Musical Sweets

In summer, music blooms all over the Valley. Here's a look at three special treats, from intimate chamber concerts to a rarely heard opera. Also, Polly Sparling gives the lowdown on more than 50 fairs and festivals that should keep you hopping until the f



Musical Sweets

 

From a string quartet in the woods to a Shostakovich symphony at a famous Frank Gehry concert hall, the Valley is alive with music this summer

 

By Jorge S. Arango

 

You can almost hear the collective “thwish, thwish” of ba­tons as conductors across the region slice the air, releasing music into the warm night. If you listen closely, you’ll discern the quiet, insistent tapping of musicians’ feet as they keep time through the delicate, lapidary passages of Bach, or the romantic swells of Ravel. It is summer in the Valley, and the classical concertizing has begun. Music emanates from too many venues for us to mention — community churches to grand auditoriums — but we’ve rounded up a varied selection for the serious connoisseur. Curtains up!

 

15th Annual Bard Music Festival

annandale-on-hudson, dutchess county

 

The accolades for the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College read like the book jacket of a bestseller. “A mesmerizing architectural narrative,” crooned the Los Angeles Times. On the East Coast, the Boston Globe praised its “very direct connection between performers and audience.” And the New Yorker was impressed by the “exceptionally crisp brilliance” of the sound, saying that Leon Botstein, Bard’s president and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra, “ended up with what may be the best small concert hall in the United States.”

 

The initial adulation has subsided, especially after the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which was another collaboration between uber-architect Frank Gehry and the prominent acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. But it is an indisputable fact that there is no concert venue of comparable greatness or versatility in the Hudson Valley. It is a world-class achievement, and Botstein has set out to honor it with a musical program that matches its exalted status.

 

The 15th Annual Bard Music Festival (BMF) will examine the work of Dimitrii Shostakovich, one of the most controversial composers in history. Over two intensive weekends — August 13-15 and 20-22 — Bard will present 11 concerts, from chamber music to orchestral works, of compositions by Shostakovich and contemporaries like Prokofiev, Glazunov, and Scriabin, as well as lectures, panel discussions, and symposia.

For the second year, BMF will be embraced by the larger Bard SummerScape festival, a multidisciplinary arts program that this year includes a Russian film festival, plays by Nikolai Gogol, and puppet theatre. The combined celebrations run July 8-August 22.

 

Events will be split among the main 900-seat Sosnoff Theater, a smaller 200-seat black-box theater, and other campus buildings. SummerScape is also celebrating Shostakovich with, among other things, five performances of Shostakovich’s comic opera, The Nose.

 

Why Shostakovich? Without question, explains Botstein, “Shostakovich is the greatest Soviet artist in any field who survived as an ‘official’ artist in the Soviet Union.” Therein, he says, lies “the greatest debate in the history of music.” With little prompting, Botstein enumerates some of the issues swirling around the debate, pointing out their relevance to today’s beleaguered arts climate: “What is the relationship between art and politics? What is the task of the artist where there is patronage of the state? What are the ways composers construe their public in an era where there is a great divide between popular and classical music?”

 

The scholar Solomon Volkov claimed that Shostakovich confessed he hated the Soviets and that, says Botstein, “his music was a coded language of resistance and protest.” But belief in the alleged deathbed heart-to-heart is far from unanimous and the arguments, often vehement, have never subsided. “We hope to throw some clear, cooling water on this debate,” says Botstein.

 

Among the works presented will be Shostakovich’s Two Fables of Krylov; Rayok; the Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1; some late string quartets; Symphonies Nos. 1, 4, 10, and 14; and more. But one of SummerScape’s highlights is sure to be The Nose (July 28, 30, and August 1, 6, 7). The rarely produced opera is based on Gogol’s short story about the snout of a petty official that is stolen off his face and dressed up in the uniform of a senior official.

 

Botstein has corralled some A-list talent: The production will be directed by Francesca Zambello, one of the most renowned names in opera and musical theater, who also happens to have a house across the river in New Paltz. The set design is by another leading light in architecture, Rafael Viñoly, and costumes are by Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili.

 

For Zambello, who will also direct the composer’s only musical, Moscow: Cherry Tree Towers (six performances, August 12-15), the Sosnoff Theater is perfect and the choice of composer timely. “The Nose requires an atmosphere of intimacy and will be well-served by this space,” she says. “I have done many 20th-century Russian works, and both of the Shostakovich pieces I’ll be doing have appealed to me for a long time. The themes are, of course, modern — in any great work the themes always feel modern!”

