Togetherness through music

Photo by Ellie Haugsby.

Harth-Bedoya, Gerhardt share musical friendship with CSO

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer


“The beauty of music is that it brings people together,” guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya said. “You have to become friends to make music together.”

Harth-Bedoya was speaking about his friendship with cellist Alban Gerhardt. The two appear with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

Gerhardt and Harth-Bedoya have performed together frequently, from the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City to the Bach Festival in Eugene, Ore. The two were at the festival earlier this summer, where their young children met for the first time.

Gerhardt’s last performance in Chautauqua was in 2005, when he performed Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. Gerhardt said he has fond memories of Chautauqua.


“When they asked me again to appear with Miguel Harth-Bedoya, whom I adore very much, I couldn’t say anything but yes,” he said.

He will be performing Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33. The piece is given to cello students and is thought of as easy, but is difficult to master, Gerhardt said.

“It’s very short, but in its shortness, there is so much emotion and so many different characters in it that it’s not very easy to bring them all out,” he said. “They are passionate, tender, loving and angry, and they somehow happen all in quick succession. In a very short time, you have to say a lot.”

Gerhardt said it took about 25 concerts until he was happy with his performance of the concerto. He adds octaves in one section, reasoning that Saint-Saëns meant to add them, since the section ends with written octaves. He said this addition makes the concerto much more difficult.

“It’s like a tightrope act — you have to shake a little,” he said. “This is not done on purpose, of course. But whenever I struggled during a performance, people loved it more than when everything went easy.”

Harth-Bedoya said the variety of repertoire Gerhardt can handle is quite impressive.

“The versatility of his playing is amazing,” he said. “Everything he takes on, he’s 200 percent in the work.”

Harth-Bedoya described all of the pieces in tonight’s program as lively, dynamic and far from shy. He likened the program to a meal, in which the cello concerto is a palette-cleanser of abstract music that is served in the middle of two very flavorful courses.

That meal starts with Maurice Ravel’s “Rapsodie Espagnole,” which he described as the spicy appetizer. The piece was influenced by Ravel’s Basque heritage, Harth-Bedoya said.

“(Ravel) is a composer that would hold emotions for a long time and then let them go with great care,” he said.

The program ends with the main course, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, op. 35. Inspired by Middle-Eastern folk takes from One Thousand and One Nights, the piece has an eastern flair. It requires special attention to timing, Harth-Bedoya said.

He said both “Scheherazade” and “Rapsodie Espagnole” are challenging because the pieces are associated with concrete ideas.

“When there are words attached to a piece, then the music is no longer abstract,” he said. “With storytelling, it’s a lot more specific, which makes it harder in one sense because we’ve all read the same book.”

Harth-Bedoya said the conductor’s primary role is to serve the music.

“When you really get to learn about great works of art in composition, you realize what a small part we are in,” he said. “The conductor is just the middle person. It is not about us, and I like that very much, because we are here to serve.”

Harth-Bedoya is visiting Chautauqua as his last engagement of the season, after conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood and before he goes on a summer vacation with his family. He has never been to Chautauqua and said he is looking forward to exploring the grounds and surrounding areas.

Harth-Bedoya is the music director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. After his vacation, he will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 12 and 13. He recently completed a recording of “Nazareno,” by Osvaldo Golijov, featuring Katia and Marielle Labèque, to be released this fall.

In addition to his career as an internationally acclaimed soloist, Gerhardt frequently plays outside of the concert hall. He is active in Germany’s Rhapsody in School program and also is considering appearances at supermarkets, train stations and soccer games. He said he’s not doing this to be famous but to bring classical music to new audiences and inspire a new generation of musicians.

“I think it’s important that humans express themselves, artistically and creatively,” he said. “Now we are all kind of being seduced by everything that’s out there to just sit on our couch and not do anything. As an artist, it’s my responsibility to work against that.”