Maverick Concerts’ 2013 season will be emphasizing both Britten the composer and Britain his country. At the first performance, Sunday afternoon at 4, a relatively little known major work by Sir Edward Elgar will be Britain’s contribution, and the performers are filled with enthusiasm about it.
Pianist Melvin Chen was once a regular presence in the Hudson Valley during his tenure at Bard College. He has since moved on to Yale University, but returned this spring to give a recital at Bard and now opens the Maverick Season. “Maverick has such a great history and tradition,” he told me this week. “The Miró Quartet and I feel it’s an honor and a pleasure.” Miró’s cellist Joshua Gindele adds another element of continuity. “With the recent retirement of the Tokyo Quartet, we feel we’re picking up that spot. They were former mentors of ours. It’s an honor to be taking their place in any series, which we’re doing several times this season.”
Both Chen and Gindele feel that the Elgar Piano Quintet is a neglected masterpiece. “It’s a spectacular piece that people don’t get to hear,” says Gindele. And it’s an old favorite of Chen’s. “When you think of Piano Quintets,” he says, “you think of Brahms, Dvorák, and Schumann. But I’ve played the Elgar often, more than some of the other famous quintets. Many people don’t know it, but it’s very, very beautiful, quintessentially English but also full of passion.” The collaboration of Chen and Miró on the Elgar Quintet is new, although they will be playing it twice in the week before the Maverick performance. But Chen says he has played it often, and Gindele says his ensemble has done it “forty or fifty times.”
Schumann’s Piano Quartet is much less familiar than his Piano Quintet. Gindele says that string quartets prefer to collaborate on the Piano Quintet because in the Quintet they can all play. But the Piano Quartet, written weeks before the Quintet, is “very exuberant, a real crowd-pleaser,” according to Chen. “I haven’t played it in two years but it’s like riding a bicycle, it comes right back.”
The Miró Quartet has been spending a lot of time on Beethoven’s “Middle” Quartets, and has just released a recording of the Op. 59 set. But, Gindele told me, all three of those works are too long to make a good program with the Elgar and Schumann works. So they chose Beethoven’s Op. 95, the last one considered part of the “middle” period, which is “just the right length to open with.” The ensemble has been playing Beethoven cycles over the last two years.
“Festival season is always busy,” Gindele says. “We have a ton of festivals this summer.” The Miró Quartet will be playing a long series in Portland, Oregon; concerts in Quebec, Maine, and “all over the U.S.” Chen also has a busy summer. “This concert comes in the middle of a chamber program I run for kids ages 12-15 at the Hotchkiss School [in Lakeville, Connecticut]. We do concerts every Friday and Saturday, some with the Miró Quartet. After Maverick I’m off to Taiwan for some solo recitals. In the fall I go back to teaching at Yale. I also have recitals in North Carolina and China, but I focus more on teaching during the school year. I don’t want to leave my students hanging.”
The 2013 season actually begins with a Young People’s Concert by Elizabeth Mitchell & Friends on Saturday, June 29, at 11 a.m. That evening, Liederworks presents at Maverick a bicentennial celebration of “Verdi and Wagner Rarities” with Kerry Henderson, baritone; Kimberly Kahan, soprano; Babette Hierholzer and Jürgen Appell, piano; and August Ventura, narrator, at 6:30 p.m. All these events take place at the Maverick Concert Hall, Maverick Road, Woodstock. Next weekend, the Eribeth Chamber Players perform a Young People’s Concert, Saturday, July 6, 11 a.m., featuring music of Benjamin Britten, a focus of the season in general.
Actors & Writers will occupy the hall that evening at 6:30 with a program called “Noteworthy Shorts: The Music Plays.” Sunday, July 7, at 4 p.m., the popular Shanghai Quartet returns with works of Beethoven (Op. 18, No. 2), Shostakovich (Quartet No. 6), and Dvorák (Quartet No. 14, Op. 105). More information on Maverick, lots more, can be found at www.maverickconcerts.org; on Liederworks, at www.liederworks.com; and on Actors & Writers at www.actorsandwriters.com.