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Harmonic Roots

Countless renowned musicians, like Emanuel Ax and Philip Setzer, got their start at Vermont’s preeminent classical music festivals. 


STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY TANGLEWOOD & MMF

Marlboro Music Festival was founded in 1951 by eminent pianist Rudolf Serkin and the Busch and Moyse families. Originally conceived as a musical retreat where professional musicians could collaborate with the next generation of talented young chamber music artists, it quickly became a nurturing cradle for artistic collaboration. Marlboro has hosted exquisite performances from a veritable cornucopia of classical music legends over the past 73 years. Among these musicians, lauded pianist Emanuel Ax and gifted violinist Philip Setzer’s artistic paths were deeply influenced by their early experiences in the Green Mountain State. While in Vermont, Ax and Setzer found artistic inspiration and ample collaborative opportunities. The connections they formed here deeply influenced their artistic journeys, and they still remain active in the region’s classical music community today through their involvement with renowned festivals throughout Vermont and the Berkshires.

Longtime collaborators Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma

Emanuel Ax performed for the first time with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Marlboro in 1973, marking the beginning of one of classical music’s most enduring partnerships. In reflecting on their 50+ year collaboration, Ax shares, “Meeting Yo-Yo is one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me, and the two of us remaining friends, colleagues, and performance partners for all these years is a huge part of my life.” 


Their collaborative process, as Ax describes, still involves friendly rehearsals, showcasing a synergy that enhances each of their collaborative performances. Emanuel Ax’s illustrious career has been marked by numerous awards and recognitions. His recordings, including his performances of Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano with Yo-Yo Ma, have garnered several GRAMMY® Awards. Ax continues to be a pivotal figure in the classical music scene, with a busy schedule of ongoing recording projects and performances. Philip Setzer’s connection to Vermont also runs deep. 


As a young musician, Setzer spent multiple summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, where he absorbed invaluable lessons in musical collaboration. His recent return to Vermont as the Artistic Director of the Manchester Music Festival is a testament to the profound impact these early experiences had on him. 


Philip Setzer, Artistic Director of Manchester Music Festival

Setzer, a founding member of the esteemed Emerson String Quartet, was born into a musical family in Cleveland, Ohio. He began his violin studies at the age of five, and later honed his craft under the guidance of notable instructors such as Josef Gingold, Rafael Druian, and Oscar Shumsky. After touring for decades with the Emerson String Quartet, winning nine GRAMMY® Awards and releasing dozens of albums with them, Setzer made the decision to step into a new position as Artistic Director of Manchester Music Festival in the wake of Emerson String Quartet’s final performance in 2023. His new position complements his considerable academic and musical accomplishments, including regular faculty positions at the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshops at Carnegie Hall and in Jerusalem, and a professorship at SUNY Stony Brook.


Reflecting on his lifelong connection to Vermont, Setzer shares, “I’ve always loved Vermont, even before I was in school. I spent a couple of summers as a student at Marlboro and then later went back for a summer when I was older … Marlboro was a formative time for me.” His early experiences at the Highland Lodge in Greensboro and with the Craftsbury Chamber Players were also very impactful, catalyzing lasting artistic relationships. Setzer also spent a transformative summer with David Finckel in Craftsbury, which eventually led to their longstanding collaboration in the Emerson String Quartet. 


“Vermont is one of my favorite places,” Setzer states, emphasizing that the state’s vibrant cultural scene played a large part in influencing his decision to take on the position at Manchester Music Festival. He is particularly passionate about his role in shaping the next generation of musicians. “At this point in my life and career, the teaching aspect and working with young people is crucial to what I want to do.” Embracing his new role as Artistic Director of the Manchester Music Festival, Setzer is committed to building an environment that emphasizes the importance of young artist development. 


Manchester Music Festival’s 2024 season promises to delve into the rich textures and emotional depth of the Romantic era, showcasing the talents of both seasoned artists and promising young performers. Through concerts, workshops, and community events, Setzer’s leadership has invigorated the festival’s longstanding tradition of musical excellence and community connection. His approach combines deep reverence for classical music traditions with a progressive vision for the festival’s future, ensuring that Manchester remains a vital cultural hub in Vermont.


Marlboro Music Festival’s upcoming season promises to be equally spellbinding, offering programming that uplifts the classical music community on both a global and local level. Marlboro has invited over 75 talented musicians from around the world, culminating in five weekends of concerts that showcase the fruits of intense collaborative efforts. The season begins with intensive studies and rehearsals, leading up to public performances that showcase the artistic achievements of its participants. The summer series begins on July 13 and runs through August 11. 


Tanglewood


Manchester Music Festival


Marlboro Music Festival

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1 comentário


Manuel Murphy
Manuel Murphy
a day ago

Acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax and the artistic paths of talented violinist Philip Setzer were deeply influenced by their early experiences in the Green Mountain State. These are the most talented artists I have ever known. geometry dash

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