I have come back to the USA for a week of concerts, masterclasses and workshops. It’s a great delight for me to begin my visit in the the part of the Midwest that I love so much; the St Croix River in the the River Falls/Still water area.
11th November-Concerts and talks in Wisconsin and Minnesota
began my day in the Band Rehearsal room at the University, listening to the ensemble, under Music Director, Kristin Tornehoj, rehearsing Nigel Clarke’s ‘Evolution’. After they played for me for 20 minutes, I gave a short talk about the importnnce of collaboration in my musical life, and played them works by Nigel Clarke, Sadie Harrison, Matteis, and Locatelli.
Immediately after this small lecture recital, I went on stage in the lovely Abbott Concert Hall to play a Lunchtime concert. The lunchtime series here is very impressive, drawing a large audience of all ages both from the campus and the local area. It’s very exciting to see what the work of Kristin Tornehoj and her team of colleagues and students have achieved here. 250 people for a solo violin concert on a Friday midday is very impressive.
I played Sadie Harrison, Matteis, David Gorton, Locatelli, Haflidi Hallgrimsson, Michael Hersch, Torelli, Purcell, Bach, Ole Bull, Mylargutten and finished with Nigel Clarke’s (ever -epic) Pernambuco. It was Nigel who introduced me to the inspirational teachers and musicians here, so they were delighted to hear the piece. After the concert I was very happy to spend time with the fascinating composer Jack Stamp, who is planning on writing me a new work for solo violin… A riotous conversation about musical possibilities and the composers we admired, especially George Rochber. It was veteran’s day, so the restaurant where we ate was feeding past and present military gratis.
Then it was back over the the St Croix to Stillwater. This town is a favourite of mine, filled wit beatiful late Victorian architecture, and a spectacular lift bridge over the river. It still retains a sense of the early pioneer endeavour and prosperity, from the elegant city hall on overlooking Main Street from the hillside and the huddle of boats, shops, and old warehouses down on the waterfront.
In the evening I was honoured to play and talk about Ole Bull as part of the Fundraiser for the newly launching Zephyr Theatre company in the old Train Depot here. A great atmosphere, and it was exciting to see the passion, and commitment to the arts in the community here.
I am very pleased to be anywhere near old trains or railway architecture, so I was doubly pleased. After the concert, it was good to talk violins with a young local luthier, Trevor Holien.
12th November Hastings, Wisconsin
Today I spent a happy morning working with four very talented musicians at the Hastings Art Centre. hanks to its founders and directors Travis and Sarah and Travis Lockwood. Lalo, Bruch, Mendelssohn and Svendsen-all happy memories of teenage years…Thanks to Kristin Tjornehoj for all the work here in the Midwest.
I am always a little uncomfortable with the notion of a Masterclass, as I certainly don’t consider that I have any mastery. However, I love the opportunity to swap ideas with young musicians. So we talked about technique, and history, and yoga….!
After the event, I gave an interview to a local reporter. I said this. It seems important to reiterate it:
At this moment, when, in both of our countries, it seems as if the forces of doubt, suspicion and ill-will have momentarily gained the upper hand, it is vital to remind ourselves of the essential goodness of people, of our obligation to each other. The arts have a vital role here, not to demand attention for themselves, but to offer an unalloyed good. Artists of all ages and backgrounds, all disciplines and ilks are duty-bound to take the challenge of offering truth and beauty, and to listen and to share. Workshops, salons, , concerts, all artistic activity is two-way; it must offer an alternative to the thoughtless clamour and selfishness that it is all too easily overwhelming.
14th November New York
Today I went over to the Metropolitan Museum to give my concert on the the Francesca ‘Stradivari’, the ‘Ole Bull’ Niccolo Amati, and the 1629 Girolamo Amati. It’s always a pleausre to meet up with Bradley Strauchen, the director of the music department, and on my arrival I discovered that she had also brought out an exquisite 1756 Hardanger fiffle made either by Isak Nielsen (Skaar) Botnen (Norwegian, 1669–1759) or Trond Isaksen Flatebø (Norwegian, 1713–1772). This anticipated the work that I will do in St Paul tomorrow and Thursday on the 1860 Dahl instrument. It was wonderful to see it alongside the 1694 Stradivari.
The team at the Metropolitan Museum bring together astonishing expertise and unquenchable enthusiam for their field. They immediately took a very active and inquisitive part in understanding my programe. I played Ole Bull, Marini, Torelli, Matteis, Biber,Tartini, Telemann, Locatelli, Viotti and the premiere of David Gorton’s lovely new ‘Farnaby’s Fancy’. For the earlier works, I lines up the composition dates of the pieces, with dates of the instruments, and moved between Biber, Tartini and Tourte model bows.
15th November-Peabody Conservatoire, Baltimore
I have been lucky enough to have worked closely with the fantastic composer and pianist Michael Hersch for over 12 years. So it is always a pleasure to return to Baltimore where he is head of composition. I spent most of the day with groups of composers studying at Peabody, finishing with a workshop on the links between contemporary and early approaches to the violin.
In the morning however, a new project began. I have been planning to work with the soprano, Ah Young, for some time, Today was our first chance to begin detailed work on Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments. This will be a long-term detailed project of rehearsal, inquiry and performance, and it is an enormous privilege to be able to work with this extraordinary singer.
Every time I come to Baltimore, I am inspired by the architecture and atmosphere of Mount Vernon, and always insist on some time to read and study in the exquisite library; surely one of greatest pieces of 19th century architecture. and a joy to the soul.