While obsolescence seems to be built in to most things today, there are some things for which older is definitely better. This is certainly true for fine wine, classic cars, antiques and, as Linda Quan would suggest, musical instruments. As Concertmaster of the American Classical Orchestra, Quan is the first violinist and the leading member of a critically acclaimed orchestra committed to preserving the art of performing period music on authentic period instruments. Those who love period music (the name used to describe music of the Baroque, Classical and early Romantic eras) contend that performing with period instruments, those made during the time the music was written, is extremely important because the audience hears the music just as the composer intended it to be heard.
As Concertmaster for the ACO, Quan holds a crucial leadership role as the link between the Music Director, Thomas Crawford, and the musicians, setting a style of playing for the strings. “Right now, I am ‘setting the bowings’ in preparation of our next concert on May 6,” Quan explains. “Bowing requires making notations on the sheet music. It is the way to synchronize the string musicians so they play the music with the same up and down strokes of the bow.” This coordination ensures that each string instrument produces a similar sound and musical phrasing to achieve the Music Director’s artistic interpretation. Quan is proud of the orchestra she plays with. “New York is such a cultural center and we need an orchestra like this, she says. “I’m usually not one to brag, but this is a very fine orchestra.”
Quan got her start in early music at Julliard, attending straight out of high school. Quan was introduced to period music by a professor, Albert Fuller, who was a renowned harpsichordist. Through Fuller, Quan met many European musicians who talked not only about Baroque and Classical music, but also about the art, culture and history of the era. “It was a total immersion,” says Quan, “I was soon hooked on period music and period instruments.”
Quan’s interest in period music keeps her very busy. “My love is chamber music,” she says. “I started a baroque ensemble with my husband (who plays oboe in the American Classical Orchestra) called Aulos Ensemble. We play every Christmas season at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Baroque Christmas tree.” Quan also plays with the New York New Music Ensemble at Merkin Hall each year. She travels to Boston ten times each year, for a week at a time, to play with the Handel and Hayden Society, the oldest orchestra in America, at Symphony Hall, home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. When she is not busy playing in New York and Boston, Quan teaches at Vassar College. Her husband not only plays in New York with Quan, but also plays in San Francisco and teaches at Boston University.
Quan’s son, who graduated from MIT and works at a computer startup, composes music on his computer. While her 15-year-old daughter plays the violin, Quan does not think her daughter will pursue a career in music. “A professional musician can’t enjoy music the same way an amateur does,” Quon says. “Professionals are always under pressure to be perfect.”
To share in the joy of the amateur musician, Quan teaches a class for amateur chamber musicians at Wellesley College. “It’s just great to see doctors, lawyers and people of other professions playing together with such pleasure,” she says. “I love being a small part of that.”
While Quan certainly loves period music, it is not to the exclusion of other types. “I really want to take my husband and kids to London this year to see a Michael Jackson concert,” she says. “Although he definitely has his personal issues, he is a tremendous artist. I hope I can convince them to go.”
Linda Quan and the American Classical Orchestra will perform their last concert of the season, the comic opera, Zemire et Azor, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street. At 7 p.m., there will be a pre-concert lecture by Musical Director Thomas Crawford. For more information go to www.amerclassorch.org.
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat:
Le Bernardin, 155 East 51st Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues (only been there once!) and a tiny tacqueria on Tenth Avenue (which I can never remember the name of) when I need my Mexican food fix
Favorite Place to Shop:
Fairway (uptown) on my way home.
Favorite New York Sight:
The trees in bloom in Riverside Park in the spring.
Favorite New York Moment:
Finding a legal parking spot close to where I need to be.
What You Love About New York:
So much to do and so little time!
What You Hate About New York: