by John Stoehr
He's funny. And charming, warm, witty, and sincerely concerned for the well-being of the audience but also willing to show some tough love to get people listening to music they may naturally and understandably shy away from.
And he's a fan of his musicians. During John Adams' new string quartet, performed for just the fifth time by the St. Lawrence String Quartet this morning, Wadsworth sat in the audience, rapt with attention.
Before the Adams piece, he gave the audience the backstory of a new work for clarinet and piano called Cookbook. It's by a young composer from Oregon named Kenji Bunch and was written for Jose Franch-Ballester, a clarinetist from Spain. He played just one movement.
At one point, Wadsworth turned to Franch-Ballester to get affirmation on his remarks. What he got was a firm "uh-huh." That was enough for Wadsworth. What followed was a typical exchange:
"You know, his English is limited."
"But he has 'uh-huh' down pat."
(Wadsworth hugs Franch-Ballester to show he's teasing.)
(As he's about to exit, Wadsworth attempts pronouncing one of the movements from Cookbook in its original language. Franch-Ballester seized the moment.)
"You know, your Spanish is limited"
(Even more laughter)
(Wadsworth, after acknowledging the touché, has the last laugh.)
"I say this with the greatest affection," he says. "You're fired."