Between Two Pianos: An Interview with Maeve Feinberg

(photo:    Charmaine Lee )

(photo: Charmaine Lee)

This Friday, January 27th, marks the Chicago debut of our fantastic new violinist, Maeve Feinberg, and we thought you all might like to get a glimpse behind the scenes at what she's like...and why her personality is a perfect fit for our brand of skylarking. 


Doyle: So...Beethoven Op. 74, Ravel Quartet, and Dai Fujikura’s first quartet. We’re not exactly easing you into your first Chicago concert, are we?

Maeve: I want a raise.

DA: So this show is all about pieces that feature pizzicato. If you were going to get a finger tattoo, what would it look like?

MF: Well, they say you should never get tattoos on your hands but I’m thinking “FUJIKURA” across my knuckles would be suitable for this concert.

DA: What is it about the Ravel that keeps it fresh no matter how many times you listen to it? That piece is, like, the freshmaker.

MF: I think for me it’s a timeless quality in the melodies. It’s like watching really good silent films - no matter how antiquated they may seem to our modern eyes, the characters and emotions will always remain relevant and universally relatable.

DA: We got a taste of the Ravel at your first public show with us, which was, weirdly, a Chamber Music America showcase. I bring it up because being in New York meant we all got to meet your parents and rehearse at your childhood home. I saw your artwork on the walls, and now am thinking that maybe we should have done a psych eval before you joined the quartet.

MF: No comment.

DA: The other thing I noticed is that with your folks both playing piano on opposite sides of the apartment, it’s kind of an Ives-ian experience being there. Do you think that had an effect on you growing up?

MF: Absolutely. Especially because of the music they both play/teach and the range of styles it exposed me to. I think a lot of people don’t encounter contemporary music until much later in life which then makes it feel “strange” or inaccessible to them at first listen. Hearing composers like Babbitt and Cage juxtaposed with Clementi and Haydn at such an early age definitely took away some of that reflexive aversion to dissonance and trained me to approach diverse types of music (regardless of time period) in the same way when it comes to listening and forming first opinions. Also, it made it completely impossible to take naps in my apartment. Ever. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

DA: Back to business, we’re playing Beethoven’s “Harp” quartet on this show. Do certain movements drum up certain images for you? I kind of want to renew my vows so I can have you all play the second movement for the ceremony. It has all the feels.

MF: For me, the 1st movement is such a perfect encapsulation of the qualities that make Beethoven so unique. Crazy pesante moments coupled with incredible elegance, and inventive uses of articulation and pizzicato. The last movement totally makes me picture a courtly ball that keeps trying to break out into a barn dance–and eventually succeeds.

DA: What’s your take on the third movement being all BURN IT TO THE GROUND! and the fourth getting all genteel? Seems like an odd sequence, right?

MF:  Indeed. I think it’s just one more indication of the wild, mercurial nature of Beethoven’s personality, and also perhaps a reflection of the political turmoil of that time. Even in the sunny and elegant first movement there are these single-chord outbursts that disrupt the music and introduce some discordance. I feel like in the third movement, the pot finally boils over, and then eventually simmers into the agreeable theme of the last movement. That theme is then explored and embellished in a series of variations which finally result in a mad dash to the end.

DA: Have you named the blisters developed while rehearsing the pizzicato section of Dai Fujikura’s piece yet? Mine are “Priscilla” and “His Excellency the Duke of Phalanges.”

MF: Willoughby and Galactus.

DA: What will you miss most about NYC?

MF: Central Park, my dope cats, my dope parents.

DA: What will you miss the least?

MF: The MTA. (Screw you, MTA! / I love you.)

DA: Name a favorite off-the-general-radar band that you love that we should all check out.

MF: Floating Points.

DA: What’s your favorite thing about Times Square? Just kidding. Really though, it’s been exceptionally entertaining and inspiring to work up this ‘Finger on the Pulse’ program with you as your big debut.

MF: Likewise! I’m so excited to perform these pieces with you.