Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Lark Ascending

It's Sunday morning. I began the day with a coaching of The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams with Jiho, one of Ilkka's most dedicated pupils. It's a rapturous work. I've always hesitated to perform Lark because it demands a flawless bow control combined with serenity of soul. During the years when I served as Artistic Director for Northwest Chamber Orchestra's Showcase Series, I had the great fortune of performing the Vaughan Williams with the indomitable British clarinetist and pianist Thea King. I remember telling her:
Thea, I'm freaking out; the piece is too exposed.

Oh Marjorie, she laughed, pulling up the piano bench. You'll do just fine, you'll see.
I mentally reminded myself to breathe slowly, like being in labor and delivery. I'll tell you, the delivery of the final high B came as a tremendous relief at the conclusion of the Showcase performance.

Fifteen year old Jiho has quite a bit of work to accomplish before he'll be able to emulate the sound of fluttering wings by the use of sul tasto and facile fingers, or transport listeners through an artful ascent, but it'll happen. Jiho's eagerness to study and self-possessed maturity sets him apart from his peers, and I think he has the magic.

The single most remarkable performance of 'The Lark Ascending' that I ever heard was that of violinist and conductor Joseph Silverstein. Although he referred to himself as just an old, bald, Jewish fiddler—and introduced himself by the use of a four letter word (Joey)—the artistry that Maestro Silverstein brought to my life is forever inscribed in my heart. What does this help to prove? Some maestros are adored and occasionally—missed.
In photo clockwise: Joseph Silverstein, Ilkka & Marjorie Talvi

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