Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Symphony’s free concerts are under way

Late founder’s wife to play at tribute

Express Staff Writer

Julianne Eberl

When Carl Eberl auditioned a 17-year-old cellest for the Queens College Orchestra, he was underwhelmed. "He said, you need a teacher," Julianne Eberl recalled last week. Carl referred her to the great cellist Alexander Kouguell, who, she said, "kindly took me on."

The recommendation took and the pair were reintroduced three years later.

"He hired me to play cello in 'Messiah' and he needed someone to shlep snotty Julliard ringers he had hired back to their apartments in the city and offered to take me to dinner in return," Julianne said. "We were engaged two weeks later, and on our honeymoon to St. Moritz after that."

They were married 35 years and three days. Carl died on an oddly warm day in Maine on March 21. Their parents had given their union six months.

In that time and the surrounding years, the couple worked and traveled together, staging and living in prominent symphonic communities like Houston before exploring the possibilities in Sun Valley.

They launched the Elkhorn Music Festival, which earned a mention in the book "Megatrends 2000" by John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, that noted it was one of the places taking root in the concept of free concerts.

The symphony will honor the late Carl Eberl in a special performance on Wednesday, Aug. 1, with Julianne on cello, returning to Sun Valley without her husband for the first time since they left in 2002. She will bring a lock of his hair to leave a physical trace of him herself, but his legacy is why the pavilion stands today and why the Sun Valley Summer Symphony thrives as the largest privately funded free admission symphony in America.

Readers can enjoy the woman beside the man whom she called "a force in my life for 43 years," through an interview she gave from her job in Portland, Maine, as the orchestra director at Portland Public Schools where she has spent the last 11 years, a late bloomer to teaching at 51, and participating in various memorials to the dynamic man.

IME: How are you doing?

I'm in a fog. ... There have been four memorial events for him since he died in March. ... Each event has brought together friends and family from different eras in his life, and that has kept him vividly alive to me. The concert in Sun Valley will be so much a part of this.

The other major factor in trying to adjust is teaching. Carl worked with so many of my students over the past 10 years, coaching them for auditions, festivals, etc. One of his last words were, when a 3-year-old son of one of The Cedars' [retirement home in Portland, Maine] staff came in to visit, "This is what it's all about," meaning the importance of the next generations.

How has work and the knowledge of such a legacy forged by you both helped?

The SVSS we turned over to Harry Jones and the board of directors in 1995 has grown so exponentially in the past 17 years! When we moved the festival to Sun Valley, Harry asked us what we saw as the organization's future growth potential, and we flippantly said, "Bayreuth" [an annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany]. With the 10 years of the planning and building of the pavilion, the festival has been catapulted to an international level. By its 50th anniversary, the collective imagination and creativity of so many gifted and committed stewards will yield great music in many forms to be experienced by future generations and well on its way to becoming a musical mecca on Bayreuth's level, with the incomparable component that the concerts will hopefully still be free! That was our mission.

How is it that you never saw the Pavilion before now?

Carl was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in July of 1989. He continued conducting and directing the festival until the progression of the disease caused us to plan for his succession in 1994. We were so grateful to the Holdings and the Sun Valley Co. for accepting our proposal to move the festival from its location in Elkhorn to Sun Valley in the early spring of 1994, and providing its wonderful new home there for Carl's last season as full-time director. The festival had outgrown its space at Elkhorn, and Carl and I both proposed the name Sun Valley Summer Symphony to fit its new home.

We held a conductor search in 1995, and we were delighted to offer Alasdair Neale the position. Carl was designated conductor laureate by the board and continued guest-conducting two concerts a season and then one concert a season, until his last guest concert appearance in 2001.

What will be your role at the tribute? What is the most important message you want conveyed?

I will play cello for the opening piece, Carl's arrangement of the music to the 1936 film, "Sun Valley Serenade," "It Happened in Sun Valley." Ellen Sanders, one of the cellists we hired 20 years ago, will be lending me her cello!

Carl's life was music and the people he loved, intertwined and shared for eight decades. He helped support his family during the Great Depression as a 10-year-old violin prodigy playing in social clubs in Reading, Pa. He continued sharing his music until five days before he died, playing Irish music at The Cedars on St. Patrick's Day. He was too weak to hold the violin, but a devoted maintenance man and he had developed a system. (Don't even ask about the duct tape and the screw driver!) Brian held the violin from behind Carl's wheelchair, and Carl wailed away, playing, as always, everything from memory. During his life he reached thousands of people through performing, composing, conducting and teaching. He wanted everyone to enjoy music and love it as much as he did. He will continue to inspire me for all my days. It is my hope that he be remembered in future performances of his "Concerto for Viola and Orchestra" by the gifted young artists of the future.

Why is the work at Sun Valley Summer Symphony so crucial to the overall industry?

One of my pet peeves was when I discovered that food had replaced music as high culture. While eavesdropping on people having dinner next to us in Sun Valley, the diners were competing in a game of restaurant stats, wanting to find out who knew exactly how many sushi bars there were in Los Angeles at that time. The triumphant one came up with 486. Where was the contest on how many recordings of Schubert's songs sung by Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau there were, how many performances of "West Side Story" were conducted by Leonard Bernstein, etc.?)

But with Philistine changes have also arrived serendipitous new worlds created by the Internet. Every person in every part of the world can have access to all of the knowledge and experience of the world instantly.

We are in the dawn of this new age, and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony has been a pioneer. Developing the stellar talents of individuals working together, making this experience accessible to all, and forging its continued unique perspective on its own terms will guarantee the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's role as a present and future template for the arts.


It's showtime

In Focus Series: Celebrates "fin de siecle" Vienna with a concert/lecture tonight, July 25, and Friday, July 27.

Opening night: Monday, July 30, with soprano Deborah Voigt and music of Wagner.

Carl Eberl tribute: Wednesday, Aug. 1.

Mendelssohn: Thursday, Aug. 2.

Pops Night: Saturday, Aug. 4.

On the Lighter Side: Sunday, Aug. 5.

Mahler's "Symphony No. 6 in A Minor": Tuesday, Aug. 7.

All events begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun Valley Pavilion.

For program notes or more specifics, visit

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