Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Marlboro Musicians at The Gardner

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museums is one of the gems of Boston's arts scene, but did you know that it boasts and equally wonderful concert series?  I was fortunate enough to hear one this past Sunday performed by musicians from Vermont's Marlboro Music Festival.  The program consisted of Bartok's second string quartet, a Haydn quartet, a Mozart concert aria, and Schumann's Liederkreis.  It was a lovely program performed in an intimate and warm setting on a cold afternoon in Boston.

I bought the tickets some time ago in hopes that Dan would be able to join me since his quartet, Arneis, is also working on the Bartok second, but he actually had to perform a house concert in Western MA that same day.  I was happy he had work and they managed to raise nearly a thousand dollars for their group, so it was definitely worth missing the concert!  Luckily, my friend, the pastry ninja, from work was able to come with me.  It's always more fun having someone along to talk about the program with during and after the concert.  Beth and I had a great time together.  We ate a quick lunch near the museum and she really seemed to enjoy the whole afternoon, especially the Haydn quartet which was beautifully and elegantly played with Ida Levin on first violin.

Hearing the Bartok second played live by another quartet was wonderful for me.  I have heard Arneis working on the piece for a month or two now, and they have given quite a passionate performance of the piece recently.  The Marlboro quartet also gave an exciting rendition of this amazing work which is quickly becoming one of my favorite string quartets.  I admired their steely precision in the second movement delivering a hair-raising performance that kept me on the edge of my seat.  It's amazing how different the interpretation of a great piece of music can be in the hands of two equally skilled quartets.

Nicholas Phan may have been the star of the afternoon, at least for me.  Originally he was billed to sing duets with a soprano, but she had fallen ill, so he was solo for the afternoon.  He sang Mozart's "Little German Cantata" which was a new-to-me work and Schumann's Liederkreis.  Both sets were skillfully delivered with his dashing stage presence and flawless sense of line.  It was fun hearing a new Mozart work just when I thought I had heard just about all of the major vocal repertoire by him.  The Schumann set, however, was breathtaking.

Phan took quite a bit of time to explain the Liederkreis to the audience which I thought was helpful given that there was no text or translation provided in the program notes.  Beth commented that Phan's acting was such that a lot of the emotion of the text would have been conveyed even without prior explanation.  Hearing Lydia Brown, pianist, and Phan collaborate on Schumann's fantastically beautiful song cycle was quite a treat.  I kept thinking to myself that this was what chamber music is really all about.

I wish that I had some pictures of the event to share with you!  As I was pointedly reminded by one of the museum guards on my way out, as I tried to snap a quick shot of the atrium, there is no photography allowed.  It's a shame because the museum is stunningly beautiful.  Above is a "bootleg" photo that someone else managed to take that I have borrowed from the internet.  I would love to have some personal photos as a memento of the afternoon, but I will have to settle for what's in my head instead.


  1. Next week you can catch "Cirkestra," my colleague Peter Bufano's circus band (yes, circus band).