The Johannes Quartet

The Johannes Quartet
C.J. Chang, viola; Peter Stumpf, cello
Soovin Kim and Jessica Lee, violin

North Country native and our favorite violinist Soovin Kim came with his string quartet for a working retreat in the first part of November. The way the Johannes Quartet works is rather interesting – they are not together 52 weeks a year like most quartets. Rather, each member has other primary employment that is very demanding and high-profile. For example, the violist Choong-Jin (C.J.) Chang is Principal Viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Peter Stumpf was Principal Cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 10 years and is now on the cello faculty of the Indiana University.  Violinists Soovin Kim and Jessica Lee both have full schedules as guest artists with numerous orchestras and chamber music festivals.  All four members of the Johannes Quartet are highly-acclaimed soloists for concertos and recitals and sought-after collaborators in chamber music.

These exceptional four musicians come together for only a few weeks at a time to rehearse and perform (their time together might add up to only a few months a year), but when they do get together it is an intensely productive period. While with us they delved deeply into two Brahms quartets: No. 1 in C Minor, op. 51 (1873) and No. 3 in B-flat Major op. 76 (1875).  They shared these works in a pair of informal performances, both free and open to the public, at Lake Forest Senior Community and at the Church in the Hollow in Saranac. It was exciting and breathtakingly beautiful!

Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the legendary Guarneri String Quartet, remarked: “The Johannes String Quartet, comprised of four impressively gifted instrumentalists in their own right, have come together to form one of the great chamber music groups of our time. They play with technical polish, with deep musical understanding, and with uncommon inspiration. The Johannes is all I could ever dream of in a string quartet.”

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Cellist Diana Golden

Cellist Diana Golden

Diana Golden was with us for a week in mid-October, her retreat focused on preparing repertoire for doctoral program applications in the NYC area. She recorded J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C Minor (unaccompanied) with the assistance of recording engineer Dan Czernecki. Dan won a Grammy for Best Classical Album, 2011 (Brazilian Guitar Quartet). We are pleased to report that both Diana and Dan loved the acoustics of the music room at Harvey’s Cottage! Diana also gave an informal lecture-performance on her Bach Suite for a group of 40 at Weatherwatch Farm.  It was clear in her mastery of the music and her understanding of the history of Bach and his period – as well as by her engaging manner -  that Diana will be a superb addition to the music faculty at a fine institution.

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Alchemy Winds

Alchemy Winds (flutist Tia Roper and oboist Megan Marolf) were with us the last two weeks of August. Their project was to record their first full-length CD.  They rehearsed intensively before and in between two full-day sessions with sound engineer extraordinaire Joel Hurd of North Country Public Radio.  These young ladies know how to work hard and play hard! They managed to fit in a couple day-trips to explore nearby Burlington (VT) and Montreal. Friends invited us for an afternoon at “camp” – the quintessential Adirondack experience on a pristine lake with swimming, boating, and wining & dining under a cloudless sky. Tia and Megan also delivered an exquisite house-concert, attended by 50+ friends who eagerly await the release of the CD. Stay tuned!

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Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo

Vassily Primakov & Natalia Lavrova

Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov were with us for ten days preparing for their next recording, a program for one-piano four-hands:  Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K. 381; John Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances (1972); Schubert’s Allegro in A Minor, D. 947, “Lebenssturme” and Fantasie in F Minor, D. 940; and Arensky’s Grand Sonata in F Minor, Op. 178.  They performed the entire program - a stunning tour de force – to a rapt audience at Weatherwatch Farm. We eagerly await the release of this new disc!

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Jonathan and Susan Aceto, viola and piano

Jonathan and Susan Aceto

Jonathan Aceto, known so well to us as a fine violinist (with two previous Hill and Hollow concerts in 1998 and 2005), used his artist retreat to hone his viola skills.  He prepared and performed a full program for viola, to be reprised in Maine and at Georgia Southern University, where he has served on the faculty for 12 years. The principal featured work was a transcription of J. S. Bach’s 3rd Suite for Cello in D Major, an eternal masterpiece. Jonathan’s brilliant idea (and it worked beautifully!) was to separate the movements out and juxtapose them with works from other periods. Those works included movements from Schubert’s Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano (1824), Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata (1919), and Alan Hovhaness’s Chahagir (1944). The excellent pianist Susan Aceto, Jonathan’s mother, partnered him on a portion of the program – the Schubert and Clarke.  The audience demanded an encore and Jonathan obliged with Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell. Here is a link to view a bit of the concert, which took place on June 29 at the Saranac Methodist Church.

