(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin reports that she managed to attend four music events this summer – and offers some of her impressions.
(KUNIN) Summer in Vermont hums with music. There are so many chamber music performances, both indoors and out, that keeping one tune in my head is difficult because it is quickly overtaken by another.
This year, we got to four different concert locations. Like almost every year since its founding in 1974, we went to the grand opening at Shelburne Farms of the Mozart Festival. The setting is in serious competition with the music – can there be anything more delectable than a shared picnic supper, a bottle of wine, the sound of strings, and the chance to see the sun set and the sky darken in natural slow motion, while the stars emerge, one by one?
A visit to the Marlboro Music Festival has now become a summer ritual. The focus at Marlboro is music, pure music, heard in an acoustically perfect open wooden shed, performed by extraordinary young musicians who play with verve and excitement. An older musician and teacher usually accompanies the group, but in the performance they are all equals.
I love going to rehearsals at Marlboro. Hearing a piece dissected in a rehearsal and then hearing it performed the next day provides a unique deep listening experience. It’s as close as I can get to feeling I am not only listening passively, but actively.
Third on my summer listening list are the Craftsbury Chamber players. They perform both at the UVM recital hall and the Hardwick Town House. For the fist time this year, we traveled to Hardwick to hear them on their own turf. It was worth the trip from Burlington. The Town House is a small, intimate, recently restored building, which holds a wildly enthusiastic audience.
Both Marlboro and Craftsbury include some contemporary pieces in their repertoire. We heard a vibrophone and viola play a piece written by the violist, who announced he had just finished it the day before.
For years I’d heard about the piano music school in Adamant, Vermont, but never got organized to get there. This summer, we relied on our GPS system to guide us through beautiful back roads to the village – and village it is – of Adamant near Montpelier. We caught the last day of an open Master Class conducted by the famed pianist Menachem Pressler, who told me he’d been coming to Adamant for 21 years.
After I listened to a student perform a piece in a small hall, I thought, "terrific," until I head Pressler give his critique. He was tough but kind and occasionally played a section himself. The difference between the student and Pressler suddenly became obvious. Now I began to understand what excellence was.
Music in Vermont is a rich experience, which deserves to be widely shared. All of these programs could benefit from larger audiences. They are too good to remain some of our best kept secrets.