ITHACA, NY — As everyone knows, the 2020–21 live performance season has been greater than difficult — and largely nonexistent — for musical organizations worldwide. Right here in Ithaca, our native and vastly admired Cayuga Chamber Orchestra determined to fulfill the foremost points surrounding the efficiency of reside live shows in public locations head-on whereas abiding by governmental restrictions and the protection issues of everybody concerned. Dwell live shows could be offered if doable, and audiences additionally had the choice of simultaneous on-line streaming. The season brochure, printed in October 2020, introduced a lowered variety of live shows, of shorter period and priced accordingly. The musicians themselves acknowledged that they actually wished to carry out reside and, on the very least, to offer this strategy a attempt.
With two scheduled live shows remaining, right here is the story of the orchestra’s forty fourth season and the methods through which this courageous enterprise labored out. Final Sunday afternoon, April 25, the third programmed live performance within the Chamber Music Collection referred to as “French Masters” occurred within the First Presbyterian Church (for the reason that very starting of the season, live shows had been moved to this venue, probably the most spacious obtainable regionally). As printed within the brochure, it featured two first-chair members of the orchestra joined by pianists Miri Yampolsky and Xak Bjerken, performing the Violin Sonata No. 1 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) and the Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). As I used to be attending reside for the primary time, I could possibly be a part of an uplifting and really fantastic expertise.
The orchestra’s main violinist, Christina Bouey, carried out each works and was joined within the Ravel by principal cellist Rosemary Elliott. Bouey joined the orchestra as concertmaster in 2015, entering into the very giant sneakers of Linda Case, who retired after greater than 30 years and who, by the way, originated the Sunday afternoon Chamber Music Collection. For her début, she wowed the viewers with an distinctive efficiency of the Beethoven violin concerto. Elliott, on the college on the Eastman Faculty of Music in Rochester, is a core member of the CCO’s chamber music ensemble and serves on the Inventive Advisory Committee. She has additionally carried out as a soloist.
Each well-known regionally, Yampolsky and Bjerken are founding co-directors of the worldwide music pageant Mayfest, held yearly at and round Cornell since its inaugural yr in 2007. Due to the pandemic, this standard occasion has been on maintain for the final two seasons. Each pianists are on the college at Cornell: Yampolsky as a senior lecturer in music in command of the chamber music program, and Bjerken has been professor of piano since 2012. Each have carried out with the CCO up to now.
About three weeks in the past I spoke with CCO’s music director Cornelia Laemmli Orth, who at the moment was in her native Switzerland. She was particularly keen to speak concerning the upcoming live performance, the artists and the featured works. Not among the many most acquainted chamber music items, they complement and distinction one another in attention-grabbing methods. The Saint-Saëns sonata received off to a fairly rocky begin, Orth advised me, because the soloist chosen by the composer — the then-famous Belgian violinist Martin Pierre Marsick (who, by the way in which, performed a Stradivarius) — discovered it “bewildering.” Many violinists since have declared it unplayable. It premiered in 1885, with Saint-Saëns on the keyboard. A virtuoso pianist, often called the “French Beethoven,” he had an enormous profession, performing all of the Mozart concertos in London in a collection of live shows. Orth added that we had been very lucky to have two such excellent musicians obtainable to play this formidable work. This proved to be true. Bouey got here out with fairly a rating, an accordion sheaf of pages on two music stands, assuring us that it regarded longer than it was. She made it sound simple, and Yamplowsky, a pianist with extraordinary approach and powerful musicality, matched her rendition with equal ease. In 4 actions, the sonata has a world of various sounds, heat but agitated within the first motion, a delicate and peaceable adagio second motion, and a 3rd motion that opens dance-like in three-quarter time. Though clearly difficult , it wasn’t till the fourth motion that one understood the designation “unplayable.” Marked allegro molto, it seemed like “The Flight of the Bumblebee” as a result of the violin pretty buzzes at the beginning, after which the piano will get all these notes and the music sparkles. It was an incredible achievement.
The Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello by Ravel, carried out by Bouey, Elliott and Bjerken, is “top-of-the-line piano trios ever written,” in line with Orth. Composed in 1914, Ravel hurried to complete it simply in time to enlist for the Nice Struggle (he by no means made it to fight as a result of, by one report, he was underweight by two kilos). The work calls for virtuoso enjoying from all three devices, and these musicians carried out with nice understanding and exceptionally lovely sound. It was particularly attention-grabbing to observe them, each as people and as an ensemble enjoying off one another. You may hear the way in which Ravel provides house to every instrument, bringing out its whole vary and with nobody blocking the sound of the opposite (simply consider the superb third-movement passacaglia). Once I requested Bjerken about it, he wrote, “it’s my favourite piano trio, bar none. It appears like an entire orchestra, the way in which it’s written — so colourful and texturally layered.” Furthermore, it was deeply transferring at occasions — the tip of the primary motion is heart-rending and poignant; the passacaglia, after many passages with devices in pairs, closes with the piano on the very backside of the keyboard, the sound darkish, on their own.
