The famous story says that violinist Jascha Heifetz was on his way to Carnegie Hall when two tourists, looking for the entrance, asked if he knew how to get there.
“Yes,” Heifetz said. “Practice!”
Musicians dream of making a name for themselves in the magically renowned Carnegie Hall, and 24 Columbia musicians will realize that dream Wednesday evening in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall at 8 p.m. Sponsored by the Columbia Music Performance Program, the Columbia Chamber Players will put on their annual MPP Carnegie Hall concert centered on a classical repertoire.
The Columbia Chamber Players don’t perform as one unit but rather a series of smaller chamber ensembles. Most are self-formed student groups assembled specifically for the Carnegie Hall performance, and all passed through the vigorous audition process. The students now face the challenge of performing in a concert hall that’s played host to a slew of legendary composers and performers.
“College-level or seasoned professional, the challenge is always the same: our ability to engage ourselves completely with the music,” Allen Blustine, who judged auditions, said in an email. “When we succeed at that, something special happens, no matter what our ‘level.’”
Columbia professor and music department chair Giuseppe Gerbino agreed that the students have lots of high pressure on them but that they will also earn a lot of prestige.
“The department does not grant a degree in music performance,” Gerbino said. “The students are doing this for themselves, and associating your name with such an institution is a great honor.”
This concert will be the fourth MPP Carnegie Hall concert for violinist Amir Safavi, CC ’14, and he will perform a Dvorák’s Piano Quintet and Barber’s “Dover Beach.”
“Of course it has a really magical history,” Safavi said of Carnegie Hall, “but I think the real attraction to playing there is the hall itself and the acoustics. Music really comes to life in that venue.”
Safavi said he’s looking forward to performing with strong campus musicians and mentioned that there would be some nontraditional performances in the primarily classical concert program—one of which will be by the Columbia University Guitar Ensemble.
CU Guitar Ensemble guitarist Javier Llaca, CC ’16, said that the group tends to play works from the same classical composers as the other groups. Some of these pieces are, however, not written for guitar.
“We like to occasionally include less orthodox pieces that bring out the guitar’s most unique characteristics,” Llaca said. CU Guitar Ensemble will perform Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in B minor and Enrique Granados’s Spanish Dances No. 1 and No. 2 on Wednesday evening, which according to Llaca were selected because they allow the group to showcase two very interesting facets of the guitar in Spain.
“The transcriptions you will hear at Carnegie Hall are very challenging for the guitarists and reveal a very romantic aspect perfectly highlighted by the sound of the guitars,” Marco Cappelli, Columbia music associate and MPP guitar instructor said. “For sure guitar has a legendary magic sound, and this magic multiples in the ensemble set.”
“Personally, I think that these guys are just amazing: They work so hard at Columbia, and at the same time they find room to enjoy music,” Cappelli said. I think this happens because to play chamber music is such a deep spiritual experience that you just live better doing it. ... So even if it costs some time it gives back a lot.”
The concert is at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on Wednesday, April 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 with a CUID.