 

For the audience, the BMF and the larger SummerScape festival are a chance to immerse oneself a little or a lot in the world of Shostakovich and Soviet culture.

 

Tickets are $20-$55 (BMF concerts); $35-$65 (The Nose). Lectures and seminars are free. For information about BMF and SummerScape, call 845-758-7900 or visit www.bard.edu/fishercenter.

 

Tannery Pond Concerts

new lebanon, columbia county

 

The first concert at Tannery Pond took place in the winter of 1990. It was a trial run to test the acoustics of the space. A large colony of bats had been evicted the previous summer and their guano removed, but the building was drafty and uninsulated.

 

“Everyone was shivering,” recalls Tannery Pond’s director, Christian Steiner. “The trio was playing with their coats on, wearing gloves that had fingers exposed.” But on the strength of that evening’s program, Steiner and his board established a summer series of chamber concerts that has been held for the past 13 years in the 290-seat tannery of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village in New Lebanon.

 

The venue has attracted an impressive roster: mezzo-soprano Jessye Norman, soprano Carol Vaness, pianists Alicia de Larrocha and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the Emerson String Quartet, and many others. The German-born Steiner, who hails from a prolifically musical family, has worked with many of these artists, either in the capacity of pianist or, more often, as their photographer. For many years, Steiner’s portraits of musicians, including the legendary Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti, graced famous recordings on labels like Deutsche Gramophone, EMI, and Decca.

 

This year’s seven-concert season started May 22 and continues through October 2. The next offering, on June 26, is a Brahms program featuring cellist Daniel Gaisford and pianist José Feghali. Other highlights include the Borromeo String Quartet playing Beethoven, Chausson, and Respighi with soloist Margaret Lattimore (July 17); Vassily Primakov, the 25-year-old Russian virtuoso pianist, playing selections from Ravel’s
“La Valse” (August 28); and a performance by pianist Andreas Haefliger and flutist Marina Piccinini (September 11).

 

Tickets are $22 and $25. For more information and a full schedule of events, call 888-820-1696.

 

Maverick Concerts

woodstock, ulster county

 

In 1916, the author and poet Hervey White purchased some farmland in Woodstock “with the idea of gathering some good musicians during the summer months and giving chamber music in a rustic music chapel among tall trees at the foot of the hill.” His legacy was the Maverick Concerts.  What’s amazing about that legacy 88 years later is the purity with which it has survived. Practically unchanged since 1916, it is still, says Maverick Concert’s new board chair Susan Rizwani, simply “a very intimate and lovely setting in the woods.” But, she adds, “It’s just the right size for chamber music. There’s room for about 225 inside and another 150 outside, so there’s an intimate rapport with the musicians. There’s also a feeling of history and a very warm, responsive, knowledgeable audience.”

 

The notoriety that has attended Maverick Concerts through the years could have easily changed its character. It premiered many modern American works. John Cage’s 4’33” in 1952, which was “played” on a toy piano (the piece consists entirely of silences), is perhaps the most controversial. But there have also been works by  area residents Henry Cowell, Brian Fennelly, and the late Robert Starer. Peter Schickele was commissioned to do a string quartet. Paul Robeson sang here.

 

This year’s season includes 21 concerts from June 26 through September 5. Alexander Platt, resident conductor of the Chicago Opera Theater and other Midwest orchestras, returns as music director for a second season. He is looking forward, he says, to conducting Schoenberg’s chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which will feature performances from alto Julia Bentley and Metropolitan Opera tenor Mark Schowalter.

 

Concert tickets are $20. For more information and a schedule of events, call 845-679-8217 or visit www.maverickconcerts.org.

