From the Artistic Director, Nicholas Daniel
These days musician performers and composers tend to be some of the most frequent flyers on the planet, and composers of the past too have travelled to what may have seemed like greener pastures - especially in times of political strife or personal difficulties. Sometimes, as in the case of Antonin Dvorak, it was a mixed success, but for Rachmaninov, who with his family fled from Russia via Scandinavia in 1917 on an open sledge in the middle of Winter, it was a great move. Both of these great composers, who I have chosen as two of the the three central figures in our 2018 Festival, travelled to the United States of America - a country that’s almost a continent, a country that defies generalisation, with a music loving audience and generous patrons, as well as wealthy academic institutions that perhaps seemed, to Dvorak and Rachmaninov particularly, to promise streets paved with gold.
The other major composer we are celebrating is the brilliant Thea Musgrave, who is 90 year old this year and one of our Festival’s esteemed patrons. Thea went to live in America in 1972, but is both American and British and has often travelled back and forward across the Atlantic and between homes in LA and New York City. Thea originally moved for love; her husband the conductor and viola player Peter Mark is American, but she found great success both in Academe and with her writing there.
I have programmed some other composers around these major figures, and not specifically pieces written in America. It’s interesting to see how sometimes there is a yearning for something in works before they went and, in Dvorak’s case, real relief after he came back. After our superbly lyrical all-Czech festival a few years ago I was determined to programme more Dvorak!
I’ve heard it said about American audiences that you have to lose them rather than win them, that they come with a natural curiosity and will tend to be quite forgiving, determined to have a good night out. This is a generalisation, as I’m sure it’s not quite true of New York, but I think that you, the audience that comes to the exquisite New Walk Museum, certainly come with open minds and hearts and we the players feel that warmth and thank you for it.
There are a few new faces this year and a slightly larger team. I’m delighted to bring such a fantastic group of great musicians to Leicester and we are all looking forward to sharing a voyage of discovery with you.
P.S. Alfred Brendel recently described Rachmaninov’s music as being ‘music for teenagers’. If that’s the case, then get me in a time machine back to the 70s because I’m ready! Who’s with me?