Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Big Weekend Ahead

It's been several weeks since I've posted anything here, largely because we've been so busy wrapping up plans for next season and preparing the new season brochure. I'm happy to be making Spivey Hall's 2007/08 season announcement this Friday, April 20th, at 7:15 PM on stage at Spivey Hall, just prior to the Atlanta debut of the world-renowned Australian Chamber Orchestra under the direction of violinist Richard Tognetti, with guest artist and solo cellist Pieter Wispelwey.

The brochure with all the details of Spivey Hall's Seventeenth Season will be mailed to subscribers, single-ticket buyers and Friends of Spivey Hall, and should be arriving in mailboxes in the next few weeks. Patrons who attend Friday night's 7:15 PM announcement event (which is free) and stay to hear the Australian Chamber Orchestra's performance (good seats are still available) will receive the first copies of the brochure, hot off the presses.

Saturday night April 21st brings guitarists John Williams and John Etheridge together to perform a fascinating program of duets as well as solo numbers, representing a wealth of different musical traditions and styles. Both are phenomenal artists, among the most highly respected in their fields. John Williams is renowned worldwide as a classical guitarist; John Etheridge has led the jazz and contemporary guitar world for 30 years. Due to exceptionally high demand for tickets, we added seats in the orchestra pit (closest to the stage) -- these sold out quickly. There are still some seats available elsewhere in the hall, and with Spivey Hall's excellent acoustics, every seat allows listeners to hear extremely well, see without obstruction, and feel connected to what's happening on stage.

So if you want to experience the music of these two guitar megastars, call the Box Office at (678) 466-4200. There's never a service charge or fee to order tickets by phone or at the box office window. You can also purchase tickets at; a per-ticket service fee (which goes to the online ticket service provider, not to Spivey Hall) applies for online sales.

Spivey Hall patrons who were fortunate to attend last Saturday's sold-out recital by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt witnessed an extraordinarily memorable performance, even by Spivey Hall standards. She performed Bach's "Goldberg" Variations. The audience was utterly enthralled, immensely attentive, and deeply involved in that wonderful journey of hearing the opening theme, the vastly imaginative and inventive variations so brilliantly realized, the final quodlibet, and the magical return of the theme -- about 75 minutes of interrupted music. In response to tumultuous applause, the audience was further rewarded with a luminous performance of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." It was a superbly rewarding recital, one of those rare occasions when artist and audience truly come together as one, inspired by this profoundly beautiful music.

After the recital, the entire audience was treated to a reception hosted by Canadian Consulate General and The Friends of Spivey Hall, complete with Canadian ice wine (heavenly liquid! if you haven't tried it, do yourself a favor and try some). Canadian Consul General Brian Oaks spoke proudly of Ms. Hewitt's performance -- she is one of Canada's most distinguished living musicians, and is doing a round-the-world tour this coming season, peforming Bach's complete Well-Tempered Clavier in some 25 countries The reception was a wonderful way to cap off this "peak experience" of hearing such a beautiful performance. I sincerely appreciate the continuing collaboration, generosity and friendship of Brian Oak and his consular colleagues Christine Pappas and Judith Costello in welcoming Canadian artists to Spivey Hall.

Spivey Hall's 2007 Spring Bach Festival concludes this Sunday with another outstanding virtuoso -- German violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who makes his Atlanta debut performing solo sonatas and partitas of Bach. Mr. Tetzlaff has had special passion for these pieces throughout his career, and has made multiple recordings of them all. On April 22nd he'll perform Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3, as well as Partitas Nos. 2 and 3. Here's what he has written about these works:

It can be a rewarding and very touching experience to hear the complete cycle of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in concert – the formal and emotional development of this journey give fuller meaning to the individual pieces.

Beginning with the lowest string of the violin (G) and the Sonata No. 1 in G minor, continuing through works in B minor, A minor, D minor, and C major, and ending with the abundant use of the highest string on the violin (E) and the sparkling, bright Partita No. 3 in E major, Bach describes a transformation from darkness to light.

The culmination of this drama is the juxtaposition of the Second Partita’s desperate D-minor Ciaccona and the Third Sonata’s glorious Fuga in C major. Between these two gigantic movements, the Adagio, which opens the Sonata No. 3, is a kind of musical no-man’s land – written in the same meter and slow tempo as the Ciaccona and starting in the same register as its last measures. Indeed, Bach has already modulated back to D minor by the fifth bar! The first full cadence is in G minor; C major almost never appears in this movement, even though it should be the predominant tonality. It seems that the influence of the Ciaccona is still too strong, and almost up until the end of the Adagio, keeps drawing the music back to the world of the minor keys of the preceding four pieces. Only at the very end does a musical figure, like an incantation, allow the Fuga to begin; and never before has the violin been given such jubilant expression.

I cannot expect anyone to listen to the whole cycle in one sitting – nor do I think that is advisable. But if I may, I would like to make this suggestion: to capture the essence of the journey, listen to the D-minor Partita [No. 2] and the C-major Sonata [No. 3] without interruption. Or, if time doesn’t allow, the D-minor Ciaccona and the C-major Sonata.

Florida State University Professor of Violin and Atlanta Baroque Orchestra concertmaster Karen Clarke gives the pre-concert talk at 2:00 pm (free to ticketholders) that day, and her insights as a violinist are sure to enhance the listening experience of those who hear Mr. Tetzlaff on Sunday afternoon. Saturday morning at 11:00 am, Ms. Clarke also gives a violin master class, featuring accomplished young violinists honing their interpretations of works of several composers including Bach.

I find that many people are familiar the term "master class" but don't alway know what it means. So much of what we appreciate most in the Western art music tradition isn't written down. Of course the music is printed, but what gives the notes real significance as MUSIC is the interpretation of the notes and the understanding of style that is passed down through each generation from teacher to student.

Thus a master class is not a concert, but essentially a session between teacher and student that involves both instruction and performance, and is witnessed by other people. The people attending lend an important third dimension of energy to the exchange between teacher and student. (Auditors do not speak in the master class, however, unless invited to do so by the master teacher.) The best master class teachers elucidate musical meaning not only to the student, but also to the audience. One of the great joys of attending a successful master class is hearing ideas articulated by the teacher that are then synthesized in the playing of the student. It can be like watching a flower blossom in accelerated time-lapse photography -- the results can be truly marvelous.

You don't need to be a violinist to attend a violin master class (though of course you could be), or a pianist to attend a piano master class (though many people who attend piano master classes are pianists). Instead, all you need is to be interested in the interpretation and performance of music. By attending, you can learn a great deal about the particular instrument and its repertoire in fascinating ways.

The fee to attend as an auditor is just $5. Interested music-lovers can show up for the April 21st 11 AM master class (it will last about 2 hours), pay at the door, and sit on the Spivey Hall stage with Karen Clarke and her students to observe the amazing process of how they bring the spirit of music alive.

Anyone who wishes to commune with the spirit of Bach has a great opportunity in store this Sunday, April 22. Christian Tetzlaff's recital promises to be a magnificent culmination of the 2007 Spivey Hall Bach Festival.