December 28 - grecchinois
A friend was saying to me recently over the holidays that itseemed to her in our current fast-paced age, true mentors are hard to comeby. In some ways, I felt a bit of truth toher words, and if that is truly the case, I feel incredibly lucky to have had somany people who I would consider mentors throughout my years as a musician sofar. One of the greatest of these for mewould most definitely be the pianist, coach and conductor, Martin Isepp. I’ve often said that my four summers at Marlboro saved my relationshipwith music. After a few years ofhustling to carve out a beginner’s foothold in the tough and competitiveoperatic world, I arrived for my first summer at Marlboro burnt out, somewhatjaded, and a tiny bit unsure why I was going there in the first place. Hindsight being 20/20, when I look back atthat version of myself standing perplexed and terrified at the threshold of myfirst, rustic dorm room on the Marlboro campus, I strongly believe that themain reason the fates had brought me to Marlboro that first summer was becauseI was starved for inspiration. Martinwas one of the main people in whom I found that inspiration which I sodesperately needed. Over the course of my four summers at Marlboro, I exploredwith Martin the many complex layers of the songs of Britten, Schumann, VaughanWilliams, Brahms, Wolf and Mozart. AsMartin guided me through the twists and turns of all this music over the course ofour many sessions at Marlboro together, I came to understand that his approachto music came from a place of deepest respect and love for the art form. A tough and demanding coach, he never let onenote of music be poorly sung, nor one phrase pass by unexamined or unstylishlyturned. Yet, despite being so rigorous and exacting, his manner was, for the mostpart, very gentle. If he didn’t likesomething one did, he would sigh as if disappointed that you had broken hisfavorite piece of china and then begin to go about gently prodding the musicianhe was working with in a different direction, gradually cajoling them toapproach the phrase or note in a way that would suddenly unlock the mysteriesof the music at hand. At the end of these moments, the “eureka!” light bulb wouldshine brightly, and the cobwebs of confusion and musical befuddled-ness woulddisappear. The music would flow again, andthe composer’s intentions and the musical drama of the moment would suddenly be crystal clear. Always expecting thebest, and constantly pushing those that worked with him towards the highestlevels of excellence, I found myself in our sessions reaching again for greaterheights for the first time in years. Iexperienced some songs I had known for years in a completely different light afterbringing them to him – for instance, Schumann’s “Schöne Wiege” will never beenthe same for me after our sessions on Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 24. Martin revealed the profound depth of the song's protagonist’s pain at leaving the town where he met his beloved by simply adjusting the tempo of the songin one of our sessions, transforming what I once thought of a simple, pretty,melancholy song into a richly layered, complex, heart-wrenching piece of musicjust as dramatic as any operatic aria ever composed. After years of neglecting the world of Liederand Art Song while running the beginner’s operatic rat-race, through oursessions together I rediscovered my passion for the music that made me fall inlove with the art of singing. At a timein my life when I felt that I was starting to lose touch with my wonder,respect, and love for music, Martin rekindled the fire inside of me,reconnecting me with the calling that pushed me to pursue a life in music inthe first place. The news of his passing on Christmas day is a true loss for our musical community, and he will be sorely missed. As the person who delivered the sad news tome on Monday said, “it is difficult to imagine a person with greater integrity, musicalinstincts and knowledge, and kindness. There is quite simply, no replacementfor him.” I could not agree more. Martin, I cannot thank you enough for the inspiration,encouragement, and mentorship you have given me and the musical world aroundme. May you rest in peace, and may weremember you forever in our world of song. Courtesy of YouTube, one of Martin's performances at Edinburgh - with Frederica von Stade:
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