When I went backstage during intermission of the first regular season Maverick Concert, I spoke with members of the Escher Quartet. Reading through the ensemble’s bio in the program, it seems as though returning to this little theater in rural woods must be small potatoes for an ensemble with such credentials. This decade-old ensemble has already performed successfully throughout the United States, including a residency at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman invited the Eschers to perform in their summer festivals. They have played for the famous BBC Proms, at the Kennedy Center, and in Geneva, London, Paris, Perth and many other world music centers (adding Berlin and Hong Kong this season).
Yet when I asked the members of the ensemble if there was anything special to them about playing at Maverick Concerts, they practically tumbled over each other in their eagerness to answer. I couldn’t even write down who said what. “It’s our favorite place to play,” said one. “Beautiful, and unassuming. Inspiring to play for audiences who have been coming for decades,” said another. A third added, “It feels like a pagan cathedral of music,” which could wind up being a good advertising slogan for the series.
Maverick Concerts is moving enthusiastically into its second century this summer. With only one exception — the August 14 program by Trio Solisti, which duplicates material from Maverick’s first season — every classical music program of the summer includes at least one 20th or 21st century composition, often more. On August 21, the Borromeo Quartet will offer a world premiere, “Mountain Interval” by Russell Platt. While this composer is the twin brother of Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt, previous works of his played at Maverick have demonstrated conclusively the worth of his music.
I asked Alexander Platt how Maverick’s 101st season would be different from the previous century’s worth. His answer: “Only that it will be richer and more diverse than ever before. From the Pacifica Quartet playing Beethoven and Shulamit Ran, to the Enso Quartet playing Dutilleux and Ginastera, to the Danish Quartet playing Norgard and Shostakovich, to the Horszowski Trio playing Joan Tower and Robert Schumann; from jazz artists like Arturo O’Farrill, to Julian Lage; from world-music offerings from our old friend and Indian raga-master Steve Gorn, to the Iraqi-American fusion master Amir ElSaffar, whose CRISIS Suite, commissioned by the Newport Jazz Festival, I’m much looking forward to….and of course our Chamber Orchestra Concert on August 20th with Adam Tendler, who made such a profound impression last summer in Henry Cowell and John Cage…I can’t wait for it all to begin.”
Platt highlights the forthcoming string quartet ensembles, of which we have seven more coming. One of the most exciting will certainly be the Enso Quartet concert he mentioned, which will celebrate the 100th anniversaries of two 20th century giants, the Frenchman Henri Dutilleux and the Argentine Alberto Ginastera. The Dutilleux may be a bit on the “challenging” side but it’s exceptionally beautiful music. Ginastera’s First Quartet comes from his most popular folkloric period and is certain to be an audience favorite. The Jupiter Quartet joins with pianist Ilya Yakushev on July 3 for Shostakovich’s great Piano Quintet; that concert also includes works of Beethoven, Schubert, and another great 20th century master, György Ligeti. (You know his music, whether you realize it or not, if you’ve ever seen the film “2001.”) The ever-popular Shanghai Quartet plays on July 10, bringing works of Mendelssohn, Grieg, and the neglected British master Frank Bridge, the teacher of Benjamin Britten. The Danish String Quartet, which made a fine impression last summer, arrives on July 31 with music of Shostakovich (his moving last Quartet, No. 15), Mendelssohn, and the Danish master Per Norgard. On August 21 the Borromeo String Quartet adds to Russell Platt works of Haydn and Beethoven. The following Friday (most unusual, so mark your calendars) the St. Lawrence String Quartet makes a welcome return to Maverick with quartets of Haydn, Schumann, and the contemporary American master John Adams. After the Enso Quartet on August 28, the season will conclude with the excellent Pacifica String Quartet in music of Mozart, Beethoven, and the Israeli-American composer Shulamit Ran.
Three trios will perform, an unusual number for the Maverick season. On Sunday, July 17, the Horszowski Trio (named for the great pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski who once played with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, teacher of one of the members) plays music of Joan Tower along with Schumann and Beethoven. On July 24, Latitude 41 plays more Shostakovich, also Haydn and Mendelssohn. And that recollection of Maverick’s first season by Trio Solisti occurs on August 14.
Piano recitals haven’t been common at Maverick in recent years but this summer we have two of them, both special events. On August 6, Simone Dinnerstein — once a Maverick regular, now a star — plays a special benefit concert including works of Bach, Schubert, and Philip Glass. And the Friends of the Maverick concert, another benefit, features Pedja Muzijevic in works of Haydn, Schubert, and another great American master, George Crumb. The annual Chamber Orchestra concert on August 20 will include a mini-recital as pianist Adam Tendler plays Aaron Copland’s late masterpiece, the “Piano Fantasy.” The orchestra will play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and, with Tendler, the Keyboard Concerto No. 4, and another Copland rarity, the Nonet for Strings.
Wind quintets have been lamentably rare at Maverick in recent years, but Imani Winds returns on August 7 with a typically varied and stimulating program including music of Scott (a member of the group), Rimsky-Korsakov, John Cage (an early piece from when he was still writing actual music), the great Frederic Rzewski, and Ravel. Duo-pianists Frederic Chiu and Andrew Russo, who gave us a thrilling performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” last summer, return on September 3 with works of Debussy, Ravel, and another Stravinsky ballet, “Petrushka,” again in the composer’s own arrangement. On August 27, violinist Lara St. John returns, with pianist Matt Herskowitz, in a program of “wild traditional gypsy tunes from the Jewish diaspora” in contemporary arrangements.
That last might be classified as a “crossover” program, and leads us to the rich offerings of “non-classical” music at Maverick this summer. The Arturo O’Farrell Quartet performs “Afro-Latin jazz: on July 2, preceded by a Young People’s Concert the same morning at 11. Amir ElSaffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble continue the jazz series on July 16, followed by pianist Vijay Iyer on the 23rd and pianist Fred Hersh on the 30th. Hersh will be joined by the great soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, her first local appearance, I believe, since she played at the Kleinert-James Center decades ago. Jazz at the Maverick concludes on August 13 with the Julian Lage Trio. But don’t forget the excellent (and highly popular) Indian flute of Steve Gorn on July 9, and Happy Traum & Friends on Sept. 10. And there are performances by Actors & Writers on July 29 (works by Mikhail Horowitz!) and Sept. 9 (“The Curse of Batavia,” an original musical with book & lyrics by Maverick’s own Katherine Burger). You’ll find even more information than this at www.maverickconcerts.org.
It seems that the Maverick season is beginning earlier and ending later every year. This is not a complaint!