There are a little over two weeks left before the start of my new endeavor, Festival Baltimore, the preparation of which has been consuming what feels like 300% of my energy and time in recent months.
By now, many people have asked me what is so important to me in this idea, how did it emerge, and why in this particular form of a series of concerts with majority of them being quite monumental.
Festival Baltimore is the first festival I am aware of focused on the complete cycles of different composers.
Each concert is dedicated to a composer's complete works for a certain genre or instrumentation. It makes concerts longer, but on the other hand, brings back the atmosphere of the magical old times of 19th century, when 2 symphonies could be premiered at the same night, after 2 hours of other music, and many of the composers that today we can't imagine our musical life without, were still alive. When audiences were just soaked in music, limitlessly absorbing it. When time flew by differently, and people could not wait to hear musical premieres and fought over their impressions of them.
As a girl, I remember sitting in front of my dad's record player and listening to transcendent performances of Bruckner or Mahler and desperately wanting to hear more. For me, learning these men's entire output for symphony orchestra gave me insight, at an early age, of not only their aesthetics, but their personalities. The idea of building a festival of musical cycles stems from this childhood fascination.
Everything is beautiful about it - it is a celebration of composer's life, a showcase of how their mastery progressed over time, a kaleidoscope of endless ways a musical material can evolve within a form of a given genre - and ability to compare them in a real time, and, of course, it is one of the best fields for performers' imagination, ambition and art.
I also love the unique opportunities in programming that spring from this focus on cycles encourages. 24 Liszt etudes will be performed the first time ever in one night by one performer in Baltimore, and I am honored to be the first person to do it in the US this past April in a Miami recital; the Paul Creston complete works for alto saxophone and piano have never been performed together in one night by the same artists before, and the same applies to George Walker piano sonatas.
These compositions are a great challenge to play in a row but it also is the greatest pleasure to be able to convey your own understanding of these complex pieces performing them in a sequence. In recital, they unfold supporting one another and preparing one another, and thus enriching one another in a creation of the breathtaking musical building.
It is a mesmerizing and overwhelming experience for both performers and listeners, and that is what the musical experience should be, it has to blow our minds away and bring us elsewhere.
I hope so much that audiences that will be coming to the concerts of the Festival Baltimore will be able to enter my dreamworld of sound and joy that I am beyond happy to see coming true.
Festival Baltimore would not be possible without the support of the UMBC Music Department which has granted us access to their wonderful facilities , including the incredible Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.
In addition, four UMBC students will also be attending the Festival Baltimore Academy, which is focused on the study and performance of the complete Brahms piano quartets.