Melvin Chen on Chamber Music’sHidden Influences

Festival Director Melvin Chen explains why he chose Hidden Influences for this year’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival theme.

Director Melvin Chen would like to change that, or at least raise the idea that classical chamber music is not static but rather an art form that is of the world, one whose enjoyment can be expanded even further if we understand a bit more about where the music comes from. That’s the idea behind Hidden Influences, this season’s mini-Festival theme at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

“It’s wrong to think of classical music as some kind of bubble, apart from the goings-on of the rest of the world,” Chen explains in an interview in his Yale School of Music office. “There are a lot of things that affected classical music that are not immediately obvious, whether it’s due to the specific composer [and his life experiences] or societal forces. I thought it would be interesting to bring to light some of those things, the things you don’t think of at first glance.”

Chen introduced his mini-Festival themes when he took over as Festival Director three years ago. Previous years focused on Antonín Dvořák and his musical influences and the year 1918. With Hidden Influences, Chen gave five examples of potential musical influence that are featured in specific concerts: sounds from home and abroad, siblings, friendship, death, and technology.

The July 5th concert kicks off the Hidden Influences theme. Featuring music by Haydn, Janáček, Ravel, and Price, the music reflects the ways composers use the sounds of home and far away places in their music. “These composers not only use sounds of childhood to evoke feelings but to transform that music in modern ways to push forward their music so they’re not just a simple remembrance,” Chen says. “The music is used as a device to push forward their compositional style.” Composer Florence Price, for instance, transformed folk songs from her youth into something “modernist.” Chen adds that her composition contrasts with Haydn, who in his Piano Trio No. 39 in G Major, “Gypsy,” “evokes a sense of the exotic.” Ravel in his Mother Goose Suites serves both purposes, Chen continues. The suite was written for children so it evokes his childhood and the past but it also elicits hints of Southeast Asia. “I wanted to see how composers evoke the ‘other’ and contrast that with how they use familiar concepts of home and youth.”

The influence of technology is explored in the July 12th concert that features works by CPE Bach, Telemann, Harbison, and Beethoven. “Technology has influenced classical music in profound ways,” Chen says, citing the change from harpsichords to modern pianos as just one example. “Harpsichords weren’t built for large concert halls, but the piano has evolved into an instrument that were designed for larger spaces.” Horns, meanwhile, evolved from instruments with no valves to today’s modern horn.

But it’s not just the technology of the instruments that affects how music is composed and played. Inventions, such as the metronome in 1812, had a profound impact on how music was composed and played. “When that was invented, it enabled Beethoven to say, ‘Play it at this speed,’” Chen explains, noting the quartet in this concert (String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3) is one such piece.  “Composers could write more complex music due to the metronome,” he says, while “musicians could use the metronome to practice music differently. It’s something you don’t usually think about.”

The Hidden Influences continues July 26th and July 27th with a look at the influence of siblings and friendship on classical music. Felix Mendelssohn, Chen adds, was a child prodigy, “arguably as accomplished as Mozart.” But his sister Fanny, who as a woman was not afforded the same opportunities for either study or performance, was also talented. “The thing is we will never know how she really could have developed as a composer,” Chen says. “He got the opportunities while she did not. There is also probably some hidden aspect that she was so talented that she probably drove him to be better. Sibling rivalry is real. I wanted to explore that and to show she is a good composer.”

“It’s the same with Clara [Schumann],” Chen says, whose music will be featured, along with her husband’s, on July 27th. “She was discouraged from publishing her music. Even as she was discouraged from pursuing her own compositional aspirations so that her husband could be in the forefront within her family, she actively championed his works. She turned into one of the great piano virtuosos of her time playing Robert’s music,” Chen says.

There is an additional subtext to the sibling relationship in music, Chen explains. “It’s siblings on the surface but it’s really about the role of women advancing in classical music and the problems women had in studying and getting their music played.”

Clara Schumann’s relationship with Johannes Brahms and her potential influence on his music (and he on hers) is an additional facet of the July 27th concert — friendship. Letters aplenty exist between Brahms and Clara, including one in which he tries to console her after the death of one of her children, and he includes a snippet of music he has composed. “The program looks at the link and allows you to hear some of Clara’s music,” Chen says.

