Decade-changing birthdays are big, and they get bigger as the years go by.
That’s why Seraina Gessler did something big when her husband, Johannes, turned 70. She invited his favorite musician to play a private concert for him and about 30 friends who gathered to celebrate his birthday in the Gesslers’ native Switzerland.
The Gesslers have been playing recorders since they were young. They own dozens of the flute-like woodwind instruments. They taught their children to play. They practice regularly with a group of Colorado recorder players. They attend workshops to hone their skills. And they perform often in Colorado, where they have lived for 50 years.
But until 12 years ago, they had only admired world-renowned Swiss recorder player Maurice Steger from afar. They bought the first CD he ever made, and they knew he was something very special. One evening, while checking into a hotel in Pontresina, a small mountain town in Switzerland where Seraina grew up, they noticed a poster announcing a concert by Steger that very night. “The performance was absolutely breathtaking,” Johannes said. “He felt and lived the music in a way we had never heard before.”
A couple of years later, when it came time to celebrate Johannes’ 70th birthday, Seraina asked Steger to play. The concert was “even more phenomenal than the first one, because of the intimate atmosphere,” Johannes said.
Since then, the Gesslers have become friends with Steger. When they travel in Europe, they try hard to get to his concerts, and they have participated in workshops playing one-on-one with him.
This year, Johannes will turn 80. Time for another celebration. Seraina, never hesitant to ask, wondered if Steger might be willing to play a concert in Colorado. Considering that Steger has become world-famous in the last decade, Johannes thought this was pretty crazy. But all it took was a single email, and Steger agreed.
He will play June 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Organ Recital Hall, Colorado State University Center for the Arts, 1400 Remington St., as part of CSU Organ Week. “Totally exciting,” says Johannes. This time, the crowd at his birthday celebration will be considerably larger.
Tickets for the concert are $15 for adults, and may be purchased at CSUArts@colostate.edu or at 970-491-ARTS.
Maurice Steger has been called the Paganini of the recorder and the world’s leading recorder virtuoso. Reviewers use words like “charismatic,” “spontaneous,” “captivating” and “full of energy” to describe his music.
Steger is responsible for bringing prominence to the recorder as an instrument on the contemporary “Early Music” scene. In 2015, he received the prestigious German ECHO Klassik Award as “Instrumentalist of the Year (Flute).”
A native of Germany, Steger has played all over Europe, in Asia, Australia, South America, Canada and the United States. He was the first recorder player from the West to play with the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.
In addition to playing, Steger conducts, lectures and offers master’s classes. He’s strongly committed to encouraging young children to engage playfully with classical music.