In January 2015, Mr Harrell will be performing at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. I asked him whether he was looking forward to his trip.
‘I am always happy to make the long trip to the Far East’, he said, ‘particularly because of the appreciative audience there for classical music – and a knowledgeable one at that. Moreover, coming to Hong Kong is always a special event for me because of my long history of performing with the Philharmonic [he has been a regular soloist with the orchestra]. I make more and more appearances in China these years than ever before in my career.’
I asked Harrell about the music he will bring to the festival. ‘I am excited’, he said, ‘because I will be performing works that I don’t have the opportunity to play so often: Brahms’ String Quintet op.111 with marvelous colleagues [Martin Beaver, Aaron Boyd, Brian Chen and Pierre Lapointe], Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio and Mendelssohn’s Sextet op.110.’
Harrell is of course an experienced solo performer, but unlike some soloists has enjoyed an extensive career as a chamber musician; his recordings of the Beethoven and Schubert piano trios with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Itzhak Perlman, and Beethoven’s string trios with Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, are at the centre of many peoples’ record libraries (including my own!). I asked him about the different skills required when working with others in a chamber music situation as opposed to solo work.
‘I think there is definitely a difference between a soloists role in, let’s say, a concerto, and being in a chamber music group’, he says. ‘The best soloists are those who have had much experience performing chamber music because, without a conductor, one must be many faceted: a leader, a good ensemble player able to adjust to another person’s leadership, and a good and willing back-up performer of the less important details of a composition. This flexibility of involvement, constantly changing even moment to moment, makes it actually more demanding than just being the soloist.’
This year’s festival features many esteemed artists, including pianists Wu Han and Kathryn Stoss, clarinettist Burt Hara and the Escher String Quartet. Yet with his consummate artistry and a lifetime of experience as a chamber musician, Harrell’s presence is a major coup for this year’s festival, and represents a major opportunity for Hong Kong’s classical audience to enjoy his unique contribution to music-making.
Lynn Harrell will be performing as part of the 2015 Hong Kong Chamber Music Festival, from January 14th – 21st.
Schumann: Adagio & Allegro