Tag: Tchaikovsky

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 – 12/19/14

classy giftsYou’ve bought all your gifts, and had them all wrapped up by now. But if you’re still looking for some last minute shopping, all galleries and museums have gift shops, some of them online as well. Those are great places to look for artful, stylish gifts, something with a signature.

The Catskills has a lot to offer to art lovers this weekend: Handel’s Messiah at the Opera House in Hudson and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic in Kingston, the Nut/Cracked at Bard College, a ceramics workshop at the Roxbury Arts Center, and a Holiday Dance Party at the Catskill Mountain Foundation.

Hudson Opera House

Hudson Opera House presents Handel’s Messiah, a Baroque masterpiece written in 1741, this Saturday, December 20 at 4 pm at the First Presbyterian Church on Warren Street. Gwen Gould will be conducting the arrangement for strings, and the audience will be invited to perform in the chorus. For more information, visit http://hudsonoperahouse.org/.

Hudson Valley Philharmonic

Hudson Valley Philharmonic will also perform Handel’s Messiah at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, this Saturday, December 20 at 2 pm. 150 musicians and singers will be on stage. Also, an hour before the concert the conductor and the orchestra will be available for a pre-concert talk. For more information, visit http://www.bardavon.org/event_info.php?id=737&venue=upac.

Bard College

Bard College presents the Nut/Cracked with the Bang Group, this Saturday, December 20 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, December 21 at 2 pm. Choreographed by David Parker, the Nut/Cracked is an unconventional interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. For more information, visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=126896.

Roxbury Arts Center

Roxbury Arts Center is hosting a Ceramics workshop with artist Ros Welchman “Working with Clay,” this Saturday, December 20 from 11:30 am to 2 pm. Participants can learn to make plates, bowls or wall-hangings, and can add textures and / or colors of their choice. From the Roxbury Arts Group: “Ros Welchman works with hand-built ceramics, inspired by textures and patterns collected during her travels, and informed by her background in geometry. She is a member of the Longyear Gallery in Margaretville.” For more information about this workshop, visit http://roxburyartsgroup.org/2013/01/18/december-20-drop-in-art-class-working-with-clay/.  

Catskill Mountain Foundation

Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter is hosting a Holiday Dance Party featuring local students as well students from the Valentina Kozlova Dance Academy in New York City this Saturday, December 20 at 3 pm. Valentina Kozlova was a star of the Bolshoi Ballet and the New York City Ballet. Dancers will perform excerpts from The Nutcracker by Ilyich Tchaikovsky. A reception will follow the performance. The event is organized by Victoria Rinaldi, former ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. For more information, visit http://www.catskillmtn.org/events/performances/2014-12-20-free-holiday-dance-event-831.html.

 

Weekend in the Catskills – 12/12/14

Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz is hosting the Wired Gallery’s annual Art Foray event featuring close to thirty local artists and artisans working in various media this Thursday, December 11 and Friday, December 12 from 11 am to 6 pm.

Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian castle built in 1869 on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, is one of America’s most beautiful historic hotels; in 1986 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The hotel provides many outdoor recreational opportunities year round. The Barn Museum has on display period antiques and artifacts. During the summer, the hotel hosts a Festival of the Arts with a varied program that includes music, dance and theater. This weekend, the Art Foray event organized by the Wired Gallery is an opportunity to visit Mohonk House for free. For more information, go to http://www.thewiredgallery.com/. To learn more about Mohonk House, visit http://www.mohonk.com.

Olana Mansion

Olana Mansion in Hudson, Greene County, presents “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens this Friday, December 12 at 7 pm. Jonathan Kruk, master storyteller, will perform over thirty characters in this Dickens’ classic, and give a fresh interpretation of the story. Jim Keyes will provide musical accompaniment playing several different instruments, including a portal pipe organ, violin and harp. For more information, visit http://www.olana.org/calendar/christmas-carol/?doing_wp_cron=1418235477.3838379383087158203125.

Dia:Beacon

Dia:Beacon Art Foundation in Dutchess County is hosting Gallery Talks the second Saturday of the month at 2 pm. These talks, focusing on a single artist each month, are led by curators, art historians and writers. Saturday, December 13 at 2 pm curator Regine Basha will discuss the work of Sol LeWitt, a leading artist of the American Conceptual and Minimalist movement. Located in a former printing plant built in 1929, Dia:Beacon houses collections from the 1960s to the present. For more information, go to http://www.diaart.org.

New Paltz Ballet Theatre

New Paltz Ballet Theatre will perform Tchaikovsky’s famous “Nutcracker” this Saturday, December 13 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sunday, December 14 at 3 pm at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County. George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet, established this decades long tradition of performing “The Nutcracker” in American theatres in December every year since 1954. Vanity Fair explains in this article how this tradition began. For more information about the performances at Bardavon Theatre go to http://www.bardavon.org/event_info.php?id=747&venue=bardavon.

Greene County Council on the Arts

Greene County Council on the Arts is hosting a holiday card and ornaments making event this Saturday, December 13 from 5 to 7 pm in Catskill, Greene County. Materials will be provided on site, and accomplished artists and artisans will assist participants in completing their projects. Light refreshments will be served. Also, the town of Catskill will continue its Winter Wonderland festivities this weekend with live music, art opening receptions, storytelling, and a Merchant Window Contest. For more information, visit http://www.greenearts.org/.

Catskill Art Society

Catskill Art Society presents “Trains on Main” discussion with John Conway, Sullivan County’s historian this Saturday, December 13 from 1 to 2 pm. Conway will talk about the history of the region, and the role the railroads played in the naissance of the tourism industry in the Catskills. Trains as well as the area’s reputation as a pure environment – pure air, water and milk, established the Catskills as a premier destination in the mid-19th century. For more information about this event, go to http://catskillartsociety.org/events/.

The Catskills, Upstate New York
The Catskills, Upstate New York

 

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