The Violin Channel recently sat down one-on-one with cellist David Geber, former 28-year American String Quartet member and Vice President of the Water W. Naumburg Foundation, in New York City.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Foundation's Chamber Music Award, a momentous concert was held on the 8th October at New York's Town Hall — featuring past award winners, including the American, Brentano, Pacifica, Telegraph and Emerson String Quartets, Eight Blackbird, soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Anton Nel and clarinetist Charlie Neidich.
The Walter W. Naumburg Foundation was founded in 1926 by Walter Naumburg — a banker and amateur cellist. Can you tell us about its long and influential history?
The upcoming centenary of the Foundation marks one of the longest uninterrupted periods in the history of international classical music competitions. Over this time span, the Foundation has continually recognized and supported the finest young talent in the industry.
What would you say is the foundation’s core mission and some of its key milestones over the years?
Front and center is the acknowledgment of fertile and imaginative musical minds coupled with musical literacy and authenticity. Of course, successful contestants must also be outstanding instrumentalists, singers, and chamber musicians — technically speaking — but only to the extent that this expertise is in the service of the music.
As to milestones over time, the Foundation has kept pace with industry changes to include a broader base of instrument groups/subgroups as well as the inclusion (a half-century ago!) of chamber music.
In 1971, the foundation launched the Naumburg Chamber Music Award — which this year is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Who has been some of the past recipients of this prestigious accolade?
It would be inappropriate to selectively list past recipients of the Chamber Music Award. Those performing on the October Gala are among the many prominent Naumburg laureates active today.
What was the mission of this designated chamber music prize then and how has it evolved over the past five decades?
Exceptional chamber music groups — then and now — need as much support as they can possibly receive. A life in this exalted field is deeply rewarding yet often challenging in terms of sustainability. The Naumburg chamber music competition and prize, at its inception, was intended to help bridge this gap.
In addition, with Naumburg’s longstanding commitment to new music, concurrent support for the commission of works for laureate groups further enhances the profile of both chamber music and the composers whose works are added to the repertory. The Foundation has significantly expanded the size, instrumentation, and repertoire of chamber groups eligible to compete.
As a former recipient yourself, what does the foundation and Naumburg Chamber Music Award mean to you? How do you feel it assisted your career trajectory?
As the founding cellist of the American String Quartet, winning the Naumburg Chamber Music Award in 1974 launched the ensemble’s career and solidified my career ambitions. Our intensive study with Robert Mann was absolutely central to the Quartet’s musical evolution.
To this day, my love of the string quartet literature and dedication to passing along my knowledge remain central to my teaching, performing, and advocacy.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary milestone on October 8th, the foundation will host a very special Gala Chamber Music Celebration Concert at New York’s Town Hall, which we will be streaming here LIVE on The Violin Channel. Tell us what can we expect to hear and why listeners all over the world would be crazy to miss this?
This landmark concert features an exciting group of performers including five prominent string quartets, Eighth Blackbird, Dawn Upshaw, Charles Neidich, and Anton Nel — plus a sampling of extraordinary chamber music repertoire. What more could we ask for in one evening?