Staying out of the ruts

By Barry Kempton

On Saturday evening Gidon Kremer and his magnificent chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica performed at the Ordway in our International Artist Series.  In my opinion – and apparently in the audience’s, judging from the level of applause – we heard the highest level of musicianship as we are used to in this series;  not only from Mr Kremer himself but from the wonderful ensemble of strings and percussion assembled by Mr Kremer from the Baltic States.  International artists one and all.

Of course it’s not what subscribers and regular audience members would expect to see on our International Artist Series stage.  On rare occasions in the past, a string quartet or early music ensemble has performed.  Maybe some will remember the appearances of the Waverly Consort, New York Pro Musica and William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants.  Our more regular fare is of course the recital featuring a single soloist usually with collaborating pianist.

I’m curious to know what audience members thought of Saturday’s deviation from the norm.  Myself, I felt the presentation honored the spirit of the series in that it featured one of the major figures of our classical music world, this time with chamber orchestra instead of collaborating pianist.  Somebody did mention to me at the concert that Mr Kremer was not on stage for most of the second half and so it was not a simple substitution of orchestra accompaniment for piano accompaniment.  It’s a fair observation though as I mentioned above, I felt the chamber orchestra lived up to its reputation of international status when performing Pärt and Britten without Mr Kremer.

The Schubert Club’s mission statement proclaims that we “invite the world’s finest recital soloists and ensembles to our community.”  Technically, Mr Kremer’s performance with his orchestra doesn’t qualify as a recital, and I imagine that some members of our audience attend the International Artist Series specifically to hear recitals.  On the other hand, both he and his band, Kremerata Baltica, belong (in my mind at least) to that elite class of worlds’ finest musicians. 

I don’t think we’ll have orchestras gracing the stage very often (at least in our International Artist Series), but I do like the idea of mixing things up a little.  As one member of our audience said to me at my very first recital as The Schubert Club’s Director, “please avoid programming to a strict formula.”  Including yesterday’s performance in the series helped us in that regard, I think, and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to present more deviations from the norm in the future.  But I look forward to getting honest feedback from audience members since the continued success of the Series depends more than anything else on their experience.