Aspen Music Fest’s Winter Series opens with David Finckel and Wu Han
February 2, 2016
If You Go …
Who: David Finckel and Wu Han, presented by the Aspen Music Festival and School
Where: Harris Concert Hall
When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m.
How much: $50
More info: The AMFS Winter Music Series continues with Sarah Chang (Feb. 11) and the Curtis Institute of Music’s Aizuro Quartet and Michael Rusieek (March 12).
Discussing the program of Tuesday's opening concert of the Aspen Music Festival's Winter Series, pianist Wu Han noted how often great composer-pianists like Felix Mendelssohn and Frederic Chopin wrote for the cello.
"Pianists love cellists," she said, then let out a knowing laugh.
Wu Han loves her own cellist, husband and musical partner, David Finckel, with whom she will perform today. Married since 1985, the acclaimed pair's musical chemistry preceded their romantic involvement. Both had been performing internationally since childhood and met in 1981, when Han won a piano competition that brought her to perform with Finckel's Emerson String Quartet.
"When we began playing together before we were ever romantically involved, everybody was like, 'Wow, are you guys married?' And I was like, 'No, hell, no,'" she recalled. "The chemistry issue in the chamber music world is hard to pin down. It's like arranged marriage, but when you hit it right, the chemistry is there."
She said they treat their musical partnership preciously and keep it separate from their domestic life together — sticking to a diligent practice schedule and focusing solely on the music when they're at work.
"You have to leave your marriage outside of the rehearsal room," she said. "You just don't talk about who is going to do the dishes, your opinion about your kids' education, the laundry. You just don't. We know how precious it is, and we both treat it very seriously."
The winter chamber concert features works for cello and piano by Strauss, Grieg, Mendelssohn and Chopin.
"The program is showing you four very different sides of Romantic music," she said
For example, the duo will open with Strauss' Cello Sonata in F major, written when the composer was still a teenager — and filled with a youthful energy.
"It has one of the most spectacular opening movements," she said. "It's really challenging, but if you pull it off, it's one of the most exciting things that can happen at a concert."
It will be followed by a melodic Grieg Cello Sonata in A minor, written originally for his cellist brother.
"It's perfect for Aspen," Han said. "It's a snowy mountain and hot chocolate. It reminds you of the northern region."
The concert also will include Mendelssohn's Song without Words and Chopin's stormy Cello Sonata in G Minor.
Along with touring and recording together, as a pair Finckel and Han serve as co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, of Chamber Music Today in Korea and run the annual Music@Menlo festival in California. The administrative work, she said, has made them more thoughtful about what and how they perform.
"I think these administrative or artistic director jobs give me a different perspective on performance," she said. "What you're doing is basically setting artistic standards. So I have great appreciation, when I play concerts now, because I know how much detail and planning is involved in putting on a concert or a series."
Wu Han first came to Aspen as a music school student in 1983 and called it a formative experience.
"I remember feeling like a kid going to the candy shop," she said. "Where else in the world can you have classes in this beautiful setting, then go for a little hike, then run to a recital, then hear a master class, then an orchestra concert? It's just such a privilege to be there and be involved."
She and Finckel have remained regulars here over the decades, performing annually and running the school's Chamber Music Studio every summer.
"When you come to Aspen for many years, like me, you always feel like you're coming home."