New York…the sequel

Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…


It’s hard to know where to pick up the story…Brooklyn Nets won by the way and it was a real show from beginning to end. We were greeted on the concourse at Barclays Center in Brooklyn by a violinist and DJ combo who were quite dazzling with their performance and technical wizardry. The artistry continued indoors with every moment of the game enlivened with performances of various kinds and then there were the jaw-dropping skills of the basketballers!

Violinist showing off his technical wizardry outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn

Violinist showing off his technical wizardry outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn

If I appear distracted today, it’s because I’m blogging from the same room as Enso String Quartet is rehearsing Ravel…they have a performance this weekend that includes violist Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard String Quartet. How’s a man supposed to concentrate while being enveloped by this gorgeous music?

Enso String Quartet with Sam Rhodes. L to R:  John Marcus, Sam Rhodes, Melissa Reardon, Maureen Nelson and Richard Belcher.

Enso String Quartet with Sam Rhodes.
L to R: John Marcus, Sam Rhodes, Melissa Reardon, Maureen Nelson and Richard Belcher.

Last night I attended a Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) concert at the Rose Studio given by the excellent young American ensemble the Escher String Quartet. The concert was in the round and one of 27 events this season streamed live to the world via their state-of-the-art facility. It is such a great set-up that the technology is invisible to both the live audience and the performers in the room. I invite you to check these events out by visiting their website: www.ChamberMusicSociety.org/watchlive

The Escher Quartet

The Escher Quartet

Looking to the future, it is clear that there’s an endless array of opportunity to exploit this technology. In my humble opinion it will never replace the live experience of being in the same physical space as the music but it certainly allows audiences to ‘get closer to the music’. As my previous blogs have explored, I also believe that performers are influenced by their environment and play differently every night as a result. If the audience is part of this equation, and I believe this premise, then it is impossible for a performer on stage to know who’s tuned in at any particular moment during streamed performances, so part of the magic is lost. However, as a way of reaching global audiences and those who cannot make it to the concert hall, this is a viable and exciting development. I was told the story today of a devoted digital fan who dresses specially for the live stream and sits in his living room at concert time with his favourite slice of his cake to savour the moment.

Winding the clock back a couple of days, we spent an afternoon in Williamsburg over in Brooklyn with Jeff Zeigel from Kronos. He showed us around a new performance venue that will be a 24/7 facility for new music and collaborative performance. It has great bones and sits in the heart of a vibrant community, as well as having some wonderful people involved. The DNA is right and I look forward to visiting when their programme is up and running.

Artist Development has taken more of a back seat over these last few posts but here in New York I’ve visited a number of outstanding programmes. The Academy at Carnegie Hall was set-up seven years ago as a partnership between Juilliard and Carnegie for graduates. The programme is now open to music graduates from all over the world providing they have graduated from an American institution. They hand-pick some of the finest players and develop them over two years as music leaders, community facilitators and entrepreneurs. Young Concert Artists, also based in New York, was set-up in 1961 and ‘shines a spotlight on the newest talent, launching careers through debut concerts and comprehensive professional development’. Their alumni include a number of very familiar ensembles such as The Endellion, Tokyo and St Lawrence String Quartets and solo artists including Pinchas Zukerman, Freddy Kempf and Bella Hristova (winner of the 2008 Michael Hill International Violin Competition).

The CMS of Lincoln Center also has a programme called CMS Two ‘for outstanding young musicians in the early stages of major careers’. Escher String Quartet is amongst the list and they are regularly featured alongside the established artists who appear throughout the season at Alice Tully Hall and in various other venues around North America, Europe and Asia. For me the most significant feature of the concert season, devised and curated by the powerhouse couple of the chamber music scene cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, is the combination of established and emerging artists performing together. Their 2013-2014 line-up is mouth-watering!

Finding ways to prepare young artists for the brave new world that they will inhabit is one of the reasons for my journey. I’ve met with the Deans of Juilliard and Mannes Schools of Music and have been impressed with their grasp and understanding of the changing world. Both recognise the need for entrepreneurship and producing graduates who have diverse skill sets while also being excellent musicians.

There’s a lot more to say about this and I will return to this subject in future posts but for now the streets of New York beckon and I’m off to Carnegie Hall for a late-night concert by Kronos Quartet.

Looking forward to Sunday, I’m excited to hear John Adams’ new work for string quartet and orchestra in San Francisco. My journey is nearly complete and what better way to finish than a new work featuring my friends from the St Lawrence String Quartet. Some of you will recall that my journey began at Wigmore Hall with them nearly 60 days ago give or take different time zones, date lines and changing seasons!

– Euan, 04.05.2013

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