new year…

Happy new year! A reminiscence: New Year’s Eve was the birthday of Nathan Milstein, whom I played for when I was 13. Around that time, he used to give a week of masterclasses in Zurich each year. Someone gave him a tape of me playing the Paganini concerto at a Juilliard concert and he invited me to come. Corey Cerovsek and I were there along with about a dozen college students. Over the week, I played movements of the Tchaikovsky concerto and Beethoven Op. 30 No. 3 sonata, Wieniawski D major Polonaise and Zigeunerweisen. (I brought Bach but didn’t get to play it).  On the 2nd to last day, my parents and I went hiking and the next day, I had an awful fever…at the end of the last session, he hugged me and said to my mother, ” time to take her home now!”

I remember him joyfully playing Bach sitting at a table…at pauses or while speaking, he kept grabbing lengths of a beautiful dark silk patterned scarf and stuffing it between his chin and the violin, with the rest of the scarf cascading down his front.  In the excitement of playing, he kept knocking the scroll of his beautiful Strad against the table, at which we would all jump and glance at each other. He stuck to a limited repertoire all his life, but he played those pieces so beautifully, his unique sound a combination of warmth and tenderness on the one hand, and directness, nobility and backbone on the other. He found endless things to play around with, fingerings and bowing to change, notes and lines to bring out. Favorite things he said frequently, which my dad and I still like to say to each other: “go home and have an idea!” and “help the composer!”

The year having turned to 2012, I’m looking forward to some great programs of music in the next few months. My mighty group counter)induction is playing several times in NY: the first is at Scandinavia House on January 23, an intense program of works by Finnish composers Magnus Lindberg, Jukka Tiensuu, Kaija Saariaho, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Lindberg, currently composer-in-residence with the NY Philharmonic, will host the evening. On March 4, we play at the Italian Academy, presenting pieces by Luigi Nono, Schoenberg , Helmut Lachenmann and Kyle Bartlett.

I’m honored and excited to have been asked to celebrate iconic violinist Fritz Kreisler at the Library of Congress on February 3. Subsequent to my playing of Elliott Carter’s Duo at the Library on a Sequitur concert, the LOC’s McKim Fund has commissioned my friend Harold Meltzer to write me and Blair McMillen a violin/piano piece for the occasion. Also on the program, Cygnus Ensemble will play Harold’s Pulitzer-nominated piece Brion, I and players from Cygnus will perform Kreisler’s String Quartet, and Cal Wiersma and I will play some of Kreisler’s salon pieces. I am thrilled that the Library is lending me Kreisler’s Guarneri violin, which he gave to their instrument collection, for this concert!

I am playing several more times in DC this season- a recital titled “Time and Tide”, with music by JS Bach, Ysaye and Hersch and presented by George Washington and Catholic Universities; and a couple of lovely programs at the Phillips Collection: a recital of Janacek, Strauss and Finney, and a chamber music program.

I am also eagerly anticipating a lot of new music! Some premieres this spring: new works by Alex Sigman, Cenk Ergun and Mika Pelo, written for me. Excited to play very talented composer Sean Shepherd’s music on April 23, with Aaron Wunsch, the Claremont Trio and NYPhil oboist Liang Wang. My father Robert Cuckson’s String Quartet is on Feb. 15, which we’ll then take immediately into the studio to record. A tough Xenakis duo at Princeton, another go at the great Ligeti horn trio in April.

So it continues… I’d also just like to say, for those who might have noticed, that I was sorry to cancel the Nunc concert I had planned for this month. I was looking forward to duos with some terrific friends/colleagues and some very cool pieces. But I decided to free up my schedule and take a bit of time off after a busy autumn, and wanted a few weeks to take care of some issues with my violin itself and with my health.  I will probably reschedule that program, or something similar, for next season. Nunc is in process of incorporation and I am planning a few things for next season. Not a lot, no rush, just a start for my new organization. Nunc is a long-term aspiration and interest of mine, a sandbox for me to play in and a way, I feel, to be a thoughtful, contributing artist, not just playing well but dealing with the repertoire and its various main streams and intriguing tributaries, thinking and making sense of it and discovering the specifics that give them their communicative power.



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