds gather together as equals and rehearse as long as they need. Most works get at least several weeks of rehearsal; some even get put down after one summer and picked up again the next. For a busy working musician, that's an enormous investment of time. But for both musicians and listeners — and here's the whole point — the artistic return on this investment is incalculable. The works only appear in concert when they're good and ready — if ever. Indeed, only about a quarter of the pieces worked on at Marlboro get make it onto one of the Saturday night or Sunday afternoon concerts.
At Marlboro, the performers in a particular work may range in age from eighteen to eighty. Come to think of it, I've seen even younger and older than that on the same stage together. They may hail from Vienna, Seoul or Cincinnati. They may be classical celebrities or a total newbies. But, on the stage of Persons Auditorium, they form a living, breathing musical organism, one evolved after only weeks to delve as deeply into the great music on their stands as you'll ever hear. Want to hear what I mean? Tune in for Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio, Marlboro-style, a little past 2:00 Friday afternoon on WFCR. And more to come in the following weeks.
Photo: Cellist Peter Wiley (Guarneri Quartet, Beaux Arts Trio) and colleagues in live concert action.