New Woodstock Symphony Orchestra set to fly

Jonathan Handman

The classical music event of the season is certainly the premiere performance of the newly reconstituted Woodstock Symphony Orchestra, a change of name which acknowledges the expansion of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra into a larger ensemble which can perform works from the symphonic repertoire. Under the leadership of Music Director Jonathan Handman, who conceived the expansion as a way to perform more popular orchestral works, the opening concert includes Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony, along with music by Suppé, Borodin, and Smetana. You might be able to do the Beethoven with a smaller ensemble but not the others, so this will be a fine test of how the WSO lives up to its new name. The concert takes place at the Woodstock Playhouse on Saturday, November 10, at 7:30 p.m. (note the slightly early start time). Check the website for more details, including the various venues where the remainder of the season will be performed: www.woodstocksymphonyorchestra.org. As I write it’s actually .info, but that should have changed by the time this appears.

An even bigger orchestra, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, performs at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m., with its music director Randall Craig Fleischer. The program is called “The Silk Road.” Featured soloist Kinan Azmeh, who plays clarinet with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, will perform his own “Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra.” The young Stringendo Vivace Orchestra, led by WSO’s Jonathan Handman, will join the HVP for Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” which calls for as many string players as you can get hold of. After intermission we have two 20th century giants: Stravinsky’s “Song of the Nightingale” and Bartók’s “Miraculous Mandarin” Suite (a real thriller). More info at www.bardavon.org. I had a good time at the HVP’s “Night of Opera and Ballet Music” at the Bardavon on October 13. Soprano Sara Beth Pearson and baritone Robert Kerr sounded world class in a group of Puccini arias. Tenor Mauricio Trejo had some trouble staying on pitch, but since he was just a few days out of the hospital I decided to ignore that and just appreciate the fine sound of his voice. The orchestra under Fleischer was its improbably world class self, especially in a crisp and lively performance of Rossini’s “La Scala di Seta” Overture. 

The classical music event of October was certainly the debut of the Alarm Might Sound series, at the Olive Fire Department Company No. 1 Firehouse Meeting Hall, on October 14. This might sound like an odd venue for a concert, but in fact no alarms sounded and the concert drew enough listeners to fill the resonant hall, an impressive success. The Gossamer Trio was made up of celebrity flutist Carol Wincenc; her daughter, cellist Claire Marie Solomon; and Nancy Allen, who played harp with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic at 14 and is now principal harp of the New York Philharmonic. The concert was varied but consistently fine music and superb performances. I especially enjoyed Wincenc’s authentic-sounding embellishments in Bach’s Sonata in E flat, and her playing of the unaccompanied “Kokopeli” by Katherine Hoover, a dear friend of mine and a wonderful composer, who had died suddenly a few weeks earlier. Vincent Persichetti’s Serenade No. 10 for flute and harp was a treat — I’d like to hear the other nine — and Villa-Lobos’s “The Jet Whistle” is one of his better pieces. AMS presents the Anello String Quartet, coached by the legendary Emerson Quartet, at the same venue on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m., in works of Mozart, Debussy, and George Tsontakis. No website yet but there’s an “alarmmightsound” Facebook page or you can write to alarmmightsound@gmail.com.

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Saugerties Pro Musica has yet to post the exact program for its November 18 concert (as always, Sunday, 3 p.m., at Saugerties United Methodist Church) except to let us know that it will be performed by Bard College Conservatory performers, usually a guarantee of quality. Check www.saugertiespromusica.org closer to concert time. I missed the last SPM concert but Judith Kerman covered it for us: An appreciative audience welcomed virtuoso pianist Olga Gurevich back to Saugerties Pro Musica on October 21. Ms. Gurevich’s dazzling technique conquered challenging works by Rachmaninov and  his contemporary Nikolai Medtner in the first half, including Rachmaninov’s transcription of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The second half was a brilliant performance of Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in its original piano version. Although a few times I found the pedal excessive in this very resonant hall, the entire concert was fluid and emotionally expressive, with notably fine precision, dynamics and pacing. The melodic line sang out out clearly in even the most complex passages, and the most rapid never seemed rushed. The mood ranged from merry to passionately serious and even demonic. Ms. Gurevich finally delighted the audience with her spirited encore, “Boogie Woogie Bumblebee” by Jack Fina.  — Judith Kerman

At Bard College, the Neave Trio, visiting from the Longy School of Music in Boston, plays on Friday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m., at the Bitó Conservatory Building, works of Bernstein, Piazzolla, and Shostakovich. Sounds intriguing. The Bard Baroque Ensemble plays on Saturday the 17th, an all-Baroque program of course, same venue and time. On Sunday the 18th, the Music Alive! series presents works of Messiaen, Stravinsky, and the birthday girl Joan Tower (80!), same venue, 3 p.m. These are all free admission. More details and info on other Bard concerts is at www.bard.edu/news.events (and you can sort the calendar by type of event, like concerts). 

For those like myself who missed the Poné Ensemble’s opening concert of the season in September, it will be repeated at New Paltz United Methodist Church on Sunday, Nov. 4, at 3 p.m. As usual, the Ensemble’s program is made up of attractive 20th and 21st century music, this time by Marcos Lucas from Brazil, Lori Laitman, David Mecionis, and Daniel Dorff, all living composers, along with American George Antheil (the “Bad Boy of Music,” as his autobiography was titled) and the Englishman Gordon Jacob. Although these concerts feature a lot of unfamiliar music, I recommend them highly. The music is chosen for quality and accessibility, and the performers are among the best musicians in the Hudson Valley. See www.poneensemble.org for info.