David Jolley, horn

His first of 12 tours was in the 1978-79 season

It all seems like it was yesterday. I can’t believe it. Yet, when I actually start to summon up this memory and that, though, I realize how far back it all stretches—and I start to smile.

In my dozen or so tours with Musicians from Marlboro, I learned so much from all my friends, my colleagues, my mentors. It really is dizzying to look back, and to go over it in my mind. I am so thankful for everything. Some of the memories…

There was touring with leader Bruno Canino—two by two they went into the Ark:  two pianos, two cellos, two percussionists, and, wait a bit, just one horn!!—who but Marlboro could do a tour like that?—so idealistic, so inefficient!!  Trucks full of pianos, percussion equipment—music by Bartók, Debussy, Schumann—all up and down the Eastern seaboard.  And there was gentle Bruno—“ma guarda!!”—“wonderful!!”—he would say:  “I love your American motels—they have everything!”  In Williamstown, MA the seafood pasta with cream sauce he didn’t like so much—“In Italy, we don’t do it this way.” But he didn’t make a big deal about it. He just made lovely music every night, leading by example, and with compelling modesty.

There was the Schubert Octet at the Nîmes Festival with Felix. I think Felix must have been the ultimate coach for a Schubert Octet—his sense of balance (I don’t think I ever played so softly in my life!)—his sense of light and dark, of somber and sublime—it brought the great work to life, it made it sing—and dance—in a way that it seldom does. His small rages—“g-ddammit, what are you doing there??”—followed by the sun coming out—the radiance of that smile of his—it was lessons in music and lessons in life—he was the master.

There was the Brahms Horn Trio with Shlomo Mintz and Yefim Bronfman, paired with the Schubert Bb Trio with the late, lamented Paul Tobias. What a tour, what a season of rehearsals that was!—7 weeks!—(when Shlomo and Yefim started talking in Russian, which they did once or twice a rehearsal, I knew I was in trouble…)  For a hornist, the Brahms is our greatest masterwork—greater than the Schumann Adagio and Allegro—greater than the Mozart concerti, if that is possible!  This was the tour, this was the year, when I learned that if you ever think to yourself, “This is how I play the Brahms Horn Trio; this is my interpretation”—you’re finished. We can’t afford that—one masterwork like that!! It has to be different every time; it has to outgrow the last time—every time!—which is not a bad attitude for any piece of music, but for the Brahms it is essential.

And there was the Beethoven Sextet for string quartet and two horns with Todd Phillips and Peter Wiley. This was the tour where I learned not to talk—just play! I had spent so many years learning to work with anyone!—make music with anyone!  I was so proud of being able to talk music, make things happen. But on this tour, I just remember Pete Wiley pausing and saying, “Well…maybe…—we’ll see…” And Todd, I don’t remember him saying anything (which is probably totally unfair!) They both just played and played, amazingly! At the time I’ll admit I was frustrated, didn’t know what to do, but it ended up a marvelous tour, one of my all-time favorites, and to this day I enjoy making music with Todd and Peter like few others—just last month we did a Hindemith Octet with Carmit (Zori) and the gang at Brooklyn Chamber Music Society—an Octet so fiery it almost went off the tracks!—I loved it!!—and had very little to say.

Summers at Marlboro, Musicians from Marlboro—it was all so marvelous, so inspiring. I hope by these stories I convey even just a small part of what it all meant to me—working with so many amazing musicians over the years. I am still smiling at the memories, but there are surely tears mixed in as well.

Thank you, thank you, Marlboro, for these lovely, life-changing experiences!! I salute you; I miss you. May you go on to inspire, to ignite, forever!!

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