Your intrepid reporter made it to numerous musical events this month, although only a few of them were classical music performances. One of the most significant was a piano recital on October 16, part of the Trail Mix Music series at the Olive Free Library. Pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute (“ee-yay-va jock-you-ba-vee-she-you-tay,” in case you were wondering) collaborated with one of Trail Mix’s organizers, Rackelle Roden, in a program called “From Mozart’s Pen: His Music and Letters.” Roden read illuminating excerpts from Mozart’s letters, interspersed between selections from Mozart’s late piano works, which included only one Sonata (K. 533) and no sets of variations. Instead, Jokubaviciute selected such relative rarities as the magnificent Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, and the equally magnificent Rondo in A Minor, K. 511.
Roden proved an effective, sometimes dramatic reader. I don’t know if she has theatrical experience but if so it wouldn’t surprise me. Jokubaviciute, whose previous acclaimed Trail Mix performances I have unfortunately missed, is obviously a superior pianist. Her control over Mozart’s transparent writing, the musical equivalent of tightrope walking, was virtually complete. Her approach to Mozart’s music was not always my favorite style, though. The Rondo was a bit mannered, although it also carried plenty of real emotion. I found the tempo for that Adagio a little fast, although not enough to spoil the music. And in the amazing little Minuet in D, K. 355, I thought she zipped past the rending dissonances in the middle section, which needed to be a trifle slower.
Despite my reservations, this was distinguished playing which left me eager to hear the pianist again. It was certainly a concert which deserved to have a larger audience than it attracted. And here I thought Mozart was the best audience draw in the world of classical music!
The next Trail Mix concert features pianist Anna Khanina, another repeat performer in the series. Her program includes two major masterworks, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31 and Schumann’s “Humoreske,” along with sets of Preludes and Fugues in E Minor by Shostakovich and Hindemith, a most intriguing combination. This program occurs on Sunday afternoon, November 20, at 2:30 p.m. at the Olive Free Library. I’ll be there; I’m the short balding guy with the tall glamorous wife. You can always find information on this series as www.trailmixmusic.org.
On Sunday, October 2, at Olin Hall, Bard College, violinist Weigang Li and pianist Melvin Chen played the three Brahms Violin Sonatas at 3 p.m. Li is known to listeners in our area as first violin of the Shanghai Quartet; Chen is associate director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, also an accomplished violinist and chemistry professor. The performance of the First Sonata was careful, measured, musical, but with no big rhetorical gestures of the type often heard in Brahms performances. The Second Sonata received a similar performance, with a notably sensitive and touching slow movement. It became apparent that the style of the playing was a deliberate interpretive choice, not a limitation, when the players came out swinging after intermission with a powerful, highly rhetorical version of the Third Sonata. The thrilling finale here was, well, thrilling, with lots of speed and power but also plenty of contrast. It was an intriguing and rewarding concert, in which the only real disappointment was the players’ decision not to play the Scherzo Brahms wrote for a collaborative sonata as an encore. (Instead they offered a pretty Chinese folk song. I would have been happier with more Brahms.)
My program for Bard’s October 15 concert of music by Lou Harrison has disappeared, so some of my detailed observations will be missing. It took place at 8 p.m. at the large Sosnoff Auditorium and attracted an impressively large audience.
Harrison was a true American original, a composer who loved what we now call “world music” (actually “local music” would be a better term) and absorbed influences from many different cultures and styles. The opening “Solo to Anthony Cirone,” was very short and not very memorable despite obviously sensitive playing from percussionist William Winant. However, I really loved the “Suite for Violin and American Gamelan,” especially as played so vividly by the ensemble. “American Gamelan” is a term Harrison came up with for his own invention — somewhat like Harry Partch’s, although not quite so radical — of percussion instruments, some of them made from metal junk objects. Violinist Krista Bennian Feeney played beautifully, and Patrick Gardner conducted with obvious affection for Harrison’s style.
Gardner was even more impressive leading the large Riverside Chorus and an instrumental ensemble in Harrison’s “Lo Koro Sutra,” a choral work (set, I believe, in Esperanto, although the program notes made no mention of the mysterious language). It was simply gorgeous music and brought the evening to an exciting conclusion. Kudos to Foster Reed and his New Albion label for sponsoring this worthwhile event.
There are half a dozen Bard Conservatory events for November currently listed at www.bard.edu/conservatory/events/.
Who do you suppose is the most prolific presenter of musical events in Ulster County? It might be Maverick Concerts, but I think even that excellent series is outnumbered by the presentations of the Old Dutch Church on Main Street between Fair and Wall in Kingston. True, the concerts are brief (about 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.) and casual. But there are a lot of them! I caught one on October 27, when cellist Jay Shulman and pianist Jean Hattersley (the church’s organist) gave a lunchtime recital of light and charming works by Luigi Boccherini, Dietrich Buxtehude, and the contemporary Jerome Kessler (who numbers among his credits playing cello for the sound track of “The Simpsons”!). There are fifteen to twenty of these concerts every year, in the fall and spring seasons, and also numerous organ recitals in the same time slot during other months. No admission charge, just stroll in and listen. In November there will be programs by trumpeter John Barath (Nov. 3), members of the Mid-Hudson Classical Guitar Society (Nov.10), and vocalist Reggi Nichols (Nov. 17). You will find some information on this series, although not detailed listings, at www.olddutchchurch.org/fine_arts.php.