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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
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
Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. The ensemble in concert. $17
to $27; students $2. Thursday, April 8, 8 p.m.
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.
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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— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.