Masterpieces of World's Great Composers
Played in Poetic Surroundings at Woodstock
By Allen Updegraff
From The New York Times, July 30, 1916.
Up in a wild bit of Catskill woodland, Hervey White, once novelist and poet, and now also musical director, architect, and high financier, is presiding over the testing out of a musical enterprise that he has been some ten years preparing. There have been three tests of it now, on the last three Sundays: the first was more than satisfactory, and each successive test registered, approximately, a 20 percent improvement on the preceding one. From all the nearby Catskill summering places, and from some at a considerable distance, people are coming to the music chapel that Mr. White has built on his farm in the Woodstock Valley to hear the eminent musicians Mr. White has gathered play the best chamber music, which he selects himself.
On the day when Mr. White was interviewed for the purposes of the present story, the owner-builder-director was very busy. It was a Saturday afternoon, and he was washing out his best purple sateen Russian blouse in preparation for his Sunday appearance at the chapel.
“What I’m proudest of in connection with this whole matter,” he announced, philosophically rubbing yellow soap on a bad spot, “is my development as a high financier. Nearly everybody said I couldn’t put this over without money. High finance is a great discovery. We are living in a remarkable age.”
Mr. White has been called a number of things, but never a high financier. Some learned members of the Woodstock artist’s colony speak of him as “The American Tolstoy.” They are deceived by the fact that he wears a Russian blouse, flappy cotton trousers, much hair and beard, and lives a contemplative bachelor existence in a cabin of his own building. As a matter of fact, he is much more nearly akin to our own Henry David Thoreau. Take three parts of Thoreau, including Thoreau’s poetical gift and ability to live on nothing a year, add a passion for the world’s best chamber music, a gift in the direction of arts and crafts architecture, an inability to be worried, and a quiet sense of humor, and you have an approximation of Hervey White of Woodstock. Even such a sobriquet as “The Oscar Hammerstein of the Catskills” fits him far better than “The American Tolstoy.”
“I was just thinking that I’d devoted most of the last ten years of my life to high finance,” Mr. White went on, and paused to regard the undiminished spot with pained surprise; the spot looked like printer’s ink, and the corner of a foot-power printing press, apparent through the upper half of the wide Dutch doors of his cabin, suggested that it might be printer’s ink. The hand basin in which Mr. White was doing his washing did not seem to measure up to printer’s ink. He applied more yellow soap, and continued:
“My reasons for wearing this purple Russian blouse, for instance, are high financial—not at all a desire to make myself conspicuous. A purple Russian blouse is comfortable, does not break the line of the body awkwardly at the hips, and is easily renovated by washing and hanging on a bush in the sun. For the same high financial reasons I do my own housework and live in the woods. High finance, I was thinking, consists in getting the good things of life without money. I humbly opine that I have met with some success along that line.
“When I invested in this farm, ten years ago,” said Mr. White, dashing a few drops of honest sweat from his brow and resuming his offensive against the spot in a manner that suggested much tenacity of soul, “I did it with the idea of gathering some good musicians during the Summer months and giving chamber music in a rustic music chapel among tall trees at the foot of a hill. Chamber music, by its nature, is degraded except when it is given by selected musicians in a rustic music chapel among tall trees at the foot of a hill. The farm cost $2,000, and I happened to have nearly $200 in cash at the time, so turned that over to the owner. I suppose a good high financier would have kept his $200, but I was just beginning, you remember.
“Thus I secured a farm, with a proper hill and tall trees, and a farmhouse that would do to live in until I could build something better; but I needed food, a music hall, and musicians.
“Therefore I explained to a good neighbor who owned a sawmill that I wanted to have some musicians up at my place during the Summer so that I could give concerts, and that I needed lumber for the bungalows where the musicians were to live. If the neighbor would supply the lumber and help with the building, I promised to repay him out of the rent the musicians would pay for their bungalows. The neighbor agreed to co-operate. I then explained to a Woodstock storekeeper that I’d have plenty of money as soon as I got my bungalows built, a dozen musicians in them, and the rent collected from the musicians—who would, incidentally, help to swell the storekeeper’s Summer trade. The storekeeper at once granted me unlimited credit. Yes, high finance is a great thing!
