Words are not enough to describe the immensely inspiring and satisfying musical day I've had with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble. The master class was fantastic-- the students truly responded to everything the four members of the ASMF Chamber Ensemble that were there said, and by the end of the class, they sounded like a professional ensemble, complete with colors, nuances, and a much greater quality of performance. I took a few photos fro the class, seen below. I know this was a challenge for the students-- they only had a few rehearsals (without conductor) to put together the Elgar Serenade-- and I am proud of them. It was so wonderful to see their hard work come to fruition.
And then the concert. Oh my! It was breathtaking. Truly. They opened with the Brahms B-flat sextet. This piece holds a special place in my heard: A few weeks ago, I performed a transcription of the second movement of this sextet, for six violas. It works really well for violas (we performed it in Brasilia-- more on that soon, I promise!), but of course Brahms knew what he was doing when he wrote it for 2 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos, instead of 6 violas. :) It was incredible.
The second piece was Shostakovich's 2 Pieces for String Octet. I didn't know the piece, but it is wonderful! I've always had an affinity for Shostakovich's works, and will definitely need to listen to this again.
And the crowning jewel of the concert was Enescu's String Octet. Composed when he was just 19, the work is astounding! You'll simply have to listen to a recording-- I cannot begin to describe it.
And that is why I am so glad that my medium is music. The sounds that the ASMF produced ranged from delicate to rough, majestic to still, with every range of color and timbre and dynamic you can imagine, and always filled with emotion. THAT is the magic of music. When it is masterfully executed, it can stir parts of your heart that have lain dormant for years, or excite you, or bring tears to your eyes.
They did not sound like six or eight people: It was true ensemble playing at its highest form. I am inspired by their teaching and performing, as I know our lucky students and audience members are too. I urge you: if you have the chance to hear this ensemble live, please do so. You will not regret it.
Happy practicing. Happy practicing indeed!