The Hidden Influences theme concludes, appropriately, with a look at how composers use their music to work through their impending deaths. “Death is something all of us will face,” Chen says. “It’s interesting to hear how composers in their music wrestle with the question of their impending death.” All of the pieces in the August 3 concert were composed within a few months of Debussy’s, R. Strauss’, and Schubert’s respective deaths. The Sonata for Violin and Piano in g minor was literally Debussy’s last piece. Strauss’ aptly named Four Last Songs were composed during the last months of Strauss’ life. Meanwhile, Schubert’s Cello Quintet in C Major, Op. 163, D 956 was his last chamber music piece, and was written when he knew he was dying from syphilis. “A lot of the music composed that year was about ‘how can I be at peace with my death’,” Chen says of Schubert’s late compositions. “Having a program like this that lets us hear how composers come to terms with their imminent death, maybe it can help some of us when we reach that time,” Chen says. “These pieces are different from each other but it’s interesting to hear what a composer does when he knows he’s dying, how’s it reflected in his music.”

“I want people to see that there are connections between the music you hear and life,” Chen sums up of this year’s Festival theme. “It’s a way for people who don’t know music to enter the music.”

— By Janet Reynolds

 

View the 2019 Festival Season.

 

 

 


 

Published March 8, 2019
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Pianist Daniel Le:
Why Norfolk?

Interested in a career in performance? Pianist Daniel Le shares why his two summers at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival were so helpful.

Pianist Daniel Le (Norfolk ’17, ’18) has one piece of advice about whether musicians interested in exploring the world of chamber music should audition for a place at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival: Do it. MORE

Published November 2, 2018
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Violist Melissa Reardon: From Fellow To Faculty

Violist Melissa Reardon proves you can go home again as she returns to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, this time as a faculty member rather than a Fellow. 

Violist Melissa Reardon’s first visit to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival was as a Fellow in 1997. This time around she’s coming as a faculty member and performer.

Reardon, who is a member of the Grammy®-nominated Enso String Quartet and a founding member of East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO), had just finished her first year at Curtis Institute of Music. “I was looking to go to a chamber music-focused place,” she says, noting that among the groups she worked with that summer was the Vermeer Quartet. Unlike some Fellows who come to the Festival in an established chamber group, Reardon was there as an individual Fellow. That meant she played with a variety of people in different groupings over the course of the summer. MORE

Published August 7, 2018
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Six Questions: Hao Zhou, Violin

Violinist HAO ZHOU, 20, has received awards in numerous competitions, such as the American String Teachers Association National Solo Competition, the Edith Knox Performance Competition, and the Downey Young Artists Concerto Competition. As a violinist of the Viano Quartet, Zhou was a prize winner in the 9th International Osaka Chamber Music Competition and Festa, held in 2017. He was named “Artist of the Year in Instrumental Music” by the Orange County Register in 2014 and was included in their article These Orange County Kids Have What It Takes to Succeed. Mr. Zhou currently studies with Martin Beaver at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. MORE

Published July 28, 2018
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Six Questions: Hilda Huang, Pianist

Pianist HILDA HUANG came to international attention after being awarded first prize in the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition. Her performances of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and more recently Ludwig van Beethoven have been hailed for plumbing “philosophical depths” (West-Allgemeine Zeitung) and for possessing an “alluring extroversion” (New York Concert Review). Huang studies with Melvin Chen at the Yale School of Music where she now pursues an MM. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale College in 2017, receiving a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with distinction and the Wrexham and Sharp prizes from the department of music. | Sponsored By John Garrels And Anne Garrels
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Published July 28, 2018
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Six Questions: Noemi Sallai, Clarinet

Aspiring Hungarian clarinetist NOÉMI SALLAI has been the winner of several international clarinet competitions and has played with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer. She is pursuing her MM at The Juilliard School, studying with Jon Manasse and is a recipient of the Irene Diamond Scholarship. Sallai received BM and BA degrees from Bard College, studying with Laura Flax, David Krakauer and Anthony McGill. She is not only  a passionate interpreter of orchestral, chamber and solo  repertoire but also an enthusiast of klezmer music and drawing.  | Clement Clarke Moore Scholarship | noemisallaiclarinet.com
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Published July 28, 2018
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Six Questions: Daniel Le, Piano

Hailed by Arts Review for his “show stopping virtuoso piano rendering,” Australian pianist DANIEL LE has enjoyed an international career spanning four continents. Currently based in New York City, he is pursuing his MM degree at the Manhattan School of Music as the Ruby Fae Ellenger Overstreet Scholar. Previously, he received his bachelor’s degree from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, where he was the two-time recipient of the Stephen Baxter Memorial Scholarship.Primary teachers have included André-Michel Schub, Thomas Hecht, Stephen McIntyre, and Rita Reichman. Recently, Le was one of 10 semi-finalists in the prestigious 2017 Naumburg International Piano Award.  2006 Centenary Committee Scholarship | danieltangle.com MORE

Published July 28, 2018
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Six Questions: Aiden Kane, Viola

Violist AIDEN KANE is an MM student (and BM alumnus) at the Colburn Conservatory of Music where she studies with Mr. Paul Coletti. Prior to attending the Colburn Conservatory, she studied with the National Symphony Orchestra’s principal violist Daniel Foster through the orchestra’s Youth Fellowship Program. Kane is the current violist of the Viano String Quartet, and former violist of the Calla Quartet. With the Calla Quartet, Kane was awarded the silver medal at the 2015 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and worked with Colburn’s theater director Debbie Devine to produce Colburn’s first Musical Encounters outreach concert. MORE

Published July 28, 2018
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Violist Atar Arad: The Joy of Working With and Learning From Fellows

Violist Atar Arad has played at chamber music festivals around the world. He talks about the joy of playing with students at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

Violist Atar Arad has an immediate answer when asked why he keeps returning to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. It’s the Fellows.

