Audrey Verdanega never ceases to amaze me. The first time I heard him was in 2009, when he made his debut as a solo pianist with the prestigious Midsummer Mozart Festival in Berkeley at the young age of 13, becoming the youngest soloist ever in the festival’s history. Still, she was playing skillfully beyond her years, playing with a tact, sensitivity and understanding that taught me things about Mozart that I never knew before.
Later, I asked the festival’s artistic director, maestro Jorge Cleve, “How good is she for her age?”
He laughed and said, “Martin, she’s good for any age! But the best part is she’s such a good kid.”
Now, at 25, she has grown up. Musically, he is one of the best in the world. (Watch her videos on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.) But as a person, she’s even more impressive.
Audrey has taken upon herself the mission of sustaining and nurturing the entire music community, especially during this pandemic. And that includes the people who make it, the people who do it and the people who love to hear it.
His latest project is a steaming classical music storytelling platform called Arium (https://www.arium.live/), with top-class music artists from around the world collaborating with ten different filmmakers, along with Worldwide, movies in cinematic short. Think of it as Netflix for musical storytelling. But unlike Netflix, it is absolutely free. He’s in it for the love, not the money.
“We are looking forward to creating a virtual space where audiences around the world can connect with artists from around the world, both emerging and established, who will take us through the stories of their musical journeys,” she says. “It features documentary-style footage where artists speak about their processes and interpretive journey, featuring singers, instrumentalists, composers and ensembles from all musical traditions.”
“We” are Audrey and her partner in this adventure, the Boston-based pianist Christos Venas, whom Audrey, with typical euphemism, calls “the brains behind the stage.”
“We’re pushing against the idea that there are only two good jobs in classical music for a pianist or a violinist, and you have to fight for these jobs,” she says. “Classical music has a scary mentality, and the reality is that there’s so much incredible talent, you can’t really say that this person is better than that person just because he won a flourishing award. Our aim is, above all, every To celebrate the uniqueness of the artist.”
New videos are being added every day, and there are many more ready to watch, including:
From The Ground Up, a profile of New York jazz saxophonist Tyvon Pennicott, including an interview about the making of his new album and the way he draws inspiration in his musical practice, as well as performance footage and a song from the new album is included.
Chopin’s Dream is the story behind one of Chopin’s most famous works, the Raindrop Prelude, as told from his point of view by Boston-based pianist Renana Gutman.
Music is Life, in which two more Bostonians, cellist Gabriel Martins and violinist Geneva Lewis, describe what inspired their creative process in music.
Some Morning Need Lullabies, a piece for solo cello by young artists Eileen Chao and Nick Reeves.
At Home with Sarah Cahill, in which the Berkeley pianist shares two beautiful and rarely heard compositions from two of the greatest female composers of the early 20th century.
And, of course, Audrey weighs in on An Evening with Audrey Verdenega, as she discusses and performs two piano impromptas composed by Franz Schubert in the last years of her life.
“It’s not the hyper-polished look that classical musicians have to conform to on the concert hall stage,” she says. “It’s about having a close conversation with the cast. It’s like talking to them in their living room and capturing that intimacy.”
Sounds like (literally) fun. And did I mention it’s all free?
Reach Martin Snape at [email protected]