Monday, June 2, 2014

Keeping score

Something that is approaching with startling velocity is the Principal Quartet performance in early November, on which will be performed a late Beethoven quartet, his opus 132. (The concerts that feature the Principal Quartet have traditionally taken place in early April). Late Beethoven quartets are considered to be the ultimate in quartet playing; profound, beautiful and challenging. We have scheduled some rehearsals for this summer before quartet members go whizzing off in all directions. Some ingredients for a successful performance of any quartet are: hours of preparation, a bottle of wine (for the rehearsals), and... a score.

In college I took it upon myself to assemble a collection of scores to many of the works, quartets or otherwise, that I would be performing in my future. While the majority of the scores are miniature scores, the score that I own for the Beethoven op. 132 is actually in a textbook that I used in Music History class in undergrad. This collection of scores was published as the Music Scores Omnibus. I unearthed this Omnibus recently, and although in college I had little inkling of what my future would bring, it is now apparent that this textbook held clues to my future. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that the Omnibus was collated and edited by two University of Tennessee professors, William Starr and George Devine. Those were just names on the cover, but upon moving to Knoxville, I soon learned of their musical importance to this town.

George Devine was a longtime (1947-1985) member of the UT music department faculty, teaching music history, orchestration, and instrumentation. The start of his tenure corresponds with David van Vactor’s arrival as the KSO’s music director, and founding of UT’s music school as we know it. The music library at UT bears Devine’s name in dedication. Upon his death in 1999, a memorial statement was read at the KSO Masterworks concerts that September. For many years, Devine was the provider of program notes for the KSO concerts.

William Starr’s name is universally known in the Suzuki education realm, and his tenure at UT was Knoxville’s “Golden Age of Suzuki violin.” UT was a world-renowned teacher training facility for years, until he accepted a position at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1986. Current KSO members Julie Swenson and Mary Anne Fee Fennell were products of this fine program. My wife Helen also studied with Dr. Starr at the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (aka Suzuki Mecca). Along with starting this fine training program, Dr. Starr was concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony orchestra during the David van Vactor years. Dr. Starr spoke at Schiniki Suzuki’s memorial service in 1998. (Photo courtesy Nancy Daby, former violinist with the KSO in the late 80's and early 90's).

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