Knowing an artist's biography is not essential to enjoying his or her work. Nor is it necessary to be familiar with the history of a work of art to appreciate it. It's not our knowledge of Schubert's tragic death at a young age that moves us when we hear his "Unfinished Symphony." However, it's probably also true that knowing the backstory of a masterpiece, or details of the life of an artist, can enhance our understanding and appreciation of both the work and the artist. Our admiration for Beethoven's Ninth is only heightened by our knowledge that he was completely deaf when he composed it.
Violinist Alicia Doudna's upcoming concert at the Kerrytown Concert House is a case in point. Doudna was a well-respected performer and teacher nationally long before she moved to Ann Arbor a few years ago and became a mainstay of the local classical music scene. Two years ago, at the age of thirty-one, her life and career were blooming; she had a full Suzuki studio with nearly thirty students, was performing and teaching at chamber music festivals throughout the United States and abroad, and was engaged to be married. Then, in July 2011, along with her fiance, Andrew Kratzat, himself an excellent musician, she was badly hurt in a car accident. While they were stopped in a traffic jam on I-94, their car was rammed by a semi. Both suffered severe traumatic brain injuries, were in a coma for weeks at U-M hospital, and are still recovering.
But it takes more than that to wipe out nearly three decades of intensive music training. Doudna, who began playing the violin at age two, had developed a lot of muscle memory in all those countless hours of practicing and playing music. And while the accident left her unable to remember significant chunks of her life, her ability to play music was not destroyed. For her KCH return recital, she very carefully chose musicians and music that
relate to her memories--both past and future.
She'll play her favorite Mozart sonata with pianist Hanna Shields, a close friend and colleague, with whom she's performed the piece many times. Schubert's Notturno, with Shields and cellist Mary Ann Ramos, another longtime friend and colleague, and Dvorak's Romance in F Minor, are new to Doudna. She says that playing them will help her create new happy memories. Completing the program will be Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat, for which Doudna has assembled a remarkable group of musicians, all friends she's played with for years. They include Annie Fullard, first violinist of the Cavani String Quartet and formerly one of Doudna's fellow teachers in Itzhak Perlman's music program (Perlman himself no stranger to overcoming great challenges and playing music), as well as three members of the acclaimed Jupiter String Quartet.
Come hear Doudna at KCH on June 16th. You will see and hear great music making and witness the inspirational and healing power of friendship and music.
[Originally published in June, 2013.]