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When I was an undergraduate at a prominent Ivy League college many decades ago, I was in a conversation with the chair of the music department and he told me about a collection of musical instruments that were left to the school by alumni. They were sitting in a closet because there was no program to catalogue or care for the instruments. I asked to go through the closet and found some very interesting instruments. More recently, I've noticed that some of our prominent musicians were loaned instruments by their conservatories when they started their music studies, including Juilliard and the Royal School of Music. Are there prominent collections of musical instruments held by colleges and conservatories that we hear little about? Perhaps schools like Curtis, New England, Thornton, Oberlin, and so on? And are any of these schools looking for instruments that might be willed to them, perhaps as living will artifacts for tax purposes?
I've just had another interesting experience with the music festival I perform with, usually every summer. Last year, they started a winter late-Beethoven annual event, a late quartet and a late sonata. This year, op. 109 paired with op. 132. Hyampom, California is in Trinity County, mountainous and green with rivers and lakes. Their mountain range is rightly called the Trinity Alps. The co-founder of our festival has a small idyllic farm set just above a river plain. She raises chickens and ducks and rabbits and pigs and grows all her own vegetables. It's very impressive for someone whose training is in violin and physics and did not grow up a farmer. There is no cell phone service in Hyampom, and there is no internet in the farmhouse. When I'm there in the summer, I sleep out under the stars on the plain. I practice in the root cellar. Our concerts are in community centers, churches, and auditoriums for audiences who are offered the opportunity to attend for free, but fund the series every year (for the last 6 years) by their donations. All my previous experience was performing in large cities or outside of the country where I expected a different culture. I did not expect to find a ravenous, sophisticated audience in rural America, but they are there, and they have eaten up everything we've served to them. This last summer it was Bartok's String Quartet No. 3. They loved it! Now we're thinking about a Stravinsky/Schoenberg/Ravel program to see how far we can take it. Beethoven's String Quartet op. 132 is astonishing. The viola part is so challenging and so fun. The quartet is in an arch form, ABCBA. And though it is supposedly in a-minor, you spend most of the piece in other related major keys. The first and last movements are serious and profound, the first is a decimation, the last a summation and proclamation. The second movement is waltzy and folksy. The trio surrounds a viola solo with the two violins emulating bagpipes off in the distance. The fourth movement leads directly into the fifth, and is the strangest. It is in two parts, first, the quartet emulates a march performed by an inconsistent village band, then before the march is even finished, the first violin interrupts, playing a soprano delivering an agitated recitative. The third movement's extraordinary power (and length) is probably the reason that Beethoven introduces the last movement with the somewhat lighter march and recit. It is titled Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart. A Holy Song of Thanksgiving from a Convalescent to the Deity in the Lydian mode. Beethoven had been deathly ill, and upon recovering, his reaction was to write, perhaps, the greatest slow movement in the quartet literature. Like the quartet itself, this central movement is in five sections. I would call them A1-B-A2-B-A3. The A sections are gradually more rhythmically challenging chorales based on the same theme. The B sections are titled Neue Kraft fühlend "feeling new strength" and are a sprightly Andante in comparison to the chorales' Molto Adagio. Beethoven's use of the Lydian in the chorales is in contrast with D-major in the B sections. One instills a feeling of awe, the other, joy. In any case, the music was a pleasure and an honor to perform. You know what they say about Beethoven: Believe the hype. In the winter, Hyampom is quite different. It's still beautiful, but cold and wet, snowy and slushy; ample motivation to stay indoors and rehearse. There were times in our rehearsals when the rain turned into snow that it was impossible not to meditate on the terror of Beethoven's silence. And yet, he persevered. When he said he was composing music for another age, I have no doubt that he meant mine. Though I often enjoy music, it is seldom that it infects my heart. This was as close to an ecstatic experience as I've had in a while. In rehearsals, our cellist kept talking about the balance between making it happen and letting it happen to us. Beethoven gives quite a bit of information in the score; the music is quite good if you just follow his instructions. On the other hand, this is music that the performers should be feeling. And it's so intense! There are few moments of fortissimo, however he often uses piano, più piano, and pianissimo. Control and bravery are both required. After our third concert, before our fourth, we went to an old professor of mine for a coaching. Paul Hersh was just as I'd remembered him, brilliant and kind, overflowing with apropos quotes sourced from modern and classical poetry and literature. We only had a bit of time before he had a rehearsal, but he gave us several good ideas about how to achieve a more effective performance. Though he is still employed by my alma mater, he made reference, several times, to the "conservatory scam". It's hard to disagree with him. The deification and ossification of style and technique, the astronomical cost, the lack of job training for the modern musician-entrepreneur... The best thing that can be said about music school is that it is a great location for driven musicians to associate with one another. I am thankful that I was advised to attend a university for my undergraduate degree. Anyway, I am home now. Our final concert was a collaboration in San Francisco between our organization, The Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival, and GroupMuse (perhaps the beginning of a new model for the performing arts economy? It deserves its own thread). It was remarkable how much less focused the audience was in San Francisco. Beethoven's energy was palpable in the smaller towns and villages. In the city, they are overwhelmed with stimuli. They have difficulty finding the stamina for Beethoven's alternating moments of stasis and focus. Back home in Gainesville, I sit with my dogs at my feet, a load of laundry is washing and I'm about to go practice a bit before lunch and teaching. I won't be back to Hyampom until July, but my Beethoven infection will hold me over until then.
Could anybody help me with the identification of a violin? There is no label in it,but a monogram " MB " on the back button and a stamp "Conservatory" on a flat area back on the pegbox. Today saw the same monogram " MB " on other violin completely different as style,shape and varnish work,but it has a label JHZ No.4007 Would appreciate any help and answer.