Double-bassist Richard "Dobbs" Hartsthorne Plays San Quentin State Prison
Gabetta Tunes in to Barber Concerto, America
Before visiting a new country, tour guides often recommend browsing through your destination’s local media, such as newspapers and magazines, to get a deeper understanding of that people’s culture, politics, and issues for an authentic experience. That immersive method, Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta has found, also works when visiting a new concerto.
In February, Gabetta toured with conductor Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, performing a program that included American composer Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto, Op. 22. The classical-music world this year is marking the 100th anniversary of Barber’s birth. “For 40 minutes, you don’t know exactly why he wrote this part or wrote that part because there are so many elements,” Gabetta says. “When I learned this piece I was a little bit shocked in the beginning, and I was afraid because I couldn’t find where he wanted to go—the exit or the top of the mountain.”
As she continued the tour by car, Gabetta listened to the classical radio stations in Florida. “After 15 to 16 days of listening all the time to these American composers, it was like a book: you start to read something new and then you start also to read much more on top of that. There’s a lot of bold composition in this music by American composers, I found.
“After this day, I started to have another point of view to this Barber Concerto that I played every evening.”
Gabetta has been so moved by the concerto, she plans to work on Barber’s Cello Sonata. —R.W.
Banff’s Shiffman Ships to Royal Conservatory
Violinist, violist, and educator Barry Shiffman is proud of the cultural accomplishments of his native Toronto, such as the new museums, opera hall, and the Royal Conservatory’s new Koerner Hall. “Toronto is a city that has undergone one of the most unbelievable and unprecedented investments in cultural infrastructure ever undertaken in North America . . . about a $2 billion investment in the last five years,” says Shiffman, the Banff Center’s director of music programs and triennial Banff International String Quartet Competition.
In September, Shiffman will have a chance to contribute to that revitalization as he becomes associate dean of the Glenn Gould School and Young Artists Performance Academy at the Royal Conservatory. His influence already is being felt: the Glenn Gould School has named the Cecilia String Quartet ensemble-in-residence, the first since 1989 when Shiffman’s St. Lawrence String Quartet was hosted by the Royal Conservatory. “The United States has been committed to training string quartets in the post-secondary level through these residencies,” Shiffman says. “Luckily, now at the Glenn Gould School, we do. The results will be obvious—Canadians do not need always to go abroad if we create opportunities for them here.”
Shiffman will continue to oversee the Banff Center’s summer programs and quartet competition, as he has since 2006. —R.W.