News about upcoming projects, concerts, recordings, travels, and fun discoveries from Deborah...

A Blissful Week in Paris and Colmar, France

A few weeks ago, I returned to Paris after a year of living back in New York.  A year isn't terribly long, but a lot can happen during that time and a lot certainly has.  Paris (and Brussels) suffered the horrible attacks within a span of a few months and Europe's political and cultural landscape has been quickly shifting.  Just last week, the European Union Youth Orchestra, the brainchild of the celebrated and legendary conductor Claudio Abbado and an organization that has impacted hundreds and thousands of our most brilliant musicians, had their funding cut by the European Union bringing their operations to an end.  It's sending shockwaves throughout the entire continent and it seems we need music and art more than ever.  

But, even with this madness going on around the world, I left Paris (on my way to Brussels) feeling inspired.  People are still living their lives, not letting fear take over, and they are working as passionately as ever towards bringing people together through music and art.  It leaves you and those around you feeling more human.  I traveled to Colmar, in the beautiful region of Alsace, to perform a week of concerts at the festival Festival Les Musicales de Colmar run by artistic director and fabulous French cellist, Marc Coppey.  My week there reinforced why I shouldn't be worried about where the world is heading.  Not only did I perform with a group of stellar artists, each extremely accomplished in their careers but also individuals with such uniques voices and personalities; I was surrounded by people who were so passionate about the musical experience and building something memorable for the community at large.  The personnel and volunteers of the festival who worked tirelessly around the clock to make sure every detail from programs to meals for the artists were taken care of to the people from Colmar and audience members coming from near and far to attend the concerts and support the festival.  I was moved to see this.

Did I mention Colmar is a magical city?  It's like stepping back in time, so beautifully preserved (you almost wonder if people really do live there), and a traveling gourmand's dream.  It made me reflect on how important and necessary it is to share, to include people, to talk to them, to listen to them, to play for them, and to appreciate them even if other circumstances (whatever they may be - personal, professional, global) present themselves.  I am now in Brussels preparing for three recitals this week and everyone I have seen, old and new friends, have imparted the same kind of generosity of spirit.  The photos below are a glimpse into the fabulous week I spent in Paris and Colmar (action shots of the performances are by the wonderful Michel Spitz).  Enjoy.

Trio Modetre Returns to Boston for a Great Cause

On Monday February 22, I was thrilled to return to Boston with my piano trio, Trio Modetre, with violinist Tessa Lark and pianist Misha Namirovsky.  After several years of living on different continents, traveling and performing across the globe, we finally made our much anticipated return at the invitation of Music for Food Boston (MFF) at the New England Conservatory, our alma mater.  Performing in Boston seemed very fitting as the trio was founded at NEC in 2012 where we were all students and we got to share the stage with wonderful violinist and NEC faculty, Soovin Kim, who gave a powerful performance of Bach's Solo Sonata in D minor, BWV 1004.  Our concert that evening served as a vehicle to raise awareness and support for the Women's Lunch Place, one of MFF's affiliate partners and a sanctuary for women experiencing homelessness or poverty in the Boston community.  This shelter holds a special place in my heart as I curated a concert series there in 2011.  The series is still flourishing today under the leadership of current students at the Conservatory.

For those of you who are just hearing about Music for Food, MFF is a musician-led initiative to raise awareness about local hunger relief.  The concert series brings artists, musicians, audiences, and the people of our communities together to contribute their talents and gifts towards a very important issue in our society.  MFF began in 2010 and through their grassroots movement, they have flourished nationally and internationally.  Their model is sustainable and can be replicated for musicians to bring to their own communities which is why you can find Music for Food in BostonAppletonChicagoCincinnatiClevelandDallasLos AngelesNew YorkPhiladelphiaWashington D.C., and Berlin!  If you haven't heard about their growing partnerships, please visit their website to find out more.  Even if you're not a musician, you can still be part of this incredible organization. 

Thanks to a wonderful friend, SoYoung Sarah Yang, who has some nifty skills capturing photos on her phone, we're able to share a bit of the evening with you here.  Additionally, we would like to thank Kim Kashkashian, violist and artistic director of Music for Food; Cashman Kerr Prince, general manager; their entire team, and the Boston community for welcoming us so warmly. 

Still Dreaming About Japan

I may not have made it to where Jiro dreams of sushi, but my tour in Japan last month with violinist Yuzuko Horigome and members of the NHK Symphony was spectacularly full of Bach and Brahms, wonderful colleagues, reunions with longtime friends and family, and as many food excursions as I could fit into our concert / travel schedule.  They say a picture's worth a thousand words so here is approximately 22,000 fit into a photo map :-)

Skyline view from my hotel room in Shibuya, Tokyo

A stage picture at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall. It seats over 2,000 people!

Surprise from longtime friend, pianist, and NEC Alum Yoko Kida!

Violinists Yuzuko Horigome and Hiroyuki Yamaguchi 

A beautiful meal at Kushitei Ebisuhonten showcasing traditional Osaka cuisine

Three generations of Marlboro Festival participants on tour together!  Such a pleasure and honor to be playing with these two (Yuzuko Horigome, middle, and Ryo Sasaki, right)

My final meal in Tokyo before heading to the airport

Shibuya  punk rock bar culture

They pour their sake VERY generously

Hyogo Performing Arts Center

Reunion with Aizuri Quartet violist Ayane Kozasa's mother, my Japanese mom!

