The Violin Channel recently caught up with a number of CMS players to find out.
Cellist Gary Hoffman:
Undoubtedly the most memorable CMS rehearsal was many years ago with David Golub, the late and great pianist. We were to play the 5 Beethoven sonatas in one concert at Tully Hall, but the East Coast and much of the US was snowed under. He was stuck in New Orleans, following a concert, and could not get to NY until the afternoon of the concert. We met onstage at Tully, played the beginnings of a couple of the sonatas, looked at each other, said “What’s the point? We’re not going to play the whole program now and all over again in a few hours! See you tonight!”
Violist Paul Neubauer:
During a tour rehearsal with CMS on 9/28/1999 in Charlottesville, Virginia, my wife, violinist Kerry McDermott, went into labor with our first child! My colleagues thought I could play the concert and drive home, but the midwife said I needed to come back ASAP. Luckily, the violist Toby Apple was able to step in, but he arrived a bit late to the concert so they played the Ravel Introduction and Allegro with the few viola solos passed around to different instruments. In the meantime, I was able to get to the hospital in time to see my son, Oliver, born at 11:39PM!
Clarinetist David Shifrin:
I’d have to say that my most memorable rehearsal with CMS was the first rehearsal for a concert in Alice Tully Hall in October of 1982. The occasion was the special gala performance in honor of Alice Tully’s 80th birthday. The piece we were rehearsing was Schubert’s monumental Octet. The players were violinists Jamie Buswell and Lynn Chang, violist Walter Trampler, cellist Leslie Parnas, bassist Alvin Brehm, bassoonist Lorin Glickman and hornist Myron Bloom. Generally, the more players there are in a rehearsal (especially such distinguished musicians at CMS), the greater the potential for disagreement on tempo, style, interpretation, intonation, balance and so on. To me, it seemed like being thrust into a feisty congressional debate, except in the case of our Octet, we were able to come to a meeting of the minds over the course of a few days and the result was glorious!
Violist Matthew Lipman:
My most memorable CMS rehearsal was on Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 1 with violinist Augustin Hadelich, cellist Clive Greensmith, and pianist Inon Barnatan in May, 2018. Of course, I was starstruck to be in their presence, but I also remember how fresh rehearsals seemed. Rather than concern ourselves with trying to play together or get certain notes in tune, we discussed phrase lengths, how to expand our color palettes, and what the deeper meaning was of each section. Unforgettable!
Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky:
I find it really impossible to choose one specific rehearsal that stands out during my years with CMS. There are so many wonderful experiences that I cherish from all of the music making that we have done together, that it’s impossible to name just one. I will say that the the rehearsals and the long tour that we did leading up to the performance of the Schoenberg was definitely a big highlight. Over two weeks, we felt our interpretation getting better and better throughout, culminating in our New York performance, which I still remember like it was yesterday. The spirit in that group was absolutely fantastic and we all had such a great time together. All of us still talk about that trip so fondly.
Pianist Orion Weiss:
Thanks for asking! Rehearsing at CMS is always filled with inspiration, laughter, learning, experimentation, and joy. If I had to pick just one rehearsal out of all that I can remember right now, I’d choose last November’s dress rehearsal in the Rose Studio of Messaien’s Visions de l’Amen. I was playing that epic two piano piece with one of my closest friends and favorite musicians, the pianist Michael Brown. We had been working so hard on it, but it was in that rehearsal that it all came together. That day we were working with a lighting designer on a complex lighting scheme to accompany the music – the idea was to bring Messaien’s conceptions of the connections between sound and color to vivid life. As the lights made subtle shifts of blue into red and red to green, the incredibly dense and esoteric music came into sudden and brilliant focus for me. It was absolutely thrilling. (and the concert was even more thrilling!)
Violinist Chad Hoopes:
I’ve had many fun rehearsal memories during my time with CMS. From the very first rehearsal, I instantly felt a part of this musical community that has helped me cherish chamber music in a deeper way. We recently played Appalachian Spring Suite by Copland, and someone in the group made a suggestion with “Copland himself told me to play it this way.” I’m continuously inspired by my friends and colleagues at CMS and feel lucky to be a part of something so significant in the world of music!
Violinist Bella Hristova:
This is a difficult question to answer since there have been many memorable moments over the years, but one of them would have to be from nearly a decade ago when I played Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht with my dear teacher Jaime Laredo, Paul Neubauer, Beth Guterman, Sharon Robinson, and Gary Hoffman. It’s one of my favorite pieces of chamber music, and such a moving and passionate piece. It was especially meaningful for me to play it with these inspiring colleagues, and this was one of the first times I got to perform with Jaime after graduating from school. I’ll add that for us playing the music, the rehearsal process can be just as memorable as the performance itself!
Violinist Sean Lee:
My most memorable CMS rehearsal was at the house where Antonín Dvořák was born. We rehearsed the third movement of his “Dumky” Trio, which has some of the most pure and innocent moments of music. I could imagine baby Dvořák in that very room while we played, and it was so touching!
Cellist Keith Robinson:
My most memorable rehearsal was the very first rehearsal for a tour that featured Verklarte Nacht by Schoenberg. We showed up on a Sunday afternoon in NYC and I distinctly remember that the start time was “iffy” as Sasha Sitkovetsy was flying in from London that same day. The Schoenberg changes tempos frequently and has directions in German almost every other bar, so it’s not an easy piece to sit down and play through. Even though I am sure all of us had played the piece several times, none of us had played it together. It was such a memorable “first performance” of the piece for me, despite it being just the first rehearsal. I was so blown away by my colleagues’ performance that I went back to my hotel and practiced several hours in the hopes of trying to keep up! My wonderful colleagues were Sasha Sitkovetsky, Sean Lee, Richard Oneill, Matthew Lipman, and David Finckel.
Back in January 2008, I was fortunate to take part in a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast of Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht. It was my first time performing this magnificent work and I remember the amazing and intense rehearsals we had in preparation for this televised concert. David Finckel was playing the first cello part in the group and he guided and inspired all of us. It was truly a memorable experience! You can actually watch the performance right here:
Violinist Cho-Liang Lin:
The most compelling and urgent CMS week was the most recent one. It was March 12, 2020. We were rehearsing Tchaikovsky Sextet Souvenir de Florence. The world had begun to shut down due to the pandemic. The six of us were no longer certain if our Tully Hall concert would take place. Harrowing stories about concert cancellations came from Tel Aviv, where I was told by my colleague Erin Keefe that her husband, Osmo Vänskä, was less than ten minutes from starting an Israel Philharmonic concert only to have it become a live stream while the audience were told to go home and the entire concert hall emptied. We felt this impending doom and I wanted to treasure every note while we had the opportunity. We enjoyed each other’s musicianship more than ever. A shared story or joke resonated more. And we put our hearts into every bar. The next day, Lincoln Center announced an indefinite closure. Our concert was canceled. But CMS had the brilliant idea of streaming the concert before the pandemic-induced streaming became a fad. We played with great gusto and joy in the taping session. We then bid each other farewell not knowing when we will play another concert or see each other again.
Pianist Alessio Bax: