Truman Capote with Barry Seiler at the Roxbury Public Library;
Pianos in Vienna and London around 1800s at the Doctorow Center for the Arts;
And, Dia:Beacon Community Free Day – at 3 pm Alisa Besher and Hannah Verrill will facilitate Dialogue Duet: Robert Irwin and Sol LeWitt, inviting visitors to engage in dialogue while observing the works of the two artists side by side.
Maverick Concert Hall, founded in 1916, is the oldest continuous chamber music festival in the country. The festival, running from June to early September, presents an eclectic program of the Catskills folk songs, jazz as well as classical music. On June 28 this year the original 1916 concert, which featured music by Joseph Haydn, Max Bruch, and Robert Schumann, will be reproduced to mark the beginning of the Maverick’s centennial program. In 2016 the festival will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
I spoke with conductor Alexander Platt, the music director of the Maverick Concerts.
A research scholar for the National Endowment for the Humanities before he entered college, Alexander Platt was educated at Yale College, King’s College Cambridge (where he was a British Marshall Scholar), and as a conducting fellow at both Aspen and Tanglewood. At Cambridge he was the first American to hold the coveted post of Assistant Conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society, and as conductor of the Cambridge University Opera Society he led revivals of both Berlioz’s BEATRICE AND BENEDICT and Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE, to high praise in the London press. During this time he also made his professional conducting debut at the Aldeburgh Festival, his London debut at the Wigmore Hall, and reconstructed the lost chamber version of the Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which has gone on to become a classic of the repertoire. In addition to recording for Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, the South-West German Radio and the BBC, his recording of the Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with violinist Rachel Barton Pine is still heard frequently on radio stations across America.
Simona David: Alexander, you are the musical director for several symphony orchestras: the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, the Marion Indiana Philharmonic, and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. You have conducted other orchestras as well. Talk a little bit about your work: what does it take and what does it mean for you to conduct orchestras?
Alexander Platt: It’s important to gain valuable experience over years and decades. Conducting an orchestra whether you have twenty-five people in front of you or a hundred and twenty-five it’s like being in the middle of Grand Central Station at rush hour. You’re hearing all these disperse sounds, and your job is to sort out all those sounds and mold them together. Ultimately it’s a very mysterious process like telepathy, when without saying a word you, as a conductor, blend the sounds together by your physical movements and your inner vision of the music. Some of the greatest rehearsals in the history of orchestras happened without the conductor saying a word.
SD: Your repertoire is so extensive: the level of familiarity you have with hundreds of works – all major composers from the Baroque era, Classical era, modern composers, and you’re also engaged with other musical genres such as folk and jazz – it’s impressive. Let’s talk a bit about your repertoire and what you like most.
AP: What I like most as a conductor is the central line of mid-19th century great composers, starting in the late 18th century with Haydn and Mozart, and then going through Schubert and Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, Elgar and Sibelius. I’m actually very old-fashioned in that regard. I do have a special love for the music Mahler because my graduate thesis at Cambridge was to reconstruct a lost Chamber version from Vienna in the 1920s of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. I think the works of Dvorak, the great Czech composer, are vastly underplayed. We literally hear two or three pieces by Dvorak, we hear the great New World Symphony, which is great work that brought joy to millions and millions of people, but the man did write eight other symphonies. Each of them is a gem. I’m probably the only American conductor of my generation who has all nine of the Dvorak’s symphonies in his active repertoire. I very much live in the 19th century as a conductor.
SD: You conduct both symphony orchestras and operas. How are they different, and how do you approach them?
AP: That’s a wonderful question. Conducting opera and conducting orchestras are two occupations that are completely different. On the more mundane level they’re completely different in regard to scheduling – one of the reasons why now I’m mostly working with orchestras. If you work with an orchestra to prepare a concert it’s one week of rehearsal, it’s three – four rehearsals over a week, and then one or two concert performances. When you prepare an opera, that is a six week project minimum, often a couple of months with many weeks of rehearsals, and at least two weeks of shows. Also, more importantly, on a musical level, it’s a totally different mode of rehearsing. When you’re a symphony orchestra conductor, you basically run the show. Even in the most egalitarian structure, somebody has to be the boss. It’s just not enough time to open up every question of interpretation. In opera rehearsal it’s inherently much more complicated. The conductor is just one of many planks of leadership, if you will. The conductor is in constant collaboration with the stage director, and the principal singers. So there are two vastly different experiences.
SD: You’ve been the musical director of Maverick Concerts since 2002. The festival will celebrate its centennial this summer. Let’s talk a bit about the beginnings of the festival.
AP: In the midst of WWI a bunch of free thinking artists in the hills around Woodstock decided to mount a festival of classical music for the relief of Belgian war refugees, which was a very noble cause at that time. It was Hervey White who founded the festival. Hervey and his buddies found a book of drawings of French cathedrals and without any engineering or architectural experience they built the concert hall in the fall of 1915 – spring of 1916. The concert hall still stands today. In 1916 began the first series of what we call the Maverick Concerts. The festival has literally been going ever since. It’s a very simple, very pure experience which I think is part of the festival’s charm: the festival has not been over publicized or over engineered. It’s a festival that is really all about the music.
