Uncategorized

Perfil de compositor: Esteban Benzecry en diálogo con Christian Baldini

El 4 de Mayo, tendré el gusto de dirigir la obra “Rituales Amerindios” del compositor argentino Esteban Benzecry, junto a la Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de California, Davis, en el hermoso Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. En el mismo programa se incluirá el Concierto para violín, cello y orquesta de Johannes Brahms, junto a Stephanie Zyzak y Eunghee Cho, y la obra “phôsphors (. . . of ether)” de la compositora Irlandesa Ann Cleare.

Christian Baldini: Esteban, primero que nada, es un verdadero placer y orgullo como argentino estar dirigiendo tu hermosa y cautivante música en los Estados Unidos. Muchas gracias por tomarte el tiempo de responder estas preguntas. Contame, como fueron tus principios con la música? Si bien has estado viviendo en París por muchísimos años, has comenzado tu educación musical en la Argentina. Como fue tu infancia, y cuando comenzaste a sentir atracción por la composición?

Esteban Benzecry: El agradecido soy yo, estoy encantado saber que mi música se escuchara en Davis y que está en muy buenas manos.

Yo me acerque a la música ya de adolescente. Yo siempre estaba más volcado a la pintura. A los 10 años tuve un intento de estudiar el piano, pero abandoné a los pocos meses porque me aburría, quizás no estaba todavía maduro para eso.

Paralelo a mis estudios primarios y secundarios yo asistía al Instituto Vocacional de Arte Manuel José de Labardén en Buenos Aires, donde teníamos talleres de artes plásticas, teatro, fotografía, instrumentos autóctonos y danzas folclóricas.  Fue ahí que comencé de manera autodidacta y jugando, a acercarme a la música.  A mis 15 años yo comencé con la guitarra aprendiendo canciones. Mi primera profesora particular fue María Concepción Patrón. A mí me gustaba mucho improvisar y quería aprender a escribir lo que improvisaba.

Luego de unos pocos meses ella me alentó a que estudiara piano y composición, así que seguí mis estudios con Sergio Hualpa y luego con Haydee Gerardi, todo esto paralelo a mis estudios de Bellas Artes en la universidad Prilidiano Pueyrredón.

Hubo un momento muy importante en mi vida que fue cuando el violinista argentino Alberto Lysy escucho una obra que yo había escrito para violín y piano. Él se entusiasmó mucho y me alentó a que le compusiera una obra, un capricho para violín solo, que, si a su regreso de Suiza el año próximo si a él le gustaba, la incluiría como bis, en alguno de sus encuentros musicales con la juventud. Mi gran sorpresa fue que, a su regreso cuando el leyó mi nueva composición, se entusiasmó tanto que la incluyo en un concierto, pero no como bis, sino dentro del programa y nada menos que en la sala grande del Teatro Colon. Esto fue en mayo del 91 yo tenía 21 años.

Salieron críticas muy buenas y otros músicos y orquestas empezaron a pedirme obras, fue todo muy raro y a la vez se fue dando naturalmente, porque yo no buscaba a los músicos, si no que ellos me buscaban a mí para pedirme obras.

Así fue como los proyectos me llevaron a dedicarme más a la música y luego sentí que ya no tenía más necesidad de expresarme a través de la pintura. Sin embargo, en 1994 la sinfónica Nacional estreno mi primera sinfonía “El compendio de la vida” bajo la batuta de Pedro Ignacio Calderón, donde intente integrar estos dos mundos, cada uno de sus cuatro movimientos estaba inspirados en cuadros míos que se exhibieron en el hall del auditorio de Belgrano.

Mi acercamiento a la música fue de manera muy intuitiva y surgió como una necesidad, yo comencé a escribir para orquesta sin haber recibido clases de orquestación ni armonía, me encantaba seguir grabaciones de obras sinfónicas con las partituras, ese fue mi gran aprendizaje.

Luego de mis primeros estrenos, cuando mi vocación y mi carrera ya estaba definida por la música, me fui a Paris en el año 1997 donde estudie con Jacques Charpentier composición y civilización musical en el Conservatorio Nacional de Región de Paris, ahí obtuve mi diploma “Premier prix à l’unanimité” y proseguí mi formación en el curso de Paul Mefano, que a pesar de que yo ya había superado el límite de edad, me alentó a frecuentar sus clases en el Conservatorio Superior Nacional de Paris como alumno no regular.

CB: Tu padre es uno de los directores de orquesta más influyentes en la Argentina. Yo nunca tuve el gusto de conocerlo, pero sé que ha educado a generaciones de directores y músicos de orquesta a través de su maravillosa Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Nacional José de San Martín, que ha sido un increíble semillero de talento en Buenos Aires. Cómo fue crecer en una familia tan musical? Alguna vez consideraste seguir los pasos de tu padre en la dirección orquestal?

EB: La interpretación es un mundo diferente a la creación, tuve la suerte de venir de una familia que ama el arte, que siempre me apoyo y estimulo con una fe ciega en todo lo que me propusiera hacer. La presión de tener un padre reconocido en el ambiente musical del país donde me forme podría haberme anulado por la expectativa de algunos de ver si es cierto eso de tal palo tal astilla y también por sacar méritos a mis primeros logros por ser el hijo de tal..pero por suerte no fue así, continuo haciendo los que más amo y estoy muy agradecido de la infancia que tuve donde nunca me presionaron para que me dedique a la música, si no que yo solo, como un juego llegue a ella.

Desde chico era muy común para mí ir a ensayos y conciertos y eso lo fui absorbiendo como una esponja.

