Sunday Musical Splendor
The Lindberg Farm Series showcases classical musicians.
September 16, 2010
Flurries of piano notes swell to a startling volume before cascading back into hushed tones in the spacious music room of a Huntsville home on a recent Sunday afternoon. Pianists Sarkis Baltaian and In-Sook Park are performing a recital duet on a glossy black, seven-foot Steinway grand piano. They play Mozart sonatas, Schubert’s “Fantasy in F minor,” and Hungarian dances written by Brahms specifically for four hands. The duo perform with a combination of delicacy and aggression, mesmerizing an audience of about 60 with splendor and intimacy rarely found in a typical concert setting.
“Most of this music was composed to be played in a living room or small music room, someplace that was quite intimate,” explains Bill Lindberg, a retired army engineer whose career included working on the nation’s missile defense system. Lindberg and his wife, Margaret, present a monthly concert on their vast acreage as part of the Lindberg Farm Series.
|In-Sook Park and her husband Sarkis Baltaian often perform as part of the Lindberg Farm Series. Preview recordings from the series at the bottom of the page. (click for larger version)
Lindberg built the Music Room in 1996, determined to showcase chamber music in a proper setting. The performers’ close proximity to the audience adds an element of enchantment that is difficult to replicate in a concert hall. Lindberg does not charge admission for the Farm Series concerts, though there is a donation bowl brimming with $20 bills on the table, and new guests can leave their email addresses to be added to the notices Lindberg sends out announcing each performance.
“Oh, I love the music, I joined the Huntsville Chamber Music Guild and we were planning the possibility of what we call ‘house music,’” says the longtime classical music enthusiast. “The idea of having a music room at my home came to mind. I already had one piano. Later on I got another, then after I finished having the music room added on to the house, I got a third piano. We had three pianos in the music room back then and worked with the University of Alabama Huntsville Music Department. They would plan programs and we’d host them. At some point we began to expand the program and run it ourselves, which is what we are doing now.” This was around 2005, Lindberg recalls. “We would do concerts where we used all three pianos with a small orchestra. We had to move the furniture around a lot to bring in the orchestras.”
The Music Room is designed to be acoustically sound. “Those three big paintings on the walls? The paintings have sound-absorbing materials behind them, so the sound that hits them doesn’t come bouncing back,” Lindberg says. “We’ve got several couches and curtains to absorb sound, too. We didn’t want it to be too bright and loud.”
Lindberg books musicians as they travel through the South on their way to much larger venues, though the pair playing on this particular Sunday are music professors at UAH.
“Our plan when we started running it was to bring in artists from out of town so that the locals could hear performers that they probably wouldn’t, except at bigger concerts,” Lindberg explains. “Our room provides a quiet, peaceful experience that you won’t get in a big venue. With a music room, you can’t have a big name artist like Yo-Yo Ma, but you can have artists that are just as good as he is but that have not been fully discovered yet, and enjoy the music just as much without having to pay that much. We’ve got professionals who make their living playing music.”
Lindberg records each concert. “We started out recording on analog tape—the little cassettes you can play in your car and all that,” he says. “We went digital a couple of years later.” He records simply for his archives and does not sell any recordings.
The Lindbergs bought the pianos by encouraging patrons to sponsor a key on a Steinway grand at $500 each. Wealthy patrons of the arts made up the cost difference to purchase each piano. One of their instruments was later donated to UAH, and another was given to the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. (A Steinway concert grand piano sells for around $100,000.) The couple has been active in bringing artists to the United States to live, most notably acclaimed Russian pianist Yakov Kasman, currently a piano professor at UAB. When Kasman was at UAH, the Lindbergs allowed him to use their music room to teach students.
Dr. Sarkis Baltaian has been playing the Lindberg Farm Series for three years.
“It’s a very, very intimate setting and has wonderful acoustics; it’s a room specifically designed for concerts,” Baltaian says.
“I really enjoy performing there, it has two wonderful Steinway grand pianos, and one of the best audiences—a very supportive and understanding audience that values real music. We’re very appreciative and very grateful for what Bill Lindberg has done for the arts, not just in Huntsville but in greater northern Alabama,” he says.
Baltaian and duet partner In-Sook Park married a month ago in Los Angeles, where Baltaian studied and taught piano for 15 years before coming to Huntsville 2 years ago. He began playing at age four in his native Bulgaria. Park, who is Korean, began playing at age 5, making her debut with the Seoul National Symphony at 13.
“This was our first performance together since we married. It was very special—kind of a celebration of our wedding, as well,” Baltaian says.
“We don’t advertise; we don’t need to,”
say Lindberg. “We don’t charge people to come, they make contributions. I take care of finding the artists and do the booking, keeping the piano tuned, and sending out the email invitations. We have a lot of older people, folks that don’t like to climb stairs or walk long distances from parking lots. Besides, it’s not the kind of thing you want to advertise, because it’s private. Too many people would show up, and it wouldn’t be a music room anymore.” &
For more information about upcoming performances at the Lindberg Farm email Bill Lindberg at Wjlind22@aol.com. For a full story on Yakov Kasman (from the April 19, 2009, issue of Black & White), visit www.bwcitypaper.com/Articles-i-2009-04-16-228445.113121—The—Talent.html.