Curtis on Tour

 (Left to Right) Ida Kavafian, violin; Peter Wiley, cello; Benjamin Beilman, violin; Hyo Bo Sim, viola; Yekwon Sunwoo, piano; Christopher Rogerson, composer; Daniel Shapiro, composer.  (Photo: Jean Brubaker)

March 1, 2010

I'm crammed into an overbooked plane with a noisy sleeper next to me and a chorus of unhappy infants behind me.  Ms. Kavafian, Hyobi, and Yekwon are seated in remote parts of the cabin and I'm stuck for the next four hours on a bumpy flight with not much hope of stretching my legs (I'm in a window seat).  To escape these not-so-wonderful travel conditions, I plug in my headphones and scroll to the Guarneri Quartet/Rubinstein recording of the Dvorak Piano Quintet on my iPod.  Mr. Soyer's nostalgic and singing solo draws me away from my seat and back to our performance in Detroit last night.

We had our second concert of the tour in Detroit at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Music Box Theater.  On the morning of our kickoff concert in Philadelphia, we learned the sad news that David Soyer, legendary cellist of the Guarneri Quartet and Curtis faculty member, had died.  Mr. Soyer's wife, Janet, asked Mr. Wiley and the Guarneri Quartet to play some late Beethoven at the memorial service so they very appropriately chose the Cavatina from the Op. 130 string quartet.  Since we didn't want to cancel our first performance on the road, we spent our dress rehearsal time on Friday night before the kickoff concert in Philly frantically calling cellists in the Midwest who would be willing to step in on 48 hours' notice.  Amidst the combination of mourning the loss of Mr. Soyer and the anxiety of finding Mr. Wiley's replacement, the concert was an emotional event for us and the audience.

We were incredibly fortunate that Robert deMaine, Principal Cellist of the Detroit Symphony, generously offered to join us for our concert.  In addition to his gorgeous playing (which I'll get into later), he's also one of the kindest people.  In order to play the concert with us, he had to learn the Barber quartet in a matter of hours, perform twice on Sunday (the symphony had a performance at 3pm), and postpone his son's 5th birthday party.  After Ms. Kavafian confirmed his participation via phone call on Friday, he called right back just to make sure he sounded enthusiastic enough about the collaboration.

Hyobi and I met with Robert Saturday afternoon to read through the Barber just to let him get an idea of the piece.  He had played only the second movement in the string orchestra arrangement many times, but never the complete work in its original string quartet form.  On Sunday morning, Ms. Kavafian and Yekwon joined us to rehearse the Barber again and the Dvorak piano quintet.  Even though we had formed a solid interpretation of both pieces through months of rehearsing with Mr. Wiley, playing with Robert added just the perfect amount of spontaneity during the concert.  This quick change of personnel was great practice and allowed us all to dive deeper into understanding both works.

The last triumphant run of the Dvorak's fourth movement just ended and the pilot announced our descent into Seattle.  I have to pack up my laptop and turn off my iPod for now.  Thanks for reading and I'll post again after our concert in Seattle.

Take care!


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