Curiosamente por ahora no me atrae la idea de ser intérprete, no sé si tendría el carisma, liderazgo y capacidad para transmitir algo que yo hago de manera muy intuitiva con la creación.

CB: Cuáles son los compositores que más te han influido? Stravinsky parece ser una evidente influencia, pero quizás ha habido otros que también hayan tenido una gran influencia en tu música?

EB: También la música de compositores latinoamericanos que han integrado en su lenguaje musical el folclore como Ginastera, Villalobos, Revueltas.

El colorido de la paleta orquestal de los compositores franceses, tanto los impresionistas, como la de Dutilleux, Messiaen y los timbres de la actual música espectral francesa, mi breve pasaje por la música electroacústica en mi época de estudiante en Paris, que, si bien yo me dedique al sinfonismo, esta me abrió los oídos a querer buscar otras sonoridades con la orquesta.

Mi pasado pictórico, de alguna manera dejo como un rasgo de mi música el hecho de que es muy visual y variado en colores, es como si coloreara con mi música, como si construyera escenografías sonoras.

CB: Qué es lo más importante para vos como compositor? Qué tratas de comunicar con cada nueva pieza?

EB: Supongo que con el lenguaje de la música exteriorizo mi mundo interior, no se si intento algo, simplemente fluye sin que se pueda explicar porque hago lo que hago, no sé si me pertenece a mí.

Se puede teorizar la gramática musical pero no se podrá tener la respuesta de dónde viene esa imagen que cubrió la tela en blanco o esas notas que se generaron desde el silencio.

No hay autopsia ni científico que puede dar explicación de dónde viene el arte que creamos o simplemente transmitimos, si ya existía en alguna otra dimensión del universo.

Michelangelo Buonarroti decía algo así como, “La escultura ya existía, yo solo saqué el excedente del bloque de mármol”

CB: En tu opinión, cuál es el rol de la música sinfónica (y/o el arte en general) en el mundo en el cual vivimos hoy en día?

EB: El arte es una fuerza de la naturaleza que hay que dejar fluir, nosotros solo somos un vehículo de transmisión de ella, contribuyen a la memoria colectiva universal, son los jeroglíficos que perduraran en el tiempo a diferencia de nuestro cuerpo físico que desaparecerá, la caja negra que reflejará en el futuro lo que sentía el hombre del pasado.

Esta también el rol del entretenimiento actual y también el de la eternidad.

Siempre tengo la impresión de estar sembrando árboles que quedarán para las próximas generaciones a diferencia de los interpretes que viven en él ahora.

Hay mucho arte que se hace con nuevas tecnologías, lo cual contribuye a su evolución, pero que con el tiempo se vuelven obsoletas e impracticables mientras que la música sinfónica es un clásico que perdurara como también el óleo sobre la tela, donde lo que evoluciona es el lenguaje, la imagen y el sonido que uno palpa sobre ella, pero utilizando la misma materia.

La orquesta sinfónica también es una expresión máxima del resultado de un trabajo colectivo, un ejemplo de sociedad.

En estos temas nadie es dueño de la verdad, es solo un punto de vista.

CB: Por favor, contame cómo comenzó la idea inicial detrás de la composición de “Rituales Amerindios”. Fue por tu propia iniciativa o por el encargo que recibiste? El material musical, es acaso influido o afectado por los diversos encargos que recibís?

EB: Pocas veces he tenido encargos cuya temática me haya sido impuesta, normalmente soy yo el que elige el tema.

Esta obra surgió como un encargo de la Orquesta de Gotemburgo (Orquesta Nacional de Suecia) cuyo director musical era Gustavo Dudamel. Fue estrenada por esta orquesta en Gotemburgo en enero del 2010 y en la misma semana llevada en gira al Festival Internacional de Música de las Islas Canarias en Las Palmas de Gran Canarias y en Tenerife. Este tríptico sinfónico está dedicado a Gustavo Dudamel, lo que me motivó a querer escribir una obra que, a mi humilde manera, pudiera rendir un homenaje musical a Latinoamérica a través de sus tres culturas precolombinas preponderantes, que son la Azteca (México), Maya (sur de México y América central) e Inca (América del sur, mayormente en Perú).

Cada uno de los mov­imientos, entonces, lleva el nombre de alguna divinidad de esas culturas. I  – Ehécatl (Díos del viento Azteca) II  – Chaac (Díos del agua Maya) III – Illapa (Díos del trueno Inca)

Luego Gustavo Dudamel la ha programado con Los Angeles Philharmonic en su abono en el Walt Disney Concert Hall y en gira a San Francisco dentro del marco del centenario de la San Francisco Symphony . Tambien con la Orquesta Simon Bolivar la ha dado a conocer en el Carnegie Hall de New York, Berkeley, Royal Festival Hall de Londres y el Concergebouw de Amsterdam. Otras orquestas como la Philharmonique de Radio France y la Filarmónica del Teatro Colon de Buenos Aires entre otras, ya la han programado.

CB: En cuanto al material musical, es increíble como podes lograr motivos tan memorables y simples como el que comienza Rituales Amerindios. Como encontrás un equilibrio tan sutil entre lo complejo (de lo cual hay mucho en tu obra) y lo simple? Tenés acaso una búsqueda consciente de lo memorable y lo transcendente?

EB: Si digiera que estoy en la búsqueda de crear algo memorable y transcendente sonaría muy pretencioso, ¿cómo encontrar eso?

Te agradezco tu punto de vista sobre mi música, me cuesta mucho definir con palabras lo que hago con la música de una manera muy intuitiva.

