Music@Menlo and Stony Brook University honored pianist Gilbert Kalish at a concert by him and the Emerson String Quartet, marking the legendary pianist’s 75th birthday and his 40th year on the Stony Brook faculty. In addition to creating a scholarship in his name, the University underwrote a special edition Music@Menlo Live 2-CD set of Kalish’s performances of the three Brahms Piano Quartets.
in David’s words…
Birthdays are inevitable, but the building of an artistic legacy is largely optional, the responsibility held primarily in the hands of the artist. Gil Kalish has formed his not only through a vast number of concerts, but with every single relationship he has had, with performers, composers, educators, and notables of the music industry. He is known to all of us as a true servant of the art, someone in whose hands classical music has made progress in many ways. He is a pianist of the highest rank, with sound and technique equal to anyone of his generation. His skills as a collaborator are unsurpassed, and he has enjoyed long partnerships with some of the most distinguished vocalists and instrumentalists of our time. He is the most thoughtful of musicians, endlessly respectful of the composer and knowing his place as an interpretive artist. Yet his sense of music as a living art – one that requires daring, spontaneity, and change – is ever-present in his performances, no matter what the repertoire. These qualities have made him, over the years, the most desirable of pianists, and he still commands the stage, as he did in the Brahms Quintet with us in this concert, like no other.
The surprise celebration was largely the inspiration of Philip Setzer, who brought all parties on board to support the event, the scholarship and the CD production. Present in the hall were many former students of Gil; University and Music department administrators, and Wu Han, who came especially to pay tribute to Gil from the double perspective of pianist and artistic administrator.
After speeches by Stony Brook faculty and administration, including Music Department Chairperson Judith Lochhead, University President Samuel L. Stanley, and Wu Han, the entire audience joined Gil and his family in the Staller Center lobby for cake and more speeches.
Judith Lochhead and Gil Kalish
Samuel L. Stanley and Gil Kalish
The Brahms Piano Quartet CD idea was a long time coming. Ever since we first heard Gil play one of these works, at Music@Menlo 2003, we knew that we were hearing something incomparable. We decided right away to schedule him, in succeeding summers, to play the other two, so that eventually the festival would have a complete set from him. With his performance of the g minor in the summer of 2009, the cycle was complete, and, growing impatient, we cut at a dedicated set of two CD’s at home from the various Menlo Live box sets. The result was so compelling that it became obvious that sharing these performances with the world, in honor of Gil’s artistry, was something we had to do.
World-class performances of classics by the great composers are truly hard to come by. In the case of Brahms, one must either possess or muster up strength of character, an uncompromising integrity, which comes close to equaling that of the composer. With one foot in the romantic age, and the other in the classic, Brahms wrote music which contains all the warmth, tenderness and full-bloodedness of composers such as Schumann and Dvorak, yet the importance he placed on the tenets of the classical age – balance, reason, economy and structure – demand that his music be played with clarity and discipline. Far too often, performances lack one side or the other. It is rare to find musicians who not only understand this, but can actually do it. Gilbert Kalish is one of them, and for that reason, we recommend these performances as definitive.
Wu Han presents the CD to Gil
The CD was produced by ArtistLed in cooperation with Music@Menlo and the State University of New York, Stony Brook. The recording and mastering, as well as the cover photo, are by Da-Hong Seetoo. The participating musicians graciously donated their performances gratis to support the scholarship fund. The CD will be available through the Stony Brook music department and through Music@Menlo’s website as of later this week. We will post the ordering details here once they are confirmed in the coming days.
with fellow piano faculty member Christina Dahl and former students