Spoleto Festival USA: A Little Day Music (1981) | ETV Classics

Host Bob Edwards observes that chamber music is conversational and elegant music fit for a place like The Dock Street Theater which was built 20 years before Mozart was born. 

Co-Directors Paula Robison and Scott Nickrenz describe how they plan their musical menus as if they were planning a feast with friends old and new. With an eye to keeping the experience beautiful, joyful, and accessible to their audiences, A Little Day Music shows just how well they have achieved their goals. Festival founder, Gian Carlo Menotti expected them to shake things up and so they did. 

In this program you will hear the Trio Sonata in A Major by Antonio Lotti, Jimmy Dorsey’s “Oodles of Noodles” and Mendelssohn’s Sextet in D Major Op. 110

Bob Edwards asks members of audience what they thought of the performance as they were leaving the theater and young and old expressed their delight. If you love chamber music, I suspect that this sparkling ensemble will delight you as well.

Side Notes:

  • Paula Robison graduated from Juilliard with a BS in 1963. Ms. Robison has given concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art every season for over 30 years, at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium as well as in the Medieval Sculpture Court and in the Temple of Dendur with Chamber Orchestra. Her touring continued, with frequent concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. She performed internationally with the Budapest Strings. In 1971, she began to play at the Spoleto Festival and in 1977, Gian Carlo Menotti appointed Robison and  Nickrenz co-directors of the Noontime Concerts, and they continued in that capacity until 2003, both in Italy and in Charleston, SC. Robison was awarded the Premio Pegaso and the Adelaide Ristori prizes for her contribution to Italian cultural life.
  • Scott Nickrenz has a vast history or organizing musical groups as well as festivals. From 1978 to 2003, Nickrenz was director of the Chamber music concerts at Spoleto festivals in Charleston, SC, Spoleto Italy, and Melbourne Australia.  He also directed the New World Symphony’s chamber program in Miami until 2009 while also serving as advisor to President Laurence Lesser at New England Conservatory of Music (NEC). Nickrenz retired from his position as Abrams Curator of Music at the  Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2016.
  • James Buswell (1946-2021) was given his start in chamber music by Gian Carlos Menotti in 1977, Spoleto Italy. Then a teenager, he has had an illustrious career as violinist, teacher and conductor. For the 1990 film Stations of Bach, Buswell served as narrator and guide in a documentary that celebrated the 300th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birth by tracing the cities in Germany that were important to the composer. (The full documentary exists in segments, on The Bach Videos YouTube channel.) The film premiered at a special event in Washington D.C. celebrating the re-unification of Germany, then broadcast extensively over PBS. During the pandemic, Buswell taught forty-three online classes and masterclasses.
  • Harvey Pittel’s worldwide recitals, including eight major New York appearances, have brought Mr. Pittel such praise from the New York Times  as: “he combined stunning virtuosity with impeccable musicianship, in addition to which he produced the most beautiful and pure tone I have ever heard from a saxophone.” The publication also called him “the Segovia of the Saxophone,” and “a master on his instrument.”  https://www.colburnschool.edu/faculty-listing/harvey-pittel/ 
  • Stephanie Brown, pianist, has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and has performed at the White House. Ms. Brown has had a distinguished career as a chamber artist, collaborating with Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Yefim Bronfman, Robert Mann, Alexander Schneider, Peter Serkin, Seymour Lipkin, Joseph Kalichstein, and Sandor Vegh Her recordings appear on the Vanguard, Musical Heritage, and Dorian labels. Presently, Ms. Brown is  an Associate Professor of Piano at Purchase College Conservatory of Music.
  • James B. VanDemark was appointed Professor of Double Bass at the Eastman School in 1976, at age 23, becoming the youngest person ever to hold such a position at a major music school. VanDemark is a  renowned teacher with his students’ holding positions with the world’s major orchestras. As a recording artist, VanDemark can be heard on d’Note Records, Philips, Telarc, Vox, Pantheon, and NEXUS. VanDemark has appeared in diverse media as Connoisseur magazine, the New York Times, on PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and in the Lakota Times.
  • Kenneth Cooper was born in May 31, 1941, and died March 13, 2021. An outstanding harpsichordist and musicologist, Kenneth Cooper excelled in the Baroque repertoire. His performances balanced historical insight with engaging spontaneity and Cooper appeared as a chamber music artist at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, SC, from 1979 to 1992.
  • Colin Carr began his studies with Maurice Gendron and attended the Yehudi Menuhin School. He has performed throughout the world as a cello soloist and chamber musician, and has played with major orchestras worldwide, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, and BBC Symphony; the orchestras of Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Philadelphia, and Montréal; and all the major orchestras of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Laurence Lesser was a top prize winner in the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and a guest performer in the historic Heifetz-Piatigorsky concerts and recordings. In 1976 he gave the premiere of Menotti’s Fantasia (written for him under a Ford Foundation grant) with the New Japan Philharmonic under Seiji Ozawa; in 1991, he performed the New England premiere with the NEC Symphony conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich. He has been a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and other major orchestras. He has appeared at the Casals, Spoleto, Marlboro, Charleston, and Santa Fe festivals as well as London’s South Bank Summer Music Festival. In 1994, Lesser was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005, he was named a “Chevalier du Violoncelle” by the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at Indiana University, awarded for distinguished achievements and contributions to the world of cello playing and teaching.
  • Charles Wadsworth gained international renown in 1960 by originating the Midday Concerts at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. He also started the chamber music concert series at the Spoleto Festival USA, which he directed, performed at, and hosted through 2009. After more than three decades as artistic director of the festival’s chamber music series, Mr. Wadsworth is often credited with giving chamber music the revered and respected status it now holds in America. Uniting musicians and audience members have been the true focus of Wadsworth’s career. 
  • New York Times Archive – Spoleto U.S.A.: Must it Bring Art to the People? By Edward Rothstein, May 27, 1981, digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. Spoleto U.S.A. was begun under the encouragement of the National Endowment of the Arts. The agency, which had been supporting the travel of Americans to the Italian Spoleto Festival, was cutting back on foreign travel and asked Mr. Menotti to establish a native American version. In order to infuse the South with the benefits of the arts, the endowment gave him a list of Southern cities in need of resuscitation. Charleston was the first and last he visited. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/05/27/arts/spoleto-usa-must-it-bring-art-to-the-people.html 
  • Bob Edwards, the veteran broadcaster and longtime host of Morning Edition who left an indelible mark on NPR's sound, died February10, 2024. He was 76 years old. NPR's Susan Stamberg says Edwards' voice became part of the morning routine for millions of Americans. "He was Bob Edwards of Morning Edition for 24 1/2 years, and his was the voice we woke up to," she says." Read more.