On Friday evening Oskar Espina-Ruiz, Artistic Director of Music Mountain, delivered a talk on Ludwig van Beethoven and Music Mountain’s Chamber Music Series that will feature a Beethoven Cycle Program: all of Beethoven’s string quartets played by the Shanghai String Quartet in a series of six Sunday afternoon concerts from June 10 to July 8. (The final special concert is September 9.) Here is an opportunity to hear a live performance of one of the greatest musical treasures by a quality quartet.
Oskar began with playing a movement from Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata to set a meditative yet dramatic mood. A sigh of relief surged through me when I learned he was playing a recording by Emil Gilels, one of my own favorites. (Hans Pålsson is another.) The point Oskar was making? Pay attention to tempo as Gilels wrung great dramatic tension (perhaps by slowing Beethoven’s tempo ever-so-slightly).
With this little preface, Oskar was racing off into the glorious string quartets. He played excerpts from The Emerson Quartet's recordings to illustrate the variety of themes and melodies in Beethoven’s work as Beethoven pushed the boundaries of music as a questing Romanticist firmly in the Classical tradition. Beethoven followed classical forms but he tweaked them in new directions—he made the forms follow his inspiration and creativity with Romantic liberty—the forms themselves were his own personal version of classical modality.
Oskar played examples from early, middle, and late Beethoven to illustrate the variety of sensibility: playful, humorous, satiric, sincere, spiritual, transcendent, Otherworldly. This was a little crash course on steroids as The Emerson Quartet recordings worked their magic on our ears. The effect was lively: no one slept and Oskar’s genial, informal humor kept the pace at nimble trot.
But Beethoven and The Shanghai Quartet is merely the opening headline of a great lineup: Escher String Quartet, Pederecki String Quartet, Avalon String Quartet (super interesting program), Amernet String Quartet, St. Petersburg Piano Quartet, Cassatt String Quartet, Ariel Quartet, American String Quartet (knockout program), and some other quite special programs, all on Sundays at 3 pm.
Yet these concerts provide only one dimension of Music Mountain. Saturday evening concerts feature a medley of popular music and jazz. The Ted Nash Quartet kicks that program off on June 16 with the Ted Nash Quartet from Lincoln Center. Other highlights for this 6:30 pm series include Peter & Will Anderson Quartet playing all Duke Ellington; New Cuban Express Quartet; Galvanized Jazz Band; Amina Figarova Quintet. Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet; The Bridge Trio; etc. For a complete listing go to their photogenic website: http://musicmountain.org
The main point of this early preview is that you may save significantly on concert tickets by purchasing early before June 9. Since there is a roof overhead, there is no risk. Some Saturday evening concerts have pre-concert 5 pm dinner specials at the Falls Village Inn for those interested. You can do any of this by phone at 860-824-7126. You can give the gift of music, invite special friends, or just soak in this most rich musical resource in smorgasbord fashion by picking your own favorites or new experiences that will let your ears levitate your brain in a magic mountain setting—you have the sophistication of Manhattan in the countryside every weekend! Tokyo String Quartet performs Op. 59 no. 1 on video below.