Friday, February 13, 2009

Enduring Classics - But Why?

Yesterday afternoon in Middlebury the Mahaney Center for the Arts hosted five young musicians as they auditioned for the 2009 Alan and Joyce Beucher Concerto Competition. Officially, I was there to act as a judge for the event. But on a purely listener level, I couldn't have been more pleased to experience the music I heard being made as each student musician took their turn on the stage. Whether it was the singing lyricality in the DeBeriot and Sibelius violin concertos, the technical fireworks of Ravel's fierce "Tzigane", the violin's evocative yearning in Bruch's g-minor concerto, or the always-elegant loveliness that is Mozart's first flute concerto...there were many moments when music filled the whole golden space of the auditorium and nothing besides that performer, playing that piece, at that moment, seemed to exist.

In the end, a choice had to be made to award one of those performers the opportunity to play their concerto with the Middlebury College Orchestra later this spring. That IS what I was there for, I told myself. And it was humbling to be part of that process.

Afterward, on the drive home, I had some time to reflect on the experience and revisit a long-held conviction that there are good reasons why these pieces of music, often centuries and decades old, endure as 'classics'. One of those reasons is the renewal the music enjoys every time it is learned for the first time, practiced to perfection, and given vital, fresh interpretation at the hands of sensitive and gifted musicians like the ones I had just heard play. It is timeless because it is infinitely adaptable, because it is alive, because it is not satisfied being contained in a single interpretation, like a static snapshot from a past age.

And so, to each one of yesterday's fine young performers, a sincere congratulations: more than learning a concerto, you are contributing to the artistic continuum - you are learning to make music!


Cheryl Willoughby
Dir. of Music Programming


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