German composer Paul Hindemith often asked, "How can anyone ever be a master of music?" But Hindemith's question finds an answer in the impeccable barrage of strings that open the allegro of his Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Weber.
This weekend, two classical concerts in Carmel - Peter Toth at the All Saints' Episcopal Church and the Borromeo String Quartet with Richard Stoltzman at Sunset Center - feature the work of true masters of music, including Hindemith.
On Friday night, 26-year-old pianist Peter Toth, from Békéscsaba, Hungary, will delve into compositions by Schubert, Brahms and his fellow Hungarian Franz Liszt.
Watching Toth play Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 is like being swept under some kind of phenomenal spell that whisks the listener to the cobblestone streets of Budapest. The blend of romance and intensity is perfect.
The first time Toth played a piano, at 11, he instantly knew it was out of tune. Three years after his fingers first touched the keys, he won first prize at the International Piano Competition of the Music Conservatory in Wittenberg, Germany.
He doesn't feel he qualifies as a prodigy, but a stream of accolades proves otherwise: In 1998 he received the Liszt Academy's "Sari Biro Memorial Award" as the best young pianist of the year and, in 2006, Toth's CD The Late Piano Works of Liszt won the International Grand Prix du Disque Award.
Toth recently received his master's degree in music performance and teaching at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and is currently preparing for the Van Cliburn competition.
~ ~ ~~
Paul Hindemith is one of three composers the Borromeo String Quartet will celebrate on Saturday night with a special guest, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. The Boston-based ensemble of friends may have been together for two decades and played hundreds of concerts, but their sound is still fresh.
"The nature of chamber music is very rich," says violinist Nicholas Kitchen. "We're always discovering new ways for the music to unfold - there are so many possibilities."
In addition to becoming one of the most renowned chamber groups in the world, Borromeo started incorporating a new technology into its concerts that may end up changing the entire classical music world: using Mac PowerBooks - controlled through a USB foot pedal called Footime - instead of sheet music.
The laptop eliminates century-old problems like page turning, lighting and hauling around hundreds of pages of music; it also allows each musician to see all four-part scores. After Kitchen saw a pianist use a laptop and foot pedal during a concert, he was sold on the idea and was the first of the four to go paperless.
"Scores are so richly interwoven - people have wished they could see them all at once for so long," Kitchen explains. "It's a dream come true."
Laptops also enable the musicians to see original PDF manuscripts of music next to the edited versions.
"It's a profound improvement in the way we discuss music, and is genuinely thrilling," Kitchen says. "It may be a big change for some people but it's revolutionary in the same way the printing press was."
Borromeo is currently in the studio recording the complete string quartets of Bela Bartok, Gunther Schuller and Lera Auerbach.