On Bach's "Musical Offering"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Wednesday, July 30, 2014, Yellow Barn will present a unique edition of Bach's Musical Offering, created by Kenneth Cooper. Ken offers the following notes as an introduction to the performance:

Regis Iussu Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta”

(At the king’s command, the theme and its solution resolved in canonical manner)

From the Berlin newspaper Spenersche Zeitung, May 11, 1747:

"We hear from Potsdam that last Sunday, May 7, 1747, the famous Capellmeister from Leipzig, Bach, arrived with the intention of hearing the excellent Royal music. In the evening, at about the time when the regular chamber music in the royal apartments usually begins, his Majesty was informed that Capellmeister Bach had arrived at Potsdam and was waiting in His Majesty’s antechamber for His Majesty’s most gracious permission to listen to the music. His August Self immediately gave orders that Bach be admitted, and went, at his entrance, to the so-called Forte-and-Piano, condescending also to play, in person and without any preparation, a theme to be executed by Capellmeister Bach in a fugue. This was done so happily by the aforementioned Capellmeister, that not only His Majesty was pleased to show his satisfaction, but also all those present were seized with astonishment. Bach has found the subject propounded to him so exceedingly beautiful that he intends to set it down on paper in a regular fugue and have it engraved on copper."

Bach did just that, but in attempting to save paper, the work’s various sections were published on sheets of different sizes, confusing many as to the sequential order, if any.

The Musical Offering is time-conscious, expressing a historical perspective unusual for Bach and his era. Perhaps he was, in his years of semi-retirement, contemplating the work of past and future generations of Bachs. We start two hundred years earlier, as it were, in the Renaissance, with an old style three-voice fugue, then called Ricercar, which Bach expanded by means of modernistic keyboard improvisations, serving as episodes in the fugue. Progressing through the contrapuntal playground of the canon, the art of setting a tune against itself, we arrive in the 1740s with perhaps the Baroque’s greatest trio-sonata. This four-movement work explodes into Bach’s present and immediate future: the florid and improvisatory, personal and rhetorical, virtuoso and democratic writing of his own times and the sensitive, fragile, pre-classical, pre-romantic manners of his son’s generation. The first part of the royal theme appears in the bass line (cello and harpsichord) at the opening of the first movement and again later (still in the bass) split up into many fragments. In the second movement, the violin and flute open with an ornamented version of the royal theme played backwards. Four times during the movement the royal subject (forwards, in the bass) may be heard simultaneously against the ornamented version (backwards, in the violin or flute). But only once are the roles reversed (the royal tune in the violin above the backwards ornamented version in the bass): this event occurs at the exact mathematical (time) center of the Trio Sonata, which in our version creates the center point of the entire Musical Offering. It is an eclipse-like moment, comparable to little else in the history of music. Then moving backwards in time, stylistically, through Bach’s Canonic Elaborations, we arrive at the mighty six-voice Ricercar, a masterwork even among Bach fugues, which meshes the severity of a completely de-ornamented style with the rich sensuality of a close ensemble.

In memory of Gabor Reisinger

Friday, July 18, 2014

On July 18th in the Big Barn Yellow Barn honors Gabor Reisinger, extraordinary friend and artisan, who along with his brother Sujatri had the vision for Klavierhaus, a haven for pianos and musicians. Among those pianos are two that Gabor brought to life for Yellow Barn, which live on campus together with others that Klavierhaus generously loans to us each summer. Gabor also was a beautiful, humble presence during Yellow Barn auditions, creating an environment in which hundreds of musicians were able to experience, in just a few moments, what is at the heart of Yellow Barn.

Gabor Reisinger was born in Budapest, Hungary on May 5, 1957. After leaving Hungary in 1984 with his wife Klara and daughter Reka, he lived for a while in France but was soon reunited with his brother in New York City. In 1987, the two brothers founded Klavierhaus, a piano store in Manhattan, where Gabor rebuilt hundreds of Steinway pianos with a European-style dedication to his craft, giving him a legacy, through his pianos, that today can be heard throughout the United States, as well as many other places around the world.

