Combining a packed schedule of performances, competitions and open master classes, a positively grueling training regimen for a small group of well-vetted aspirants and, one imagines, a few pretty high-end cocktail parties, PianoSummer at SUNY-New Paltz returns for another season of celebrating the continued vitality of the 88 keys and the centuries’ worth of brilliant music written for them.
The brainchild of its artistic director, the prolific master pianist Vladimir Feltsman, PianoSummer has succeeded in punching well above its weight, attracting a grade of guest instructor and of student that easily rivals or exceeds larger festivals with greater name value, more spectacular settings and much larger budgets. The secret to its outsize success, Feltsman has always argued, lies in the depth and rigor of the training it provides the students – simply put, more instructional time with more teachers, a great lure for young talent in this exactingly competitive and exclusive field.
Felstman is fond of saying that PianoSummer serves those who can play, not those who can pay. Several years ago, Feltsman cited this redoubled commitment to actual training and financial support for students as the reason why he made the difficult decision to cut the popular festival orchestra concert event. PianoSummer is a lot more than pageantry.
Events run from July 8 through the 26th. The Faculty Gala on Saturday, July 13 at 8 p.m. features performances by Feltsman himself and elite faculty pianists Paul Ostrovsky, Robert Hamilton and Phillip Kawin, as well as new faculty HaeSun Paik and special guest faculty Alexandre Moutouzkine. The program includes works by Beethoven, Grieg and Stravinsky. Reserved tickets cost $25 and $30.
This year’s featured performer, Vadym Kholodenko, performs at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20. A Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner described by The Guardian as “one of the most musically dynamic, gifted performers of the new generation of pianists,” Kholodenko will deliver a program including works by Beethoven, Mozart, Leopold Godowsky and Tchaikovsky. Reserved tickets cost $25 and $30.
On Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m., the PianoSummer program concludes with the Flier Competition Gala: a celebration of young musicians whose careers were propelled forward at last year’s Jacob Flier Piano Competition. Takeshi Nagayasu of Japan, Rixiang Huang of China and Hao Tian of China return to New Paltz to showcase their progression. Reserved tickets cost $25 and $30.
The capstone student event each year is the Jacob Flier Piano Competition, named after Feltsman’s teacher and mentor. The Flier Competition winner earns a debut recital at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall in New York City, and the top three participants are invited to return to campus to perform in the College’s spring Department of Music Concert Series. The first and final rounds of the 2019 Jacob Flier Piano Competition take place on July 15 and 17 and are free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $10.
Other notable events from this year’s PianoSummer program include a lecture on recording from Adrian Farmer, artistic director of Nimbus Records and an international touring pianist, on Tuesday, July 23 at 3 p.m., and two master classes offered by Alexandre Moutouzkine and Vadym Kholodenko at 3 p.m. on July 11 and July 19, respectively. Each of these events is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $10.
Studley Theater, Old Main Building