Chamber Music Thoughts in the Ischian sun

I’m a bit sad that the ferociously intense schedule here at the Ischia Festival has made it impossible for me to write more often, as it has been a very interesting and memorable week.

First, for all my friends who had thought about coming here as participants, I can only say that you should definitely come next year if you can. Spectacular views, fantastic food, a friendly and laid-back atmosphere and luxurious facilities- what more could you ask for.

We had our first concert last night- piano trios by Malcom Arnold and Jukka Linkola and the great Mozart Piano Quartet in E-flat, a masterpiece I was playing for the first time (actually, all of the pieces were new to me). Neither the Arnold nor the Linkola are “great’ works, but they are good fun- attractive, exciting and effective. I actually think it was very good programming on Aldo’s part, because it made for a nice, short concert and really put the Mozart front and center, where it belongs.

I’ve coached a lot of repertoire with a lot of new friends- the Brahms C minor Piano Quartet, a Devienne Trio Sonata, the Brahms Clarinet Trio (with two different groups), the Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Themes and the Shostakovich Piano Quintet, among others. I was actually a little concerned that there were too many groups playing too much repertoire for the number of participants, but, although we will definitely scale it back next year, it seems to have worked out fine. The participants are all so passionate about music that there seems to be no end to their hunger for playing and discovery.  

Speaking of discovery- I think the most memorable moment of the week so far for me was coaching the Intermezzo from the Shostakovich Piano Quintet with a group of musicians who were getting to know the piece for the first time. I can still remember playing that movement with tears streaming down my face at the Clock Tower festival two years ago, so I wasn’t too surprised at the reaction of the players to playing it for the first time. One of the violinists later said that the piece “was like a revelation. I couldn’t breathe or really see for a couple of hours afterward….” That’s how music should affect people.

It’s also been fun to discover some new colleagues like Aldo, David and Peppe (our pianist/director, violist and clarinetist respectively). They’re all great musicians, as is my old friend Byron, who I’m thoroughly enjoying playing with again after a break of over a decade. We haven’t had a lot of time for chitchat, but somewhere in the “so what are you doing the rest of the summer” conversation, one of them told me of the most unusual recital I have heard about in a long time…. He’s doing a very heavy duo program (Messiaen, Mozart and Brahms) at a nudist colony in Idaho. Yes, the audience will be naked! Clothing is very much optional for performers as well. I’ve never turned down a recital gig I could do, but……

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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4 comments on “Chamber Music Thoughts in the Ischian sun”

  1. Anna

    Your friend’s dilemma regarding a concert at a nudist colony prompted a post from me today that may amuse you.
    It involves Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli – hope you enjoy!

  2. Steve Bass

    This reminds me of the “good/bad naked” episode of the Seinfeld TV show. Cello: good naked. Piccolo: bad naked.

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