Over time Klavierhaus grew to be the favorite destination of the world’s top pianists, including Richard Goode, Andras Schiff, Emmanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, and Simone Dinnerstein, among many others, artists who always found a welcoming place in Klavierhaus’ custom designed hall where they met, taught, and prepared for their recitals. Countless conservatory students, as well as teachers of pianists at every level, found at Klavierhaus a place for their debuts and recitals, and often at no charge. Such was Gabor’s generous commitment to music and the arts for nearly three decades—a kindheartedness that not only inspired countless amateurs, but also helped launch the international careers of many professional as well.

Gabor gave not only his piano facilities, but also his time to all those who needed his help, instruction, and wise counsel, and always with warmth and humor. A Tai-chi master, he practiced and taught at the Chu Tai-chi studio in Time Square, and conducted the popular open admission summer morning classes in Bryant Park. He possessed a unique ability to see and bring out the best in everyone he encountered.

A lover of nature, Gabor spent his leisure time hiking, mountain climbing, diving, and even running endurance races in far-flung, exotic places such as the Sahara Desert. In his travels, whether they be crossing a room or an ocean, he was a person who truly understood and made peace with people from every walk of life.

Gabor, who always welcomed Yellow Barn like family, is deeply missed and tonight we embrace his family with the love and kindness that Gabor always bestowed on us.

Diana in the Autumn Wind

Monday, July 7, 2014

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Diana in the Autumn Wind (1934)

In the mid-1980s, inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee, Edison Denisov wrote three pieces for viola, double bass, percussion, and piano. One of those paintings is "Diana in the Autumn Wind", a soft cloth painting created fifty years earlier.

"Diana in the Autumn Wind" speaks of hardship, of a tragic and terrible web, but there are aspects that are very poetic and full of air. Simply put, this is a very soft, slightly greenish painted approximation of the curved silhouette of a very beautiful woman with my favorite part of the image—autumn, leaves flying in the wind. And the name of the painting—"Diana in the Autumn Wind"—is amazingly musical itself.

—Edison Denisov

Yellow Barn musicians perform Diana im Herbstwind on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Read about this program

Pre-Concert Discussions at Yellow Barn

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On summer Saturdays, audience members are invited to the Putney Public Library for an intimate introduction to the evening’s concert given by Yellow Barn musicians and guest speakers, moderated by Artistic Director Seth Knopp.

Saturday, July 5

Wolfgang von Goethe's "Nachtlied", one of the most revered poems in the German language, is the inspiration for two works on this evening's Yellow Barn program. Wellesley College professor Jens Kruse will speak about "Nachtlied" and join Yellow Barn musicians in a discussion of Schubert and Widmann's treatment of it.
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Saturday, July 12

A composer's palette, the instruments he or she writes for, can suggest creative paths born out of that instrumentation's most natural qualities, or stretch them in ways that have a profound effect on a work's emotional impact. Yellow Barn musicians look at the evening's program, exploring four very different instrumental combinations.
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Saturday, July 19

George Cumb's music is unmistakably his own, not only in the atmosphere he creates, but also in how he communicates his musical intention to the interpreter. Soprano Tiffany Du Moucelle and pianist Emely Phelps speak about Crumb's setting of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" in his Apparition, Elegiac Songs and Vocalises, examining the composer's world of sound and how he represents it in his distinctive and beautiful scores.
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Saturday, July 26

Yellow Barn Composer in Residence Lei Liang and pipa player Gao Hong bring a broad range of Chinese musical traditions to this Yellow Barn summer season. From ancient folk music to contemporary works receiving first performances at Yellow Barn, they discuss how their work has been shaped by their own cultural heritage and influenced by that of the West.
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Saturday, August 2

George Benjamin writes about his Octet, "Sketching was begun only months after the conclusion of my studies with Olivier Messiaen: the Octet was very much my first attempt to integrate all that I had learnt in Paris." Yellow Barn musicians, among them Eduardo Leandro, clarinetist Alan Kay, and composer Lei Liang, discuss the delicate baalnce of integration and independence in the musical relationship between teacher and student.
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All discussions take place at the Putney Public Library at 7pm and are free and open to the public. Concert attendance is not required.

