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A centenary statue of Pau Casals at Montserrat...

A centenary statue of Pau Casals at Montserrat, Spain ~ Image via Wikipedia

The Marlboro Music School and Festival is seeing a huge change in that its founders have died.

I have attended many summer concerts at Marlboro, which is a convenient drive from Amherst.  This post is written from the perspective of an audience member.

Attending a Marlboro concert is a profound experience.  Passive listening is never possible. Every performer is so accomplished and focused, the music envelops everyone in the house, immediately riveting them for each performance.

As a fellowship student in the Tanglewood Vocal Program, I wondered whether the other two coaches would be interested in driving to a Marlboro concert.  It took some convincing on my part.  My colleagues, upon hearing that “Marlboro is a professional music program,” countered with, “Tanglewood is a professional music program!”

Unable to adequately describe the difference, I insisted that we pile into my Vdub and start driving.

My friends were bowled over from the first note, and couldn’t stop talking about the concert all the way home.

In that concert we heard the pianist Cecile Licad, age 16, playing the Franck Quintet with string players two to three times her age.  She was phenomenal!   Her understanding of the music had such a mature depth, it was as if she had been performing for forty years.

There was never a thought of, “She’s good!  I’d love to hear her again in a few years when she’s grown up.”

The most wonderful thing about Marlboro is that chamber groups rehearse with no performance date in mind.  They have as much time as they need to discuss details, try various ideas, and work together without the pressure everyone puts up with during the rest of the year.

So there is no learning the part the night before the performance. What a treat to listen to!  Everyone lives there for the summer, so no one has missed a plane and feels under-rehearsed as a result.

Marlboro is geographically remote.  You’d have to have a car to keep your sanity. At dinner one night, the cellist Joel Krosnick noticed another musician who looked depressed.  He knew she didn’t have a car, so he tossed her his keys.  When asked when he wanted them back, he shrugged.  “Just go!”

The dining hall and Mather building at Marlboro College ~ image via Wikipedia

Due to the generosity of Seth McCoy, a tenor in residence, and Thomas Pyle, for whose children I was babysitting in Massachusetts, I was offered a comp ticket to see Pablo Casals conduct the Marlboro Orchestra playing Mozart.   I shall always be grateful for the opportunity.  Casals was in his 90’s!  He didn’t do much ~ walked onto the stage very slowly, sat in a chair, and gave the downbeat.  After that, he cued the horns once and gestured to the first violins a few minutes later.  Aside from that, he mostly turned pages in his score!

But if you’ve heard recordings of his rehearsals, you know they were incredible.  I feel so lucky to have seen him conduct and to have heard the music performed at the highest possible level.

Because of its auspicious beginnings and ongoing reputation at the very top of the field, I know Marlboro will continue to be just as impressive as it always has been.

You should go!

Thanks very much to C.I. for inspiring this blog post idea.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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