For Wu Han, performing in upstate New York usually meant keeping a close eye on the weather, but that won’t be the case in 2014.
“Every time I drive north, I always worry about snow,” said Han, a world-class pianist who along with her husband, cellist David Finckel, will bring the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga State Park next summer. “I perform through this whole area during my career and that’s the one thing I remember.”
Monday at a press conference at the Spa Little Theater, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center announced a partnership for the summer of 2014. While there is no contract signed yet, according to SPAC President and CEO Marcia White, she hopes the union will last for many years to come.
“We are thrilled to announce that CMS and SPAC have joined forces, and that Saratoga will be the first summer residency in their history beginning in August of 2014,” said White. “We are launching a partnership that will position SPAC as the destination of choice for world class chamber music.”
Along with Han and Finckel, the group’s co-artistic directors, Suzanne Davidson, executive director for CMS of Lincoln Center, was also at the press conference.
“Why now, after so many years,” said Davidson, referring to the group’s summer move to Saratoga Springs. “Well, the idea has been around for a while, but it was the arrival of Wu and David which really started the concept moving forward. And, we have a long history, but we were taking a look at where we wanted to be at age 50, and we felt like we needed to create a major chamber music summer presence. Then we started looking around where we wanted to do this, and we came up with Marcia. SPAC is involved with so many other great organizations it seemed like the perfect partnership for us.”
While SPAC has had a series of chamber music performances every summer since 1966 and the Saratoga Music Chamber Festival since 1991, the opportunity to bring Finckel and Han into the fold was too good to pass up, according to White.
“They are rock stars of the classical music world,” she said. “CMS is one of the true success stories in the classical music world, and David and Wu are very dynamic artistic directors. Under their leadership the past five seasons CMS has experienced an impressive growth. They draw more people to chamber music than any orchestration of its kind.”
Finckel and Han, who got mention in Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year, are among the most esteemed and influential classical musicians performing today. For 34 years, Finckel served as cellist of the Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet, and Han, a Taiwanese-American pianist, has performed throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Wigmore Hall in London. The couple were married in 1985.
Finckel and Han, who live in Manhattan, are no strangers to Capital Region fans of clamber music. The pair repeatedly performed in Union College Concert Series, which had been directed for four decades by Dan Berkenblit before he retired last year. Berkenblit was in the audience Monday and Finckel singled him out.
“I am honored that Dan Berkenblit is here today because he was one of the first presenters who really believed in me and Wu and what we were doing,” said Finckel. “Since the beginning of my partnership with Wu, he is one of the friendships we’ve enjoyed in the Northeast that has really helped us build our career.”
The CMS at SPAC residency will kick off Aug. 11, 2014, and present six different performances through Aug. 26, and will include an educational component. Helping children learn music and introducing people to chamber music are two passions of Han.
“Chamber music is like fine wine, the more you know about it the more you enjoy it,” she said. “Music is food for your ears, but it’s also nutrition for your soul. Once an audience understands it and knows more about the context, we will convert them. Chamber music is the most addictive art form I know.”