Looking back at the Young Artists Program

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I just wanted to thank you profusely for such an incredible few weeks at Yellow Barn’s Young Artists Program. I had one of the most enriching and life changing times over those 18 days. People often reflect on their lives and can pinpoint moments where real change occurred that propelled them to new heights or created epiphanies on how they saw themselves navigating the next stages of life with renewed energy, focus and direction. I drove away feeling so incredibly lucky to have had that time at Yellow Barn and can genuinely say that my time opened up a whole new dimension of musical understanding, where I now feel I can perceive music on a more visceral plane. All of us were so fortunate to have such a complete experience through all the special guests coming for coachings, master-classes, lectures and presentations and all of the amazing dedication every person on the faculty brings with such excitement and enthusiasm. Human beings learn best through inspiration brought through teaching that is filled with unbridled joy and enthusiasm where the goal is pure musical enrichment. I have not experienced anything like that at such a distilled level till I came to Yellow Barn.

There were so many things that I am so thankful to have been able to take in and to carry with me. The whole summer is summed up perfectly for me by something said by a faculty member that I think every musician could use as a model for how to be an artist in this world.

"A sound that is alive is always becoming"

—2013 Young Artists Program participant

The intensely focused atmosphere, and demanding schedule creates an environment where everyone wants to work hard to learn and explore the music together. It is an amazing opportunity to have daily coachings with such high level faculty from around the world. I was so excited to participate in two world premieres of pieces both written and rehearsed whilst at yap. It's a rare opportunity to be able to work with a composer on the piece you are learning. I feel I have developed my leadership skills, as well as my ability to translate rehearsal techniques into performances. The food is fabulous as always and the staff is great. YAP will always be one of the most treasured experiences and opportunities of my life!

—2014 Young Artists Program participant

Learn more about the Young Artists Program at Yellow Barn

Honoring Gordon Hayward

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Every Yellow Barn participant receives a full scholarship—an essential fact that makes the spirit of Yellow Barn live on. During the summer, Yellow Barn audiences join together to ensure the future of the scholarship program and celebrate an individual who shares Yellow Barn’s philosophy. This year Yellow Barn honors landscape artist Gordon Hayward on July 30th with a scholarship benefit dinner and concert, the proceeds of which will underwrite a participant scholarship in his name.

In addition, Gordon and his gardens are the inspiration and setting for Gordon's Garden Music, a new piece by Yellow Barn composer Stephen Coxe that will have its premiere performance in Hayward Gardens at Yellow Barn's gala event "Music in the Garden" on July 20th. (A second performance for the general public will follow on the 21st.)

Ronnie Friedman, former Director of Westminster Cares, offers the following remarks in celebration of these events:

Thirteen years ago, Westminster Cares began a garden tour as a fundraising event. We started small, three or four gardens of our neighbors. We made a little money. The next year, we nervously asked Mary and Gordon Hayward if they would consider having their garden on our tour. They graciously accepted and our small fundraiser became a major event for Westminster Cares and our community. The thousands of dollars we raise every year help support programs such as Meals on Wheels, rides for those in need of transportation, a community nurse and other services that enable Westminster seniors to continue to live independently in their homes in our community. Dozens of local volunteers help support the tour by selling tickets, parking cars, making lemonade and playing music. And some of the people who come to the gardens learn about the work of Westminster Cares and start to volunteer.

Through the Hayward’s connections, we have been able to coordinate the dates of our garden tour with the annual North Hill Symposium. The Symposium brings people to Vermont from all over the country and in turn to our garden tour. It’s no surprise that they come. Over the years Mary and Gordon have created a spectacular garden that is a testament to their horticultural knowledge and most important creativity. In addition to Westminster Cares they generously open their garden to other non-profit groups such as Sandglass Theater, which performs a show aptly named Puppets in Paradise. We’re very fortunate to have Mary and Gordon as such good neighbors.

Gordon Hayward is a nationally recognized garden writer, designer, and lecturer. He wrote for Horticulture Magazine for twenty-five years and lectured with the magazine on nine of their multi-city lecture tours across the United States. He was a contributing editor at Fine Gardening Magazine for six years and the author of eleven books on garden design. With his wife Mary, he has been developing a 1.5-acre garden for the past thirty years around their 240-year-old home in southern Vermont. They also have a tiny garden outside their cottage in the North Cotswold Hills of England where Mary is from.