Me gusta cuando compongo crear temas que pueden ser motivos melódicos o rítmicos que aparecen en mi música como personajes que entran y salen dentro de un decorado musical. Mi música es muy pictórica, como si se tratara de escenografías sonoras que sirven de fondo para esos personajes que en diferentes momentos reaparecen con variaciones, dándole así una unidad a la obra.

Rituales amerindios es un mural sinfónico, donde esta cargado de elementos que por sencillos y reconocibles que son, atraen la atención, sobre texturas complejas que hacen de fondo.

CB: La fuerza rítmica, evocaciones a la naturaleza, momentos de un bellísimo liricismo son una parte muy natural de “Rituales Amerindios” (y quizás una impronta de vos como compositor). Te has apoyado en el concepto de un neo-nacionalismo, o de un folklore imaginario, por así llamarlo? (yo personalmente imagino que a Ginastera le hubiese gustado muchísimo tu música)

EB: Te agradezco tu comentario.

Definir mi música me cuesta porque correría el riesgo de encasillarme con la descripción que pueda hacer y yo no tengo dogmas estrictas.
En obras como “Rituales Amerindios” yo me siento un poco en la línea iniciada por compositores latinoamericanos como Revueltas, Villa-Lobos y Ginastera del folclore imaginario, es decir, yo no pretendo hacer etnomusicología, si no que en muchas de mis obras he tomado raíces, ritmos, mitología o giros melódicos de nuestro continente como fuente de inspiración, pero para desarrollar mi propio lenguaje que se podría describir como una fusión entre estas raíces y las nuevas técnicas de la música occidental contemporánea.
Si bien tengo en común con estos mencionados compositores, el hecho de que tomo las mismas raíces como fuente de inspiración, como yo soy un compositor del siglo XXI mis influencias estéticas son diferentes.
En mis primeras obras esto fue surgiendo inconscientemente, quizás por el contacto que he tenido con el folclore y los instrumentos autóctonos de pequeño en el instituto vocacional de arte “Labarden” de Buenos Aires y también por mi pasión por cierto compositores sudamericanos.  Hoy creo que esta fusión la reivindico y lo hago más conscientemente con una actitud explorativa, aunque no todas las obras de mi catalogo tiene esta temática.

En mis obras me gusta recrear las sonoridades de instrumentos autóctonos como por ejemplo las quenas o sikus, pero utilizando los instrumentos de la orquesta tradicional, mediante procedimientos actuales como la utilización de multifónicos, armónicos, distinto tipo de soplidos, técnicas extendidas en los aerófonos e intento recrear la sonoridad del charango rasgueado pero con los pizzicatos arpegiados de los violines, etc..

También me apasiona los sonidos de la naturaleza, el canto de pájaros imaginarios, sonidos de los elementos minerales, vegetales, maderas, ambientes acuáticos, la fauna, “Rituales Amerindios” es también un canto a la naturaleza de América.

CB: Esteban, te agradezco muchísimo por tu atención y tu tiempo. Estamos muy honrados de compartir tu hermosa música con nuestro público.

EB: El agradecido soy yo, de poder contar con interpretes entusiastas como vos que le dan vida a mi música. Es extraordinario el trabajo que estás haciendo con la Orquesta de la Universidad de Davis dando a conocer la música de nuestro tiempo.

Esteban Benzecry 2019 Alita Baldi 12
Esteban Benzecry – Foto por Alita Baldi (2019)

Compositor argentino nacido en Lisboa en 1970, hijo del reconocido director de orquesta argentino Mario Benzecry, después de crecer en la Argentina ha vivido en Francia desde 1997, y obtuvo la nacionalidad francesa en 2011.

En 1997 se trasladó a ParísFrancia, donde realizó estudios de composición en el Conservatorio de París bajo la guía de los maestros Jacques Charpentier y Paul Méfano. También realizó cursos de música electroacústica(nouvelles techniques) dictado por los maestros Luis Naón y Laurent Cuniot en el Conservatoire National Superieur de París.

En Argentina, paralelamente a sus estudios de Bellas Artes en la universidad “Prilidiano Pueyrredón”coronados por un título de profesor nacional de pintura, estudia composición con los maestros Sergio Hualpa y Haydée Gerardi.

Autor de tres sinfonías (su primera sinfonía “El compendio de la vida”, escrita en 1993, está inspirado en cuatro pinturas de su autoría), varias obras sinfónicas y de cámara. Sus obras más recientes intentan una fusión entre los ritmos y raíces latinoamericanas que toma como fuente de inspiración y las diferentes corrientes estéticas de la música contemporánea europea, creando así un lenguaje personal, un folclore imaginario.

Una crítica publicada en “Le Monde de la Musique” (Julio de 2001) lo califica como un heredero lejano de Heitor Villa-Lobos y Alberto Ginastera por la utilización imaginativa del patrimonio musical latinoamericano.

