New baton in town

Nathan Madsen

Fans of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra (WCO) may recall that four concerts in that ensemble’s 2011/12 season were billed as tryouts for candidates to replace the outgoing David Leighton as the WCO’s music director. The Orchestra’s choice to wield the baton henceforward was Nathan Madsen, a former director of the Bard College Orchestra who went on to serve as assistant conductor of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra in Lubbock, Texas and principal guest conductor of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra in St. George, Utah. Madsen auditioned in March, and now he’s just about ready to kick off his first full season at the helm of the WCO.

The WCO’s 34th season gets underway this Sunday, November 4 at 3 p.m. at the Woodstock Playhouse. Over the course of that season, Madsen will honor the Orchestra’s past by programming three works that the WCO commissioned, by composers Kyle Gann, Peter Schickele and Alan Shulman. This Sunday’s program will include Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, Gann’s The Disappearance of All Holy Things from This Once So Promising World and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Composer Kyle Gann has taught at Bard College since 1997, specializing in late-20th-century classical music and experimental music. He has written on musical topics for major publications in Chicago and New York; for many years he had a regular column in The Village Voice.


The season continues in December at Bard College and the Woodstock Playhouse, when the orchestra will present a program of orchestral folksongs including Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony No. 3 in A minor; Peter Schickele’s Folk Song Set, a WCO commission from 2002; Max Bruch’s Adagio on Keltish Melodies, with cello soloist Emma Schmiedecke; and Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. In March, the WCO will perform the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings; Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky; Harold Farberman’s 2005 composition, Hudson Valley Vignettes; and Pierre Jalbert’s Elegy. The season will conclude in June with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin and Alan Shulman’s Woodstock Waltzes, a WCO commission from 1985.

The first performance of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra’s season under new music director Nathan Madsen takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 4 at the Woodstock Playhouse, located at the intersection of Routes 212 and 375. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $5 for students; subscription sets of four tickets good for any concert are also available. To purchase, visit