Blog in Two Parts
Rex’s concert blog is in two parts this week. First, he gives a “Golden Remembrance” of Tryon Concert Association’s Joella Utley, recently deceased, in the context of TCA’s last concert with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and then discusses with TCA’s Board Member and Vice-President Kymric Mahnke the upcoming concert of violist Karen Dreyfus.
A Golden Remembrance
It was an unforgettable evening, that Tuesday, the eighth of October. The time had changed for the TCA concerts, starting now thirty minutes earlier, at 7:30 PM. Undergoing change also, the TFAC facility itself has begun its fiftieth season with a construction project in the courtyard below.
Just beginning their own fiftieth season before a six-stop tour and subsequent return to New York was the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s cadre of thirteen. Theirs was a musical story reminding us of those who had come before, however alike, however different, but accepting the structure of a common dream involving something great.
The music’s story was of America. A lady adjacent to me described the music as “heartbreakingly beautiful.” There were so many dimensions to that, so many emotions portrayed, piled on top of one another; at turns serenity, personality, exquisite unity, vast adventure and chilling warmth. It was the familiar, the charming, the evocative, the vigor of the wild, the thoughtful, the hopeful…recognizing obligation to strive, at least. But it was us, even when we failed.
Violist Paul Neubauer entered the stage with our own Gwen Suesse before the performance began, observing the dedication of the sixty-fifth season of TCA to Joella Utley. It was a spectacular beginning. We will long remember this performance and the grand lady once among us, benefactor of music, and known across America.
Rex: Kym, thank you for sitting down with me, once again, to discuss the upcoming TCA concert.
Kym: You’re welcome, Rex. By the way, I loved your recap of our Opening Night concert last month, and your remembrance of Joella Utley. We miss her so much.
Rex: Thank you, Kym. That was indeed a special evening, and Joella was, of course, such a wonderfully gracious and generous person.
Kym: Rex, I could not agree with you more.
Rex: Okay, let’s talk about what is coming up on November 9!
Kym: Well Rex, it just so happens that your remembrance affords us a perfect segue to talk about our next concert.
Rex: How is that?
Kym: Well, you mentioned the Lincoln Center group’s violist, Paul Neubauer, sharing the stage with our President, Gwen Suesse. And you will recall what a prominent part the violists had in that concert, especially in the Dvorak String Quintet.
Rex: Indeed I do. The parts and melodies Dvorak wrote for the violists in that quintet were gorgeous.
Kym: Well Rex, Dvorak played a stringed instrument. Can you guess which one?
Rex: Well, judging from that quintet, I would not be surprised if it was the viola.
Kym: Rex, you win the prize! That’s right. As a matter of fact, one of the most memorable experiences I had while in Prague a number of years ago came from a visit to the Dvorak museum. Despite Dvorak’s promotion by Brahms, who recognized his exceptional talent, Dvorak never had a lot of financial success. Accordingly, that museum was pretty sparse in terms of Dvorak’s possessions and other memorabilia. But unforgettable was a beautiful tall glass case, almost floor to ceiling. The only thing in it, hanging from a string, was Dvorak’s viola.
Rex: And actually Kym, weren’t there quite a few other famous composers who also played the viola?
Kym: Yes, Rex, and the list will surprise you. Beethoven, for one; Mozart for another, who often played viola when his string quartets or quintets were being performed; Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Hindemith, just to name a few more. Indeed, Hindemith was considered such a viola virtuoso that he was often engaged as viola soloist when orchestras programmed a viola concerto on their concerts. Bach was also a violist.
Rex: Am I correct, Kym, that the November 9 concert will be the first time in TCA’s 65 year history that a violist is the primary featured artist?
Kym: That’s right, Rex. This is something we wanted to do as a special thing for the 65th season. And when we made inquiries of professional violists as to who was the one violist among all others we should engage, one name rose above all the others: Karen Dreyfus.
Rex: Tell us a little about her.
Kym: Well, her family background probably destined her for greatness. Her father was a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and was her first teacher. She is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Michael Tree and Karen Tuttle. After winning prizes at numerous competitions, her career was launched. Just listing some of the groups or individual musicians with whom she has collaborated will tell you all you need to know: Yehudi Menuhin, Alexander Schneider, Leon Fleischer, and the Budapest, Guarneri, Tokyo, and Emerson Quartets. She has toured as a soloist all over the planet. Her recordings are spectacular, and have been universally acclaimed. We cannot be more excited about having her here. Getting her to come to Tryon is something we have been working on for a long time.
Rex: Kym, you know what else I find really amazing? It’s that she is married to Glenn Dicterow, and that he is also coming and joining her to play in part of the concert.
Kym: Yes, that is quite a bonus, isn’t it Rex!
Rex: It’s unbelievable, frankly. Dicterow was the Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 34 years! It’s an incredible honor that he is going to be here on our stage in Tryon.
Kym: You are so right, Rex. It’s an incredible honor. When you are the concertmaster for a world-famous orchestra like that, you are not only the leader of the strings, but you have to be a concert violin soloist. You will be called upon to perform violin concertos from time to time, not to mention performing the famous and incredibly difficult violin solos in orchestral masterpieces, such as Scheherazade and Heldenleben. He is first class, no doubt about it!
Rex: Do Glenn and Karen often collaborate together?
Kym: They do. In fact, there are many contemporary composers who have written compositions for the two of them. We’ll hear one of them on November 9.
Rex: Any other thoughts on the program we are going to hear?
Kym: Not other than this— she is playing two well-known and classic pieces for viola and piano composed by Schumann and Brahms. Mr. Dicterow will then collaborate with her on a couple of pieces in the second half, and she is going to end with a great piece by deFalla. Collaborating with them both is a fabulous pianist, Helene Jeanny. There is going to be something for everyone on November 9!