I performed Syrinx at my recital with guitarist Allen Krantz at the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania at the first concert in my Dolce Suono Ensemble’s new partnership with the gallery on October 2, 2013. I felt inspired to play Debussy among the works of his friend Rodin at this exhibition.
Since completing my Syrinx Journey on Day 366, Debussy’s birthday on August 22, I have missed this daily ritual very much. Although my yearlong cycle of performing Syrinx is complete, I continue to live with the piece in performance and just for myself.
Here is a performance of Syrinx I gave as an encore after soloing on Vivaldi’s Concerto ”La notte” and Bizet-Borne’s Carmen Fantasy with Delaware County Symphony (PA) and conductor Tim Ribchester last Sunday, October 20.
To see photos of recent performances with Dolce Suono Ensemble at the Hispanic Choice Awards, Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania, and as soloist with Delaware County Symphony, please visit Mimi Stillman‘s Facebook page and Dolce Suono Ensemble‘s Facebook page.
Left to right: Celina Velez, violin, Daniel Lee, viola, Mimi, Louis Xavier Barrette, guitar, Hannah Ji, violin, Robin Kesselman, bass
This Syrinx completes the yearlong cycle of Syrinx Journey, performed on August 22, Debussy’s birthday. On the shore of Lake George, New York, where I performed at Lake George Music Festival, I played Syrinx in the afternoon sun, gazing at the lake. I felt very emotional as I played Debussy’s masterpiece for the 366th time in as many days, bringing my project full circle. It has been the most profound and fulfilling journey of musical and personal discovery. As I steeped myself in the music of Debussy, I imbibed the arts and ideas of his time, luxuriating in the unique and beautiful aesthetic world that was his.
Afterwards my friends joined me to wish Claude Debussy a joyeux anniversaire.
Left to right: Kevin Kunkel, Catherine Chen, Ronni Gordon, Mimi, Samuel Nemec, Daniel Lelchuk
To bring the project full circle I include a performance of Syrinx in Jerusalem, because my Syrinx on Day 1 of Syrinx Journey was also in Israel at the Roman theater in Beit She’an. Here, I play on the terrace of the Mamilla Hotel overlooking the Old City.
At the University of Pennsylvania Museum, I was surrounded by exquisite classical Greek artifacts, feeling tremendously inspired. In this room, the wood nymph Syrinx sought her friends among the figures on the urns. In this context, enhanced by the powerful echo, Debussy’s winding lines for this most ancient of instruments took on a timeless quality.
This is a double version of Syrinx, featuring one performance with violin improvisations by Nigel Armstrong, and double bass improvisations by Matthew Weber. They are two of the wonderful musicians I am having fun playing with at Lake George Music Festival in New York. Nigel is a fellow Curtis alumnus who also plays jazz, and Matt is a New York-based and plays in several orchestras. These are my first forays into Syrinx with the timbre of string instruments, and I think the contrast of the high and low strings provides an interesting range of sonorities.
I was invited to give a PreConcert Workshop at Lake George Music Festival on Debussy, so I gave a talk with performance on the theme of “Debussy at 150.” I discussed Debussy’s role as a major innovator and continuing influence on today’s composers, and played musical examples including, of course, Syrinx.
I have been curious about what Syrinx would sound like on oboe, and am delighted my friend Samuel Nemec joined me to experiment with it. Sam graduated from Curtis and is second oboe in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. A couple seasons ago we played together in my Dolce Suono Ensemble’s performance of Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, and I am glad we are playing together again at Lake George Music Festival this week.
In this Syrinx, we play sometimes in unison and sometimes alternating phrases. We preceded it with a famous excerpt from Debussy’s La Mer highlighting the timbre of the flute and oboe blend.
It is great to playing music with a lot of my friends from Curtis at Lake George Music Festival. Percussionist Mari Yoshinaga graduated from Curtis and is currently at Yale. She joined me for Syrinx after rehearsal one day, and improvised fascinating sounds on crotales, cymbal, and woodblocks.