One hundred years! That’s the age both of Hervey White’s magnificent Maverick Concert Hall and of the concert series that he originated to be presented in it. In some ways a century seems like a very long time. But this listener has been attending those concerts for about 40 percent of their history, and next year most of us reading this article will be attending them once again. Year after year, first-rate musicians from around the country and around the world show up in a small town, often for less than their usual fees, to have the pleasure of playing in a legendary venue for a famously appreciative audience.
But things do change at Maverick. The season is now far larger than it was 40 years ago, with more performances each weekend and more weekends to the season. Forty years ago all Maverick concerts were classical, but 100 years ago the hall hosted a wider variety of events, and that variety has now been restored. For 2015, the variety includes children’s music, jazz, folk, pop, Indian music and drama. And although I haven’t seen any special announcement of the fact, the programming is very strong in American music, as it should be. We have a lot of great native chamber music to be proud of.
The Maverick “pre-season” has already begun with Ars Choralis’ performances of the Mozart Requiem. It continues with a completely new event, the “Maverick Mash,” on Sunday, June 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This long, free event includes classical performances by the piano duo of Peter Serkin and Julia Hsu, and by harpist Nancy Allen and flutist Carol Wincenc; two jazz performances (trumpeter Warren Vaché with pianist John di Martino, and the Teri Roiger Quartet); folksinger Mark Rust; and the Marc Black Band. The previous evening, Saturday, June 20 at 7 p.m., the theater company Actors & Writers presents the first of its three events: a reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A&W will be back on Friday, July 24at 7 p.m. with readings of short plays written by members of the company, and on Friday, August 28 at 7 p.m. with a reading of Paddy Chayevsky’s Middle of the Night. These performances don’t require Maverick series tickets; admission is by voluntary donation.
The official season begins on Saturday, June 27. The ensemble NEXUS Percussion presents the first of four Young People’s Concerts at 11 a.m. These concerts offer free admission to listeners under age 16; adults pay $5, receiving in exchange a coupon good for $5 off any regular season concert ticket. Other Young People’s Concerts, all on Saturdays at 11 a.m., are Elizabeth Mitchell and Family, July 4; the Bari Koral Family Band, July 18; and the Miró Quartet, August 8.
Later on Saturday, June 27 at 8 p.m., NEXUS returns with guest singers. The program opens with the first of several 100th Anniversary commissions: the Percussion Sonata No. 3, “Maverick,” by Peter Schickele; it also includes a Suite of Persian Songs arranged by NEXUS member Russell Hartenberger, who also contributes his Sky Ghost. The weekend concludes with a unique concert on Sunday, June 28 at 4 p.m.: The Shanghai Quartet and pianist Ron Dank recreate a program from Maverick’s first season, including a Haydn String Quartet, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei for cello and piano and the glorious Schumann Piano Quintet. Check www.maverickconcerts.org for info on a post-concert celebration and dinner after the concert.
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein was for years a regular performer at Maverick, usually in collaboration with cellist Zuill Bailey. Apparently, after her recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations hit the classical best-seller charts, she became too busy for some years to get Maverick into her schedule. She returns on Friday, July 3 for a special benefit performance of that Bach work, which she has not played at Maverick before. Dinnerstein’s Bach interpretations have been both popular and controversial in recent years; here’s your chance to decide for yourself. This concert requires special tickets and is likely to sell out; check the website.
Another pianist, Adam Tendler, makes his Maverick debut on at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 4 with a singularly appropriate program of music by John Cage and Henry Cowell. Aside from the inevitable 4’33”, the Cage material will be his Sonatas and Interludes of 1946-48: fascinating stuff from the period when Cage was still composing real music. Cowell lived his last years just outside of Woodstock, and plenty of his music has been played at Maverick over the years. But Tendler will be bringing us something unusual: a collection of Cowell’s early, innovative pieces, some of them involving tone clusters or playing inside the piano. They’re not as scary as that description might sound; they’re amusing and fascinating pieces.
The following Sunday, July 5, brings another welcome return and another anniversary premiere. The great flutist Paula Robison, who grew up in Woodstock and played many times at Maverick, joins with guitarist Frederic Hand in playing Hand’s new Four Pieces for Flute and Guitar, another of the anniversary commissions. The program also includes a selection of Italian serenades and love songs, a group of “American songs of the spirit” and a group of Sephardic songs.
On Saturday, July 11 at 8 p.m., the Jazz at the Maverick season begins with guitarist and singer Perry Beekman’s trio in “The Harold Arlen Songbook.” The other Jazz at the Maverick concerts of the season, all on Saturdays at 8 p.m., are the Eldar Djangirov Trio (a Maverick debut) on July 18; the welcome return of pianist Fred Hersch on August 1; and guitarist Julian Lage “with friends” on August 15.
The remainder of July and beginning of August will be string-quartet-heavy, the traditional center of the chamber music repertoire taking over. On July 12, the highly esteemed Cypress String Quartet performs at 4 p.m. Its program includes the String Quartet No. 6 of George Tsontakis, one of two quartets by that neighborhood luminary scheduled for this season, along with works of Beethoven and Dvorák (not the usual American Quartet, but another masterpiece, his Op. 51).
The following Sunday, July 19, also at 4 p.m., the Cassatt String Quartet brings music by two more “neighborhood luminaries”: Joan Tower’s Incandescent and Peter Schickele’s String Quartet No. 1, “American Dreams,” last played here by the Audubon Quartet approximately a generation ago. Schubert’s famous Death and the Maiden Quartet completes the program.
There are no string quartets the last weekend in July. On Saturday, July 25 at 8 p.m., we will enjoy the regular annual appearance of bansuri flute player Steve Gorn, a Maverick favorite, joined by vocalist Samarth Nagarkar, tabla player Ray Spiegel and harmonium player Rohan Prabhudesai, in a program of Indian ragas. On Sunday, July 26 at 4 p.m., the excellent trio Latitude 41 performs familiar trios of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, along with a Duo for Violin and Cello by Daron Hagen.