Sus obras son interpretadas y encargadas por importantes orquestas de todo el mundo como las siguientes: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Ángeles Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra , Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Tampere Philharmonic, Stavanger Symfoniorkester, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Hamburg Philharmoniker Orchester, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta de la RTVE Radio Television Española , Orquesta y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid, Orquestra Gulbenkian de Lisboa, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestre Colonne, Orchestre Pasdeloup, Orchestre Lamoureux , Orchestre Symphonique de Cannes-Côte d’Azur, Sinfonietta de París, Orchestre de la Basse Normandie, Orchestre Universitaire de Strasbourg, el ensemble l’Itinéraire, el Octuor des violoncelles de Beauvais, Grup Instrumental de Valencia, Ensamble LIM, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de ArgentinaOrquesta Filarmónica del Teatro Colón de Buenos AiresOrquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela, Orquesta Filarmónica Nacional de Venezuela, Sinfonica Nacional de Colombia, Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Lima, Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble of Pittsburgh (USA), Orchestre Symphonique de Klaïpeda (Lituanie), Orquesta Sinfónica Carlos Chávez (México), Camerata Lysy – Gstaad, Camerata Basel, Camerata Bariloche (Argentina), London’s Schubert Chamber Orchestra, Unitas Ensemble – Boston – USA, Filarmónica de Stat Targu Mures (Rumania), Kiev Chamber Orchestra, Zaporozhye Symphony Orchestra – Ukraine, Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra (Ucrania) Solaris String Quartet, entre otros.

Y han integrado el repertorio de prestigiosos directores y solistas como: Gustavo DudamelMiguel Harth BedoyaGiancarlo GuerreroDiego Matheuz, Manuel Lopez Gomez, Enrique Arturo DiemeckePablo BoggianoLaurent PetitgirardAlain AltinogluDaniel KawkaWolfgang DoernerMark FosterAlain PârisNemanja RadulovicAlberto LysyGautier CapuçonSol GabettaJesús Castro BalbiSergio TiempoHoracio Lavandera y Ayako Tanaka.

Y han sido programadas en importantes salas y Festivales internacionales de los que se pueden citar: Carnegie Hall de New York, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall de Los Angeles, Davies Symphony Hall de San Francisco, Sydney Opera House, Concertgebouw de Ámsterdam, Royal Festival Hall de Londres, Philharmonie de Paris, Salle PleyelSalle GAVEAUThéâtre des Champs ElyséesThéâtre Mogador, Maison de RADIO FRANCE, Palais de l’Unesco de París, Palais des Festivals a Cannes, Opéra de Montpellier, Sydney Opera House, Teatro Colón de Buenos Aires, Auditorio Nacional de Madrid, Festival Rencontres d’ensembles de violoncelles de Beauvais, Concours International d’harpe Lily LaskineJuilliard School de Nueva York, (Lincoln Center), Bard Music Festival – NY – USA, Boston Conservatory, Festival Présences de Radio France, Festival Pontino d’Italie, Festivals de Brighton et Dartington (Inglaterra), Festival de Música de Islas Canarias, Festival Estoril de Portugal, Miso Music Portugal, Festival Musica Viva de Lisboa, Festival Ensems de Valencia, Festival de Morelia (México), Carlos Prieto International Cello Competition – Morelia, México, Festival Latinoamericano de Música de Caracas, Festival Iberoamericano de Puerto Rico, Museo Guggenheim de Bilbao– Festival BBK, Van Cliburn Foundation of Fort Worth, Concours international de piano d’Orléans, Busoni International Piano Competition.

En el 2015 fue compositor invitado de Radio France dentro del marco del Festival Présences dedicado a las Américas, donde con las orquestas Philharmonique de Radio France y la Orchestre National de France se estrenaron su “Concierto para violoncello y orquesta” contando con la participación del célebre violonchelista Gautier Capuçon, su díptico “MADRE TIERRA” ambas compuestas por encargo de Radio France, y se presentó por primera vez en Francia su obra “Rituales Amerindios”.

Durante la temporada 2015-16 fue compositor en residencia de la Orchestra Pasdeloup, que interpreto ocho de sus obras sinfónicas en la Philharmonie de Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet y Salle Gaveau.

Su obra “Pachamama” para orquesta, fue interpretado en el 2015 dentro del marco del histórico concierto inaugural de la sala sinfónica del Centro Cultural Kirchner CCK, por la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Argentina bajo la dirección del maestro Pedro Ignacio Calderón.
Distinguido por la Asociación de Críticos Musicales de la Argentina, en 1992 como la “joven revelación”, en 1994 recibe el premio a la mejor obra argentina estrenada en dicha temporada por su primera sinfonía “El compendio de la vida”, en el 2006 por su obra “La Lumière de Pacha Camac” en 2009 por su obra “Patagonia” y finalmente en 2018 por su “Ciclo de canciones para soprano y orquesta”. La Académie des Beaux-arts de l’Institut de France le ha otorgado varios premios: en 1999 el Premio Delmas; en 2002 el Premio Tronchet; y, en el 2006, el Premio Georges Wildenstein. En el 2004 gana el premio de composición de la Fundación Groupe d’entreprise Banque Populaire-Natexis. En el 2008 recibe el premio de la John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation de New York. Compositor en residencia en la Casa de Velázquez de Madrid 2004-06 (miembro de la sección artística). Ha sido becario del “Mozarteum Argentino” y de “Interamerican Music Friends” de Washington (USA). En 1995 fue invitado como compositor en residencia a la “Academie Internationale de Musique Yehudi Menuhin” de Suiza.

Cello, Concerto, Music, Symphony Orchestra, Uncategorized, violin

Soloist Profile: Eunghee Cho in Conversation with Christian Baldini

As we get ready to perform Brahms’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, it is my pleasure to ask our soloist Eunghee Cho some questions about this piece, about music in general, and about his role as Artistic Director of the recently founded Mellon Music Festival in Davis, California.

Christian Baldini: Eunghee, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to your hometown to showcase you as our soloist for this marvelous piece of music. Tell us why you chose to perform this piece? What is so special to you about it? 

