Diderot String Quartet Charms and Astonishes

Adriane Post, Paul Dwyer, Kyle Miller, Johanna Novom

Adriane Post, violin; Paul Dwyer, cello; Kyle Miller, viola; Johanna Novom, violin

The Diderot Quartet is one of the most imaginative young string quartets out there. Straddling two worlds, their collective feet are planted firmly in both the early music movement and the classical period.  Johanna Novom and Adriane Post, violins; Kyle Miller, viola; and Paul Dwyer, cello bring an exciting fresh approach to familiar works as well as those less-known. They delve into the abundant string quartet literature of the 18th and early 19th centuries filtered through the lens of early music sensibility and perform in historically informed style on historical instruments.  The DSQ spent a week with us on retreat expressly to explore and rehearse new repertory. On September 11 they offered us the fruits of their labor: Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, K387, “Spring” and Burgmüller’s String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, op. 4.  Their performance was remarkable – elegance, passion, sensitivity, exuberance, daring, and precision all coming together in a perfect synthesis.  The rapt audience recognized that they were participating in an extraordinary music experience. Over 100 attended our annual free concert, a memorable occasion in Saranac!

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Music of the Gods by the Olympus Piano Trio

OLYMPUS PIANO TRIO: Regi Papa, Ben Capps, Konstantine Valianatos

Regi Papa, Ben Capps, Konstantine Valianatos

And they played like gods, too!  During their week-long retreat at Weatherwatch Farm, the trio prepared the huge new program for the upcoming concert season:  Rachmaninoff Trio No. 1 in G Minor, Élégiaque; Brahms Piano Trio No. 2 in C major, op. 87;  and Tchaikovsky’s monumental Piano Trio in A Minor, op. 50We were privileged to hear their first public performance of the new program on Sunday, August 21st at the Saranac Methodist Church, with its splendid acoustics and fine piano. The ensemble had obviously delved deeply into these rich and complex works. They were keenly and passionately committed to each other and to the music, which was note- and phrase-perfect, in full comprehension and context of the overall arc.  Each musician a stunning virtuoso in his own right, the whole was far “greater than the sum of its parts.” The audience sensed that they were witnessing something rare and exciting – the energy was palpable, exhilarating. After a moment of stunned silence at the conclusion of the Tchaikovsky, they jumped to their feet in a thunderous eruption of applause, an acknowledgment of their appreciation and affirmation of the power of live performance.

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The Hills Were Alive With the Sounds of…….Balkan Music!

BalkanvillainsSean McCutcheon & Co., aka Balkanville, ventured south from Montreal while their friend and coach Max Fass came north from NYC. The Balkanvillains converged in Saranac for a five-day sojourn during which they spiced up and polished their repertoire of Balkan dance music.  There were daily dives into the swimming hole and happy hours on the porch with this lively bunch. And long hours of rehearsal in between……. It was rather like the famous remark about Thelonius Monk, that he could take a perfectly fine in-tune piano and make it sound out of tune…… Ultimately they presented a raucously wonderful concert outdoors on the grounds of Weatherwatch Farm. The hills rang with the sounds of accordions, tuba, drums, clarinet, flute, pipes, and voices – and happy dancing feet. Our friend Anne Bailey wrote: “Once again you outdid yourselves with the splendid soirée.  From “soup to nuts” it was a perfectly delightful evening.  It’s hard to imagine a more lovely setting to celebrate the solstice days.  I’ll treasure the picture of the musicians and dancers on the plush green meadow – like a movie, but better because it was real!”Balkanville at Weatherwatch Balkanville Lawn Dance

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Rebel’s Baroque Music Played with Panache

Rebel PortraitThe core four-members of Rebel, the exemplary baroque music ensemble named after the French composer Jean-Féry Rebel, gave a sparkling performance at the Methodist Church, those members being Jörg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, violins; John Moran, cello; and Dongsok Shin, harpsichord.  Their exquisite program, entitled Barocco: Musical Treasures of the 17th and 18th Centuries, included sonatas by Corelli, Telemann, Rossi, Marini, Gabrieli, Bach, Goldberg, Boyce, and Vivaldi. Owing to the extensive reach and longevity of Rebel’s reputation, a veritable crowd of 120 turned out, a lot of new faces among them – always an encouraging sign!  When the final notes sounded, the audience jumped to their feet to express enthusiastic appreciation for a unique and exciting live music experience.


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Tim Collins Vibrant Vibes

Tim Collins Live 3Tim Collins USA Jazz Quartet performed three shows at the Saranac Fire Hall February 12-14, each to a capacity crowd that appreciated a great groove and responded with warmth on a frigid weekend.  Tim’s originals fleshed out the first half and peppered the second half of mostly standards.  His music is melodious and lyrical and the not-overly-extended improvisations struck a fine balance of intellectual challenge and comprehensibility.  Pure listening pleasure ruled in a funky-hip jazz club ambience. Ayako Shirasaki Live 1The elegant pianist Ayako Shirasaki came up from New York for the shows and the tight rhythm section came from Vermont with upright bassist Robinson Morse and drummer Gabe Jarrett.  It was a charismatic ensemble that clicked from the get-go and became more cohesive with each show, and left you hungering for more playing into the night……  The concerts were a touching memorial to three beloved members of our community recently passed: Tim’s father Bob Collins, his grandmother Helen Schmidt, and trombonist, educator, and friend Rick Davies.  Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another ten years before Tim organizes another great ensemble!