During his residency Jonathan also performed a special generous act in leading an intensive two-day string workshop for players of all ages and abilities – there were 11 participants from Champlain to Crown Point and from Lake Placid to Plattsburgh – a large geographical area!  String programs in our schools are an endangered species, making Jonathan’s service all the more precious to our community.

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Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo

Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov typically perform two-piano repertoire, but they used their February retreat to dip into the wealth of the music written for one piano, four hands. After a few days’ exploration, they chose two immense works on which to focus: Czerny’s Grand Sonata in F minor, Op. 178; and Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le toit, Op. 58 (The Ox on the Roof), a surrealist ballet score based on Brazilian popular music.

At the conclusion of the week they shared both works with us in an informal concert at Weatherwatch Farm.  But before launching into them they warmed up with a “trifle”–Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 521!  Wouldn’t you know the only significant snowstorm of an otherwise benign winter occurred the day of their house-concert. The “hearty forty” who braved the elements were rewarded with an amazing and intimate performance displaying the highest level of technique and artistry and the greatest depth of inquiry and feeling. What an honor to have these extraordinarily talented, incredibly lovely artists with us.

Footnote: We attended Vassily’s solo concert on UVM’s Lane Series in mid-April, a formidable performance for a packed house. It was a special surprise when Natalia joined Vassily on-stage for an encore: Le Boeuf sur le toit, which they had prepared during their Hill and Hollow Music retreat. At the post-concert reception the duo was immediately engaged for next season–wow, one doesn’t see something like that every day!

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Autumn Offerings

Two fascinating ensembles came to us in October and November. Both house concerts exceeded our expectations in terms of quality, diversity, audience appeal, and attendance.

Alash from Tuva in Central Asia, on an extended tour of North America, stayed with us five days in a community residency for which we partnered with Northern Adirondack Central School and SUNY Plattsburgh. The quartet of master throat-singers, who also play an array of indigenous string and percussion instruments, consistently wowed everyone in their performances and workshops.

Folklassics Duo blew into Saranac on a mini-tour of Vermont and the northern Adirondacks. The unlikely partnership of accordion (Jeremiah McLane) and classical piano (Annemieke Spoelstra) proved very surprising and successful in its high degree of refinement and total charm. Their program featured treatments of international folk music by eminent classical composers, including Bartok, Granados, Hovhaness, Piazzola, and Satie, as well as a poignant original composition by Jeremiah McLane.

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Summer Soirée Summary

Spring and Summer Soirées at Weatherwatch Farm offered a full spectrum of music genres:  classical, international folk, and traditional Americana, all peppered with a jazzy dashes of improvisational flair.  From May through August informal performances were given by:

The Russian Duo (balalaika virtuoso Oleg Kruglyakov and pianist Terry Boyarsky),

solo pianist and improviser extraordinaire Jacqueline Schwab,

violinist               Sarah Whitney

and pianist Natalia Lavrova,


fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger and guitarist Bethany Waickman,


The Elegua Duo (cellist Ginevra Ventre and pianist Claire Black).

While programming ran the gamut, the level of artistry was uniformly high.  Attendance was at capacity with many regulars and a good sprinkling of new friends who are just discovering  us.

The Garden Party Benefit  at Rainbow Lake was over the top!  Don and Yvonne Busch were extravagant hosts, welcoming two hundred friends to Entayant.  Yes, 200! With the extensive and varied layout of the place, a gourmet menu of food and wine, and a delightful performance by Adirondack Brass, it was truly “pleasure for all the senses.”  A big thank you to all who supported this benefit.  We banked a tidy little sum — enough to launch our new project, the Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble (NAVE).  To view a musical slide show of the Entayant Garden Party with Adirondack Brass performance, click on the following link: Entayant — Hill & Hollow Benefit 8-21-11

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Forte Duo Has Recording Retreat Plus

Forte Duo performing an informal house concert at Weatherwatch Farm

The Forte Duo – superb Russian violinist Artur Kaganovskiy and Hungarian violist Eszter Szilveszter – were in residence with us December 6-12.  Their project was to record core repertoire for violin-viola duo: works of J.S. Bach, Handel, Pleyel, and Mozart. Our good friend, Adirondack sound technician extraordinaire, Les Parker transformed the spacious music room at Harvey’s Cottage into a practical recording studio. For four solid days they holed up and laid it all down!

