Tribute to violinist Robert Mann is featured at Yellow Barn

PUTNEY — Yellow Barn continues into the second week of its 49th anniversary season with concerts on Thursday and Friday nights in the Big Barn, followed by an all-day tribute to violinist Robert Mann that includes a film at Next Stage and dinner at the Gleanery, plus a morning masterclass and evening concert at the Big Barn.

Audience members are invited to attend any of these events, or group them together for a full celebration.

On July 14, Yellow Barn honors Robert Mann, the founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, who died in January at the age of 97.

“Robert Mann has had an enormous impact on American Chamber Music,” said Yellow Barn faculty emeritus Bonnie Hampton, “blazing the trail for hundreds of musicians to find a life in the exploration and realization of some of the greatest music to be written for that medium.”

Mann worked tirelessly in his career to help music be experienced simply as music, undivided by excessive layers of definition, according to a news release.

Robert Mann personally touched many Yellow Barn faculty, including Brentano String Quartet violinist Mark Steinberg, who comments on lessons with Mann, “There was a visceral, hands-in-the-dirt quality to the work.”

Continuing in that tradition, violinist Don Weilerstein, also a former student of Mann's, begins Saturday's celebration with a violin masterclass at 10:30 a.m. in the Big Barn, an annual event that has become a mainstay of the festival.

'Speak the Music'

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, Next Stage joins Yellow Barn in presenting the documentary, Speak the Music: Robert Mann and the Mysteries of Chamber Music, directed by Oscar-winning director Allan Miller.

Yellow Barn faculty member Nicholas Mann will lead a discussion of his father's life and legacy after the screening. A 6:30 pre-concert dinner at the Gleanery invites patrons to gather between the film and the tribute concert at the Big Barn.

Saturday's performance features Bach's Contrapunctus 11 from The Art of the Fugue BWV 1080, a work that was performed and recorded by the Juilliard String Quartet.

The concert also includes Schumann's Mondnacht from Liederkreis, Op. 39, arranged by Colin Matthews for oboe quartet (Mark Hill, oboe), Dvorak's Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 26 (Peter Frankl, piano), Schubert's String Quintet in C Major, D. 956 (Donald Weilerstein, violin; Roger Tapping, viola), and Robert Mann's own Little Red Hen variations for narrator and string quartet (Lucy Shelton, narrator; Nicholas Mann, viola).

Earlier in the week, on Thursday night Yellow Barn faculty and participants explore the ways in which composers lovingly embrace and comment upon the music of their contemporaries and predecessors.

The concert is bookended by works of the Italian Renaissance, beginning with Sciarrino's Le voci sottovetro, which examines Gesualdo madrigals of the 16th century through a distorted lens, and ending with Brescianello's Trio Sonata in C Minor.

The Sciarrino flows uninterrupted into Liebeslied by Abrahamsen, titled as a song, but which ironically doesn't involve a singer. At the center of the program are three pieces united by Debussy's unfinished opera based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.

Broad musical territory

Two different takes on Debussy's obsession with Poe are represented in Hersant's Usher and the world premiere of Entretien (Interview) by Yellow Barn faculty composer Steve Coxe.

These pieces are followed by Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano, materializing the tentative link that had been explored with Debussy's opera in the preceding pieces. The program also includes Mozart's Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478.

Friday's concert features Oliver Knussen's Triptych, a set of three distinct pieces conceived together but typically performed separately. These pieces traverse through diverse instrumentation, featuring a violin and piano duet, a piano solo, and an oboe quartet, respectively, in the three parts.

Friday's performance also includes Mozart's String Quintet in G Minor, K. 516 and César Franck's Piano Quintet in F Minor (Peter Frankl).

Friday night is “Westminster Cares” night, the first of several evenings honoring local organizations at Yellow Barn. Also on Friday, audience members can enjoy dinner at Duo in Brattleboro and receive complimentary tickets to that evening's concert. Tickets at Duo are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates