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Saturday, August 18, 2018

A new musical season at the Gardner | Music - The Boston Globe

"Some of George Steel’s earliest music-making encounters came when he was a choirboy at Washington’s National Cathedral." inform David Weininger, Writer/Editor at Analysis Group, Freelance Music Journalist.  

George Steel is Abrams curator of music at the Gardner Museum.
Photo: Liza Voll Photography/Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

While this isn’t an uncommon start for future classical musicians, Steel’s experience was unusual in that during the entire time he sang there, the cathedral was under construction. He spent hours exploring its spatial and structural details, top to bottom. The cathedral thus became for him more than a place to sing; it was a site where different art forms — architecture, various visual arts, music — came together and coexisted.

“My friends and co-workers were stonemasons and sculptors and carvers, stained-glass window-makers and gardeners,” Steel said recently by telephone from northern Michigan, where he was vacationing with his family. “I’ve been a musician all my life, and I’ve been happiest when I’ve found a way to make music and bring music to audiences in interdisciplinary contexts.”

Steel’s passion for connecting the arts through music forms a thread through his artistic career, especially during his 11-year tenure as executive director of Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, which he made a focal point of new music, and where he established a reputation as a creator of illuminating and imaginative concert programs. After a tumultuous few years as artistic director at the New York City Opera, Steel has now returned to those roots. In November, he was chosen to succeed Scott Nickrenz as Abrams curator of music at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. His tenure began on Jan. 1, and the first Gardner concert series under his direction opens on Sept. 8 and 9, with performances by its resident chamber orchestra, A Far Cry...

Steel, who before starting the new position had served as a visiting curator for performing arts, said that when Nickrenz retired most of the artists and many broad outlines for the concerts were already in place for the 2018-19 season. Steel took the opportunity to, as he put it, “open up the programs” by teasing out themes and working with musicians to create what he called “Gardner-y” programs, ones that would be particularly apt for the museum’s setting and serve his vision of interconnection among the arts...

He also coaxed musicians into playing works of Leonard Bernstein wherever possible, for the museum’s “In Boston, It’s Bernstein” series. Bernstein’s works have been everywhere during this, his centennial year, but Steel sees this series as focusing on lesser-known pieces — such as his 1937 Piano Trio, which the Claremont Trio plays on Nov. 11 — and those with a Boston connection. “I’m trying to tell the story of Bernstein the composer rather than Bernstein the box-office gold,” he quipped.  
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Source: The Boston Globe