Eunghee Cho: I’ve found that collaborating with inspiring musicians on an incredible piece of music motivates new dimensions in my perception of sound and musicality. The double concerto allows for the creation of a sonic über-instrument from the cello-violin combo simultaneously manifesting alongside their unfolding conquest with the full orchestra. I can’t wait!

CB: And tell us about your soloist partner, violinist Stephanie Zyzak. How did the two of you meet, and would you say you have much in common with regards to music making?

EC: We first met in the context of a conductorless chamber orchestra. During our first cycle, we were both principals for Shostakovich’s C minor Chamber Symphony – a transcription of his 8th string quartet for string orchestra. I was absolutely floored by the anguish she vocalized in that opening movement solo. Within those first few minutes, I knew that it could only ever be a privilege to work with such a powerful artist.


CB: Tell us about how you decided to found the Mellon Music Festival in Davis. I had the pleasure of attending some of your events, and it gives me great comfort to see so many talented young people working together and offering high quality music performances. How did you come up with this idea, and where would you like to go with it?

EC: In a nutshell, Davis was missing an international chamber music festival and I had some buddies who loved performing chamber music! More specifically though, so much of the current climate of classical music appreciation is predicated on a snobby, elitist stereotype of the genre when in fact it can be one of the most inclusive and accessible media of expression. To combat the stigmas, our programming and outreach efforts actively exploit the inherent beauty and expressive potential of the classical genre. Beyond nurturing a community around dedicated festival engagement, we’ll make classical music in vogue once again!

CB: What are your choices for programming music? I noticed that in future concerts you will be performing more recent repertoire (works by Ligeti and Golijov), which seems like a welcome development. Are you planning on commissioning works in the future perhaps too?


EC: Of course you can’t go wrong when programming the classics, but we are also advocates of an evolving music tradition that embraces musical innovation, especially when we have the chance to pick the brains of living composers. I can only imagine how bummed I’d be if I found out after I died that I could’ve asked the 21st century edition Beethoven how to perform precisely his hugely varying dynamic and articulation varieties. In the past, we commissioned, with support from a Boston-based grant, two new works for the festival in our Spring 2018 preview concerts with the Holes in the Floor cello quartet. Commissions are certainly in our future!

CB: What is your ideal job? Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?


EC: My ideal job would be spending my weeks alternating between intensive musical collaborations and work as a professional dog walker.

CB: If you had to give advice to a very young musician starting out, what would you say to them? What should they do in order to become a successful musician?


EC: A lot of the time it will feel like the music is kicking your butt, but if you can push through the temporary grind, the product is one of the greatest imaginable rewards. Also, find inspiration in as many of the oldies (i.e. Kreisler, Piatigorsky, Szigeti, Casals, Tertis) as your 24-hr days will allow.

CB: Do you enjoy reading? Sports? What other activities do you enjoy outside music (and besides dogs!)?


EC: Mostly resulting from a general paranoia, I tend to arrive at airports hours before my flight’s scheduled departure so I’ve adopted another hobby that can aptly be described as “people watching.” Also, I have hardly ever said no to a game of pick-up soccer.

CB: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. We look forward to a beautiful performance together! And maybe we’ll play soccer together someday (another passion of mine!)
EC: Absolutely my pleasure! See you soon!

eunghee Cho2W
Born in Davis, California, Korean-American cellist Eunghee Cho was awarded Second Prize and the special award for Outstanding Chinese New Piece Performance at the Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition in Harbin, China. He has also earned First Prize in the USC Solo Bach Competition, the Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, New England Conservatory’s Honors Ensemble Competition, Sacramento Philharmonic League JAMMIES Concerto Competition, and was awarded top prize in the Classical Soloist category by Downbeat Student Music Awards.
He has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras around the country including the Sacramento Philharmonic, Cape Symphony, Atlantic Symphony, Symphony by the Sea, Davis Symphony, and Sacramento State Symphony Orchestras. He currently holds the Joyce & Donald Steele Chair as Principal Cello of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, and frequently performs as Principal Cello with Cape Symphony, Unitas Ensemble, and Symphony by the Sea. Eunghee has actively participated in classes at the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival and Académie Musicale de Villecroze in France and has worked closely with distinguished professors such as Steven Doane, Colin Carr, Myung-Wha Chung, Jean-Guihen Queyras, and members of the Guarneri, Emerson, Tokyo, Orion, Brentano, Borromeo, and Shanghai Quartets. 

 

As an avid chamber musician, Eunghee has collaborated in performances with artists such as Midori Goto, David Shifrin, Elton John, François Salque, and the Borromeo String Quartet, and has performed as a guest artist with A Far Cry, Da Camera Society, and the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento. Previous festival engagements include the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Taos School of Music, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Festival International d’Echternach, and Rencontres Franco Américaines de Musique Chambre in Missillac, France. He is Artistic Director and Founder of the Mellon Music Festival in Davis, CA.

Eunghee graduated magna cum laude and as a Steven & Kathryn Sample Renaissance Scholar from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance and a Minor in Biology. Following his completion of a Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music he is currently enrolled in the conservatory’s Doctor of Musical Arts Program under the tutelage of distinguished pedagogue Laurence Lesser. His previous instructors include Paul Katz, Andrew Shulman, Andrew Luchansky, Richard Andaya, and Julie Hochman. He plays on a 1930 Anselmo Gotti cello on generous loan by Colburn Foundation. Away from the cello, Eunghee enjoys neighborhood pick-up soccer, everything about dogs, and dawdling in local coffee shops.

