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Transatlantic Music

Marita Berg / gswJune 7, 2014

Lewis Kaplan is one of the great violin instructors - and performers - of our time. His passion for teaching and playing is evident in his initiative with this project based in New York and Cologne.

Lewis Kaplan instructing students
Image: DW/Marita Berg

America's probably most renowned music conservatory and Europe's largest music academy joined in a multi-year project: that's the brainchild of Lewis Kaplan, the world-famous violinist and professor at New York's Juilliard School. "For me, it was always important to think about the future in a positive way. And it's obvious: Our students are the future," he said to DW after a concert by his protégés in the chamber music hall of Cologne's Academy of Music and Dance.

Students and instructors from both Juilliard and the Cologne academy had studied and rehearsed together for a week before performing there and in Bonn's Beethoven House under Kaplan's artistic direction.

"We live in a world that's getting smaller and smaller, where the exchange of ideas is growing in importance," Kaplan said. "Joint performances by exceptionally gifted students from Cologne and New York aren't just important for each individual participant, but for all of us."

Lewis Kaplan
Lewis Kaplan - a dedicated instructorImage: DW/Marita Berg

Years in the making

Together with Claudia von Arnim of the Cologne academy's association of supporters, Lew Kaplan realized his Transatlantic Music Project in 2011 - bringing students from either side of the Atlantic together for joint instruction and networking by way of masterclasses and chamber music projects.

In 2012, the Cologne students traveled to the Big Apple. "When they came to New York, it was a great experience because life and attitudes there are still very different from those in Europe. And when we were in Cologne three years ago, one group played jazz. The pianist was from Juilliard, and the other two from Cologne. Two weeks ago, I saw the American pianist again, and he told me that they're still in touch."

Performers Saerom Kim, Meta Weiss and Jiayan Sun on stage
Performing in Cologne - a clarinet trio with Saerom Kim, Meta Weiss and Jiayan SunImage: Horst Helmut Schmeck

Tuscan training camp

This year, Cologne's Academy of Music and Dance had a special surprise for the New York students. To prepare for the joint performances, participating musicians and teachers headed off to the European Academy of Music and Arts at the Palazzo Ricci in the Tuscan village of Montepulciano, which has a long-standing partnership with the academy in Cologne.

The Italian getaway as a music haven dates back to 1976, when the late German composer Hans Werner Henze, then a professor at the Cologne academy, founded his Werkstatt (Workshop) Festival in Montepulciano. The German academy has organized masterclasses and concerts with young musicians from around Europe there since 2001.

A small ensemble on stage in Cologne
Three ensembles performed their newly rehearsed programsImage: Horst Helmut Schmeck

Successful collaboration

The fruits of the week spent rehearsing in idyllic Montepulciano were presented to audiences in Cologne and at the Beethoven House in Bonn. Those not in the know could have hardly guessed that the the German-American ensemble had only spent a few days working together.

"Sure, we trained them, but what they achieved is immense!" enthused Lewis Kaplan afterwards. "The students lived together and became friends. A one of a kind experience, and they are certain to remember this trans-Atlantic musical exchange."