Exploring the Beethoven Quartets at Yellow Barn

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Seth and Friends at Yellow Barn,

On behalf of the Jupiter Quartet, I wanted to thank you and share our thoughts on our wonderful “winter residency” experience in Putney.  

When the Aspen Music Festival asked us to perform our first Beethoven cycle, it was a project that, in a way, we had been preparing for since our first notes of Op. 131 ten years ago as a quartet at Yellow Barn. But even with a decade of rehearsals under our belts, seeing those six concerts on our calendar often felt like staring up at Mt. Everest from sea level. Having now made it down from this climb, I wanted you to know just how absolutely critical our two residencies in Putney were in helping us achieve this goal.   

During our residency, the studio with which we were provided was lovely and greatly enhanced our rehearsal process. It is amazing how a simple change of scenery, from our usual space in downtown Jamaica Plain to the beautiful hills of Vermont, had such a positive effect on rehearsal - Nature and Yellow Barn working magic together, I suppose.

Another benefit was the opportunity to play for other musicians and get their feedback. I recently read an article by Atul Gawande, a physician and frequent New Yorker contributor,  about the importance of coaching among professionals. The author’s emphasis on conversation and feedback seems relevant to our field, and indeed we found the fresh ideas of Mark Steinberg and Roger Tapping to be a wonderful boost to our creative process.

The many performance opportiunities were also crucial. There is no better teaching tool than getting up on stage and, afterwards, having the ability to listen back and critique a high-quality recording. The next day, these recordings helped us focus our rehearsal process in our idyllic studio.

I can’t imagine the next time we play these sixteen Beethoven quartets the preparation will be any easier. Likely, it will feel again that our starting elevation is near zero. But I take a lot of comfort in knowing that there is a special place committed to providing resources, love, and support for musicians to achieve their goals.

Best Wishes,

Daniel McDonough and the Jupiter String Quartet