Music with altitude: Catskill High Peaks Music Festival

Antonin Dvorak (1841–1904). Jeannette Thurber who brought the Czech composer to America to head her National Conservatory of Music in the 1890s, during which time he composed two of his masterworks: Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and the Cello Concerto in B minor.

Antonin Dvorak (1841–1904). Jeannette Thurber who brought the Czech composer to America to head her National Conservatory of Music in the 1890s, during which time he composed two of his masterworks: Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and the Cello Concerto in B minor.

This Sunday, August 9 and the ten days following bring the return of the Catskill High Peaks Music Festival, providing an enticing artistic excuse to visit the area of our region where the northeastern flanks of the Catskills flow into the Helderberg Escarpment. The Festival’s new host site this year is the 100-acre estate of the Carey Institute for Global Good (not to be confused with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies) overlooking Lake Myosotis in Rensselaerville, in Albany County.

Directed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yehuda Hanani (a familiar name to regular public radio listeners as WAMC’s classical music commentator) through his Close Encounters with Music not-for-profit, the annual chamber music festival and teaching institute offers a combination of concerts, lectures, film and master classes, open to the public and featuring distinguished faculty artists and outstanding young musicians from around the world. Dozens of up-and-coming stars of tomorrow gather here to learn from distinguished guest instructors including, this year, violinist Peter Zazofsky and pianist/conductor Michael Chertock.

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The new location provides an excuse for this year’s festival to focus thematically on “creative communities and Utopian experiments in the rustic ambience of the scenic Catskill and Helderberg mountains,” under the title “The Gilded Age: Bohemia in the Catskills.” Concerts will be devoted to the works of three A-list Romantic composers with connections to the area via Jeannette Thurber, founder of the National Conservatory of Music, and her sister-in-law, textile designer, Candace Wheeler, who ran the Onteora Park arts colony nearby in Greene County: Antonin Dvorák, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Victor Herbert.

“Throughout the festival, the notion and label of the artist as outsider or ‘bohemian’ will be explored via performance and discussion, along with the (capital B) Bohemian Antonin Dvorák, who was bohemian geographically as well and whose beloved homeland inspired much of his output,” says the official description. It was Thurber who brought the Czech composer to America to head her Conservatory for three years in the 1890s, during which time he composed two of his masterworks: Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and the Cello Concerto in B minor.

The keynote concerts will be held at the Guggenheim Pavilion at the Carey Institute in Rensselaerville, but additional performances will take place at other venues: on Friday evening, August 14 at Basilica Hudson and on Monday afternoon, August 17 in Tannersville. The “Moonlight Sonatas” series of performances featuring top-tier young artists at summer institute will be free and open to the public. A “Meet the Artists Tea and Talk” series is also being offered, along with free classes and workshops each day.

Ticket prices for the concerts range from $10 for students to $30 general admission at the door. For a full schedule of events or to order tickets, visit www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org, www.careyistitute.org, https://basilicahighpeaks.brownpapertickets.com or call (800) 843-0778 or (518) 797-3692.

 

Catskill High Peaks Music Festival, August 9-20, $10-$30, Carey Institute for Global Good, 63 Huyck Road, Rensselaerville; (800) 843-0778, www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org.

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