Would you trust an 11-year old?

Posted on 2nd July 2015 by Svend McEwan-Brown

ENF is a young festival (we turn 11 this year: old enough to be trusted with a hot iron?), so it makes sense that all through our history we’ve spotlighted and nurtured young artists alongside the big names that come here. Over the next 3 days we present an utterly wonderful youthful quartet from the USA (Calidore String Quartet) and also the stunning young artists participating in our East Neuk Retreat who perform concerts of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Brahms.

At the very first Festival we featured guitarist Morgan Szymanski, the Royal and Sacconi string Quartets. All nine were rising stars, just starting out and making their names, winning awards and entering competitions. In fact the Sacconi came to us hot-foot from the Bordeaux String Quartet competition from where they brought us the wonderful boon of a UK premiere by an A-list world famous composer, György Kurtág – he had written the competition piece and I remember vividly how the quartet brilliantly introduced and played the piece and made it the hit of the week. ENF does not pretend any great role in their subsequent successful careers, but we do like to think we are one of the many events that have helped them on their way.

In general I am not a youth-aholic. I do not sign up to those audience development agendas that lament our older audience and tell us only to prioritise getting young bums on seats. I certainly do not buy into the prevalent idea that somehow young people make more open minded, enthusiastic responsive and adventurous audiences – if anything my experience is the absolute opposite. Discernment and adventure mostly come with age.

But when it comes to young artists – especially those who are striking out to make a career in solo or chamber music – all the rules are different for the simple reason that nothing is more terrifying or elating as performance before a live audience and nothing is more necessary for the development of an artist. You face that stage door and enter that fulcrum alone: once on stage it is all up to you. Do it regularly and you come to master the array of musical, psychological, platform-craft and verbal skills required to become a fine artist. Anyone who has the opportunity to present concerts has an obligation to offer chances to perform to young artists in whom they believe.

Off-stage, the really interesting artists I have known continue to develop their art through intense encounters with other artists and through opportunities to learn from masters or simply from colleagues. In some cases, they will do this throughout their lives. Talents benefit from the nourishment of returning to the source, spending time with nothing but the music and other musicians. This is why ENF is developing its ‘East Neuk Retreat’ programme (I have written lots about this elsewhere – see links in the right column of this page) which offers both the performance experience but also a full week of intense practice and side-by-side learning with 4 of the top chamber musicians in the world today.

Come hear them play! Retreat concerts are on Thursday and Friday at 11.30am in Crail, while Calidore Quartet are Thursday 7.30pm in Kilrenny and Saturday at 4pm in Crail.

Read more about the East Neuk Retreat at www.eastneukfestival.com/retreat