Composers approach classical music’s grandest forms – symphonies, concerti, operas – with an acute sense of what Johannes Brahms called “the tramp of a giant” behind them. Brahms was referring specifically to Beethoven and the impossible standards he set for symphonic music in terms of innovation and sheer relevance. So intimidating was Beethoven’s legacy, it took Brahms more than 15 years to finish his first symphony (though the remaining three followed quickly, once he had broken through).
Long-form orchestral music is where claims to posterity are staked and where the pressures of tradition and innovation are felt most acutely. The logistics of orchestral music are as complex and demanding as its forms, the stakeholders and patrons many and influential. All of this may be why modern listeners seem so much more drawn to the intimacies, confidences and quiet revolutions of chamber music, where imagination, daring, unfettered play and idiosyncrasies of expression and emotion find plenty of latitude and where experimentation is comparatively low-risk. Chamber music suits the modesties of the modern mentality well, its distrust of historic ambition and large institutions.
Maverick Concerts in Woodstock is the oldest continuous summer chamber music festival in America. Lest that sound too staid and venerable, Hervey White’s Maverick colony, of course, was an incubator of progressive thought in society and in all the arts. Maverick Concerts is White’s legacy, and the current curators honor that with an inclusive approach to programming and repertoire that is anything but pandering.
Maverick announces its robust and rangy 103rd season of “music in the woods” and its unique and acoustically superb seasonal Woodstock hall. Typically, Maverick seasons adopt a loose-fitting theme or two, and this year is no different. Five concerts in July are devoted to the theme of “Americans in Paris,” invoking the atmosphere of the city to which so many creative Americans flocked for freedom and inspiration and celebrating a number of interrelated milestones: the 95th birthday one of America’s greatest song composers, Ned Rorem; the centennial of the birth of America’s greatest conductor, Leonard Bernstein; and the centenary of the death of Claude Debussy in 1918. All three of the great French piano trios, those of Ravel, Fauré and Ernest Chausson, as well as the three immortal French string quartets of Debussy, Ravel and César Franck, will receive loving performances by renowned ensembles.
“Americans in Paris” performers include the Borromeo String Quartet, Dover String Quartet, Escher String Quartet, Andrew Garland, Jupiter Quartet, Daniel Gortler, Katya Grineva, Imani Winds, Lincoln Trio, Kitt Potter and Andrew Russo. Composers performed include Samuel Barber, Valerie Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, Debussy, Dvorák, Fauré, César Franck, Gershwin, Haydn, Sydney Hodkinson, Daron Hagen, Jennifer Higdon, Mozart, Poulenc, Ned Rorem, Ravel, Schumann, Jeff Scott and Lalo Shifrin.
Once again, Maverick’s summer programming recognizes jazz as one of America’s most important contributions to serious music with performances by Kenny Baron (June 30) and the Bill Charlap Trio (July 7). Also continuing in 2018 is Maverick’s programming for young audiences, kicking off with Elizabeth Mitchell and Family on June 30 and resuming with several young people’s concerts throughout the summer.
The meat-and-potatoes of the Maverick season is its Sunday Chamber Music Festival, this year featuring two of the world’s greatest piano trios – Trio con Brio Copenhagen on July 1 and Trio Solisti on September 2 – as well as several prominent string quartets, including the Danish on August 12 and the Amernet on August 19. July 29 marks the 25th Maverick anniversary of the beloved Shanghai Quartet, who will appear with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s bassoonist Peter Kolkay in a program that will also celebrate the 80th birthday of the cherished American composer Joan Tower.
For a complete schedule of concerts and for tickets, visit www.maverickconcerts.org. Maverick Concerts is located at 120 Maverick Road in Woodstock.