Interviews
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Interview with Marcy Rosen

Marcy Rosen has established herself as one of the most important and respected artists of our day. Los Angeles Times music critic Herbert Glass has called her “one of the intimate art’s abiding treasures.” She has performed in recital and with orchestra throughout Canada, England, France, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and all fifty of the United States. She made her concerto debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of eighteen and has since appeared with such noted orchestras as the Dallas Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, the Caramoor Festival Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, the Jupiter Symphony and Concordia Chamber Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, and the Tokyo Symphony at the famed Orchard Hall in Tokyo. In recital she has appeared in New York at such acclaimed venues as Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street “Y” and Merkin Concert Hall; in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center, Dumbarton Oaks, the Phillips Collection and the Corcoran Gallery, where for many years she hosted a series entitled “Marcy Rosen and Friends.” In recent seasons she has given Master Classes and appeared on stage in Beijing and Shanghai, China, the Seoul Arts Center in Korea and in Cartagena, Colombia.

A consummate soloist, Ms. Rosen’s superb musicianship is enhanced by her many chamber music activities. She has collaborated with the world’s finest musicians including Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Andras Schiff, Peter Serkin, Mitsuko Uchida, Isaac Stern, Robert Mann, Sandor Vegh, Kim Kashkashian, Jessye Norman, Lucy Shelton, Charles Neidich and the Juilliard, Emerson, and Orion Quartets. She is a founding member of the ensemble La Fenice, a group comprised of Oboe, Piano and String Trio, as well as a founding member of the world renowned Mendelssohn String Quartet. With the Mendelssohn String Quartet she was Artist-in-Residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and for nine years served as Blodgett-Artist-in Residence at Harvard University. The Quartet which disbanded in January of 2010, toured annually throughout the United States, Canada and Europe for 31 years. Her performances can be heard on recordings from the BIS, Bridge. Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical, CBS Masterworks, Musical Heritage Society, Phillips, Nonesuch, Pro Arte, and Koch labels among others. For more information, please visit her website.

What was the first piece by Schoenberg that you’d ever heard?

I think it was Verklärte Nacht (Op. 4). Then there was a really memorable performance of Pierrot lunaire (Op. 21) in 1978. That was fantastic. My good friend Lucy Shelton was the singer. It just blew my mind.

And what was the first piece that you’d played?

It must’ve been Verklärte Nacht, but I also performed the Third String Quartet (Op. 30) with Felix Galimir, which was terrifying.

What do you listen for when you’re listening to his music as an audience member?

Well, I hear the melodies. I find them beautiful. In my quartet, we kind of championed Schoenberg, so we played all of his quartets, including his String Quartet in D major (1896), which sounds like Dvorak. If you’re aware of the evolution of his style, from tonality to twelve-tone, then you can really hear the beauty of the twelve-tone structure. I hear those melodies, because I know them and I’ve played them, but I also hear the incredible continuity in the way he keeps to the series, even when he’s jumping from register to register, and the very soulful quality that he creates. I know it’s intimidating for most people to listen to that, but I just find it beautiful. I many ways, I find it easier to listen to than Berg.

What do you think the difference is when you’re playing his music as opposed to listening to it?

Well, when you’re performing anything, you’re more into it than when you’re sitting and listening to it happen. With something especially complicated like Schoenberg’s music, you find its inner beauty. Once you’ve been inside the work, you can appreciate it more as an audience member, because you now understand its language. But what I listen for is the same thing I listen for when I listen to Beethoven. I want to hear a beautiful melody, the texture and the inner workings coming through clearly. So, I approach it the same way. I think Schoenberg is very romantic.

Do you think it could helpful to give a talk beforehand in concerts today?

People always tell me they like that. It can make a difference. In Verklärte Nacht, for example, you could explain how Dehmel’s poem goes with the music and show what the meaning of it is. I mean, that piece is programmatic throughout. The same goes for Pierrot lunaire. You should take the audience on the path, as it were, even before you perform the piece, so that the performance would be like a continuation of that. That would be really cool.

What do you think he was like as a person?

He was probably terrifying, but his children are normal! My quartet did a series at the Schoenberg Institute in California, so we had some contact with his kids. I think he was an intense man. I mean, just look at his paintings, his self-portraits! Clearly, this must’ve been a scary guy. But in his mind he must’ve been atrociously busy and creative to have come up with what he made. His music is extrememly intense, so I’m sure he was as well. There isn’t a happy tune in anything, it’s all very serious. The thing that’s interesting, though, is that his music is surviving.

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