SD: On Sunday, June 28 you will recreate the first concert performed in 1916.
AP: Yes, on June 28 at 4 o’clock we’ll have the Shanghai Quartet with pianist Ran Dank recreating the very first program at the Maverick Concert Hall – one of the great later String Quartet by Joseph Haydn, Max Bruch’s lament for cello and piano Kol Nidrei, and after the intermission the evergreen Piano Quintet by Robert Schumann. A great program that will take us back to the very first summer at Maverick.
SD: The festival includes folk and jazz in addition to classical music performances, and there are also poetry and acting moments as well.
AP: Yes, this will be a glorious season. On Friday, July 3 the great pianist Simone Dinnerstein will be playing the complete Goldberg Variations by Bach, a work that she has literally performed all over the world. Saturday night, the 4th of July, we have a brilliant young pianist Adam Tendler who will play the complete Sonatas and Interludes for Solo Piano by John Cage to celebrate Maverick’s historic connection with John Cage: as you know, Cage premiered his landmark work 4’33” of silence at Maverick in 1952. It will be a great season.
The Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, Otsego County, is hosting a classical music performance this Sunday, April 26 at 4 p.m. Three Faces of Romanticism, part of the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival series, features Linda Chesis, flute, Nicholas Canneliakis, cello, and Roman Rabinovich, piano. The trio will perform works by Beethoven, Reinecke, and Rachmaninoff. For tickets, and more information visit http://www.cooperstownmusicfest.org/?p=172.
Fisher Center at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, Dutchess County, is also hosting a classical music performance Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25 at 8 p.m. The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein will perform Hermann Goetz’s Symphony No. 2 as well as Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto. A pre-concert talk will take place at 7 p.m. For tickets, and more information visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=%20126540.
Delaware County Historical Association
Delaware County Historical Association in Delhi is hosting its bi-annual Historical Society Conference this Saturday, April 25 from 1 to 4 p.m. Making History in Delaware County is dedicated to town historians and historical societies, but it’s open to the general public. The event this year will focus on social media, marketing and self-publishing. For more information, visit http://www.greatwesterncatskills.com/events/bi-annual-historical-society-conference/.
Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild
The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild is hosting Spring in Bloom fashion show this Saturday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. The event will feature the area’s fashion boutiques and designers who will present their spring collections at the Kleinert / James Center for the Arts on Tinker Street. There will be hors d’oeuvres, champagne, and also a silent auction. Spring in Bloom is a benefit for the guild. For more information, visit http://www.woodstockguild.org/springinbloom.html.
Catskill Art Society
Catskill Art Society in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County is hosting a Birdhouse Workshop this Saturday, April 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. Participants will learn how to paint, sculpt and carve their favorite birdhouse models. Repurposing old objects is encouraged. For more information, go to http://catskillartsociety.org/events/.
The New York State Museum in Albany is hosting its annual fundraiser New York in Bloom, an extremely popular floral show launched in 1992. New York in Bloom will display this year over a hundred floral arrangements from New York’s most exquisite florists and floral designers. Themed activities will be offered throughout the weekend, including demonstrations and children’s activities. The hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/programs/nybloom/.
Columbia County Council on the Arts
Columbia County Council on the Arts (CCCA) is hosting an art history class this Sunday, February 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. “Understanding Painting” will cover various art movements including the Renaissance, French Neo-Classical and Romantic movements of the 18th and 19th century, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, as well as Modernism. The class will be taught by Emmet McLaughlin, painter and educator. For more information, visit http://artscolumbia.org/.
Woodstock School of Art
Woodstock School of Art is hosting a Pre-College Portfolio Development event this Saturday, February 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. The event is tailored to high school students getting ready for college. There will be a presentation and portfolio review. Parents and teachers are welcomed. Pre-registration is required. To register, call 845-679-2388 or write to Nancy.Campbell@woodstockschoolof art.org. For more information, visit http://www.woodstockschoolofart.org/events.html.
Saugerties Public Library
Saugerties Public Library is hosting the Saugerties Art Tour Group Show featuring the works of over twenty artists, on view through the end of February. The exhibit includes works by Richard Edelman, Viorica Stan, Anita Barbour, Michael Ciccone, Yvette Lewis, and other artists participating in the Saugerties Art Tour in the summer. For more information, visit http://saugertiespubliclibrary.org/art/.
Spillian / Fleischmann Estate
Spillian, a retreat center located at the old Fleischmann mansion on Todd Mountain Road in Fleischmanns, is hosting Voices from the Catskills: The Seven Favorite Maladies of Ludwig van Beethoven this Sunday, February 22 at 4 p.m. The Seven Favorite Maladies of Ludwig van Beethoven is a play written and directed by playwright Carey Harrison , and featuring pianist Justin Kolb. Harrison is the author of forty plays, and six novels. He is the son of famed British actor Rex Harrison. Kolb is a worldwide known classical music pianist, and the chairman of the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice. The play will last until approximately 5:30 p.m., when dinner will be served. For more information about this event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1403016860002066/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular.