Highlights included Canadian pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin and the Zukerman Trio, which is two-thirds Canadian, writes William Littler.
On Thursday, as a further example, I began my day with a concert by the 75-year-old jazz master Dr. Lonnie Smith and his trio, continued with an afternoon classical recital of Beethoven, Dvorak and Schubert by the Zukerman Trio and spent the evening with Manual Cinema, a performance collective combining shadow puppetry and film with a live original score.
The Zukerman Trio, by the way, is two-thirds Canadian. During his years as music director of Ottawa’ s National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Tel Aviv-born violinist-conductor Pinchas Zukerman married his principal cellist Amanda Forsythe and began collaborating as well with pianist Angela Cheng.
In introducing the trio, Hope recalled meeting Zukerman at the age of 10 and having to wait 34 years to collaborate with him onstage. Their Brahms and Schubert concert numbered among the week’s highlights.
Another of those highlights was violist Robert McDuffie’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, an underperformed score finally being given its due as part of the celebrations marking what would have been the American composer’s 100th birthday.
The Atlanta Symphony, one of the finest in the South, has been a happily anticipated feature of the festival for 13 years, though this year it shared orchestral duties with the debuting Zurich Chamber Orchestra, of which the versatile Hope is now music director.
Savannah’s isn’t primarily an orchestral festival, of course. With close to 90 events in a variety of genres, performed in a variety of venues throughout the oak-shaded historical district, the Savannah Music Festival represents a kind of live musical encyclopedia.
It also represents an investment in music’s future. A dozen high school bands from across the continent take part in workshops and performances as part of the annual Swing Central Jazz program, and traditional musicians from as far afield likewise take part in an Acoustic Music Seminar.
And it is difficult to think of a place where musical connections can be made across such a wide spectrum as in this history-rich oasis on the banks of the Savannah River.