The superpower of music: Beethoven performed at Olympic Valley Chapel

Martha Russell / Special to the Sun
Owen Dalby and Stephen Prutsman performed three Beethoven sonatas.
Provided / Michael Kennedy

The color of mountains in the mid-June afternoon produced a spring kaleidoscope through the stained-glass windows of Olympic Valley Chapel for the inaugural concert of Tahoe Music Alive. Nestled beside Washeshu Creek in a wooded area near the head of Shirley Canyon Trail, Olympic Valley Chapel is now also open Sundays 10am for spiritual experiences.

The visual display during the June 17 concert was heightened by the superpower of music – its ability to evoke emotions, challenge thinking, and unite people through shared experiences.

Performed by the dazzling duo of Owen Dalby and Stephen Prutsman, this inaugural concert was a celebration of spring and mountains and marked the launch of Tahoe Music Alive’s concert series during fall and spring months. The capacity audience was absorbed in the extraordinary technical skills and musical chemistry of Dalby and Prutsman.

“Both musicians were absolutely exceptional, and being in that intimate setting accentuated the passion of their performance,” said one attendee. “I’m still caught in the nurturing effect that hearing their music has had on me,” remarked another audience member several days after the concert.

During the past year, the duo has performed all ten of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano. For this concert they played three of these sonatas: the “Spring” Sonata (No. 5 in F major, Op. 24); Dalby’s favorite (No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 12); and the “Kreutzer Sonata” (No. 9 in A major, Op. 47). Inspired by Beethoven’s love for nature and his experiences in the Austrian Alps, these sonatas depicted the majesty and wonder of mountains as well as the amazing joy of spring.

Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata (No. 5 in F major) is evocative of the spring season with its cheerful and optimistic character. His Sonata No. 3 in E-flat major introduces new elements of drama, virtuosity and expressivity with its lyrical melodies, playful rhythms, and inventive harmonies. The Mt. Olympus of the violin/piano repertoire, the famous “Kreutzer Sonata” is a heroic effort that stretches the expressive and technical abilities of its performers to their maximum. In response to two standing ovations and cries for “more”, the duo closed the program with Fritz Kreisler’s, “Liebesleid”. Again, the audience gave a standing ovation.

The musicians received multiple standing ovations.
Provided / Michael Kennedy

Prutsman, renowned as one of the most innovative musicians of his time, effortlessly navigates routinely between classical, jazz, and world music styles as a pianist, composer, and conductor. He explores and seeks common ground and relationships in the music of all cultures and languages.

As a composer, Prutsman’s long collaboration with Grammy Award winning Kronos Quartet has resulted in over 40 arrangements and compositions for them. Other leading artists and ensembles who have performed his compositions and arrangements include Leon Fleisher, Dawn Upshaw, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Spoleto USA, and the Silk Road Project.

In 2010, his song cycle “Piano Lessons” was premiered by Upshaw and Emanuel Ax at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, Disney Hall and the Barbican Centre. As a pianist or arranger outside of the classical music world he has collaborated with such diverse personalities as Tom Waits, Rokia Traore, Joshua Redman, Jon Anderson of “YES”, Sigur Rós and Asha Bhosle.

Dalby is praised for his “dazzling” (New York Times), “expert and versatile” (The New Yorker), and “a fearless an inquisitive violinist” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Dalby leads a rich musical life as an artistic director, chamber musician, soloist, new and early music expert, orchestral concertmaster, and educator.

As a member of the recent St. Lawrence String Quartet, Dalby is Artist-in-Residence at Stanford University. With the SLSQ, recent projects have included tours of all the major chamber series in North America and Europe, as well as solo debuts with the LA Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the NHK Philharmonic (Tokyo) in John Adams’s Absolute Jest for string quartet and orchestra.

Until recently one of the world’s most active classical ensembles, SLSQ is particularly renowned for its interpretations of Haydn, with a celebrated release of his Opus 20 on vinyl LP, CD, streaming, and HD video. Brand new recordings for 2023 include Korngold’s mighty Piano Quintet, Op. 15 with pianist Stephen Prutsman, and Emperor/Sunrise, two of Haydn’s late great string quartets, Op. 76, both on the Phenotypic Recordings label. Dalby is also co-Artistic Director of Noe Music, a premiere chamber music concert series in San Francisco.

Tahoe Music Alive’s inaugural concert marked the beginning of a journey to bring world class music to the Tahoe community. The idea for Tahoe Music Alive was born out of Martha Russell’s personal quest for chamber music in the Truckee region.

Inspired by the community spirit of Truckee and the vibrant energy of Tahoe when she relocated from Stanford University and the Bay Area in 2021, Russell realized the need for small ensemble music played in intimate settings. Seeking to build community with the initiative, TMA collaborated with the Reno-based Toiyabe Chamber Music Society, the Tahoe Truckee School of Music, and the Olympic Valley Chapel for this concert. The first concert not only showcased the exceptional talent of Dalby and Prutsman but also reflected the power of music to connect people.

Tahoe Music Alive is set to complement the music scene in the Tahoe area with small ensemble chamber and jazz music in intimate venues, where the purpose is listening to exceptional musicians.

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