Tessa Lark Private RecitalDecember 11 2019
We attended a violin recital featuring Tessa Lark in a private home in Palo Alto. This is probably as close to true 19th century style salons as we’ll get in this day and age, and it all resulted in an unforgettable music experience.
The event was organized by the California Music Center (CMC). One of their primary missions is to organize the Klein Competition, which awards outstanding young string players with monetary prizes and performance opportunities.
Tessa Lark had won the Klein Competition ten years ago, and it seems like her career has taken off since then. She’s since won the Avery Fisher Career Grant award, and she also let us know in the recital that her recent music album was nominated for a Grammy.
The setting was very intimate. There were roughly 30 audience members, and we all huddled in the large living room of a private residence in Palo Alto. No one was more than maybe 20-30 feet from the soloist. We also had the opportunity to chat and meet the audience members, many of whom are involved with the CMC, and all of whom of course share a love for music.
The program had a theme of “From Baroque to Folk”. Lark started with Telemann’s Fantasia No. 7, then moved into her own medley of Telemann themes from the Fantasias (which ended with the lovely Emily’s Reel by Mark O’Connor). Then the real meat and potatoes of the recital was next with Bach’s E major Partita No. 3. After intermission, Lark did my favorite Ysaye sonata movement (and the only one I can even come close to attempting!), the Allemande from the fourth sonata, the one dedicated to Fritz Kreisler. After that came Kreisler’s own Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice. Lark ended with her own Appalachian Fantasy, which incorporated a bunch of melodies from Schubert’s Fantasy for Violin and which uniquely required Lark to use Dead Man’s tuning, producing a very folksy sound. Finally, Lark ended with a short Silent Night encore with a singer from the audience (I unfortunately did not get her name).
Tessa Lark played beautifully and the intimate nature of the setting made the sound feel extra warm. The program was a great mixture of classics and new delights.
One small thing I realized before the recital started is that Tessa Lark is someone that I originally watched on YouTube more than ten years ago. She was one of the star pupils of Kurt Sassmanhaus, a violin pedagogue. Sassmanhaus is one of the early pioneers of classical music on the internet. He had great SEO (violinmasterclass.com) and a giant first mover advantage. Most importantly, he was brave enough to put all his teachings online, complete with video snippets of his students. In fact, at this point, I can’t even remember if I was watching the videos on YouTube; it’s entirely possible he even predated YouTube.
It reinforces how small communities can be, and especially the classical music community. In 2007, I never would have imagined that I would get to see the young teenager on my computer screen as a mature musician, someone who is ready to share her voice with the world.
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