It was an thrilling and profitable live performance, and being there in particular person made all of the distinction on the planet. The total variety of seats allowed within the sanctuary (50) had been taken, plus 65 log-ins (many with in all probability two or three additionally watching), making an estimated complete of over 100 from house.
Trying again on the season up to now, though the pandemic bore down, just one main presentation listed in this system for the complete season — the family-friendly vacation leisure, “Consolation & Pleasure” — needed to be canceled. The Chamber Music Collection Live performance No. 1 on October 25 was carried out as introduced, with 5 musicians from the orchestra — Wendy Mehne, principal flute; John Lathwell, principal oboe and soloist; Kirsten Marshall, violin; Josh Lohner, viola — and Ithaca School’s Vadim Serebryany, piano. A couple of hardy souls ventured out to affix them, about 25 individuals in all had been within the church. The very presence of those really brave adventurers — each musicians and viewers — inspired Orth, who reported that she might really feel the enjoyment coming all the way in which to her house in Tennessee. On November 19, the primary Household & Storytime Live performance, recorded on the Autumn Leaves Bookstore’s upstairs café space, was proven on-line. Cellists Sera Smolen and Elizabeth Simkin, together with narrator Stephen Nunley from the Kitchen Theatre, offered “Gustavo the Shy Ghost.” It was an important success, with 150 individuals logging in, lots of them with households, making the estimated rely no less than 200. The second Household & Storytime Live performance, on March 18, starred principal flutist Mehne and visitor narrator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, chair of Tompkins County Legislature and GIAC govt director. That includes a folktale from India referred to as “The Flute,” it was broadcast from the Odyssey Bookstore on West Inexperienced Road. Each shops, newly added to the CCO’s checklist of native sponsors, offered their areas without spending a dime.
A tragic occasion introduced a change for the primary scheduled program of the Orchestral Collection, the demise in January of the CCO’s main contributor, Percy Browning, whose philanthropy prolonged to many arts organizations in our group. A particular tribute live performance on March 20 was organized and programmed by the orchestra’s Inventive Advisory Committee (the conductor, the manager director and 4 orchestra members). A string quintet — violinists Bouey and Susan Waterbury, violist Victoria Miskolczy, cellist Elliott, and double bass Max Michael Jacob (4 of them principals) — offered a assorted choice of fashionable music by largely ladies composers, works and artists Percy admired. The one native composer, the favored Dana Wilson from Ithaca School, when requested for a duplicate of his rating, promptly donated it. Included in this system had been temporary tributes and reminiscences, seven in all, from pals, household and colleagues. About 42 individuals had been within the viewers and, with performers and volunteers added in, the reside rely got here to 50, the quantity allowed within the church, “a full home,” in line with CCO govt director (and violinist) Susan Spafford. She additionally counted about 80 to 85 log-ins, and estimates that greater than 125 had been watching from house. It was a singular expertise, smaller choices of unfamiliar composers, music you wished to listen to once more. It was an ideal tribute.
The applications for the ultimate live shows in Might and June, once more within the Presbyterian church, and with the double choice of attending reside or on-line, have been introduced. On Sunday afternoon, Might 23, at 3 p.m., a bigger variety of musicians (about 20) can be performing, not all collectively however in smaller ensembles. On this program referred to as “The Return of the Orchestral Collection” are the Telemann Concerto for Oboe in E minor, with principal oboe Lathwell as soloist, the Nonet (scored for winds and strings) by Martinu, and Mendelssohn’s beloved Octet for Strings.
For “Orchestral Celebration,” on Sunday, June 12, Orth will return to Ithaca to conduct nearly the entire orchestra — once more divided into smaller teams. As a result of extra musicians are collaborating and house remains to be restricted, the identical program can be carried out twice, at 6 p.m. and eight p.m.to accommodate a bigger in-person viewers. Music chosen includes chosen actions of the “Antiche Danze et Arie” by Respighi; two variations of the motion Summer season from “The 4 Seasons,” one (very well-known) by Vivaldi, the opposite by Spanish composer and guitarist Piazzolla; Copland’s “Quiet Metropolis”; and, to finish with a flare, the chamber orchestra association of Stravinsky’s dazzling rating for his ballet “The Firebird.” The normal Silent Public sale will occur, however fully on-line. To maintain posted, and to join tickets to the live shows, go to www.ccoithaca.org. It’s sensible to e book early for each reside live shows as house stays restricted.
Some remaining icing on the cake can be offered by the CCO Youth Orchestra, carried out by violinist Kirsten Marshall, on June 13. Extra info to return.
We actually will be deeply grateful to our orchestra — with all their planning, arranging, adjusting — for bringing us as a lot reside music as doable. We’re pleased with them and of their efforts too. Allow us to help them in any manner we are able to.