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Finckel: multi-tasking at work

I often focus on new trends in classical music, but it's important to emphasize that musicians can capitalize on new technology and new media without plunging altogether into a whole new repertory. They can even multi-task without screwing everything up. Since I recently skewered Plácido Domingo for biting off more than he can chew, let me take the opportunity of the Emerson Quartet's scheduled appearance in D.C. this Sunday to turn the spotlight on the quartet's hyperachieving cellist David Finckel.
(read more after the jump)

Like Domingo, Finckel juggles a full-time performing career with running two organizations: together with his wife, the pianist Wu Han, he is co-director of both the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the summer festival Music@Menlo, which they founded seven years ago. In addition, the couple has a record label, ArtistLed, and records and releases all of the concerts at Music@Menlo under the rubric Music@Menlo Live. They also pioneered the concept of CD program notes; ticket-buyers receive a free CD with audio notes, interviews with the artists, and musical excerpts of the works they;re going to hear (a concept that has caught on with other groups in initiatives like WPAS's podcasts). Furthermore, they teach around the world, from Aspen to Menlo to the Far East, where they have just established two teaching residencies involving a number of leading artists. In his spare time, Finckel has recorded a series of more than 60 video "Cello Talks," vignettes of a few minutes each dealing with different aspects of playing his instrument.

No, Finckel's public-relations firm did not pay me to write this. And I haven't always agreed with some of the directions Finckel and Wu Han have taken in the past. But I am always impressed by their tireless use of new technology and new ideas to bring support to the field in so many ways. The message: you don't have to go the "alt-classical" route to be innovative. And you can actually find ways to perform and run two organizations and stick to your artistic goals, even in a lousy economy.

Recommendations, if the Emerson Quartet concert is snowed out: stay home and watch Finckel's "Cello Talks," instead. Or check out some of the entries on the couple's blog.

By Anne Midgette  |  February 5, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  random musings  
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