“I will not say there were no difficulties connected with the matter; I had expected to erect my music chapel within five years, and you see that it is just completed. For one thing, I demanded such high qualifications in my musicians that I had a great deal of trouble in keeping them quite and contented. The better a musician is, the more readily he becomes enraged. I don’t know how many times my most prized acquisitions have either departed in a rage, or driven away other artists whom I prized almost as highly. First violins are especially prone to demand anything from a new and rare variety of teapot to the immediate discharge of all the rest of the orchestra. Of course, from the first Summer, my musicians gave concerts in the neighboring cities and villages, and my chief nightmare has been not so much my lack of funds as my fear that I should never be able to secure a proper number of rare and eminent musicians able to stand one another’s company long enough to develop that esprit de corps demanded in the rendition of chamber music. At times my departing artists were so much upset that they even forgot to pay their rent—a minor matter, but troublesome.
“However, by patient endeavor I think I have banished this difficulty for the present,” said Mr. White. He held up the purple blouse, on which he had been steadily operating while he talked; the place where the spot had been showed the same satiny purple translucence as the rest of the interesting garment. Perseverance had conquered.
“My present flock,” he continued, after he had deposited the blouse on a blueberry bush and himself, pipe in mouth, at the foot of an illustrious pine tree, “is both unusually tractable and unusually distinguished. There have been only two threats of immediate departure in six weeks of its existence, and in both cases the trouble was soon smoothed over. I admire and trust every one of them.
“The pianist, Charles Cooper, the only unhyphenated American of the quintet, is a young Californian who recently made his debut in Boston and New York as a concert soloist, after three years’ study in Paris and Berlin. Harold Bauer put the finish on his instruction, the Flonzaley Quartet recommended him to me, and the late Mr. de Coppet classified him as the most comprehensive and brilliant piano artist of the younger generation in America.
“The first violin, also a young fellow, comes from the famous Marteau Quartet of Berlin. He studied under Henri Marteau in the Royal Conservatory, and was appointed official substitute teacher for that worthy successor of the great Joachim. The second violin is an Italian boy, Gualtiero Gastelli; he is only 26 years old, but he has played first violin in the Metropolitan Opera House orchestra for the last six years, and he has both feeling and fire.
“The viola is Rudolph Bauerkeller, a member of the Damrosch Orchestra, released to me when Damrosch completed his nation-wide tour on May 15 last. Mr. Bauerkeller is half-English, half-German, with friends and relatives in London, Berlin, Manchester, and Hamburg, in all of which places he has given recitals. Under the circumstances, he has decided to become an American. Last Winter he founded the Ensemble Society of Studio 608, Carnegie Hall, for the purpose of advancing the cause of chamber music in New York; this work is creditable to him, of course, even though New York is no place for advancing the cause of chamber music.
“My ‘cello—has human genius ever devised a more perfect instrument than the ‘cello?—my ‘cello, Engelbert Roentgen, is worthy of playing the ‘cello, even in a rustic music chapel among tall trees at the foot of a hill. He is a Dutchman, with German music masters in his ancestry, and an artist, and an idealist. Before the war he had reached the rank of solo ‘cellist for the Imperial Court Opera of Vienna; a week after he had come to America from Amsterdam, two months ago, he was engaged as solo ‘cellist for the New York Symphony Orchestra for the coming season; and he is still in his thirties! He is also a composer. New York will hear some of his compositions this Winter, but the Woodstock woods will hear them first—and best.
“So these be my eminent and tractable musicians. Perhaps they are tractable because they are all young, and eminent because they are already marked for greatness. Now shall we walk over to the chapel where they make divine music, as is fitting, on Sunday afternoons?”
We walked out through the pine woods that surround Mr. White’s big cabin to the road that leads southwestward to meet the Ashokan Reservoir road at Glenford, main artery of Summer motor traffic into the higher Catskills. Eastward the road ran to the West Hurley railroad station, and thence to Kingston and New York, branching within a half-mile of the hall to pass through Woodstock, Bearsville, and the summering places thereabout. Mr. White added to his other accomplishments, it seemed, that of being a good strategist. His position was excellently taken.
A good by-road, the lack of which was noticed and supplied by a neighboring farmer in return for an indefinite promise to pay, led across a little meadow to a clump of tall trees, shadowed by a rock-sprinkled hillside. The building appeared suddenly; in spite of its bulk it was so hidden by great trees that there was no visible sign of its presence until the road opened at its big front porch.
Except for the curious arrow-shaped inlay of some fifty six-paned windows in the front gable and the prolongation of the roof along one side to form a huge porch, it resembled nothing so much as a sizeable new barn. It was sided horizontally with rough pine boards, whose unpainted, knotty surfaces the weather was already turning a dark tan. Mr. White led the way across the spacious front platform, beneath the bracing-beams of unbarked logs that will support a porch roof as soon as succeeding high finance permits at one of the four big pointed-topped doorways.