“The students are advanced and we get to play with the students, which is wonderful,” he says. “I try to forget that I’m the teacher. I just want to be a member of the group. MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Victoria Chung, Oboe

Oboist VICTORIA CHUNG is completing her BM degree at The Juilliard School, studying with Nathan Hughes. As an enthusiastic ensemble player, Chung enriched her orchestral experiences during summer, including at the Pacific Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, National Orchestral Institute, NSO Summer Music Institute, and the 28th Annual Young Musicians program of CMS of Lincoln Center. Her ambitious spirit extends beyond the orchestral performances, to active solo performances. Following her debut with the Hankook Symphony Orchestra in Seoul in 2008, Chung won opportunities to perform with the National Orchestral Institute in 2015 and the Livingston Symphony Orchestra in May of 2016.
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Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Justin Goldsmith, Cello

JUSTIN GOLDSMITH started studying cello at age nine, and in high school studied with Julia Lichten and David Geber. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University with Felix Wang, he then did his master’s at Indiana University with Peter Stumpf and is currently finishing a Performer Diploma in Chamber Music as cellist of the Vera Quartet. The Quartet will move to Philadelphia this fall to become quartet-in-residence at The Curtis Institute. Outside of music, Goldsmith has worked as a barista and someday hopes to own an espresso machine. He dreams of one day entering a latte art competition. | veraquartet.com
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Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Kristy Tucker, Bassoon

Canadian bassoonist KRISTY TUCKER is currently studying with Frank Morelli at the Yale School of Music, and holds degrees from McGill University and the University of Manitoba. She is the recipient of many awards, including winning the University of Manitoba concerto competition, and receiving a Manitoba Arts Council Grant, WMC scholarships, and National Youth Orchestra Canada’s Award of Excellence. In addition, she has been a semi-finalist in the Meg Quigley Vivaldi competition, the WMC Mclellan Competition, and finalist in the McGill Concerto Competition.
In her spare time, Tucker enjoys watching cooking shows and attempting (and usually failing) to recreate recipes with the limited ingredients found in her cupboard. | Sponsored Sukey Wagner MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Tate Zawadiuk, Cello

Cellist TATE ZAWADIUK performs as a soloist and chamber musician. At twelve, he made his debut as a soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Zawadiuk is part of the Viano String Quartet – third prize winners at the Osaka International String Quartet Competition. He has collaborated with world class musicians such as Emanuel Ax, Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, and Johannes Moser. In 2016, he attended the Academie de Villecroze where he worked with Colin Carr. Currently, he studies with Clive Greensmith at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. | tatezawadiuk.com MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Jungah Yoon, Flute

South Korean flutist, JUNGAH YOON, began playing flute at age 10. In 2006, she was selected as Kumho Prodigy and gave her debut recital in Kumho Arts Hall. She has received numerous awards including the Espoir Prize at the Osaka Twenty-year-old Canadian International Music Competition, the first prize at the Herald Music Competition, and the Sungjung Music Competition.She has performed in masterclasses for distinguished pedagogues such as Julien Beaudiment, Mathieu Dufour, Carol Wincenc and Silvia Careddu. Yoon received her bachelor’s degree from Korea National University of Arts and is currently pursuing her MM at the Yale School of Music studying with Ransom Wilson.

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Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Lucy Wang, Violin

Violinist LUCY WANG is a member of the Viano String Quartet, a major prize winning ensemble at the 9th Osaka International Chamber Music Competition & Festa in May 2017. Wang was featured as a soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in past seasons and has been a prize winner in numerous competitions, including the Isabel Overton Bader Canadian Violin Competition, the Shean Competition, and the OSM Manulife Competition.  MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Clare Monfredo, Cello

CLARE MONFREDO is a New York City-based cellist committed to chamber music and collaboration across the arts. She has performed extensively abroad, most recently as a guest with Ensemble Intercontemporain. As a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Clare was the recipient of the Karl Zeise Memorial Cello Award and worked closely with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. In 2016-17 she studied in Leipzig, Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship. Monfredo received her MM from Rice University and is a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Graduate Artist Award. MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Rachyl Duffy, Viola

