This past week, David and Wu Han traveled to Chicago, IL for the 80th birthday celebration for noted arts philanthropist and enthusiast, Joan Harris. They took part in a special gala performance with several other noted artists with close connections to Joan Harris.
in David’s words…
There are very few people who have done as much for the arts in the United States as Joan Harris. This past week, we had the wonderful opportunity to be in Chicago celebrating Joan’s 80th birthday. An array of artists including Wu Han and myself were on hand to mark the occasion including the Emerson String Quartet, Renée Fleming, Pinchas Zukerman, the Escher String Quartet, the Hubbard Street Dance, and musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The program was diverse and beautifully planned by Harris Theater manager Michael Tiknis. It included a movement from the Schumann Piano Quintet with Wu Han and the Emerson, Rachmaninov songs with Renée Fleming accompanied by Wu Han and Eugene Drucker on obbligato violin, and four of Mahler’s “Rueckert” lieder in an exquisite arrangement for piano quartet and voice by the Swiss pianist Christian Favre. Joan had specially requested the slow movement of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata, which we were delighted to provide.
The gala event was held at the Harris Theater in Chicago’s beautiful Millennium Park–David Axelrod and Bill Kurtis were the masters of ceremony. It was a remarkable event for a remarkable woman.
Wu Han takes a bow with Renée Fleming and violinist Eugene Drucker.
At the conclusion of the concert, the entire audience rose and turned to Joan to pay tribute. It was both fitting and moving.
The event was also a wonderful opportunity to share the stage with the stellar young Escher Quartet, which was brought to the event by Pinchas Zukerman for a collaboration in Mozart’s g minor quintet. At one point after the concert, both Emerson and Escher shared an elevator.
Our relationship with Joan stems primarily from our participation for many years at the Aspen Music Festival and School. As the former chairwoman of the Aspen Music Festival, Joan constantly recognized quality and was extremely supportive of the Emerson String Quartet, Wu Han and myself. I distinctly remember Joan and her late husband Irving attending several recording sessions of the Beethoven Sonatas for Cello and Piano at Harris Hall in Aspen. Her constant presence and support have been an inspiration to countless artists throughout the years. This remarkable event was a fitting testament to all Joan has accomplished through her involvement in the arts, education and the humanities.
Joan Harris and the Emerson String Quartet.
It was also exciting for us to be performing at the Harris Theater in Chicago for the first time. This next season, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is thrilled to be beginning a three year partnership with the Harris Theater. This is fabulous opportunity for CMS to contribute to the rich musical landscape of Chicago. The first year of this partnership will see three performance throughout the course of the season. Wu Han, David Shifrin, and myself will open the series on January 27th, 2012 with a program of clarinet trios. Pianists Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Anne-Marie McDermott, André-Michel Schub, and Wu Han will present a spectacular program of works for piano four-hands on March 20, 2012. The series will conclude on May 22, 2012 with a program of romantic French chamber works featuring pianists Inon Barnatan and Juho Pohjonen; violinists Jessica Lee, Kristin Lee, and Elmar Oliveira; violist Beth Guterman; and cellist Andreas Brantelid. We look forward to this partnership and returning to Chicago very soon!
Photo credits: Dianne Brogan Photography and David Finckel