Inside, the afternoon twilight, let in by the mass of windows in front and by other masses high on either side of the players’ platform, was softened by ivory-tinted walls. Big uprights, of unbarked logs, paneled the room, and smaller logs defined the panels at top and bottom. From either end supporting log frameworks sprang, with a Gothic suggestion, to the high, curved, unpainted pine roof. Green light from the woods outside winked everywhere through the chinks of the single-thickness walls.
“Whitewash, thin whitewash, over the dark yellow pine board, made that color,” explained the architect-owner, indicating the peculiar mottled old-ivory tinting of the panels. “Henry MacFee, the young Modernist painter of Woodstock, you know—who has been one of our local distinctions ever since he received real money for some Modernist pictures at the recent New York Forum Exhibition—thought of the whitewash, in combination with the rough yellow pine, the green light outside, and the dark brown finish of the floor. The panels were especially designed to exhibit our chief local product—pictures. Among the members of the Woodstock artists’ colony who have exhibited and will exhibit are Carl Eric Linden, Henry L. MacFee, Eugene Speicher, Andrew Dasburg, Konrad Cramer, John E. Bates, Paul Rohland, Allen Cockren, Frank Chase, George Macrum, Frank Birtie, William Grimm, Charles Cook, and Edmond Rolf. Later on we expect to have on display the work of Woodstock poets, novelists, sculptors, and metal workers. You know we have a valuable assortment of artists of all descriptions around here, especially in the Summer; and the arts ought to fraternize more than they have been in the habit of doing.
“Sometimes when I get my pipe going good,” said Hervey White, sitting down on one of the long rough pine benches with amazingly comfortable backs that served for orchestra seats, and puffing at the said pipe with slow intensity, “I imagine this building as the first of a number of buildings that shall serve as a sort of Summer home for all the arts—especially the arts of music, dancing, drama, painting, sculpture, and metal working. Such arts might be better practiced and enjoyed here among these woods, at least during the Summer months, than in the cities; and it is in the Summer that most people have most time to give to the arts. See what has been done in only ten years by one man, without any money, and with no special aptitudes to speak of.
“Last Sunday nearly 400 people, including several farm-wives and two millionaires, heard Beethoven, Arensky, Debussy, and Chopin played as the composers—and God, too, I think—intended they should be played. Besides that chief accomplishment, an old stone quarry on the hillside just above us has been converted into an open-air theatre seating 2,000 persons. Also there is a printing plant back in the cabin, an editorial office whence issues a monthly magazine of Woodstock literature, and all around there are twenty willing hands to help where there was one ten—yes, two—years ago. Do you blame me if I begin to puff out my chest and dream great dreams?”
Mr. White hastily brushed tobacco ashes off the bosom of his second-best purple blouse, where his enthusiasm had deposited them.
“I’m not doing this on altruistic grounds—not at all,” he objected, as if he had been accused of something. “One of the pleasantest parts of last Sunday’s proceedings was that I received nearly $20 as my fourth of the ticket plunder. Twenty dollars!—twice what I’d expected—a fortune to a high financier! Before Fall I shall be able to finish the outside of the hall with slabs—give ‘The Masque of Woodstock’ in my quarry theatre—and meet the interest on the whole highly financed enterprise.
“I have an ambition,” confessed Mr. White, slowly turning toward the door. “I wish to amass a fortune of such size that I shall be able to become a reformed high financier, pay all my debts, and die an honest man.”
Published: July 30, 1916, Copyright © The New York Times
Bach for a Solitary Cello Accompanied by Nature
By ALLAN KOZINN, New York Times, Published: September 4, 1997
WOODSTOCK, N.Y., Aug. 31— Associations between the structural logic of Bach’s music and notions of the mystical perfection of nature may be fanciful and romantic, but many a writer has made this poetic link. Others have offered a more rationalist view of Bach and nature as polar opposites, the music’s supreme artifice and intellectual rigor contrasting starkly with nature’'s randomness and chaos.
Listening to Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi play three of Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello here in a rustic, barnlike concert hall that was partially open to the wooded countryside, it seemed not to matter which model was correct. The salient point was that whether they are counterparts or antitheses, Bach and nature have a peculiar way of enhancing each other.