Cello, Concerto, Dance, Music, Tango, Uncategorized

Soloist Profile: Anssi Karttunen in conversation with Christian Baldini

In preparation for our performance of Peter Lieberson’s “The Six Realms” (for cello and orchestra), I had the occasion of asking our wonderful soloist Anssi Karttunen a few questions:

Christian Baldini: Anssi, what a treat to get to perform this piece with you as our soloist, thank you so much for joining us! This will be the first time that this piece will be performed without the cello being amplified, is that correct? You were very good friends with Peter Lieberson, so can you tell us the history behind the reason for this piece being published for amplified cello, despite the composer’s wishes?

Anssi Karttunen: I know exactly what must have happened at the first performance with Yo-Yo Ma because the same thing has happened to me with other first performances. There is no piece more difficult for balance than a cello concerto. Nowadays there is mostly very little time to rehearse for any orchestral piece and the one aspect that takes time to sort out is balance. So it sometimes happens that in order for the cello to be heard in the first performance one has to ask for a discreet amplification. Usually in the following performances the composer can work out the problematic passages. That is exactly what happened in Toronto, the only problem being that it was then published as a piece for amplified cello and orchestra which was not Peter’s original idea. When I suggested that we take a look at the dynamics together in order to make a version that can be performed and rehearsed in normal time he was delighted. We were both convinced that Six Realms would work very well with some small revisions which he was going to do himself. Unfortunately he got very ill and wrote to me some time later that he would not able to finish the work but that he trusted I would make the right decisions. A few months later he passed away, it has taken 8 years to find the right conditions for this performance.

CB: This work is based on some Buddhist principles, and the concept that (in Lieberson’s own words) “differing states of mind and emotions colour our view of the world and shape human experience”. We know Lieberson was a Buddhist, but can you develop on this and how it might have affected his compositional output?

AK: I don’t think Peter is trying to give us a lecture on the Buddhist idea of cycle of rebirths through six realms, but as it was for him a very concrete and deep belief it gave him a story thread to follow and to tell through his music. There is a universality in the message of the piece that does not require knowledge on Buddhism. The movement through different stages of existence and emotional states can be felt and received either concretely or as an abstraction. The sincerity of Peter’s relation to his own music and his beliefs is there for all of us to feel.

The Six Realms is structured as follows:

1. The Sorrow of the World (introduction)
2. The Hell Realm (aggression: acute, self-perpetuating anger at the world and ourselves)
3. The Hungry Ghost Realm (passion: the need to possess or continually consume; we are never satisfied because we can never get enough)
4. The Animal Realm (ignorance: an obsessive need to control or to find security)
5. The Human Realm (passion: the desire for something better, and a lessening of self-absorption, allows for the possibility of our becoming dignified humans who long for liberation from these six realms of existence. It is only from this realm that we are able to move on to achieve Enlightenment: the right way to view, and interact with, the world.)
6. The God Realm (ignorance: blissful self-absorption of our godlike powers, until doubt sets in and shatters our confidence) and The Jealous God Realm (aggression: extreme paranoia and competitive drive; we never trust anyone or their motives)

CB: What is so very special to you about this piece, and, are you hoping that now that we finally perform it without amplification (with some of the edits that you did with PL before he died), it will finally become a staple of the Cello Concerto repertoire?

AK: The important thing is not that we play it with or without amplification, it is simply that the piece gets heard again. It often happens even to masterpieces that for one reason or another they do not receive the success they deserve immediately and need to wait for their moment. I sincerely think that this is one of the great American concertos and there are not too many of those for any instrument. At the same time it is not merely American, it is a universal piece. Peter didn’t want his music to sound American or Buddhist, he followed the principle of « being brave enough to experience existence without dogma or belief of any kind ». I hope we can bring justice to this wonderful piece.

CB: You have given the world premiere of over 180 works (and counting), and have worked with some of the most celebrated composers of our time such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Luca Francesconi, Kaija Saariaho, and Pascal Dusapin. Can you tell us why it is so important to actively promote the works of living composers?

AK:There are three main reasons why working with living composers is essential for us performers:

– Firstly: Music has changed a lot during history but the work of a composer has remained essentially the same, It still starts with an empty page and through their own individual battles composers manage to put down on paper the closest approximation of their music that notation allows. Knowing how different composers work today is the best way to imagine how composers worked earlier, how they all are different and have very different priorities for us performers.

– Secondly: There is nothing more exciting than being part of the creative process. The moment when a piece is born. Being the first messenger who allow an audience to discover a new creation is a priceless opportunity.

– Thirdly: The work of a performer is ephemeral. Nothing remains of a concert, sometimes a recording, but often not event that. CDs exist, but recordings often fall out of fashion and our work is eventually forgotten. The only legacy we can leave behind are the pieces that we were able to inspire composers to compose. So through these pieces which will survive in the hands of other performers a little bit of my happy moments will survive for future generations.

CB: Can you share with us some interesting, amusing or charming anecdotes of your life as a touring musician, traveling around the world working with wonderful musicians from all walks of life?

AK: Friends are what is the most interesting, charming and amusing thing about the life of a traveling musician. And coming back to places to meet the friends again. Sometimes one meets a person that marks your life and never meet them again. Sometimes a surprising place or friend accompanies you throughout the rest of your life. One such place is Davis; when I first came here 20 years ago I had no idea that a recording Pablo Ortiz played for me of Piazzolla and Troilo led us to a collaboration that has produced now already two CDs and countless pieces and concerts. And Davis itself became a place were I am now coming for my fourth visit, each time with a completely different project. Another such person was Peter Lieberson, I only met him on two occasions, but our bond was so strong that we became very close and he and his music has accompanied me far beyond his passing.

