Aspen Music Pageant music director Robert Spano is taking a seat on the piano bench for a digital efficiency with violinist Robert McDuffie on Thursday evening, closing the Music Fest’s winter collection.
The pair are frequent musical companions and frequent collaborators, each in Aspen — the place McDuffie is an alum and an annual presence on the summer time pageant — and in Georgia, the place Spano additionally serves as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and McDuffie based the trailblazing Robert McDuffie Heart for Strings at Mercer Faculty.
The pair recorded Thursday’s efficiency, that includes Brahms’ first violin sonata and Beethoven’s seventh violin sonata, on campus at Mercer.
“He’s a rattling good pianist,” stated McDuffie of Spano, who audiences are accustomed to seeing on the conductor’s podium. ”I feel we share musical values, we make one another snug once we carry out and in some way we simply click on.”
As every splits time between Aspen and Georgia, they’ve discovered like-minded colleagues and buddies in each other.
“His dedication to training, I feel makes him such a perfect Aspen presence,” Spano stated of McDuffie, “as a result of that’s so central to our mission as a pageant. He naturally matches proper into that initiative.”
In summers previous, McDuffie has confirmed a beneficiant presence on Aspen levels and amongst its most adventurous collaborators — becoming a member of college students and symphonies, performing dwelling composers’ new works and with Mike Mills of R.E.M. for the premiere of his “concerto with rock band” together with conducting. Lately, he and Spano have begun collaborating on efficiency.
Spano, whose work is primarily as a music director, conductor and composer, is delighted on the more and more uncommon events he can carry out.
“I solely play a restricted variety of live shows on the piano a yr, so it’s at all times a particular deal with for me,” he stated. “It’s ‘Oh boy, I get to observe!’”
Making ready with McDuffie is a specific pleasure, Spano stated.
The Brahms and Beethoven program that they’re performing for Aspen’s digital viewers was initially supposed to be the centerpiece of a tour for the pair, however canceled like all excursions as a result of novel coronavirus pandemic. (They’re hoping to reschedule it when public well being restrictions enable.)
Digging into masterworks like the 2 they’ll play this week, McDuffie in contrast the musicians’ job to that of a up to date U.S. Supreme Courtroom justice trying to use the U.S. Structure to our time. McDuffie described himself as extra open to interpretation, a la Harry Blachmun, and fewer of a strict originalist within the Antonin Scalia mode.
“While you play chamber music, you examine your ego on the door and simply attempt to do justice to what the composer wished,” McDuffie stated. “Now we have the notes on the web page, however you already know, we will carry it to life and it’s as much as us to carry it to life.”
Each artists are desperate to return to enjoying for audiences in live performance halls, however respect the connection that digital live shows have afforded by the tumult and isolation of the previous yr.
“I feel they’ve been nice for what they’re,” Spano stated. “I feel the frustration so many people really feel is simply lacking dwell efficiency. Now we have all these methods of disseminating music on-line and all the things, but it surely’s not the identical.”
Spano has carried out at a couple of occasions for small and socially distanced audiences in Atlanta, whetting his urge for food for extra.
“The couple of occasions I’ve been in a position to carry out with an viewers up to now yr have been actually, actually particular,” Spano stated. “It’s all so unusual, however in some way great to have dwelling human beings in a single room listening to music collectively is unbeatable.”
Adapting to the generally unusual and isolating expertise of digital efficiency, Spano stated, he fell again on recommendation from early in his profession — when he first started touring as a conductor — when a veteran opera director instructed him to think about somebody he beloved was within the viewers. He’s begun doing that for digital performances.
“That helps, as a result of performing is at all times about delivering one thing to another person, relatively than the vacuum of a observe room,” Spano stated.
Among the many classes from digital programming and performing, he stated: make it nice, hold it brief. Aspen has abided by that this winter, and thru its well-received digital 2020 summer time season.
McDuffie spent about 4 months of the pandemic in Italy, the place he’s creative director of the Rome Chamber Music Pageant. He’d deliberate to return from there for an prolonged winter keep in Aspen, which might have included his Harris Corridor efficiency with Spano. However as circumstances spiked, each right here and in Rome, the Aspen in-person recital was canceled and McDuffie scrapped that plan.
He spent a lot of the time abroad on discovering methods to highlight younger and rising abilities, a shared ardour for Spano and McDuffie.
McDuffie’s main mission abroad was producing a 30-minute live performance video highlighting younger musicians for the Rome pageant, amongst them the 22-year-old Aspen Music Fest alum Aubree Oliverson. The pandemic has paused the rise of stars like hers.
“I feel if this occurred originally of my profession, I’d be freaking out,” McDuffie stated. “I really feel for the younger artists who had been coming.”
Together with these management roles and making ready for the Aspen efficiency, McDuffie has spent the pandemic steeped in Brahms’ Violin Concerto. He’ll carry out it, underneath Spano, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a digital occasion in April.
“That can at all times be my pandemic piece as a result of I’ve been enjoying it and dealing on it 4 hours a day for the previous yr,” he stated. “It’s good to have a masterpiece to quarantine with.”
McDuffie and Spano are trying ahead to summer time 2021 and the as-yet unannounced in-person summer time Aspen Music Pageant season.
“We’re making an attempt to plan to do as a lot as we will safely,” Spano stated. “We’re inviting numerous college students who couldn’t come final summer time and it’ll be a a lot smaller season. … We’re sort of restricted to at least one live performance a day and we have now to watch out about rehearsal occasions and who’s within the corridor and ensuring there’s cleansing that goes on in-between.”
The spacious and open-air Benedict Music Tent particularly, he stated, is a present for musicians and audiences this summer time because the pageant cautiously emerges from the pandemic closures.
“The tent is such a an ideal place to do protected listening,” Spano stated. “Now we have the area, we have now the air, the stage is large. It bodes effectively for us to have the ability to do that very responsibly.”
One fascinating silver lining within the planning for summer time 2021, Spano stated, is that the boundaries on numbers of musicians has led Spano, pageant creative advisor Asadour Santourian and their artistic workforce to think about works they’ve by no means accomplished earlier than — items that is likely to be ideally suited for a slimmed-down 15-person Aspen Chamber Symphony or 60-person Aspen Pageant Orchestra.
“Necessity is the mom of invention,” Spano stated. “We’ve ended up exploring repertoire that we wouldn’t have so totally explored in any other case.”