I had a pleasant evening last Wednesday attending a performance by The Saint Michael Trio at the Golden Gate Club in the beautiful Presidio of San Francisco.
Members of The Saint Michael Trio (Daniel Cher on violin, Michel Flexer on cello, and Russell Hancock on piano) are world class performers who are artists-in-residence at Stanford University. The surprising twist? All three performers have a double identity - Cher as a medical doctor, Flexer as a software engineer, and Hancock as a member of the public policy faculty at Stanford as well as the president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. It is just an interesting tidbit to show that world-class musicians come from all walks of life - and can have many talents!
Joined by guest artists Julie Kim and Robin Sharp, who are both violinists, The Saint Michael Trio brought the stories behind their exclusively-Schumann program to life.
Titled Diagnosing Schumann, the concert program explains that “he had it all: a brilliant performing career, renown as a composer, and a high society marriage to a spectacular woman considered the belle of Europe.” Yet, as we know from history and from the often sinister mood of his compositions, Schumann suffered internally despite his outward success, ending his life “in an insane asylum, his career in ruins.”
The Saint Michael Trio did an excellent job of answering the question “What happened?” After each movement, Hancock explained how the music was relevant to what was happening to Schumann at the time of its creation. As the narration continued, the music became a direct connection to the circumstances and emotions of Schumann’s life.
This performance was a luxurious way to spend a weekday evening listening to live chamber music while at the same time getting an education in music history. The Saint Michael Trio reminded me why music is relevant to the human experience, and sometimes the most accurate way to document its more elusive facets.