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Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

Patricia McCarty, viola; Arturo Delmoni, violin; Jung Lin, piano; Ronald Thomas, cello

We had a terrific turnout for the Concert of Piano Quartets by Patricia McCarty and Friends. We had been a little concerned because it is a challenge to market a no-name ensemble, even when the players are as pedigreed as these. Fortunately, the astute folks from both print and broadcast media recognized that this was no ordinary ad hoc ensemble and they put the word out – hooray!

The Adirondacks can claim one of the pre-eminent violists of our day in Patricia McCarty. She persuaded some of her friends – each a renowned soloist and ensemble player – to join her in a special chamber music collaboration. Their thrilling and deeply satisfying program included Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E flat, K. 493; Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45; and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 26.  The audience recognized that they were witness to a unique musical chemistry and responded with multiple standing ovations. It was a transporting heavenly experience!

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Soovin Kim and Johannes Quartet Delight and Thrill

Johannes Quartet 2 - Jin Kim 4 inchNo surprise that the church was chockablock packed for the Johannes Quartet’s concert Sunday October 25 – over 250 in the audience, with overflow onstage seating “Lincoln Center-style” – in the choir!  The community came out en masse to hear our beloved Soovin Kim.  He played like an angel — his violin sang sweetly and soared loftily.  It was an exciting performance also because it was the debut for the quartet’s new second violin Julianne Lee.  The program gave her good opportunity to impress all with her skill – no shrinking musical violet she!  Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Homunculus opened the concert.  Written expressly for the Johannes Quartet, it is a mightily challenging work, but they have been performing it for eight years now and it has become internalized to such a degree it seems a force of nature, its intensity throbs and surges with relentless sweeping energy and power – totally exciting!

Showing a completely contrasting mood and style, next came Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor, K. 421, played with such wafting delicacy and caressing sweetness, and following intermission, Brahms’s String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, op. 67, which gave the lower voices of CJ Chang’s viola and Peter Stumpf’s cello loose reins to express with luscious tawny tones.  Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the legendary Guarneri String Quartet, said it most eloquently: “The Johannes String Quartet, comprising 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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Emerald Trio a Sparkling Gem of Many Facets

Emerald Trio Cobblestones 3 inchNew York City-based musicians of the Emerald Trio work in New York’s vibrant music-theater scene, appearing in the orchestras of the hottest shows on- and off-Broadway.  The Emeralds are Karen Bogardus, flutes; Orlando Wells, violin and viola; and Matt Castle, piano and composer.

The Emerald Trio had an intense week of rehearsing and recording, swimming, rehearsing and recording, drinking wine, and rehearsing and recording.  Their retreat was all about a program of  new works written especially for them by their friends: on-the-scene New York City composers Carolyn Steinberg, Matt Castle, Joseph Pehrson, Gene Pritsker, Dan Cooper, Milica Paranosic, and Davide Zannoni.  They capped their stay with a terrific performance of those fascinating works – free and open to the public – on Sunday, August 23 at the historic United Methodist Church in Saranac.  Before long we expect the release of their new CD produced by Composers Concordance Records on the Naxos label.


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Gretchen Koehler’s Bold Approach to Traditional Fiddling

JazzWideOpen9_1.inddGretchen Koehler is an elegant fiddler — her classical violin training shines through, yet her style is totally idiomatic. She performed in several distinct fiddling styles: New England, Bluegrass, Québec, Cape Breton, to name a few. She explained and demonstrated the essential rhythmic distinctions between, say, a jig and a reel… jiggity-jig, jiggity-jig and huckleberry, huckleberry! Gretchen has found an improbable music partner in New York City-based jazz pianist Daniel Kelly. His accompaniments provide an unexpected sonic environment and nudge her outside the usual framework of traditional folk. A couple of times he launched into extended jazz improvisations. An excellent musical marriage, and a totally delightful concert! We would be remiss if we did not mention who stole the show a couple times.  Gretchen’s 13-year-old son Syl joined in with his own fiddle on “Devil’s Dream” and then jumped up altar-level for some spectacular step-dancing – bravo!

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Red Hedgehog Trio On a Commission Mission

Red Hedgehog Trio 3

Marina Krickler, Daniel Sedgwick, Marjorie Gere

The Red Hedgehog Trio concluded their two-week retreat with a delightful concert that featured works for solo keyboard and violin-piano duo, as well as for the rather unusual instrumental combination of horn-violin-piano trio.  J.S. Bach’s exquisite Partita No. 1 in Bb Major (BWV 825) opened the program, followed by John Harbison’s mysterious and atmospheric “Twilight Music” for Horn, Violin and Piano.  Brahms’s lyrical Sonata No. 2 in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 100  led into the second half. The fourth and fascinating final segment of the program was “10 X 10” ─ 10 New Miniature Trios by 10 Composers,  a collection of ten very brief works (each under two minutes in length) written by ten different composers for their trio. The Red Hedgehogs conceived and developed this project for the 10 X 10 Upstreet Arts Festival, a collaborative arts festival held annually in Pittsfield, MA. This effort represents a first step towards building new repertory for the ensemble of horn-violin-piano – a worthy cause.  More power to them!

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