Nina's Musical Cocktail Party

Our pianist, Nina Ferrigno, shares what it is she loves about chamber music, and the many paths it has lead her down! You can hear Nina with Chamber Project on June 1 at our Third Annual Audience Choice Concert!

Amongst your classical musicians, pianists definitely have a superiority complex.  Being a pianist myself, I’ll not bore you here with all the many reasons why this is totally justified, but just think of a pianist’s brain!  Reading two clefs at the same time, two hands working independently, ten fingers playing twelve-note chords (thanks, Messaien)!  Add this to the multitudinous hours spent alone in a practice room perfecting the ability to handle it all, the muscle, the power, the inexplicable delicacy, dexterity and grace, it’s amazing we keep it in check at all!  I missed a lot of social gatherings growing up.  I was practicing.  It’s OK, I think that helped me avoid being a victim of “mean girl” syndrome in high school (New Hampshire can be brutal.  It’s not all fall foliage and snow...).  But I consider myself a social creature so imagine my joy at discovering CHAMBER MUSIC at age 13.

To me, chamber music is like playing a mini-concerto and having a non-stop musical cocktail party all at the same time.  I get to “talk” a lot (I’m good at that) through my instrument and I get to listen to others “talk” through theirs.  During rehearsals I love this non-verbal communication followed by the “what just happened there” questions and ensuing discussions as to whether we really meant it!  Leading up to the performance these are such important discussions as we build trust as an ensemble and lay the groundwork that allows us to throw most of that plan out the window while on stage.  I don’t improvise notes like a jazz musician but chamber music performances are a kind of improvisation.  Everyone’s unique musical personality shines through the give and take of musical expression in each piece played.  Every performance is different, every rehearsal different.  This kind of playing really keeps my ears open and I love adapting to the moment!

Nina and Jen

As a pianist, I seek out new experiences in chamber music all the time.  Along with Jennifer Lucht, cello, and Catherine French, violin,  I formed the Boston-based Calyx Piano Trio in 2001.  Simply stated, we have a great time playing together!  The trio repertoire is second to none and really exemplifies the spirit of partnership while maintaining the solo identities of each member.  Since moving to St. Louis in 2007 I have appeared regularly with Chamber Project St. Louis and love the interesting pieces the flexible instrumentation of our ensemble provides us!  Sometimes we are really challenged by poor pianos in our venues, but as we move forward we are committed to finding instruments worthy of our artistic output!  In many ways some of the extra demands placed on us while dealing with less-than-ideal pianos have yielded some of our most interesting and connected performances!  Yeah, CHAMBER MUSIC!

My love of chamber music has also lead me to starting the Missouri Chamber Music Festival, ( with Scott Andrews, clarinet (husband and partner in every way).  Concerts June 21-23, 2012 in Webster Groves mark our second season and we are thrilled with how the creation of this Festival has lead to some of the most inspired classical music performances of the St. Louis concert season!  We bring musicians in from all around the country to take up residence in Webster rehearse with fabulous musicians from St. Louis and create some incredible performances as a result.   We also run the MOCM  ProAm Chamber Music Intensive which is for adult amateur chamber musicians.  Over a workshop weekend we put groups together, take over the Community Music School building of Webster University and throw ourselves into chamber music.  We have doubled our enrollment this second year!  It has totally added to the “non-stop musical cocktail party” feeling chamber music instills in me!