Life wouldn't be complete without a selfie (Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, left; Yuzuko Horigome, front center; Ryo Sasaki, back center; Ryo Oshima, back right; Yuya Tsuda, right; and me, front right!)

The mountains in Yamagata, which in Japanese means mountain!

Japanese blow fish sushi...

Tsukemen @ Rokurinsha Tokyo

Reunion with my cousin, Kyu!

Goodbye, Japan!  Until next time!

Dress rehearsal at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall

A plethora of delicious Japanese goodies from L'Audrey and Cybele, the sponsor of our concert in Yamagata

Our violists and their babies strapped into our JAL flight to Osaka!

Marlboro Festival reunion in Tokyo Train Station!

Tempura salmon with salmon fish roe

Seasonal vegetables, rice with minnows and pickles

On the way to Narita Airport

'Bach in Church' in Burlington, VT

I spent ten wonderful days in Burlington, Vermont at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival at the end of August.  It was my first time there and I was moved by the generosity of the festival, all the artists and staff, and the entire Vermont community surrounding it.  I had a particularly special experience performing the Third and Fifth Bach Suites for Solo Cello to a packed audience at St. Paul's Church in downtown Burlington. 

I had been wanting to perform these two Suites on one program not only for their parallel relationship (the Third Suite is in C-major and the Fifth, in C-minor) but because these two works have been a subject of exploration and re-exploration over the past three years.  I made several extended trips to Amsterdam to play these Suites for renowned Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma last year and the year before, and he certainly had a huge influence on how I listened to and approached them.  There are obvious challenges of physical endurance and mental concentration as the Fifth Suite is played scordatura (the technique of altering the normal tuning of a stringed instrument to give a particular effect. In this case, tuning the A string down to a G which creates a deeper resonance) and the normal fingering positions naturally shift as well.  But it was the musical continuity throughout each movement of one suite and keeping it alive throughout the next, which took the most energy.  It made me think how pianists are so much more acclimated to playing solo works because they are, so much of the time, playing by themselves.  But it also made me aware of how stirring that vulnerability can be when you have an audience equally focused and eager to go through that experience with you.  I could feel how meditative the atmosphere was during the Sarabande of the Fifth Suite and could hear them exhale after the last running flourish of the Courante of the Third Suite.  I also remember hearing sirens from nearby firetrucks driving by just as I was beginning the fugue of the Fifth Suite's Prelude and they happened to be a half or semi-tone below the pitches I was playing...a very interesting cacophony of sounds which I'm thankful did not throw me off that afternoon!

Below is a beautiful essay of photos captured by Dana Govett.  If you're curious, you can see even larger collection of photographs on the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival's website.  Just click here.  


The French Alps: Musique à Flaine

The Alps are a powerful place.  Crisp air, miles (or kilometres...whichever you prefer) of majestic mountain peaks covered in crystal white snow, hundreds of ski lifts and slopes, and as one would expect just near the Mont Blanc, a beautiful concert hall.

During the last four weeks, I've had two incredible opportunities to play in the Alps.  The first was in Crans-Montana, Switzerland at the selt-titled Crans-Montana Classics and two weeks ago, an 8-day residency in Flaine on the other side of the mountains in France.  There in Flaine lies a beautiful festival called 'Musique à Flaine' and each August, a wonderful summer académie takes place for strings and piano.   I joined French pianist Nathanael Gouin, and French violinist/violist and brother/sister extraordinaries Guillaume and Marie Chilemme.  The idea of skiing and playing concerts simultaneously makes people nervous especially since most musicians I know avoid doing high-risk physical activities or sports around the time of performance (or, ever).  But as we are artistic risk-takers, it only seemed fitting that our residency consisted of skiing near the Mont Blanc and performing four concert programs including a children's program about Schubert! 

All programs during this week were Carte Blanche (def: unrestricted power to act at one's discretion) and as I've had a constant love affair with the music of Schubert, naturally, there was an all-Schubert program including his Notturno Op. 148 in E-flat, Impromptu Op. 142 No. 3 in B-flat, Arpeggione Sonata, and his Fantaisie for Violin and Piano, Op. 159 in C major.  We also did a program of Debussy, Ysaye, Ravel, and Fauré; and another of Brahms and Schumann.  Musique à Flaine is a beautiful place and the spirit of the residency was generous, honest, and focused on the music which surprisingly, can be a difficult thing to hold onto when you are constantly traveling and playing.

Also, I won't ever forget former ski racing champion and my instructor for the week, Denis, who completely took me by surprise when he professed his love for Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky while we were skiing downhill!  He even sang his favorite themes of the Shostakovich String Quartets and Piano Trios while on the ski lift and described in detail what he likes most about the Violin Concerto.  Who knew...!  It's exciting to know even in the mountains, music is being appreciated so passionately.  I shall call him ‪#‎hotshostyskier‬ from now on.

Palais des Beaux-Arts, the Gym, the Swiss Alps, and an Abbey

Bizarre title, eh?  It's Sunday so technically it is the beginning of a 'new' week or for normal folk, the end to a restful weekend.  But, I'm at the final stretch of a 10-day marathon, jam-packed with fantastic music, people, lots of travel and some interesting destinations!

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