Artur and Eszter with composer Peter Kelsh and recording engineer Les Parker

Composer Peter Kelsh had a parallel retreat the same week to focus on his current works-in-progress.  He also wrote a short work for the duo, Hill and Hollow Hoe-Down, which was enthusiastically received by them, intensively rehearsed, performed at the soirée, and ultimately included in the recording.  Program notes have been commissioned from musicologist David Ossenkop. If all goes according to plan, a wonderful CD will be produced and should be available to the public by May – we’ll keep you posted!

Forte Duo in Saranac Elementary School

In addition to the recording project, The Forte Duo spent a day in the Saranac Elementary School to give children in grades K-5 their first taste of live classical string music “up close and personal.”  Forte Duo also performed a beautiful, intimate house concert at Weatherwatch Farm for around 50 chamber music enthusiasts, which was followed by a delicious buffet supper – a most convivial evening was enjoyed by all!

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Open House with Jazz Obbligato

Jazz Pianist Jack Woulfe Plays "the Harve"

In a show of interest and support, about 120 friends came out on a rainy afternoon to check out Harvey’s Cottage—aka “the Harve”—and to hear jazz pianist Jack Woulfe (bio below).  It was cozy, but nobody seemed to mind.  The wine flowed, platters of hors d’oeuvres vanished, and conversation roared.  Admittedly, it was difficult to hear Jack’s wonderful playing if you stepped outside the music room. On the other hand, it was great to see the social interplay of a diverse Hill and Hollow Music family.

Angel and Kellum took a few moments to explain the Rural Retreat Program—our new approach to bringing high-quality art music into our community.  They described a few of the projects that ensembles-in-residence will undertake at Harvey’s Cottage in coming months and how they will share their music with us.

For starters, Forte Duo, a young Eastern European violin-viola duo now living in New York City, will be in residence at Harvey’s Cottage December 6-12.  Their project is to make a professional recording of core repertoire for violin-viola duo: works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Pleyel.  Having such a marketing and publicity tool in hand is an important component of a performance career.  During the same period composer Peter Kelsh will also be “on retreat” to work in depth on some compositions currently in progress—among them a short piece he is writing for Forte Duo.

Typically an ensemble-in-residence will offer a “community event” to share their project with an interested audience.  Forte Duo’s community event will be a live performance of the works featured on their recording, taking place Saturday December 11 at Weatherwatch Farm.  There will be an opportunity to get acquainted with the artists at a buffet supper following the concert.  If you wish to receive detailed information about this event, including biographical information about the artists, please sign up to be on our mailing list.

Jack Woulfe is a pianist with a great love of jazz, various genres of world music, progressive rock, and elements of the classical western tradition.  He was keyboard player in the Syracuse based progressive rock band Aire before moving to the Adirondacks in 1991. After playing solo piano venues in the Lake Placid area, he got to work establishing a band which was to be called the Dogs of Jazz.  This band played and continues to play venues such as the Whiteface Lodge, The Pines, The Point, High Peaks Resort, Charlie’s, Irises, The Burgundy Room, The West Side Ballroom, and numerous private parties.

Jack Woulfe is also the pianist for the Adirondack Jazz Orchestra, a 19 piece big band playing the music of Charles Mingus, Buddy Rich,  Duke Ellington, and more. He has organized various combinations of musicians into working ensembles geared toward specific venues. His main musical regret is that there is no dedicated jazz club in the north country. This is a situation that he hopes to correct. Music is always a source of inspiration and joy to Jack. He is grateful to his family—wife Gloria and daughter Sarah—who are compassionate, supportive lovers of music, and fine musicians themselves.

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