Chamber Music with Friends

Well, the Holidays are REALLY over, and it’s been a few weeks of getting back into the daily routine and onto the next Claflin Hill event.

Glenn Zaleski, piano, with Rick Rosato, bass and Colin Stranahan on percussion.

Glenn Zaleski, piano, with Rick Rosato, bass and Colin Stranahan on percussion.

We just resumed our season last weekend with a phenomenal performance given by the Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato Jazz Trio at our new Milford Federal Jazz at the Mill series in the Alternatives Whitin Mill Singh Performance center on Friday, January 12th.

We had a large audience, ready to continue on with the year and the season of musical exploration and community, and the trio was a real treat.   Pianist Glenn Zaleski grew up in Boyston, and went to New York City for his music study, where he met up with Drummer Colin Stranahan and Bassist Rick Rosato.   The three have been working and performing together now for over 8 years in venues from NYC to Montreal Jazz Festival to the West Coast, and their chemistry flowed out into the audience.  

As a “classical” musician, I’m always astounded to sit and experience great jazz musicians – their technique on their instruments is no more astounding than our CHSO orchestral players, but how do they play these entire evenings of music without music and being totally in “cinque” with each other, and making it sound totally spontaneous and improvised right in the moment?  Maybe they wonder about how we orchestral people put things together, but I’m always in awe!

Next up on the CHSO season is the second performance of our new Claflin Hill – Apple Tree Arts Chamber Series on Saturday, January 27th in the Great Hall of Apple Tree Arts newly refurbished home in One Grafton Common.  

Johann Soults, Cello, has played with the CHSO since its beginning. Come here him in the more intimate setting of a chamber music concert on Saturday, January 27th at Apple Tree Arts, Grafton, MA

Johann Soults, Cello, has played with the CHSO since its beginning. Come here him in the more intimate setting of a chamber music concert on Saturday, January 27th at Apple Tree Arts, Grafton, MA

This concert features the Claflin Hill Symphony String Quartet, with a talented group of CHSO string “principals” – CHSO First Violinists Lidija Peno and Dimitar Krastev, with CHSO Principal Violist Dimitar Petkov and CHSO Principal Cellist Johann Soults.

The centerpiece of their program is the Brahms String Quartet No 3, along with the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, which I’ll be playing with them.

It’s actually the exact date of Mozart’s birthday on January 27th, and we’re premiering a new work – “Birthday Suite” by Rhode Island composer Vern Graham – which he wrote as an “homage” to the boy genius.   I’m looking forward to hearing Vern’s new work, which intertwines quotes from many of Mozart’s most popular and well known masterpieces into a tapestry of “neo classic” experience, and we all get to sing “Happy Birthday Dear Wolfgang” at the end!!

Although I’ve played the Mozart Clarinet Quintet at least four or five times over the last 18 years for our audiences, it’s always something to look forward to again, and to discover new and amazing aspects of it as we rehearse it together again.   How many of you – like me – have watched “Casablanca” or “Gone With the Wind” again and again, and still savor every moment and line of them as if for the first time?

Mozart child.jpg

The Mozart Quintet is perhaps one his greatest chamber music achievements, inspired by his good friend and fellow “carouser” Anton Stadler.  It’s been used in movies, TV commercials and was especially effective in the final episode of the great 1970s television series,  M.A.S.H.

In that final episode, as the Korean War is winding down, the MASH unit becomes home for a short time to some captured North Korean soldiers, who happen to have some of their own “ethnic” Korean instruments with them.   Major Charles Emerson Winchester, (from Boston!), takes them under his wing, and begins to try to teach them how to play the Mozart Clarinet Quintet during their wait for repatriation home.   It was almost impossible for them to understand the Major, and also to grasp the language of Western Classical music, and yet in their almost “wordless” meetings day after day, they kept at it.

In the final scene of the series, the prisoners are loaded on a truck for transportation to their next destination, hopefully home, amid tearful good-byes, they begin playing the Mozart from the back of the truck as it rolled down the road away from Major Winchester.   IN that one moment, this monumental masterpiece of human artistic endeavor, performed in totally foreign voices and sounds, shines forth it’s divine inspired beauty – sounds that can cross all boundaries, all ethnicities, and all ideologues to bring people together.

I’ve always thought that the most telling test of whether a work of art is truly great or not is whether it’s divine inspiration can be felt and heard in any kind of setting or instrumentation – Bach is one of those truly great composers.

Getting to play with my colleagues from the CHSO on this program, as opposed to standing in front of them with a stick, is really a wonderful treat for me, (and maybe it reassures them that I can actually play an instrument with them, as opposed to just being some hard-ass taskmaster!!!).

I’m really looking forward to the Mozart, to hearing Vern’s new and fun work, and especially to hearing my colleagues play the Brahms – who ranks up there as another of my truly favorite composers!  

Beth Surapine, piano, will join the CHSO on Saturday, February 3rd for 'Russian Romance.'

Beth Surapine, piano, will join the CHSO on Saturday, February 3rd for 'Russian Romance.'

And for us, the true test of our musicianship – is whether or not we can bring these works to life yet again, after so many thousands or maybe even millions of performances in the world since their first sounding – and make them sound so spontaneous and fresh – as if we were “jazz” musicians just making these pieces up out of our heads for the first time ever.   Great music, new every time you play it or hear it.

Next UP:   one of the most monumental and historic performances yet – The Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with my sister Beth Surapine, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” featuring our phenomenal CHSO Concertmaster, Angel Valchinov.  Watch for more!