The conductor search for the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra is over. The new music director, Jonathan Handman, will show his abilities with the orchestra at the Woodstock Playhouse, Sunday, May 14, at 3 p.m. His “Winner’s Concert” will be an all-American program, including works of Sousa, Copland, Gershwin (an original work for strings!), Chawick, Conni Ellisor, and Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony. That last is an ambitious work for an orchestra of the WCO’s size and it will be fascinating to hear how Handman meets the challenge. There will be a reception to meet Handman after the concert. As I write there is no information on the new concert and music director at www.wco-online.com but no doubt there will be soon.
Information on two chamber series has also just been released. For those who can’t wait until June, the summer schedule of Maverick Concerts is now on line at www.maverickconcerts.org. It’s enough to make your ears water. And the newly-renovated Hudson Hall, an architectural gem restored to its 1855 glory, is offering an ambitious series of three concerts by major chamber players in May and June, starting with the almost-superstar string quartet Brooklyn Rider on May 7 at 5 p.m. Check this out at www.hudsonoperahouse.org.
There is, of course, lots coming up before then. Saugerties Pro Musica, which seems to have a habit of introducing me to pianists I love, has another piano debut coming up on Sunday, May 7, at 3 p.m. Olga Gurevich will play works of Scarlatti, Beethoven, Debussy (including the imposing “L’isle joyeuse”) and Schumann, at the usual venue, Saugerties United Methodist Church, Washington Ave. and Post St. Before that, on April 30, also at 3 p.m., singer Terry Blaine and pianist Mark Shane are returning to offer a program of “American Jazz Standards.” They are already audience favorites at SPM. Information at www.saugertiespromusica.org. And the Mid-Hudson Classical Guitar Society concludes its 2016-17 season with Woodstock’s own Gregory Dinger, who will be joined by flutist Marisa Trees and violist Anastasia Solberg in a program ranging from baroque music to Beatles arrangements. That’s at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff on May 7 at 3 p.m., and there’s more info at www.mhcgs.blogspot.com.
One of my musical highlights since my last column was a recital at Bard on March 29 by violinist Julie Rosenfeld and pianist Peter Miyamoto, with guest violist Marka Gustavsson. Since Julie was the first violinist of the Colorado Quartet, which recorded extensively for my Parnassus label (and Marka was its last violist), I can’t pretend to any objectivity about this event. But the program was fascinating, consisting of six new works by Katherine Hoover (also a friend), Laura Kaminsky, John Halle, Kenneth Fuchs, Tamar Muskal, and Stefan Freund, all composed within the past two years for Rosenfeld and Miyamoto. Of course I liked some of the pieces better than others but I didn’t think there was a loser in the batch. Rosenfeld’s playing is a known quantity to us in this area, but Miyamoto — a colleague at Rosenfeld’s new academic home in Missouri — was new to me, a pianist of obvious qualities including uncommonly beautiful tone. Gustavsson joined for a special bonus, Toch’s delightful Divertimento for Violin and Viola. If you missed the concert, watch for a CD of this program coming soon from the Albany label.
I was also at Bard, this time in the large Sosnoff Theater, on April 23 to hear Leon Botstein lead The Orchestra Now. I was particularly interested in Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, a work I’ve never heard in person before although I know it from a recording. Matthew Woodard, who graduates from the Bard Conservatory this year, was the daring soloist in this challenging and inventive work. He even, as the composer suggested, provided his own cadenza, in which we heard his vocal quality (pretty good) as well as his compositional ingenuity. If you know Ligeti’s music at all you wouldn’t expect anything like a standard violin concerto, and this isn’t one, but it does have some surprisingly lyrical sections along with Ligeti’s more usual style of orchestral nonlinear music. Botstein led the small but varied ensemble with plenty of precision and energy, which he also applied to the large orchestra of Bartók’s “Miraculous Mandarin” Suite. However, I’m afraid no amount of energy could have salvaged Dohnányi’s Symphony No. 2, just short of an hour of what sounded like movie music crammed into symphonic form. Sometimes obscure pieces deserve their obscurity. TON returns on May 28 at 1 p.m. as Fabio Luisi, principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, leads the Beethoven Violin Concerto (with David Chan) and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4. Bard’s music season is winding down but there are still a number of events in April and May, including a 9 hour chamber music marathon by Conservatory students this Saturday, April 29, beginning at noon at the Bitó Conservatory Building (free, no tickets required). On May 7, Botstein conducts the Conservatory Orchestra in Josef Suk’s superb, Mahlerian “Asrael” Symphony at Sosnoff. Check out www.bard.edu/news/events for a complete calendar of all Bard events, musical and otherwise.
The Hudson Valley Philharmonic was its usual splendid self at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on April 8. For me the highlight of the evening was John Luther Adams’s “Become Ocean,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in Music. This piece, which obviously puzzled some of the audience, is a long (42 minutes) and involving sonic bath, attempting to create in sound the experience of exactly what the title conveys. I could have heard it twice. Tan Dun’s “Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds” used a cell phone app at the beginning of the piece which gave us bird sounds resonating through the hall, although I found the rest of the music somewhat less engrossing. Brahms’s Violin Concerto always pleases me, but I-Jung Huang, winner of the HVP’s Concerto Competition, didn’t quite convince me that she is a concerto soloist. Her sound was too small — although, under Randall Craig Fleisher’s direction, balances were still good — and she didn’t project a strong personality, or, sometimes, enough clarity in her detail work. The HVP will make a rare trip to the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston on Saturday, April 29, with 150 musicians and singers in Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony with Fleisher conducting. As popular as this work is (I remember it scoring #1 in a poll of WQXR listeners), we get very few opportunities to hear it in live performance so I wouldn’t miss this one. More info and tickets at www.bardavon.org.
The Olive Free Library’s Piano Plus! Series returned to form on April 1. Pianist Wei Zhou gave us Five Bagatelles by Carl Vine, quite entertaining, and a fluent, knowing performance of Janácek’s splendidly mysterious “In the Mists.” She then accompanied the lovely soprano Katherine Rossiter in two Schumann songs, sung in a small but very well-supported voice. For the second half, Tomoki Park played Beethoven’s Variations in F, Op. 34 with nice articulation and attentiveness to moods, then veered off into the 20th century with a knowing performance of Webern’s Variations, and then returned to Beethoven with the 6 Bagatelles, Op. 126, Beethoven’s last work for the piano. Mark your calendars for the conclusion of this series, May 13 at 4 p.m. The pianist Inesa Sinkeyich has made a superb impression in two concerts for Saugerties Pro Musica and I expect she’ll be just as good in Olive. Check out www.olivefreelibrary.org for more details.
SUNY New Paltz offers a rare chance to hear some well-played early music as its Collegium Musicum plays at Shepard Recital Hall on Sunday, April 30 at 3 p.m. Details at www.newpaltz.edu/events. The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society concludes its season on May 14 with the Puck Quartet and clarinetist Sebastian Lambertz, 3 p.m. at Rhinebeck’s Church of the Messiah, www.rhinebeckmusic.org for details. The Old Dutch Church in uptown Kingston continues its half-hour midday concerts at 12:15 p.m. on May 4 through 25, www.olddutchchurch.org. And I’m going to get to as many of these events as I can.