Those are the words pianist Cynthia Raim chooses to describe her long experience with Vermont’s renowned Marlboro Music Festival, a gathering place each summer for the crème de la crème of upcoming and established musicians and the audiences who love them.
The Marlboro magic, said Raim, a Detroit native who has made Philadelphia her home since she graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1977 after studying with Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, “sometimes strikes me when we are in the midst of a lot of work. You hear these glorious masterpieces wafting through the woods.”
Luckily, for the last half-century, Musicians from Marlboro have been bringing some of that magic and intensity on tour with them. Saturday, April 9th, a 50th Anniversary Marlboro touring ensemble—one that includes Raim, as well as another celebrated artist with Michigan connections, violist Samuel Rhodes—arrives in town for a terrific program, courtesy of the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. On the bill at the Seligman Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills are Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 20, No. 2; Berg’s “Lyric Suite;” and Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major.
The Dvorak, filled with the composer’s warm, stirring Bohemian melodies, is one of Raim’s favorite.
“There’s just a golden light around that music,” she said. “That’s how it always strikes me.”
With a rehearsal period in New York before the eight-city U.S. tour, Raim was looking forward to working on the Dvorak once again with the Marlboro crew.
“They are a great group of people and musicians,” she said. “It’s very special.”
In addition to Raim and Rhodes, who recently celebrated his 44th and final year as a member of the esteemed Juilliard Quartet—and who has spent time as artist-in-residence at Michigan State University, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate—the group includes three younger string players: violinists Robin Scott and Itamar Zorman and cellist Robin Scott.
The group, touring together under Marlboro auspices two years back, received rave notices for the program they bring here Saturday, which differs only by the inclusion of a different Haydn string quartet.
“The Marlboro groups always bring a youthful vitality to their work,” wrote critic Tom Purdom in the broadstreetreview.com. “This quartet, in addition, was so locked together, they sounded like a quartet that has been playing together for several seasons.”
And of Raim’s performance in the Dvorak, Purdom wrote: “Cynthia Raim belongs to the small group of Philadelphia-based master pianists who enrich our city’s musical life with chamber work, accompaniments, and an occasional solo. … In the all-important piano role in the Dvořák quintet, she displayed all her usual gifts, including a dazzling ability to jump, almost instantaneously, from soft melodic passages to big dynamic eruptions.”
Though the Dvořák piano quintet is a major draw for patrons, and is reprised here with the same personnel as in Philadelphia two years back, the program, Raim said, was formed around the Berg “Lyric Suite.” The quartet, a 20th century masterpiece, received a memorable Marlboro reading in the summer of 2012. “The tour was built around that,” she said.
Over the years, Raim, whose Detroit education included a degree from Cass Tech and study with well-known Detroit pianist and musical figure Misha Kottler, has had many a memorable summer at Marlboro. She has experienced the renowned musical retreat both as a promising young pianist and an acknowledged master.
“It began in my student days when attending Curtis Institute of Music,” she said. “That goes back a little ways now. There was a gap when I was not a student, but I was not mature enough to be on the other end of it. In the last 10 to 15 years, I’ve been on and off going there.
“I think that when you are a student, you are aware of the caliber and the level of the people, and also a bit overwhelmed; it’s a little like looking from the bottom up and wondering what do people think of me, and also learning. I remember things that happened in certain rehearsals that I use ‘til this day. It’s a combination of those sentiments and experiences. On the more mature end, the learning continues, not just from colleagues your own age but from the younger participants. And I think also on the more mature end, you realize that you really are there, yes, to some extent for yourself, but for the younger participants, and no longer there to build yourself, but really to serve. That’s kind of the bottom line.”
She’ll be at Marlboro again this summer. But before that, she’ll make a happy return Saturday to the city where her musical journey really began.
By Susan Isaacs Nisbett. Nisbett writes about classical music, dance and the performing arts in southeast Michigan.
For more information about Musicians from Marlboro, Saturday, April 9th at 8pm, or for tickets, click here.