Violist RACHYL DUFFY (Norfolk ’17) burst onto the classical music scene on both coasts in 2015 when she won both the prestigious Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition and the Hugo Kauder International Competition for Viola. She then went on to join the San Diego Symphony while completing  her MM degree at the Colburn Conservatory with Paul Coletti.  She now lives out her dreams of making a difference teaching at the Brooklyn Music School, and is jumping into the New York chamber music scene. MORE

Published July 27, 2018
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Six Questions: Elliot Lichtenberg, Oboe

ELLIOT LICHTENBERG is entering his second year as a master’s student in oboe at the Yale School of Music, studying with Stephen Taylor. He recently earned his bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, studying with Richard Killmer. Lichtenberg has performed with the New World Symphony, Battle Creek Symphony, and over recent summers has participated in music festivals such as the National Repertory Orchestra and Round Top Festival Institute. In his free time, Elliot enjoys folding origami, playing with his dog Mozie, arranging music, climbing, and wandering through the forest. MORE

Published July 20, 2018
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Six Questions: Natalia Edwards, Horn

NATALIA EDWARDS, horn with the Maverick Brass Quintet, first began her instrument at age 13 and is currently in her third year studying with Saul Lewis. In 2016, she received a scholarship to pursue a BM at the University of Melbourne and has since been awarded a number of scholarships and prizes, most recently the Eric and Linda Jullyan Memorial Scholarship. In December of 2016, Edwards was invited to play in Stuart Greenbaum’s 50th Birthday concert and was also selected to travel to Korea, in December 2017, for joint performances with students from the Music College at the University of Ulsan in  South Korea.
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Published July 18, 2018
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Six Questions: Cherry Choi Tung Yeung, Violin

CHERRY CHOI TUNG YEUNG, violin, was born in Hong Kong and studies with Ida Kavafian at The Juilliard School. Yeung has been admitted to the highly selective accelerated program, where she will finish both the bachelor’s and master’s program in four years. Yeung is a laureate of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String Competition, The Juilliard Violin Competition, New York Philharmonic Global Academy, Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition, Hong Kong Youth String Competition, and the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts Concerto Competition. Apart from music, she enjoys swimming and exploring New York City.
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Published July 18, 2018
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Six Questions: Luke Baker, Horn

Horn player LUKE BAKER, from Houston, TX, recently received his MM degree from the Yale School of Music under the tutelage of William Purvis. His previous teachers include Greg Hustis, Haley Hoops, Gavin Reed and Holley Linder. He performs regularly with the Allentown Symphony and has served as guest principal with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. While Baker enjoys orchestral performance, he also has a passion for solo performance, and won the university division 2017 International Horn Competition of America and the 2014  Meadows Undergraduate Concerto Competition. When Baker is not playing the horn, he enjoys skiing, rock climbing, and social dancing. | Clement Clarke Moore Scholarship | lukebakerhorn.com
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Published July 18, 2018
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Weigang Li and the Shanghai Quartet
Returning to Norfolk After 32 Years

Violinist Weigang Li of the Shanghai Quartet talks about returning to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival for the first time since attending as a Fellow. 

The first time the Shanghai Quartet (Norfolk ’86, ’92) came to Norfolk, they were Fellows visiting the U.S. for the first time and barely spoke any English. “The Tokyo String Quartet had organized a late Beethoven Quartet seminar,” recalls founding violinist Weigang Li. “To this day I still remember the things we rehearsed and learned that summer.”

“I remember hanging out every night with the Tokyo players and Jesse Levine,” he says. “We learned English and how musicians lived their lives. It had a profound influence on us.” MORE

Published July 18, 2018
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Bassoonist Frank Morelli on
the Art of the Reed and More

Bassoonist Frank Morelli talks about the art of the reed, his Long Island roots, and how he became a world-class player.

String players may obsess over strings and swear by one brand over another, but for reed players, it’s all about the reeds. A reed can make or break a performance, says bassoonist Frank Morelli. “At a certain point as a player you’re only going to be as good as your reed,” he says. “One of the keys to success is learning as much as possible how to bend the reed to your will while you’re playing it.”

Mastering the art of the reed can be double trouble when things go awry for double reed instruments such as oboes and bassoons. Simply put not all reeds are created equal. MORE

Published July 12, 2018
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Building Community One Note at a Time

Grammy Award-winning horn player William Purvis is a regular at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He shares his thoughts on the Festival community and the intensity of chamber music.

Horn player William Purvis starts our conversation about Norfolk Chamber Music Festival with a story. It’s the early 1980s and he’s coming for a weekend residency as a member of the New York Woodwind Quintet. MORE

Published July 3, 2018
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