From Novemeber 10-16, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center went on tour to Cleveland, OH; Easton, PA; and Lewistown, ME; performing masterworks by George Crumb and Bela Bartók. The performances were very well received by audiences in each location.
In Wu Han’s words…
This past month, I had the wonderful pleasure of touring with artists from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a program highlighting two gems of the 20th Century Chamber Music repertoire: Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III) for Two Amplified Pianos and Percussion. It was a wonderful opportunity to perform both of these rarely programmed masterworks side by side. In addition, it was very special to perform both the works with my dear friend and colleague, pianist Gilbert Kalish (pictured with me above). For Gil, this program was especially meaningful since he premiered the Crumb in 1974.
About two years ago, CMS had programmed the Crumb on a performance that was supposed to take place at the New York Society for Ethical Culture—this was during the period when Alice Tully Hall was under renovation. Just before the performance began, fire alarms started going off and the hall had to be evacuated. Imagine over 600 people (including George Crumb who was in attendance), standing outside in the snow and cold waiting to see if the performance would go on! Unfortunately, the alarm was due to an electrical fire and the concert had to be canceled. However, we decided to reschedule the concert for the next day for any of the brave concertgoers who did not want to miss the program. At that rescheduled concert, two representatives from Opus 3 Artists who manage CMS’s tours, Pat Winter and Rob Berretta, were blown away by both the beauty of Crumb’s masterpiece and suggested CMS take the program on tour.
Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion was commissioned by the enterprising Swiss-conductor Paul Sacher to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Swiss chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music in 1937. Bartók’s use of this innovative instrumentation as well as his treatment of rhythm and harmony was remarkably forward thinking for its time. It wasn’t until 1974, with the genesis of George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III) for Two Amplified Pianos and Percussion, that the repertoire for two pianos and percussion finally had a piece that could rival the Bartók.
George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening is truly one of the most remarkable works of the 20th Century. Crumb’s subtitling of the work Makrokosmos III, is a subtle homage to Bartok (Bartok wrote 153 Mikrokosmos, instructional pieces for piano). Crumb drew additional inspiration from both musical and literary figures ranging from Bach to Rilke. The result is a piece of extraordinary breadth and imagination. Within the five movements, many extended instrumental techniques are implored to create a truly unique sound world. The pianists are called upon to play within the piano and the percussionists use a wide variety of instruments (including a gong and a jug).
The opportunity to tour with both the Bartók and the Crumb was certainly a highlight of the season. I would like to sincerely thank the three courageous presenters who overcame the logistical and practical hurtles to make this tour a reality: Bates College in Lewiston, Maine; Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania; and the Cleveland Chamber Music Society. Without their commitment and enthusiasm, this project would not have come to fruition in such a meaningful way.
CMS will be presenting both the Bartok and the Crumb this coming May at Alice Tully Hall. Click here for more information. Also, thank you to Lois Rose (from the Cleveland Chamber Music Society) for letting me post her photos of Gil Kalish and myself, and the Bartók setup.