I sometimes say to people that my ten summers at The Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont really represented my true education in music. Most certainly the time was rich in intense involvement with chamber music. Rehearsing for hours, days, and weeks on one specific work with other truly enthusiastic, devoted musicians and without any outside world agenda or time constraints was rare indeed. Though I felt hardly worthy to be playing with such deeply experienced masters as Isadore Cohen, Felix Gallimir, Boris Kroyt, Rudolf Serkin, Miecyslaw Horszowski, Luis Battle, or Herman Busch, Sigfreid Palm, no teacher/student categories were demarcated. We were all merely labeled participants. But the truth was that these world class legends were drawn to this tiny isolated summer community of artists by the magnetic vision of Mr. Serkin, who believed that transcendent beauty and revelation could be found when a duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet (and perhaps ultimately an entire orchestra) worked together with the score by their side and open-hearted joy in music making. A young person like myself was treated with the same respect as would be accorded the time honored master. Together we would work to unlock the wonders of the composition at hand. Yes, it was idealistic. But so is man's attempt to realize the heights of human aspiration in the inspired music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schönberg, Messiaen.
So, though ultimately I understood my teachers at Marlboro to be the scores themselves, the wisdom of interpretation was guided by sometimes direct lineage with teachers and performers from past and present. Thus for instance, Mr. Gallimir could speak to us of his premiere performances of the Ravel and Debussy string quartets for the composers. Mr. Serkin could draw on his music-making with Adolf Busch, Mr. Kroyt might unlock some discoveries of Bartok with the Budapest.
And then there was the poet philosopher of the flute, Marcel Moyese, who led wind ensembles with radiating iridescent facial expressions- a luminous smile sending a scale to heaven, a twinkling eye to make a rhythm dance off the page, a frown of displeasure for the ordinary, the mediocre, and the color in his cheeks responding to a flutist's invention of a vowel sound.
Excerpted from Another Name for God, copyright 2015