Around the World with Sonic Escape

Sonic EscapeOne of the wonderful things about Sonic Escape is the imaginative and gutzy way they incorporate classical, traditional folk, and world music in their programming.  The title “Around the World” offers the ensemble a flexible platform to mix and match their eclectic repertoire in interesting musical juxtapositions.  At Weatherwatch Farm on June 15 we heard Japanese Folk Tune Medley and Scandinavian Folk Suite alongside the strict classical form of Telemann’s Canonic Sonata in A Minor, while Bach in Ireland interspersed movements from a J.S. Bach Suite, such as “gigue” and “corrente,” with Irish traditional dance tunes of like rhythm and step, such as “slip-jig” and “reel.” We also heard the “New World” theme and “Humoresque” of Czech composer Dvorak followed by “La Cumparsita” of Uruguayan Rodriguez. Many of the works are Maria and Shawn’s own skillful arrangements, tailored to exploit the native character of their instruments as well as their own splendid virtuosity.

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Dance-Inspired Daring Duo

jeremiah & annemieke field 2 x 4The improbable duo of traditional-music accordionist Jeremiah McLane and classical pianist Annemieke Spoelstra have been on an extended tour to promote their new recording “DANSE” and the timing worked out for them to be the first ensemble to inaugurate the new performance lights we installed at the Saranac Methodist “Church in the Hollow.” They had played a lot of this repertoire for us in a house concert about 18 months earlier in anticipation of the recording. It was such a winning program that we wanted more people to have the opportunity to hear them in a public venue.

Six Rumanian Dances of Bartok and Twelve Armenian Dances of Hovhaness formed the bulk of the first half, along with “Slavonic Dance” of Dvorak and “Ruchenitsa,” a raucous traditional wedding Bulgarian dance preceded by a stately “Douarnanez” (a traditional dance of Normandy) composed by Jeremiah. The second half featured Poulenc’s Suite Francaise, based on renaissance dances, and several movements of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, including a pavane and a waltz.  Piazzolla was also a strong presence on the program, with “Tristeza de un doble A” and two movements from “History of the Tango.” Considering the fact that none of the music was conceived for accordion-piano duo, it is all the more interesting to note that Jeremiah and Annemieke produced the arrangements themselves.  Well done!

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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. http://www.youtube.com/user/MusicApAceto

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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