 

Alive at Five June 3, 10, 17, 24; July 1, 15, 22, 29; Aug. 5 & 13. In its 15th season of providing a great excuse for starting the weekend early, these outdoor concerts feature a different musical genre every Thursday evening throughout the summer. Local vendors provide everything from beer to barbecue. 5-8 p.m. Albany Riverfront Park. Broadway & Pine St., Albany. 518-434-5411 or www.albanyny.org

 

Orange County Festivals June 4-6. One county, one weekend, three fun fests. The Greek Festival has continuous live music, folk dancers, traditional food, games, and crafts. Fri.-Sat. 12-11 p.m., Sun. 12-9 p.m. Goshen Turnpike (off Rte. 211), Middletown. 845-695-1976. On Saturday, Cornwall-on-Hudson’s Riverfest celebrates its beautiful waterfront area with music, crafts, food, and children’s activities. Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Donahue Park, Cornwall-on-Hudson. 845-534-7581 or www.river-fest.com. Sunday’s Temple Hill

 

Festival at New Windsor Cantonment  features 18th-century games, pipes and drums, and a puppet theater. Sun. 1-5 p.m. $3 adults, $2 NYS seniors, $1 children. Rte. 300, Vails Gate. 845-561-1765 or www.nysparks.com

 

SummerStar Theatre June 4-6, 11-13, 18-20; July 16-18, 23-25. This community theatre troupe stages two productions: David Auburn’s Proof (a Pulitzer Prize–winning drama about family relationships) during June, and the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret in July. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. $15, $10 seniors & students. Orange Hall Theatre, Orange County Community College. 115 South St., Middletown. 845-341-4789. Orange.

 

Art on Lark June 5. Over 75 artists display their work on historic Lark Street at the Capital Region’s largest outdoor arts festival. It’s all there — paintings, photography, prints, ceramics, jewelry, and art glass, as well as musicians, street entertainers, and hands-on programs for kids (and adults). Works by local filmmakers share the spotlight with the People’s Choice Art Show. 12-5 p.m. Lark St., Albany. 518-434-3861 or www.larkstreet.org

 

Art Expo 2004 June 5-6. The Garnerville Arts and Industrial Center opens its doors to showcase works created by its artists (including painters, composers, sculptors, and woodworkers). Try your hand at printmaking, or watch a virtual recording session. An exhibit of works by more than 30 guest artists, as well as entertainments ranging from music performances to dog agility demonstrations, make for a one-of-a-kind experience. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 55 W. Railroad Ave., Garnerville. 845-947-7108 or www.garnerville-arts.com. Rockland.

 

Hudson Valley Chamber Music Circle June 5, 19, & 26. This concert series pairs chamber works with internationally renowned players. Hear Jennifer Koh (violin) and Benjamin Hochman (piano), the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and the Juilliard String Quartet on successive Saturdays. 8 p.m. $25 per performance. Olin Hall. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson. 518-537-6665. Dutchess.

 

Sleepy Hollow Street Fair June 6. Tarrytown’s MainStreet merchants, as well as 60 other vendors, offer crafts, food, and the opportunity to shop till you drop. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The Historical Society’s Strawberry Festival takes place on nearby Grove St. from 2-5 p.m. $7.50, $4 children. Main Street, Tarrytown. 914-631-1705. Westchester.

 

Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival June 12-13. Indulge in the Valley’s finest foods and wines while enjoying the sounds of big band music. Dine on signature dishes; taste the flavor of locally produced bread, cheese, and other goodies; and savor vintages produced at local wineries. Observe culinary demonstrations, and browse the handiwork of local artisans. $10, $5 children under 12. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Montgomery Place. Rte. 9G, Annandale-on-Hudson. 845-758-5461 or www.hudsonvalley.org. Dutchess.

 

Open Studios 2004 June 12-13. Meet and mingle with 50 working artists who maintain studios in downtown Peekskill. Visit the brand-new Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, which will have its grand opening during the weekend’s festivities.

There will be art gallery exhibits, guided studio tours, live music — and free shuttle service to get you around. 12-4 p.m. Tour maps and information available at the Gazebo (corner of Park & N. Division St.), Peekskill. 914-737-6039. Westchester.

 

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival June 16-Sept. 5. The Bard is back at Boscobel. This season, the popular outdoor festival presents Macbeth, the classic tale of greed and treachery, from June 16-Aug. 7. The comic character Falstaff steals a turn when the The

 

Merry Wives of Windsor is featured from July 21-Sept. 5. Picnicking on the estate’s lovely grounds is encouraged. Call for specific times and ticket information. Boscobel Restoration. Rte. 9D, Garrison. 845-265-9575 or www.hvshakespeare.org. Putnam.