CB: Wow, that is amazing to hear. Now changing completely the subject, and dreaming big, tell us, if you were appointed Artistic Director of a Music Festival with unlimited resources, and you had to choose the programming for 3 symphonic programs (with unlimited choices of soloists, orchestras, choirs, conductors), who would you invite, and to perform what?

AK: If you offer me unlimited resources, then I can take the liberty of traveling in time. The first concert I would program is the one that I in fact programmed four years ago in Helsinki when I directed the Musica nova Festival. This was such a happy moment of being with and listening to friends that I would love to offer it to more people to enjoy. My closest friend Olly Knussen sadly passed away last summer so the only way this concert could happen is with these unlimited resources.

1:
Peter Lieberson: Shing Kham, percussion concerto (orchestrated by Oliver Knussen)
Mark-Anthony Turnage: On Open Ground, viola concerto
Reinbert de Leeuw: Der nächtlige Wanderer
Finnish Radio Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Knussen (1952-2018), soloists: Pedro Carneiro, percussion and Steven Dann, viola

2:
The second concert would be a trip into history. To meet and hear two of my heroes and to understand how they performed themselves. Schumann’s cello concerto I would have to offer to play myself, because no cellist in his lifetime wanted to play it and he never heard it. Hearing Brahms and his friends perform the Double Concerto would be the ultimate way of understanding his music and the way he performed it himself. So much has changed since those days and there are no records to listen to, we can only guess how it may have been.

Schumann: Cello Concerto, Schumann conducting and myself as soloist
Brahms: Double Concerto, Brahms conducting, Joseph Joachim, violin and Robert Hausmann cello

3:
Arnold Schönberg: Gurrelieder conducted by Schönberg.

I would want to sit in the audience for this concert that was one of the most important moments in the history of music. Plus I would be sitting next to so many incredible people, Berg, Webern, Zemlinsky and many others. And if I had organised the concert I would have the chance to take them all out for dinner afterwards.

CB: That was very illuminating, and it speaks very much about the great breadth of repertoire that is so important to you. Once again, Anssi, thank you very much for coming to Davis to perform this wonderful music with us, and for sharing your very interesting insights with us!

Continue reading “Soloist Profile: Anssi Karttunen in conversation with Christian Baldini”

Music, Uncategorized

Christian Baldini in conversation with pianist Andrei Baumann

In preparation for our upcoming performance of Copland’s Piano Concerto at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis, I spent some time with Andrei Baumann talking about Copland, music in general, and about the importance and role that art has in society nowadays.

Christian Baldini: How would you describe the Copland Piano Concerto to someone that’s never listened to it, or who knows nothing about it?

Andrei Baumann: Be open-minded. You will hear sounds that are jarring and dissonant. Expect the unexpected. After listening to the piece for the first time, you will hopefully want to listen to it a few MORE times, because it moves by so quickly and can seem so spontaneous and unexpected. If the first movement has gone by, and you have enjoyed the wonderful melodies exchanged between the piano and orchestra; the piano cadenza to begin the second movement will be a good hint for what’s to come!

CB: One could undoubtedly describe Aaron Copland as one of the great American composers, with vast influences on so many others such as Leonard Bernstein, but perhaps reaching out to other cultures as well such as Carlos Chávez or Alberto Ginastera. In this concerto, the obvious references to jazz and blues are crystal clear and omnipresent, and in some of his other music we have references to the “folksy feeling”, in Copland’s own words, or even the adoption of serialism. These terms can all equally be used to describe Copland’s varied output. How do you see Copland’s legacy in the music of the 20th and 21st century?

AB: Copland’s language is very new to me. I remember working on his Sextet at a chamber music festival. It took such a long time for us to find a level of comfort while working on this piece. I love his songs set to Emily Dickinson poetry, and of course Appalachian Spring.

I think Copland’s music is very accessible to audiences. In the 21st century, we have become accustomed to hearing so many different sounds. As someone whose ear is more drawn to tonality, I naturally am inclined towards Jazz Standards and Classical harmony. The musical world today is so different. Copland’s music feels like a mish-mash of the “old and the new.” He is truly a great American composer.

CB: Everyone knows Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which was written just two years prior to the Copland Piano Concerto, but why do you think such few people know about this piece? I was fortunate to get to know this piece as I was assisting Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony, and one week Inon Barnatan came to play this piece. What do you think is the reason that  this wonderful concerto has not become a staple in the repertoire?

AB: This is a great question, for many reasons. One of the reasons that I have become so drawn to this piece is that the soloist and orchestra play equally important roles. I can imagine parts of the second movement being played by a big band! Sometimes I have the feeling that I am playing in a jazz combo, big band or large chamber music ensemble. I can’t understand why this concerto is not performed more often. I wonder if the fact that the orchestra and soloist parts are so intertwined makes this piece less appealing to learn. Certainly it is not a concerto that would be suitable for piano competitions, which are such a staple of ones early musical development. Hopefully this concerto will be performed much more in the future!

CB: How did you start with music?

I was introduced to music in a very unique way. My father loves Classical music, and introduced me to this music at a very young age. I fell in love with this music instantly. I have always loved playing chamber music: the interaction with other musicians, exchanging ideas, coming up with a common interpretation. A vivid memory was an outreach performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet in Toronto. Three of us absolutely adored the piece, and we got two friends to join our group. We only performed the piece once, but I was felt as though I couldn’t stop smiling inside for the full hour! We were so lucky to play such a glorious piece of music, and communicate this together to an audience.

