Five Performance Highlights of 2015 at The Schubert Club

By Barry Kempton

This will be my last blog of 2015, and so it’s natural to reflect back on the past 12 months.  I was fortunate to attend all but a small handful of our 60 presentations and co-presentations during the year.  It has been a lot of fun taking some time to look back through the calendar to remind myself of the many artists – local, national and international – whom we’ve had the privilege of including in our programming.  There have been many highlights in 2015:  the opening of the new Ordway Concert Hall in March, the greatest number of tickets ever sold at the Ordway for Joshua Bell’s International Artists Series recital in November, Vern Sutton and friends bringing some of our Gilman Ordway Manuscript Collection of composer letters to life in the Museum in January, and Hill House Chamber Players launching their 30th anniversary series at the Hill House in October, to name a few.  The list could go on and on. 

However, I’ve tried to apply some discipline to my reflections and have come up with this list of five events of which the memories linger a little more persistently.   Here they are in chronological order.


Pekka Kuusisto and Dermot Dunne at the Ordway Concert Hall 


As part of Rock the Ordway, violinist Pekka Kuusisto & accordionist Dermot Dunne played a delightful program of Bach violin sonatas interwoven with Scandinavian folk tunes.  We got to hear two outstanding musicians whose joy of music-making is infectious – and it was the very first public recital in the new Ordway Concert Hall demonstrating an acoustic in which every nuance in the sound is so clearly audible. 


Scholarship Competition Winners’ Recital in the Ordway Concert Hall


Towards the end of March, we presented a recital featuring the 14 winning students of our Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship Competition in the new Concert Hall.  Anyone who has attended one of these recitals in the past doesn’t need to be told that the standard of music-making is outstanding.  What a thrill it was to be able to hear them each perform in the Concert Hall.  The recital was enhanced further with the warm hosting of Minnesota Public Radio’s Alison Young.    


St. Lawrence String Quartet in Music in the Park Series


The St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) brought a wonderfully balanced program of Haydn quartets and new works by John Adams and Marcus Goddard to Music in the Park Series in April.  Any music lover who claims not to enjoy Haydn’s music (and there are a few, I know) should hear the St. Lawrence Quartet play Haydn.  Always interesting, beautifully shaped and full of quirks and humour.  It was magical.  So too was the Haydn Jam (pictured above) immediately following the performance when 20+ local string players got to play through one of the Haydn quartets with the SLSQ in a jam session.     


Joyce DiDonato & David Zobel in the International Artist Series


It was a great delight to find the calendar & availability stars align for us to welcome the inimitable Joyce DiDonato who gave a debut International Artist Series recital together with pianist David Zobel (in photo above along with former Board President Nina Archabal and me).  From the very beginning, Joyce and David were captivating, the program charming and the music-making compelling.  It was one of those special evenings to savour, an occasion which all of us in attendance will remember for a very long time.   


Pianist David Greilsammer in Schubert Club Mix


David Greilsammer’s Sony recording of Scarlatti and John Cage sonatas quickly convinced me that he is a noteworthy artist, both as a performer and as a programmer.  The Schubert Club Mix performance earlier this month, our first in the James J. Hill Center on Saint Paul’s Rice Park, was musically satisfying and full of theatricality.  Two pianos in the center of the room (one a prepared piano with screws and erasers inserted between strings) were lit with a gentle glow in an otherwise dark room.  My attention was focused on the music from beginning to end; the 65 minutes passed in what seemed like only 5.

Having chosen five, I feel like I should award myself another five – so as not to omit some of the other stand-out performances of the year! 

Instead, I invite those of you who attend Schubert Club performances to share your most memorable musical occasions of 2015.  Happy Holidays to all and warm wishes for the New Year.