Emerging Quartets & Composers grateful to the Deer Valley Music Festival
July 24, 2015
The Emerging Quartets & Composers program has been an essential part of the Deer Valley Music Festival since 2004.
Before that, the Muir Quartet and composer Joan Tower presented the program at Snowbird since 1990 before they were asked by the Utah Symphony’s then-CEO Ann Ewers to join the budding music festival.
Unfortunately, the program will celebrate its final season this year, according to a statement released by Utah Symphony’s interim president and CEO Patricia Richards.
"The Muir Quartet started the Emerging Quartets and Composers program in 1989 and have been present in several venues since then, including Snowbird and Park City," Richards said. "After 2015, we will no longer feature any guest chamber groups. With this change, our Utah Symphony Education Department will expand Festival education programs to reach more of our local residents. With this change, our Utah Symphony Education Department will be able to expand Festival education programs to serve more of our local residents."
Tower expressed mixed feelings about the situation during an interview with The Park Record.
"This is it. It’s over," Tower said in a telephone interview from New York. "There has been some talk for the past three years about it being over, but they always managed to get it together. This year, however, we said, ‘You know what? It’s time. Everything good comes to an end.’ It’s also hard for us because we loved this program."
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To commemorate the partnership with the Utah Symphony, the Emerging Quartets & Composers program will present one last concert featuring the Semiosis and Denovo String Quartets performing the works by up-and-coming composers Daniel Castellanos and Douglas Friedman at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Tuesday, July 28.
Throughout the years, Tower and Muir Quartet — cellist Michael Reynolds, violist Steven Ansell and violinists Peter Zazofsky and Lucia Lin — have offered this three-week intensive program that featured master classes, lectures and performance opportunities for selected composers and quartets from around the country.
There wasn’t anything really like this in the nation’s classical-music community, according to Tower.
"I can tell you exactly what made it so successful," she said. "It was a small operation. And therefore the working relationships between all the participants was much more intimate."
That meant, "without exception," all the composers enjoyed unique experiences, because their music was treated seriously, due to the fact that there were enough people to coach and work individually with the composers, she explained.
"This is very different than all of the other big [classical] music festivals like the Aspen and Telluride festivals where the composers are kind of sidelined," Tower said, laughing. "They are kind of treated like milk of magnesia because you only had to take it once in a while. Here, I made sure that this didn’t happen, because composers, especially young ones, need to learn how to deal with players.
"We held lots of rehearsals," she said. "We would suggest lots of changes and they had time to make adjustments. Most composers don’t get that much attention, so it was a win-win situation in that sense."
Many of the composers whom Tower recruited for the program have become successful in recent years.
"One, Jennifer Higdon won a Grammy Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 2010," Tower said. "Another, Gabriela Frank has become very well-known, as has Daniel Wohl."
The quartets receive the same treatment, because musicians of the Muir Quartet coached them, Tower said.
"There is a star-studded parade of quartets that were brought in by Michael and the Muir that are now all over the place," she said.
Reynolds said the quartets are selected through various methods.
"It’s a combination of reaching out to other institutions and schools who may have a graduate quartet in its developing stages," he said. "We also have colleagues in the chamber-music world who have been coaching young quartets."
Still, some are selected from personal interactions.
"For example the two this year are from Boston, one, the Denovo, I’ve worked with at Boston University and the other has been around for a while, but is championing big works in a new way," Reynolds said. "The chamber-music world is a constantly moving fabric and you have to keep your ear to the ground and find the right quartets for the program."
While the composers receive training and suggestion from Tower, the Muir musicians, who give both musical and practical advice, coach the quartets.
"We give them a number of lectures that also include business-development, relationships with composers, commissioning works and getting along," he said with a little chuckle. "The way I look at it, quartets need to get along because they are like marriages, without benefits."
In all seriousness, maintaining an intense interpersonal relationship is very tricky, Reynolds said
"It’s about expressing your musical ideas without being overbearing and allowing the other players to do the same," he said. "[The Muir] learned from our own mistakes how to resolve these types of situations. Quartets are the most terrifying genre to write for and the shadow of Beethoven looming over you is difficult."
While Tower is sad to see the Emerging Quartets & Composers program end, she is grateful for the Utah Symphony’s role in its development.
"Having them take us under its umbrella was something that helped a lot," she said. "It does take a lot of work in order to make it successful and the Utah Symphony has helped to make it as successful as it has been."
The Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival will present the final Emerging Quartets & Composers concert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyons Rd., on Tuesday, July 28, at 8 p.m. The Semiosis and Denovo String Quartets will perform the works by up-and-coming composers Daniel Castellanos and Douglas Friedman. Tickets are $26 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.
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