CB: What have been the most inspiring experiences and people to you in your professional life?

AB: In recent years, people who have inspired me the most are artists who are introducing music to the community. Some of these families would never have access to music, and these musicians educate students in a most commendable way. Locally here in Davis, Sandra Brown; in Vacaville, Chase Spruill is doing wonders for the music program at Sierra Vista; and in Providence, Rhode Island, Adrienne Taylor: who represents Community Music Works in a most admirable way. These individuals have a unique ability to communicate the language of music and to inspire the next generation.

CB: Are there any other piano concertos that you would love to play after this one? Which ones?

AB: In no particular order: Rachmaninoff 2nd, both Chopin concertos, and Beethoven’s 3rd and 4th concertos. Playing a concerto is such a unique and thrilling experience.

CB: What would you say is the role of music in society nowadays?

I believe that music can play a much greater role in society. In this country, Classical music and Jazz are appreciated by a wonderful group of enthusiasts. While I’m extremely grateful to these enthusiasts, the greater population seems very much out of touch with this tradition. It would be easy to see this as a fault, however the problems are numerous. Music and art should be a foundation of our education. If this music is presented and celebrated from a young age, then the group of enthusiasts could grow in years to come. In an age where we seem to be more and more isolated, music can create community. Thankfully it is still not possible to have an ensemble made up of iPhones and computers instead of musicians. People need to be involved, and this is clearly positive!

The excuse that tickets for concerts are too expensive simply doesn’t work. How expensive is it to go see a sports event in Sacramento or the Bay area? Are people just simply losing interest? Somehow music seems to be losing its way, and I really believe it starts from the beginning. Hopefully people will still appreciate listening to a Beethoven symphony in 100 years.

 

IMG_5068 B-a4

ANDREI BAUMANN, pianist

An active soloist, chamber musician, Andrei Baumann has performed extensively in the USA, Europe, Canada and Venezuela. As winner of the 2009 Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, he performed with the quartet in Jordan Hall on January 29th, 2009. His Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Recital Hall occurred in May 2008 with violinist Lily Francis as part of the Distinctive Debuts series. Other notable performances include a solo recital on the Sundays Live Concert Series at Los Angeles County Arts Museum which was broadcast by KCSN, 88.5 FM, solo recitals at the Crocker Art Museum Classical Music Series in California, performances at Caramoor Festival and with Itzhak Perlman at the Perlman Music Program. Andrei has performed in masterclasses for such distinguished artists as Elisso Wirssaladze, Pavel Gililov, Leon Fleisher, Claude Frank and Marc Durand. Among the numerous festivals he has participated in are Corsi in Sermoneta, Italy; Ost-West Musikfest in Krems, Austria; Internationaler Kammermusikkurs in Böhlen, Germany; Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in Finland; Banff Centre for the Arts and Orford Arts Centre in Canada; and in the USA, Aspen Music Festival, Perlman Music Program.

Recent performance highlights have included a Mothers Day performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto with Peter Jaffe and the Auburn Symphony, and numerous chamber music performances with cellist Susan Lamb Cook and friends. Mr. Baumann is a frequent performer at the Mondavi Center, Harris Center and others venues in Northern California. He also recently released a second album Miroirs, which includes works by Bach, Debussy and Ravel.

Mr. Baumann has a Masters of Music in Piano Performance from New England Conservatory in Boston, a Künstlerischer Ausbildung Diploma from the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, Germany, and a Bachelor of Music degree at the Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. His most influential teachers have been Andre Laplante, Jamie Saltman and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein.

Mr. Baumann has been a piano faculty member at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, MA. He is also Head of the Piano Department at Camp Encore/Coda in Sweden, Maine. In addition, he has been a jury member at the A Ramon Rivera Piano Competition at Rivers School Conservatory in Weston.

Mr. Baumann has moved back to Davis, and is very excited to open a piano studio. He is currently accepting students. Mr. Baumann is an avid nature enthusiast. He is currently pursuing the ideal sunrise, the Aurora Borealis, and many new adventures.

 

Baldini conducting UC Davis Symphony Orchestra

Christian Baldini started conducting at age 19, and he came to international attention when he made his debut in Salzburg as a finalist for the Nestlé/Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award. He has served as Music Director of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento since 2012. He has also served as the Music Director of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and Barbara K. Jackson Professor of Conducting at the University of California, Davis, since 2009. With these orchestras he has conducted multiple world premieres, and local premieres of such important works as Varèse’s AmériquesLuciano Berio’s SinfoniaLigeti’s Violin Concerto, and many relevant symphonic cycles like those by Sibelius, Brahms and Schumann.
Baldini has conducted opera at the English National Opera (most recently Verdi’s Aida at London’s Coliseum in November 2017), Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (Dallapiccola’s Il prigioniero, Dallapiccola’s Volo di notte, and the world premiere of Oscar Strasnoy’s Requiem), and the Aldeburgh Festival in England (Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia). Since 2009 he has been the Music Director of the Rising Stars of Opera in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, showcasing some of the most talented operatic singers of the young generation.
Baldini previously served as an assistant conductor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. His CD recording “Mozart: Opera Arias and Overtures” conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was chosen as “Recording of the Month” by the BBC Classical Music Magazine, and received 4- and 5-star reviews by the specialized press. He is a frequent international guest conductor with appearances leading the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Munich Radio Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra (or Argentina and Portugal), Teatro Argentino de La Plata and the Florida Orchestra.
For more information visit: http://www.christianbaldini.info