Monday, July 9, 2007


One of my biggest performance assignments here at Banff happened this past Friday, at the end of our first week here. Osvaldo Golijov was the composer and residence here this summer, mentoring the young composers, and working on a cello concerto for Alisa Weilerstein (who was also here last week, and participated in several performances – what an amazing musician!), which will receive it’s premiere next month at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. I was given a piece for voice and string quartet, entitled How Slow the Wind. The text is from two short poems by Emily Dickinson and, like most of Osvaldo’s vocal works, it was composed for Dawn Upshaw. He wrote the piece after the death of a dear friend of his, in a car accident in Argentina. A young couple with their baby ran in to a tree, and the man and baby both survived, but the woman, Mariel, was killed. The piece represents the loss of someone that is completely sudden and unexpected, as opposed to the loss of a loved one from an illness, or other more drawn-out circumstances. Hearing Osvaldo tell the story at our first coaching with him last week, I had to fight back tears. He was so open in his sharing of the accident, and seemed to speak directly from his heart, and suddenly the piece, which had been beautiful before, became so much more meaningful and powerful. It’s one of the reasons I love working with composers on their pieces. We, as musicians, get so much information from our scores and program notes, but nothing can take the place of personal experience and interaction with the composer. Still, it can be intimidating to be in an intimate, rehearsal setting, trying to bring to life what the person sitting in front of you intended in a piece of music, and I was quite nervous for our first coaching. Luckily, Osvaldo was so lovely to work with! The next morning, sitting with him at breakfast, I knew I had done something right: he turned to me and said, smiling, “I emailed Dawn last night to tell her that everything is good with her piece.” I will take that as a stamp of approval!

Here’s a picture in the lovely recital hall at the dress rehearsal. From left to right: Emily (violin 2), Catherine (violin 1), me, Osvaldo, Indre (who sang his Lua Descolorida with the same quartet), Francisco (cello), and Marie-Eve (viola). A fantastic quartet!

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Lane said...

So great to hear how well things are going there. We miss you back in Seattle! Thanks for making us proud!

Jagan Nath said...

I am performing Golijov's How Slow the Wind this weekend here in Millis MA with soprano Olga Lisovskaya. I loved your account of your experience with the composer and with the piece. For a glimpse of our program,

We're also doing music from Bach's Art of Fugue, my great love in life.

-- Jagan Nath Khalsa
Millis MA