This special commemorative re-issue celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival and features performances of Kreisler, London, and Arnesky works previously only available on vinyl. The CD also includes a performance of “Sarasateana” by Efrem Zimbalist never before commercially available.
Telluride’s annual summer Chamber Music Festival may seem an unlikely haven for Bay Area artists, but for the last 40 years it has been the summer home of founder Roy Malan, concertmaster of the SF Ballet. In 1973 he started coordinating concerts at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House, nestled in the spectacular San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The festival started from humble beginnings recalls Malan, “To drum up interest Robin Sutherland (SF Symphony keyboardist) and I strolled up and down Colorado Avenue bearing sandwich boards.” The Telluride Chamber Music Festival has become a locus for chamber music of the highest caliber, attracting some of San Francisco’s top symphony, ballet, and opera players as well as drawing from the finest local artists.
Recorded in 1984, MUSIC FROM TELLURIDE was briefly released on vinyl, intended primarily for the local Festival audience. It included three works: the charming Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta of Fritz Kreisler, a clarinet quartet version of Larry London’s percussion piece Starry Nights, Doggy Days (with the composer on clarinet, “to give myself something to play”), and Anton Arensky’s monumental Piano Trio in d minor, Opus 32, featuring Malan and Sutherland teamed with Bay Area native Emil Miland on cello.
This newly-remastered CD includes those three works plus a very special treat: the 1985 premiere performance of Efrem Zimbalist’s piano quintet Sarasateana, which highlights Roy Malan’s agile, fluid mastery of the most acrobatic of violin passages.
A student of Zimbalist’s and his biographer, Malan comprehends and communicates the composer’s music with tremendous intimacy and credibility. Malan clearly loves the work, and describes it fondly in his liner note, recalling a warm relationship with his great mentor: “While Zimbalist was a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, his teacher Leopold Auer took the twelve-year-old to hear the legendary Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate [1844–1908] play his own Spanish Dances. In his nineties Zimbalist told (me), ‘I remember the performance as if it were yesterday. The vitality, charming simplicity, and character in his playing of these little masterpieces, and above all his rhythm, remain indescribable.’ Indescribable perhaps in words, but with Sarasateana, Zimbalist was able to bring all these attributes out in music. It was his last work, and sadly he died just months before its première.”
In this work and in the Kreisler, both pinnacles of virtuosity, Malan plays without a trace of irony. It is rare, if not unheard of today, to hear Kreisler’s music played without winking at what most consider its quaint, even kitschy, salon style. But in Malan’s genuine immersion in the music we hear, as in the best of historically-informed performance, what the composer truly intended: the delightfully singing soul of the violin.