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From London to a Residency in Princeton

This story by Elaine Strauss was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on March 31, 1999. All rights reserved.

The Nash Ensemble declares its association with London

by naming itself for John Nash, the architect and city planner known

for his graceful development of Regent’s Park and Regent Street almost

200 years ago. Nash’s mix of public wooded area, gardens, and lake,

with residences and a shopping area, distills the essence of London

in the Georgian period. The chamber music ensemble that bears Nash’s

name has performed throughout the world, but its extensive commitments

in Britain make appearances elsewhere difficult to schedule. That

is why Nathan Randall, manager of the Princeton University Concert

Office, resorted to a creative loophole to lure them back to Princeton

after their first performance here in 1993.

Randall’s loophole consisted of inviting the Nash Ensemble to appear

not only at Richardson Auditorium for a single concert performance,

but, in addition, to spend a week on campus in a residency that makes

them available to the university’s student performers and composers,

the members of Princeton’s Friends of Music, and the public. There

is also a free Saturday morning program for children on "The Joy

of Chamber Music."

The Nash Ensemble has had two previous Princeton residencies in 1995

and 1997. The "hub event" — to use Randall’s words —

of the residency is a concert as part of the Richardson Chamber Masterworks

Series. This year’s Richardson performance takes place on Thursday,

April 8, at 8 p.m. The program consists of Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in

F Major, K. 370; Brahms’ Clarinet Trio in A Major, Op. 114; Schumann’s

Adagio and Allegro for Oboe and Piano; and Schubert’s Quintet in A

Major for Piano and Strings, "The Trout."

The Richardson program, which features some of the best-loved chamber

works, gives the Nash members an opportunity to indulge in one of

their favorite endeavors, performing the standard chamber music literature.

In addition, Randall has created for them an opportunity

to indulge in another of their favorite endeavors, performing contemporary

chamber music. The Nash Ensemble has developed a tradition of playing

pieces by Princeton graduate students during the course of their visit.

This year, they will play Reuben de Lautour’s "Artefact" and

Colby Leider’s "Trozzo." The de Lautour and Leider pieces

are part of a varied program that will be presented on Sunday, April

11, at 3 p.m., in Richardson Auditorium, sponsored by the Friends

of Music. Admission is free and no tickets are required.

De Lautour is enrolled in Princeton’s Ph.D. program in composition.

Before coming to Princeton he studied composition and piano at the

University of Auckland in New Zealand. He has toured New Zealand as

a recitalist. Leider studied organ and composition while completing

a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of

Texas at Austin. He earned a master’s in electro-acoustic music from

Dartmouth College.

The Nash performances of the new music by de Lautour and Leider are

unique in being polished renditions of the pieces, not merely first

attempts at playing them. Randall describes how the Nash Ensemble

prepares these new works. "They rehearse for months before giving

the world premieres of compositions by Princeton University graduate

students," he says. "We send the pieces to the Nash in December,

and they rehearse and prepare them for performance. In England the

Nash is renowned for their work with contemporary composers. They

divide their time equally between standard repertoire and contemporary

music. They’re very knowledgeable about working out the first performances

of musical works."

"By the time of their arrival in Princeton, they have prepared

the scores," Randall continues. "They spend almost a whole

day rehearsing with the composers. They may discuss issues of notation,

make instrumentation suggestions, and give a performer’s-eye view

of the piece. All manner of issues can arise during these working

sessions: questions of instrumental technique, interpretation, dynamics,

and the overall character of the performance. All these are discussed

and worked out between these world-class performers and the composers.

As a result, the Sunday performances four or five days later have

a polish that is rare for first hearings of new works."

Members of the Nash Ensemble have interactions with Princeton undergraduates,

as well as with graduate students. At a master class, they work with

undergraduates enrolled in the program for performance in chamber

music. Scheduled for Tuesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in Taplin Auditorium

in Fine Hall, the event, to which members of the Friends of Music

are invited, is open to the public. Informally, and open only to participants,

is a day when the members of the Nash coach student ensembles. In

addition there are the encounters that Randall says are "not by

design. One of the kids will invite the visitors to lunch. A lot of

students have told us that to talk on a one-to-one basis with members

of the Nash is very important to them. They don’t get much opportunity

to talk to real live professional musicians with international careers."

The Nash also reaches out during its residency to younger students,

at a free children’s concert 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 10, in Richardson.

Randall recommends this event for children who play instruments and

are in fourth grade and up. The program includes an informal discussion

of chamber music. "That’s something young people don’t know much

about," says Randall. "They play in a school band or orchestra.

They’ll find out that here is a way that if you’re an oboist, you

can make music with your friends who play violin, viola or cello."

A question and answer session is included in the children’s

concert. Says Randall: "Usually the first question asked is `Do

you still practice?’ The children are shocked when the members reply

with `four or five hours a day.’"

Randall remembers his first hearing of the Nash Ensemble in 1990.

"I knew their name for years," he says. Their manager sent

me a tape. It was back in the days when they were renovating the Harrison

Street bridge, and it took me a long time to get home because I lived

in West Windsor. I popped in their Ravel `Introduction and Allegro’

tape, and was very impressed. I said, `We’ve got to get these people

to come to Princeton.’

"I was in London about six months later," Randall continues.

"It was Beethoven’s birthday. I heard the Nash Ensemble and asked

to meet with their manager, Amelia Freedman." Randall arranged

to have the ensemble perform at Richardson in 1993 — the University

Concert Office does its programming about two years ahead. "It’s

turned out to be terrific working relationship between them and us,"

he says. "We can play to their strengths in organizing. They have

a terrific sense of style. They use different styles for different

works. Because they have played together for many years, they bring

a terrific unity of approach to a piece. Each of the players is a

virtuoso on their instrument. They have a terrifically broad range

of experience, and rehearse together all the time."

Amelia Freedman, its artistic manager, founded the Nash Ensemble in

1964. Since 1995 the head of classical music at the South Bank Center,

she continues her leadership of the Nash. In its 35 years of existence

the Nash has given more than 220 premieres, of which 75 were commissions.

This year seven members of the ensemble, the largest contingent to

date, come to Princeton for the residency. The contingent includes

oboist Gareth Hulse and clarinetist Richard Hosford, who are making

their first Princeton appearances. Returning to Princeton are violinist

Leo Phillips, violist Roger Chase, cellist Paul Watkins, double bassist

Duncan McTier, and pianist Ian Brown. The 1999 appearance of the Nash

Ensemble in Princeton continues a tradition that music practitioners

on both sides of the Atlantic hope will last well into the future.

— Elaine Strauss

The Nash Ensemble of London, Princeton University Concerts,

Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. The ensemble in concert. $17

to $27; students $2. Thursday, April 8, 8 p.m.

The Joy of Chamber Music, Princeton University Concerts,

Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. The Nash Ensemble’s one-hour

musical show-and-tell for children and their families. Free. Saturday,

April 10, 10:30 a.m.

The Nash Ensemble of London, Friends of Music at Princeton,

Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. Concert program includes premieres

by two Princeton graduate students. Free; no tickets required. Sunday,

April 11, 3 p.m.

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