Tag: mahler

Featured Destination: Maverick Concert Hall

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

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.

Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.
Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.

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.

Contributed Photo. Credit Dion Ogust.
Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.

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.

Contributed Photo. Credit: Alan Carey
Contributed Photo. Credit: Alan Carey

120 Maverick Road, Woodstock, NY 12498

(845) 679-8217

For more information, visit

http://www.maverickconcerts.org

© 2015 Simona David

Weekend in the Catskills – 5/15/2015

Erpf Center

Erpf Center in Arkville, Delaware County, is hosting an opening reception this Saturday, May 16 at 2 p.m. discussing works by artists in residence at Platte Clove, a site administered by the Catskill Center in Greene County. Platte Clove, along with Kaaterskill Clove, was an inspiration to early American landscape painters affiliated with the Hudson River School of Painting, a movement initiated by Thomas Cole in 1825. For more information about this event, visit http://catskillcenter.org/events/2015/5/11/inspired-by-platte-clove.

Slabsides

Slabsides, home of naturalist writer John Burroughs in West Park, Ulster County, is hosting an Open House event “The Journals of John Burroughs,” this Saturday, May 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. At noon Vassar College student Maura Toomey will be talking about her three years of research, transcribing Burroughs’ hand written journals. Toomey transcribed twenty-two volumes, covering the period 1887 – 1901, and thus gaining insights into Burroughs’ understanding of the natural world. For more information, visit http://www.johnburroughsassociation.org/news/events/item/slabsides-day-open-house-and-the-journals-of-john-burroughs-may-16-2015.

Fisher Center

Fisher Center in Annandale-on-Hudson, Dutchess County, is hosting a classical music performance this Sunday, May 17 at 3 p.m. featuring members of the American Symphony Orchestra, Bard College Conservatory Orchestra, and Bard College Faculty conducted by Leon Botstein. The performance is dedicated to Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Mahler wrote his last symphony in 1908 – 1909. Leonard Bernstein said about it that “It is terrifying, and paralyzing, as the strands of sound disintegrate … in ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything.” For more information about this performance, visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=128576.

Albany Symphony Orchestra

American Symphony Orchestra is hosting the American Music Festival: Migrations this Saturday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. Migrations is a program dedicated to traditions surrounding American history. Michael Daugherty’s Trail of Tears Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with flutist Amy Porter will be performed, as well as works by Clint Needham and Andrea Reinkemeyer, and Derek Bermel’s Migration Series for Jazz Orchestra. For tickets, and more information visit http://www.albanysymphony.com/concerts_and_tickets/event_details.cfm?ID=172

Catskill Art Society

Catskill Art Society in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County, is hosting a Garden Day event this Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Conversant speakers will address a variety of garden-related topics from community gardening to planting techniques, tips and more. For more information, visit http://catskillartsociety.org/events/gardenday.

Enjoy a gorgeous weekend in the Catskills!

Weekend in the Catskills – 10/03/14

Five art recommendations per weekend should suffice an art lover’s ambitious life up here in the mountains, but that’s not an option when there is so much to do and see. Take this weekend, for example: art making workshops at the Hudson Opera House in Hudson; the art of book making opening reception at the Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell; a tour of the Dia:Beacon’s contemporary art collections in Beacon; a Winslow Homer art symposium at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie; an auction benefit at the Center for Photography in Woodstock; Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter; Mahler’s Fifth Symphony to be performed by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic in Poughkeepsie; and a conversation hosted by author and Bard College professor Neil Gaiman in Annandale-on-Hudson. What an ambitious weekend indeed!

Hudson Opera House

The Hudson Opera House is inaugurating this Saturday a series of art making workshops for families with children as part of its Saturday Salon program. These workshops will be held every Saturday throughout the month of October from 10 am to 12 noon. For more information, go to http://hudsonoperahouse.org/2014/06/13/saturday-salon-the-guided-gallery-saturdays-10-noon/.

Bright Hill Literary Center

Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell is opening a new exhibit this Sunday, October 5 at 3 pm: “Erosion: Artist Book Work,” featuring Iowa artist Julie Leonard. “Making use of the book as an artistic medium is possible partly because of what we bring to the book, our collective connection with it. Since its inception we have imbued books and writing with a spiritual or magical aspect that goes beyond its physical or contextual properties. Books can act on us as an icon or reliquary does, evoking a spiritual reaction, a contemplative psychic space. My work is divided between the study of historical book binding structures and the creation of contemporary artist books,” says Julie Leonard, who is an associate professor at The University of Iowa in Iowa City.  For more information about Leonard, go to http://book.grad.uiowa.edu/people/julie-leonard. For more information about Bright Hill Literary Center, visit http://www.brighthillpress.org/.

Dia:Beacon

Dia:Beacon Art Foundation offers guided tours of its galleries every Saturday at 1 pm. Located in a former printing plant built in 1929, Dia:Beacon houses collections from the 1960s to the present. For more information about Dia:Beacon, go to http://www.diaart.org.

Fenimore Art Museum

Fenimore Art Museum presents a Winslow Homer symposium at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie this Saturday, October 4 from 9 am to 5 pm. A series of guest speakers, as well as a panel discussion will address Winslow Homer’s use of color and art technique, and his importance in the American art world. Homer was a 19th century landscape painter known for his seascapes, and portrayal of rural life. In 1859 Homer opened a studio in New York City. During the Civil War he was sent to the battle field, and sketched scenes for Harper’s Weekly. Throughout his adult life, Homer also painted in northern New York, in the Adirondack Mountains. Born in Massachusetts in 1836, he died in Maine in 1910. For more information about the upcoming symposium at the Arkell Museum, go to http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/homersymposium.

The Center for Photography

The Center for Photography at Woodstock is hosting its 36th benefit auction this Saturday, October 5 at 12:30 pm at the Diamond Mills Hotel in Saugerties. A preview of submitted art work can be seen here. Our favorite is a black and white photograph of actress Ingrid Bergman, taken in Italy in 1949 – preview here. To purchase tickets for the gala go to http://www.cpw.org/support/benefit-gala/.

Doctorow Center for the Arts

Catskill Mountain Foundation in partnership with the Catskill Jazz Factory will present a piano concert this Saturday, October 4 at 8 pm at the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter. Dan Tepfer, a French-American pianist, will perform Bach’s well-known Goldberg Variations, followed by his own improvisations on Bach. Tepfer performed this program at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village back in September. The New York Times wrote about Tepfer’s performance here. For more information about the upcoming concert in Hunter, visit http://www.catskillmtn.org/events/performances/2014-10-04-dan-tepfer-solo-jazz-piano-820.html. For more information about Tepfer, visit his website at http://www.dantepfer.com.

Hudson Valley Philharmonic

The Hudson Valley Philharmonic will perform Mahler’s Fifth Symphony this Sunday, October 5 at 3 pm at the Bardavon concert hall in Poughkeepsie. There will be a pre-concert talk with conductor Craig Fleischer. For more information about this event, go to http://myemail.constantcontact.com/HVP-Mahler-s-5th-This-Sunday–3pm-at-the-Bardavon-.html?soid=1102056363639&aid=iJAsHXA2G6w.

Bard College

Bard College is presenting an author talk hosted by Neil Gaiman this Friday at 7:30 pm at the Sosnoff Theater at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in Annandale-on-Hudson. Neiman will converse with Audrey Niffenegger, a best-selling author and artist. For more information about this event, go to http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=126895.

These are just a few highlights from what seems to be a busy weekend in the Catskills.

© 2014 artinthecatskills.com