Powerhouse Theater June 16-Aug. 1. At 20 years and counting, this one-of-a-kind theater festival weds new works with top-drawer actors and directors. This season, Amy Irving stars in Marta Goes’ A Safe Harbor for Elizabeth Bishop, a play about the poet’s life in Brazil. Two musicals (Nerds: The Musical and California Girls), a series of workshops and play readings, as well as free outdoor performances of Shakespeare, round out the bill. Call for dates, times, and ticket information. Vassar College. 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie. 845-437-5902 or www.powerhouse.vassar.edu. Dutchess.

 

Clearwater Music and Environmental Festival June 19-20. The nation’s oldest and largest festival of its kind, the “Great Hudson River Revival” (as it is also known) has hosted thousands of visitors over the past 30 years. Just a few of the things you’ll find there: music (and lots of it, from funk to folk, salsa to swing), storytellers, food, crafts, a dance tent, a “green” trade show, fun stuff for kids, and rides on the sloop Clearwater. Croton Point Park. Rte. 9, Croton-on-Hudson. 800-67-SLOOP or www.clearwaterfestival.org. Westchester.

 

U.S. Military Academy Bands June 25-Aug. 12. Two of West Point’s performing groups — the Jazz Knights and Concert Band — give free concerts in local parks throughout the summer. Catch the Knights in Catskill (Greene, June 25), Haverstraw (Rockland, July 2), and Wappingers Falls (Dutchess, Aug. 12), while the Concert Band plays Hamptonburgh (Orange) on July 3 and Hyde Park (Dutch­ess) on Aug. 4. The groups also perform reg­ularly at the Trophy Point Amphitheatre on the campus grounds. 845-938-2617 or www.usma.army.mil/band

 

   Old Songs Festival June 25-27. A relaxed, family-friendly festival, Old Songs features folk, traditional, Celtic, and world music and dance. The weekend in­cludes a wealth of interactive sessions, workshops, and hands-on activities (as well as food, instrument vendors, and a crafts show). Tickets range from $15-$80, free for children under 12. Camping available. Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont. 518-765-2815 or www.oldsongs.org. Albany.

 

    Willow Creek Bluegrass Festival June 25-27. There’ll be plenty of pickin’ and grinnin’ at this hoedown, which hosts 13 bands (including Barebones and Wildflowers, one of our favorites); you’ll also find music workshops, food, crafts, and children’s activities. Fri. 6-11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call for ticket information. Thomas Bull Memorial Park. Rte. 416, Montgomery. 845-783-9054 or www.willowcreekbluegrass.com. Orange.

 

Crafts at Rhinebeck June 26-27. Over 300 artisans participate in this highly respected event, showing works ranging from the traditional to the exotic: jewelry, glass, wood, leather, ceramics, metal sculpture, musical instruments, and wearable art. Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $7. 845-876-4001 or www.dutchessfair.com. Dutchess.

 

Caramoor International Music Festival June 26-Aug. 14. Now in its 59th year, this staple-of-the-summer music scene showcases world-class soloists and ensembles. Highlights include four world premieres (by composers John Harbison, Jennifer Higdon, David Horne, and Krystof Maratka); the acclaimed opera program; two new series — Latin Evenings and Family Concerts; plus song recitals, a jazz festival, and a gala opening concert. A short list of artists includes soprano Sylvia McNair, violinist Joshua Bell, and jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis. Call for further information. Girdle Ridge Rd., Katonah. 914-232-1252 or www.caramoor.org. Westchester.

 

Scarborough Faire Herb & Garden Festival June 27. At this unique event you can learn about growing and cooking with herbs and spices, plan and plant a berry garden, or discover which common plants make good medicines. Featured speakers include Pat Reppert (founder of the HudsonValley Garlic Festival), who’ll discuss her favorite plant; and Gregg Quinn, owner of the state’s largest black currant farm. 11 a.m. Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Off Rte. 9, Staatsburg. 845-889-8851. Dutchess.

 

Maverick Concert Series June 29-Sept. 7. Internationally recognized musicians present classical concerts in a rustic open-air concert hall. See our article on page 43for further details.

 

Belleayre Music Festival July 3-Sept. 4. The sounds of big-name musicians — Lyle Lovett; the Neville Brothers; Broadway’s Barbara Cook; and David Clayton Thomas with Blood, Sweat and Tears — fill the mountains during this summer-long series. The opening night concert celebrates the centennial of the Catskill Park with the Belleayre Festival Orchestra (in their performance debut), the Community Chorale of the Catskills, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. The five shows in the Catskill Mountain Jazz Series feature everything from Latin to Dixieland to a jazz “superband.” Call for further information. Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Rte. 28, Highmount. 800-942-6904 or www.belleayremusic.org. Ulster.

 

Independence Days July 3-4. Many local historic sites host special events over this star-spangled weekend. In Orange County, both Knox’s Headquarters and the New Windsor Cantonment (Vails Gate) illustrate life during the Revolution, complete with weapons firings (Sat. 10 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m. 845-571-1765 or www.nysparks.com). At Croton’s Van Cortlandt Manor, you can celebrate the Glorious Fourth as they would have in 1804, with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a parade, and military drills. Down the river at Sunnyside (Tarrytown), it’s 1856, and the locals play “town ball,” make rousing speeches, dance, and eat ice cream. Both programs run Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call for ticket information. 914-631-8200 or www.hudsonvalley.org. Westchester.

 

Great Hudson River Paddle July 6-15. For skilled and inexperienced paddlers alike, this event presents a chance to get out on the Hudson. The hardy can travel nearly 150 miles of our favorite waterway; the less experienced stay closer to home under the watchful eye of local canoeing experts. And for landlubbers, there’s a series of festivals at stops along the route that showcase natural and cultural resources as well as kayaking skills and equipment. Call for information. 518-473-3835 or www.hrwa.org.

 

SummerScape and Bard Music Festival July 8-Aug. 22. The Russians are coming, as Bard College shines the musical spotlight on 20th-century composer Dmitrii Shostakovich. See our article on page41for more information.

 

Countryside Garden Tour July 10.  Take a self-guided stroll through five of the Hudson Valley’s most inspiring gardens, each with a different theme. After the tour, guests can explore the historic village of Warwick and its various wineries, restaurants, and shops. Tours begin at the Railroad Green, downtown Warwick, between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. $12. 845-986-0598. Orange.

 

Aston Magna Festival July 9, 16, 23, 30; Aug. 7. Another perennial favorite among classical music lovers, this concert series presents performances of works by Mozart and Bach, as well as lesser-known composers (Frenchman Georges Onslow, for one). The highlight of the series is a semi-staged version of Monteverdi’s 1607 opera Orfeo (Aug. 6). 8 p.m. $30. Olin Humanities Building. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson. 845-758-7425. Dutchess.

 

Antique Car Show at Montgomery Place July 11. If you love cars, this display of antique and classic autos on the lawns of a riverfront estate is sure to get your engine revving. Pamela’s Traveling Feast provides a summer luncheon, which is served throughout the day. $6, children under 5 free, mansion tours an additional $3. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 845-758-5461 or www.hudsonval­- ley.org. Dutchess.

 

The North American Jewish Choral Festival July 11-15. The premier Jewish choral event brings together singers and choirs from across North America for five days of workshops, study, performances, fun, and friendship. Over 500 vocalists take part in community sings, instant ensembles, evening concerts, workshops, and a gala closing concert. 

Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. Rte. 44/55, Kerhonkson. www.zamirfdn.org. Ulster.

 

Mountain Culture Festival July 11-13. Celebrating all that is beautiful and fun about living in the mountains, this three-day event brings regional and international music, crafts, film, and sports to the heart of the Catskills. Mountainfilm on Tour presents shorts, documentaries, and animated works. On Saturday and Sunday, you can take in a crafts show; give sports like fly fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking a try; listen to performances of folk, Afro-Latino, and Celtic music; and marvel at the textiles in the Great Catskill Mountain Quilt Show. And of course there’s food and fun for the kids. Fri. 7:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $7, $1 children under 12, 2-day family pass for four $20; films $7, $5 seniors & students per screening. CMFPerforming Arts Center. Rte. 23A, Hunter. 518-263-4908 or www.cat-skillmtn.org. Greene.

 

Catskills Irish Arts Week & Irish Traditional Music Festival July 11-17. The musical and artistic heritage of the Emerald Isle is celebrated with classes and workshops led by traditional Irish musicians, dancers, and storytellers; the week culminates in the Music Festival (July 17, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.) On Aug. 28, the annual East Durham Feis step-dancing competition — in which more than 600 high-steppers compete — takes place. Call for ticket information. Michael J. QuillIrish Cultural and Sports Centre. 2119 Rte. 145, East Durham. 800-434-FEST or www.east-durham.org. Greene.

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