October 10-16, 2002
As the new season gets under way, it is worth mentioning, for the few who don’t already know, that the Curtis Institute of Music student recitals are the best deal in town for hearing live music. With prime tickets to orchestra and opera now easily surpassing the $100 mark (that’s per person), admission to the Curtis recitals are, as always, free. And as with fine wine, the relationship between what you pay to hear live music and the quality of the playing does not follow a straight line. Almost all of the Curtis kids will be playing in front of high-paying audiences very soon, and a few already are.
The recitals have been promoted for years as an opportunity to catch future stars in their early years, and it's undeniable that the world of classical music is full of artists who honed their chops at 18th and Locust. In recent years, pianist Lang Lang and violinist Hilary Hahn gave recitals as students at Curtis, even while they were both signing major recording deals. But the truth is, virtually everyone who gets onto the stage at Curtis to play has something special to say.
Great artists remain engaged with and inspired by their audiences for the whole of their careers, but there is something uniquely touching about witnessing the first blush of public exposure by brilliant young musicians. Violinist Pamela Frank, class of '89, describes it as an "unselfconsciousness." There is, as well, the sheer terror element associated with the fabled Curtis stage, whose boards have been crossed by so many giants of music in the past century. Frank was, she admits, "scared to death" when she first ventured into a student recital, but converted the fear into "inspiring energy. You want to feel part of a tradition. I get a fantastic rush on that stage." But, adds this veteran of most of the major concert halls of the world, "when I'm 80, I'll still be scared on that stage." Pianist Gary Graffman, the current music director of Curtis, was probably only half joking when he said that playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music was merely a dress rehearsal for a performance at Curtis.
The season begins on Oct. 14, with nearly 100 recitals taking place until May. The students perform every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 p.m. in Field Concert Hall, with occasional guest appearances by alumni and teachers. Information can be accessed via the recital hot line, 215-893-5261, or from the website, www.curtis.edu.