chamber music weekend, return to family

I spent a good part of the weekend at the lake house of a friend, playing chamber music. We also shared meals, good wine, great conversation, companionship. This is an annual event I look forward to all year long. A bunch of people come, usually at least ten to fifteen, maybe more, spread out over a few days. We divide up into different combinations and play quartets, trios, sextets, duos, and this year, the Mendelssohn Octet for Strings, as well as Grieg’s Holberg Suite. My friend inherited an enormous collection of chamber music, and so there are new pieces to try as well as the standard repertoire. This year upon one of the occasions in which I was part of quartet, we tried a movement of a Cesar Franck string quartet, very lyrical. It was packed full of accidentals, very hard to read despite its clear melodic lines. After that we read Borodin’s second string quartet, which starts with a very beautiful cello line that is then echoed by the first violin. This quartet was my friend’s mom’s favorite. We played its Nocturne movement at a celebration of the musical career of our friend F, who’s had a big impact on the music scene here.

One of the other cellists who comes has a couple of kids that are fairly close in age to mine. I think next year we’ll try to sync up when we’re there, hire someone’s student (there are quite a lot of us who teach) to babysit, and bring our kids to play together while we play music.

One of the many things I love about this group of people is its diversity in age and background. The youngest person is perhaps in her 20’s, and the oldest is my friend F, who is 86. We all share a love of chamber music. Some of us are professional musicians, and some of us are not. But are united in our feeling for the repertoire and getting to bring it to life together.

This weekend showed us, again, how powerful music is in its ability to directly reach our hearts, to move us and inspire us, connect us and challenge us. Though I have had my share of personal and professional challenges during my career and life, I am so happy that I can play at a fairly high level, and that as well as the sometimes meditative and solitary practice I do, I can share the joy of making music with others. I fell in love with the cello at age four, and that love has never wavered.

This morning we finished up with the first two movements of the Brahms Bb Major Sextet. The cello melody that begins at 10:18 in this clip is one of my most favorite to play. For me, it is the majesty and mystery of life, and moves me deeply every time I play it. It was a wonderful way to end a fantastic weekend.

When I got home today the twins were already down for a nap. When I woke them up I gave them some time to adapt. They were surprised to see me, I think, and it took a bit of hanging out, reading books and talking for them to settle in. Hazel and I had a bit of a challenging afternoon; she pushed every boundary she could find, with vigor. I made time to snuggle with her and read to her after the twins were asleep, and tomorrow will probably/hopefully/possibly be smoother. No matter what, it’s good to see and hug my kids after a two day absence.

I taught tonight, and definitely found that the weekend of chamber music inspired my pedagogy. I have some new ideas for the year, a few of which have been percolating for a while. They include improv, a bit of student composition, some more contemporary repertoire, and the facilitation of more small ensemble experience for my students.

And now, I think it’s time for a small bit of a Potter movie with Ted, and then sleep.

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