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CHAM­BER MU­SIC SO­CI­ETY OF LIN­COLN CEN­TER

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

The Cham­ber Mu­sic So­ci­ety of Lin­coln Cen­ter gave its first con­certs in 1969, bring­ing to fruition a plan that reached back four years be­yond that, to the time when com­poser Wil­liam Schu­man was con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing Lin­coln Cen­ter as Amer­ica’s most wide-reach­ing arts cen­ter. The Cham­ber Mu­sic So­ci­ety (CMS for short) was not the first Amer­i­can or­ga­ni­za­tion de­voted to mu­sic for small en­sem­bles, but it es­tab­lished an un­ac­cus­tomed model for the field. In­stead of merely pre­sent­ing recitals by self-stand­ing string quar­tets, pi­ano trios, and so on, it would op­er­ate as the mu­si­cal equiv­a­lent of a the­atri­cal reper­tory com­pany, with a de­fined cir­cle of com­mit­ted play­ers form­ing a core en­sem­ble that could be eked out by guests as needed to ex­plore a vast range of mu­si­cal lit­er­a­ture.

On Mon­day, April 6, four of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Artists — that is the term re­served for the core per­form­ers — will ap­pear at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, pre­sented by Per­for­mance Santa Fe. By cham­ber­mu­sic reck­on­ing, it is an all-star lineup: vi­o­lin­ist Daniel Hope, vi­o­list Paul Neubauer, cel­list David Finckel, and pi­anist Wu Han. Finckel and Wu Han, who are mar­ried, have served as the artis­tic di­rec­tors of CMS since 2004. They also jointly over­see Mu­sic@Menlo, a cham­ber­mu­sic fes­ti­val and in­sti­tute in Cal­i­for­nia; the Cham­ber Mu­sic To­day fes­ti­val in Seoul; and a cham­ber-mu­sic in­cen­tive at Aspen Mu­sic Fes­ti­val and School. Beyond that, they have pur­sued busy per­form­ing ca­reers in their in­di­vid­ual di­rec­tions, Finckel hav­ing spent 34 years as cel­list of the Emer­son String Quar­tet and Wu Han be­ing a part­ner of choice for many self-stand­ing cham­ber groups that want to ex­plore reper­toire that in­volves pi­ano. Hope, who en­joys an ex­ten­sive ca­reer as a vi­o­lin soloist with or­ches­tras, also has an or­ga­ni­za­tional com­mit­ment on the out­side, as he has served since 2004 as as­so­ciate artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Sa­van­nah Mu­sic Fes­ti­val. Neubauer, whose ré­sumé sim­i­larly brims with con­certo en­gage­ments, as­ton­ished the string-play­ing world when he was ap­pointed prin­ci­pal vi­o­list of the New York Phil­har­monic at the ten­der age of twenty-one, a chair he oc­cu­pied for six years be­fore de­cid­ing to de­vote more time to cham­ber mu­sic.

Although the “reper­tory com­pany” ideal of CMS has now flour­ished through three and a half decades, the or­ga­ni­za­tion to­day op­er­ates on a far larger scale. “In that ini­tial 1969-1970 sea­son,” Finckel said in a phone in­ter­view with Pasatiempo , “Cham­ber Mu­sic So­ci­ety of Lin­coln Cen­ter con­sisted of nine artist mem­bers, with lots of guest artists mov­ing in and out. Now we have some 40 reg­u­lar artists, plus fre­quent guests, so our fam­ily has grown much big­ger.” That first sea­son com­prised 16 con­certs; this sea­son, there will be 122. More than half of those 122 — 68, to be pre­cise — are tak­ing place in lo­ca­tions other than New York City, ei­ther on one-show-per-stop tours or in res­i­den­cies the or­ga­ni­za­tion has set up in eight widely dis­persed cities through­out the coun­try.

Finckel con­sid­ers tour­ing an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the group’s artis­tic life. “There is no world-class artist I know who does not tour,” he ob­served. “Even if your in­sti­tu­tion is in New York City, it is still pos­si­ble to be pro­vin­cial if you don’t get around. As an artist, you’re dif­fer­ent when you go play in Europe, when you go to other cities and other coun­tries. When you come home, you re­al­ize how that ex­pe­ri­ence has kept you de­vel­op­ing, how it has made you a richer per­son. It goes to the heart of what it means to be an artist, to be a suc­cess­ful mu­si­cian. We like to keep our artists grow­ing.”

The field of cham­ber mu­sic char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally at­tracts many mu­si­cians who may dis­ap­pear into the larger iden­tity of their en­sem­bles, de­riv­ing great sat­is­fac­tion from their work but not nec­es­sar­ily much per­sonal fame. “When we came to CMS in 2004,” Finckel said, “the or­ga­ni­za­tion wasn’t do­ing much tour­ing, and they asked us to re­vi­tal­ize that area. The man­ager back then felt you could only send out play­ers who au­di­ences would al­ready know. But we thought, Why wouldn’t au­di­ences be ex­cited to hear peo­ple they don’t al­ready know as long as they could be as­sured the per­for­mance would be great?” Trans­fer­ring the “recog­ni­tion fac­tor” from the in­di­vid­ual mu­si­cians to the um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion would prove all the more im­por­tant as Finckel and Wu Han ex­panded the ac­tiv­i­ties of CMS Two, a pro­gram crafted to fast-track un­usu­ally promis­ing young play­ers to full sta­tus within the cham­ber-mu­sic com­mu­nity. In nearly all CMS con­certs, these up-and-com­ers sit el­bow to el­bow with more ex­pe­ri­enced artists.

The group set to per­form in Santa Fe is one of four dif­fer­ent CMS en­sem­bles that is tour­ing this sea­son, and it is un­usual in that all of the per­form­ers en­joy such high pro­files. Its playlist in­cludes two in­con­testably top-drawer items from the pi­ano-quar­tet reper­toire — Schu­mann’s Piano Quar­tet in E-flat ma­jor and Brahms’ in G mi­nor — as well as the less fre­quently aired Piano Quar­tet in A mi­nor of Gus­tav Mahler, a one-move­ment piece from the out­set of his ca­reer. In ad­di­tion to the live con­certs — two in New York and one each in 11 other cities — the three pieces are be­ing turned into a CD for the Deutsche Gram­mophon la­bel, with im­pres­sive alacrity. The group’s two New York con­certs were recorded (on March 1 and March 3); ac­claimed record pro­ducer Da-Hong Seeto “worked a solid seven days on the edit­ing” (Finckel re­ported); the mu­si­cians and the pro­ducer thrashed through to a fi­nal­ized mas­ter; and Deutsche Gram­mophon be­gan pro­duc­ing the phys­i­cal CDs im­me­di­ately, pack­ag­ing them with pro­gram notes and graph­ics that had been com­pleted prior to the con­certs. The CD will be re­leased for na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion on April 21, less than two months af­ter the record­ings were cap­tured, and early copies will be avail­able for the play­ers to au­to­graph for at­ten­dees at some stops on their cur­rent tour, which keeps them on the go through April 15. Santa Fe is the fourth tour stop, and hard copies may just land in the lobby of the Len­sic by Mon­day night. CMS is noth­ing if not or­ga­nized, so you might keep your eyes peeled just in case.

David Finckel and Wu Han; photo Lisa-Marie Maz­zucco

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