Sure. I know. High noon on a hot June Sunday may not shout "concert time" to Santa Fe chamber music mavens. Except, maybe, this coming Sunday when at noon, June 13, cool St. Francis Auditorium hosts the third season of an exhilarating concert series dubbed "Creative Dialogue." It's free. So grab some carnitas from Roque and go.
But first, a little history. Back in 2006, distinguished cellist Anssi Karttunen and acclaimed composer Magnus Lindberg participated in the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. They’d worked together for years in their native Finland and elsewhere. That year they were living at what is now Acequia Madre House and, inspired by their experience, came up with the idea for a workshop dedicated to contemporary music, performed by gifted young musicians. The ideal venue would be Acequia Madre House with its fine rehearsal and meeting spaces.
Fast forward to 2008. Supported in large part through Finland’s Sibelius Academy, the program happened and the talent arrived in Santa Fe. That would be Lindberg and Kaija Saariaho, whose
Adriana Mater was premiering at the Santa Fe Opera, plus 14 young artists led by Karttunen. In the mix—a week of hard work and, as grand finale, a public concert.
Last summer, seven cellists under Karttunen's leadership came together for another workshop, capped off by a program including world premieres by Lindberg, Pablo Ortiz and Peter Lieberson. The consensus? One of the stunning concerts of the summer, challenging and hugely rewarding.
Sunday the third "Creative Dialogue" arrives. Eight musicians from this country's most distinguished music schools and the Sibelius Academy have been working all week with Karttunen and noted guitarist, Timo Korhonen. The concert program will probably include works by Lindberg, Saariaho and To - ru Takemitsu—all composers in the highest firmament of contemporary music.
For Karttunen, a fundamental goal of the week-long program is learning how to learn. The eight young artists (five cellists, three guitar players) have been in touch with him and Korhonen for months. Says Karttunen, "They're from tremendously varied backgrounds, but we offer nothing like the typical conservatory experience. This is collective.
"They aren't carrying the conventional luggage.
We try to level them out with a repertory that's completely new, something that adds a little salt and pepper to their diet. We're looking for growth and maybe a radical sense of discovery. It means plenty of hard work."
The notion of "creative dialogue" enters the picture. This week's music is all recent and, like last year, the concert may include world premieres.
Collaboration is key while the performers explore unfamiliar repertory. Karttunen likens the process to "being right there while the music is being born. It's an exciting possibility, and one our artists can later bring to bear on pieces from the standard repertory."
The venue for the program makes a difference, too. Acequia Madre House had been home to philanthropist Leonora Curtin (think El Rancho de Las Golondrinas and the wetlands preserve named for her). Her daughter lived here after her marriage to the Finnish diplomat, AJ Paloheimo. The house provides
comfortable, even elegant spaces that foster the program's closeness and familial feeling.
Guitarist Timo Korhonen, a first-timer to Santa Fe, was immediately struck by the venue. "This house offers such a sense of tradition. It collects many feelings—of the Southwest, of Europe, of a blending of cultures."
He's equally sensitive to the landscape.
"There's a serenity here that's in itself creative. Maybe it can help us know ourselves better."
He, Karttunen and a few students had done the Bandelier circuit the day before we spoke, including that vertigoinducing ladder-climb to Alcove House.
Korhonen concluded, "You know? That's kind of where we want to be with our students this week. Pretty high up and a little afraid."