From New York to Tallinn

We've wrapped up an excellent season in Sarasota -our best yet, if I may say. And, I'm incredibly proud of the direction we're taking. Next season will be the first fully immersive one with our new Music Director, and it feels like the arts community here is on its toes. The experience of performing with Anu Tali (and hearing our sold-out audiences roar their approval) is awesome. It's hard not to notice how many things the Sarasota Orchestra is doing well right now...We're fortunate.

Outside of the orchestra, nothing was more exciting than the preparation for our Lincoln Center debut of "Annelies." With the original recording cast of Arianna Zukerman, Desiree/David/&Marta (The Lincoln Trio), James Jordan, and the Westminster Williamson Voices, we went into New York really knowing each other. 

Our first rehearsal (in Princeton) with James Jordan's group brought me to tears. We were inside a giant old wooden rehearsal room -the kind where the floorboards have a soft look but a pressured, hard, and worn patina under your feet. Sounds were resonant but not lingering -and the pure tones of the choir were never diffused. They were just the simplest sounds of song, completely undisturbed, with dark silences. No one would move or shuffle through the rehearsal because it was captivating to hear this kind of beauty in such a quiet place. We were proud of the journey we'd taken over the last couple of years. The minutes-long shouting ovation given to us by the Williamson Voices as we reunited is something I won't forget. In fact, I want to do that now for everybody -just so they can feel that good.

It's hard to call performing Annelies "fun" because the subject and power of the piece can quickly overwhelm a person, even onstage. But, it did feel great to perform it again with such excellent musical colleagues and friends. I was reminded how easily performances can change just by virtue of how personal relationships have developed. It's a special thing when I'm able to lose so much of the self-consciousness that might otherwise come from a revered space like Alice Tully.

In Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia, I rejoined Anu Tali onstage as Principal Clarinet of her Nordic Symphony Orchestra. With at least eleven countries represented (including two people from the U.S., myself and the terrific harpist, Cheryl Losey), we presented four concerts of old and new music. Arvo Part's Fratres (a version with string orchestra and percussion) opened the program, followed by Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto Op. 35 (the wonderful Isabelle van Keulen as soloist). It closed with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade

I had never been to Estonia, and I felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to join new musical friends -and to experience such an amazing place and amazing culture. Kadri and Anu Tali have created something which the people of Tallinn really seem to cherish. At one point I was in a bookstore, looking for children's books for my girls, and I ended up talking with two of the employees there. (Actually, I only spoke with one because the other didn't speak English well -her English was on par with my Estonian, let's say). Anyway, they asked what I was doing in Tallinn, and when I told them I was with Anu Tali's group, they both lit up with big "knowing" smiles and lots of good encouragement. Orchestrally, I had to navigate a new environment and some slightly different musical aesthetics. But, those subtleties became familiar quickly. And, by then end, I felt like I'd made excellent new friends and helped bring thrilling concerts to the people there. It was a profound joy for me, and it left me even more excited for next season's work in Sarasota.