Close Encounters of the Heard Kind
Part 1 of 2
When is the last time you got up-close and personal with great classical music in an intimate atmosphere, in the living room of a host treating you to a fantastic spread of food, all kinds of drink, informal discussion about the pleasures and vicissitudes of various pieces and instruments, and an inimitable sense of humor?
For me, it was just days ago, at the home of Abram Minzer, one of the city's finest classical pianists, where Minzer has been doing salons since early 2006, featuring works by Mozart, Schubert and others. His latest brain-child is the Schumann-Brahms Salon Series. The event has featured many other composers as well, such as Beethoven, Stravinsky, and even the contemporary Ben-Amots. Salons are held Sundays at 4:30 p.m. (with an occasional Saturday 6:30 session); remaining salons in this series run through November 10.
Minzer's salons stem from an attraction to the mix of ideas and interaction within the Southern Colorado Psychoanalytic Salon Series, at which he has presented programs on the life and works of Bach and Beethoven. Too, he models his salons on those attended by Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and others; those early gatherings were actually a heady mix of not just music, but literary, visual, and other arts as well, a melting- (if not boiling-) pot of intellectual and artistic fervor.
Minzer's series, consisting of 15 core musicians (but open to others interested in sharing their various talents), is an alternative to the venue of enormous music halls in which the line is clearly delineated between performer and audience, and hopefully align with his personal goal in life: “to create and inspire love and beauty.” He hopes and believes that salon attendees not only enjoy the programs, but experience a sense of connectedness, both with the music and one another.
I have greatly enjoyed my first salon excursions. Socializing and feasting come first, during which talk and laughter abound, and when the weather is temperate, conversing amid the trees and sun, to the background-tinkling of scattered water fountains, is an extra treat, along the lines of art's imitating nature's imitating art. Minzer's home is, itself, a feast for the eyes, beginning with a dazzling light-infused entryway, leading to a dining room (with mirrored ceiling, so you can eat for two, no matter what your situation!), and then living room, in which two gleaming grand pianos nestle like contented (if rather enormous) cats. Seating for the actual salon is a semicircle, which imbues a communal atmosphere in which one can see not only the musicians but other audience members as well.
Preceding the performances, Abe (as he is known affectionately by friends) gives an overview of the series and the day's fare. The musicians, ranging from cellists to pianists, horn-players, clarinetists, vocalists, etc., are both local and imported from other cities. In a single program you might hear compositions by Israeli-born Ofer Ben-Amots, performed by, among others, Dave Stoller, former first-chair horn-player with the Colorado Springs Symphony.
The music, (so far I have heard duets and trios) is divine (including the acoustics), and discussions of their instruments' fortes, challenges, and even construction, are fascinating. I had never heard anything played on the earliest (and most difficult version) of the French horn, for instance. Disseminated as well is a little information about each piece and/or its composer, the circumstances both personal and historical which culminated in a particular piece of music. We, as audience, were invited and encouraged to ask questions, to participate in what was/is a learning experience for all.
The second salon I attended represented an evolving vision of Minzer's – to incorporate other art forms. eleven oil paintings by Tokyo-native Kazuko Stern were upon various walls, and she discussed her genesis as artist, and each piece in some detail. Again, questions were encouraged. At the Oct. 14 salon, Indian writer and Poetry West member Yousuf Zaigham presented a poetry reading. Abe’s wife, Carol Schreuder, Psychologist PhD, spoke on the topic of bipolar illness, as it affected Robert Schumann and his work.
Having attended just a few salons, I wonder where I've been all my life. I would encourage you to join in. You can pick and choose which salon/s in the series to attend; it's not all-or-nothing. The experience is good for both body and mind (and those ineffables, soul and heart). You needn't be a musician yourself to enjoy the series. Just come along, bring your curiosity, bring a friend, and an appetite for good food, conversation and art. Enjoy the intimacy, the diversity of background, the gorgeous music, the conviviality, and the Minzers' warmth and hospitality.
By the way, Abe recently shared with me that he (like I) has perfect pitch, a dubious “blessing” at times (try switching instruments within the same family, like recorders or strings, and watch your ears and fingers go to war). I would say that his sensibilities don't extend just to musical tones. His salons, as far as I'm concerned, are pitch-perfect. Don't miss another!