Rees Allison, Piano
Founder and Co-Artistic Director
I was educated, in England, at the Royal Academy of Music and received my Ph.D., in the U.S., at Washington University, St. Louis. But if I had to single out any one teacher as an influence, it would be Christine Pembridge, my teacher during my last couple of years of high school. She was a poet at heart, and made artists of her students. It was not the rat race. I think she communicated, and made my own, the delight she felt in the music.
The Musical Offering was my idea. I founded the group in 1971. We started off as a five member group (piano, violin, cello, flute and oboe), and expanded to our current size about 1987. Expansion is probably the right word, since the underlying principle has remained the same — a dedication to chamber music that is not possible for people with full-time jobs, and a pragmatic spreading around of the work load.
I tend to enjoy most the standard repertoire, since that most often engages the piano strongly. However, the piano demands that you be a jack of all trades, and there is pleasure in that.
I enjoy a really strong and articulate piano part. Thus, works by Debussy (the Cello Sonata from spring 2002), Messiaen (the Quartet for the End of Time), Schubert, Bartok, and Brahms are all winners for me. This doesn’t mean, as a pianist, I have an urge to dominate; it is best, in fact, if the other players have strong parts too.
What does the Musical Offering offer that other musical groups cannot or do not? Four things, I think:
30-odd years of experience, first of all
Unusually diverse instrumentation
Players from various generations, and
Marty Dworkin (our invaluable chairman of the board)
Our experience enables us to trust one another, as players, intimately, and puts us at ease. We’re more and more confident that each of us will do the right thing at the right time. The generational differences are, I think, a healthy sign of life. The Offering has gone on for many generations, and will continue to do so way after we are all gone, regardless of what sociological or economic configurations we might come up with. I am sure of that! Marty Dworkin broadens everything that we do. He makes connections to his own worlds: academics, amateur musicians, paying audiences, intelligence, you name it.
I’m very excited about the new program. Since we went to the notion that programming should be done by one person (Basil Reeve), and should follow its own logic rather than politics, we have been doing really good stuff. Basil has an encyclopedic knowledge of the literature, and he aims for things that are strong, challenging, often rare, but always visceral and extremely interesting. Basil has always admired music that hits and has emotional integrity. I share his view. Not all musicians think that way.
Still, frankly, classical music is not for everybody, and never has been. But it is for many, and we need to make sure that they know about us. What doesn’t change is the quality of the music,, and the intrinsic openness of the human mind. So, we provide opportunities, or openings, for a broad range of musical experience. I did not particularly like classical stuff when I was very young, but you know it grows on you. And grows you, too.