New Plans at the 92nd Street Y

By Ivry, Benjamin | Strings, November/December 2000 | Go to article overview

New Plans at the 92nd Street Y


Ivry, Benjamin, Strings


Czech-born Hanna Arie-Gaifman is full of plans in her new role as director of New York's 92nd Street Y Tisch Center for the Arts. Long before she arrived, former director of classical music Frederick Noonan had programmed four Czech quartets, the Panocha, Prazak, Skampa, and Wihan Quartets. Arie-Gaifman confesses, "Had someone asked me to pick the four best Czech quartets, I'd have chosen the same ones anyway." She finds that the Czech ensembles retain "a pleasure in joint work, of being together and making music." The Czech Philharmonic, in her opinion, also shares in this unique joy in collaborating for artistic ends.

Her old friend and colleague, the late Sandor Vegh, with whom she founded the Bohuslav Martin Chamber Music Academy at Dobris Castle near Prague, was a fount of anecdotes about less joyful collaborations: "Mr. Vegh would tell Bruno Giuranna to please tell Mr. Csabo to play something," because the players of the Vegh might not be on speaking terms on a given day. By contrast, there looks to be plenty of intercommunication at Arie-- Gaifman's 92nd Street Y, where a series of Young Europe recitals will attempt to break through the difficulties younger foreign artists have imposing themselves on audiences. Citing the difficulty for any solo Czech fiddler since Josef Suk to build up a strong career, she explains, "During the Communist era there was a political-social atmosphere that said you should not attract too much attention to yourself, whereas in an ensemble, you're more covered. So the Czech tradition of musical ensembles grew." Even today, she finds, there is in Czech culture "an exaggerated modesty, where even talented string players take some time to project themselves. They lack selfassurance and sometimes by the time they have it, it's too late for a career. Some Czech kids are almost apologetic about going out on stage."

Two gifted and unapologetic artists set to be presented this autumn are the Norwegian duo of violinist Henning Kraggerud and pianist Helge Kjekshus, who debuted at Weill Hall two years ago. The coming season will be a mixed effort of Arie-Gaifman's and Noonan's, to try to defeat what she terms "the prejudice some New Yorkers feel. …

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