The Tippet Rise Art Center is staging a spring festival—online. Do you know of Tippet Rise? It is a place in Montana, land of natural splendor. The festival lasts three days—April 16 to April 18—and consists of ten short films. I have dipped in and will share a few dippings.
The festival opens with a solo-violin partita. Bach? No, he kicked off the genre. This partita is by Vytautas Barkauskas, a Lithuanian (as his name tells you) who lived from 1931 to 2020. He lived through tumultuous events, good and bad, though mainly bad. Barkauskas wrote his partita in 1967. It is well constructed and intense—the kind of piece in which every note counts, even the fast ones. The work is a fine violinistic exercise—a helluva workout—but also a musically meritorious piece.
For the Tippet Rise festival, the partita is played by Katie Hyun, who has the technique, musicality, and intensity to bring it off. Ms. Hyun has an impressive and varied résumé, which includes the founding of a chamber collective (as it is called). She is also a founding member of a string quartet.
Richard Goode is a familiar and reassuring figure on the music scene. Why do I say “reassuring”? Because he is reliably good (as well as Goode). In a Tippet Rise film of his own, he plays a brief recital, beginning with Bach: the Prelude and Fugue in C major from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier. This pairing—which opens the book—is one of the greatest things in all of Bach. So is the C-major pairing from Book I. There are many great things in these two books—none greater than the opening pairings.
Before Goode plays, he reads a poem. (In its festival, Tippet Rise seems to be going for the multimedia.) That poem is “If Bach had been a beekeeper,” by Charles Tomlinson, a British poet who lived from 1927 to 2015. Does his name sound musical to you? We had a composer—an American composer—named Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884–1920). In his poem, Charles Tomlinson speaks of “the honey of C major.”
Allow me to make a point of pride: the poem was first published in The New Criterion, in April 2002 (here). Tomlinson won the New Criterion Poetry Prize for 2002–3 (the third year of the prize).
After he plays his Bach, Richard Goode reads a poem by Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man.” Why? Because Goode is about to play “Des pas sur la neige,” from Book I of Debussy’s Préludes. The pianist then gives us two Brahms intermezzos, Op. 118, nos. 1 and 2. He does not read a poem to go with those pieces.
He is in fine shape, Richard Goode—so lyrical, so tasteful, so intelligent, as always. He uses sheet music, as he long has. He really looks at it, too—it is not there merely for security. One thinks of Myra Hess—and Sviatoslav Richter, for that matter—before him.
Goode will soon be seventy-eight—which is nothing, if you think of one of his teachers, Mieczysław Horszowski. Horszowski died in 1993, just before his hundred-and-first birthday. He gave his last performance at ninety-nine. When he was eighty-nine, he got married. The bride was forty years younger.
As I began this post with a solo-violin work, I will end with one: Stomp, written in 2010 by John Corigliano. As the title indicates, or promises, the piece is bluesy, bluegrassy, and fun. John Corigliano, born in 1938, has a long history with the violin. His father—also John—was a concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. The son’s first piece of renown was a sonata for violin and piano.
For Tippet Rise, Stomp is played by a violinist with the beautiful name of Tessa Lark. She is from Kentucky. As a kid, she played in her father’s bluegrass-gospel band. Publicity materials say that she is “one of the most captivating artistic voices of our time.” If publicists don’t tone it down, in my opinion, they will embarrass their clients, rather than help them.
Regardless, Tessa Lark is a very fine violinist and musician, as can be witnessed in Stomp. She handles the classical and popular elements with ease. She also does some stomping—literal stomping, with just the right footwear. A stirring performance.