Mr. Tsutsumi, a Japanese cellist who won the International Casals Competition in Budapest in 1963 and is on the faculty of Indiana University, played the odd-numbered Suites on Saturday evening and returned on Sunday to round out the set. He was the guest of Maverick Concerts, a series that was started here in 1916 by Hervey White, a poet and novelist who dreamed of turning his farm into an arts center. Maverick’s concert hall, which was restored in 1977, has retained its rough-hewn character, and it boasts fine acoustics despite its open back.
It has also seen plenty of history. Portraits of soloists and chamber groups from decades past hang on its walls, and it was for a Maverick concert that John Cage composed his silent “4’33” ” in 1962. Accounts of that work’s first performances note that nature took a hand, filling the silence of the premiere with the sound of rustling wind and lending the patter of rain to the next day’s presentation.
Nature was more deferential during Mr. Tsutsumi’s Bach performance, the cool overcast afternoon affording plenty of atmosphere and little distraction. Mr. Tsutsumi’s accounts were thoughtfully conservative in their adherence to mainstream tradition, in the sense that he kept clear of interpretive eccentricity, but clearly did not regard Bach’s notation as a straitjacket.
Like most cellists these days, he proceeded from the view that Bach’s scoring embodies sufficient ornamentation, that adding much more would do violence to the music. So although he was scrupulous in his observance of repeats, including da capo readings of the Minuets, Bourees and Gavottes, his embellishments were comparatively few, and confined to modest trills and turns at section endings. There was considerable subtlety here, though: each ornament seemed chosen to suit the context.
Mr. Tsutsumi’s approach to rubato was equally judicious, but he used it particularly expressively in the Preludes of the Fourth and Sixth Suites, where it brought a measure of suppleness to the music’s repeated rhythmic patterns. And although he toyed with dynamics only sparingly, when he did so— in the Sixth Suite’s first Gavotte, most notably—the novelty was particularly effective.
More broadly, Mr. Tsutsumi found and magnified the traits that give the suites their independent character, and after establishing those qualities in each of the Preludes, he maintained them consistently through the dance movements that follow. The Fourth, which opened the concert, was a picture of regal grace. In the Second, which held the central place on the program, he focused more on the virtuosic demands of the music, making the most of its implied counterpoint and chordal passages.
And the Sixth, not unexpectedly, was offered as the culmination of the set, with the regal qualities of the Fourth transformed into grandeur— the Prelude, after all, has a more monumental quality—and the virtuosity of the Second given a more pointed edge. Mr. Tsutsumi’s technique and sound were equal to the task, and the several hundred people on hand were rightfully as dazzled by the performance as by the music itself.
Photo: Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi during a Maverick concert in Woodstock, N.Y. (Chris Maynard for The New York Times)
French Masters in a Sylvan Setting
The 2012 series, held in its rustic Woodstock performance space, will explore
French music in classical and jazz settings.
By PHILLIP LUTZ
Published: June 29, 2012
As its name suggests, Maverick Concerts does not offer a conventionally grand stage. Set in a romantic, barnlike theater amid 100 acres of tall trees and farmland in Woodstock, its charm is largely rustic, and the theater, while lovingly restored, is lacking in some state-of-the-art technology and space — it seats just 230 people indoors and, weather permitting, another 150 on benches outside. In fact, to hear Alexander Platt, the concerts’ music director, tell it, the summer festival is a modest affair. As he prepared recently for Maverick’s 97th season, on the theme of a “Tour de France,” Mr. Platt sought to play down any suggestion that he would offer an extensive survey of the French musical literature.
The July 14 presentation featured members of the Four Nations Ensemble and others.
“Our aim,” he said, “is to have a more intensive summer festival in which a handful of great masters exist in conversation.”
Modesty aside, however, that conversation could yield its share of insights into the Gallic musical psyche. The festival, which runs from July 1 to Sept. 16, promises an array of top-flight classical and jazz musicians, among them a few with bona fides in both camps. It also offers a range of rich material, from the Baroque to the contemporary, and plenty of social context in notes and verbal commentary.
IN REHEARSAL The pianist Frederic Chiu, left, with the series’s music director, Alexander Platt.
The festival will take on a political cast when, on July 14, it stages a Bastille Day concert dubbed “From the Salon to the Scaffold.” The concert, featuring members of the Four Nations Ensemble —Charles Brink on flute, Loretta O’Sullivan on cello, and Andrew Appel on harpsichord— with the violinist June Huang and the soprano Dominique Labelle as guests, will explore how French chamber music developed hand in hand with the democratization of the music’s market, said Mr. Appel, who is also the ensemble’s artistic director.
The program, he said, will make its point through sharp contrasts, juxtaposing compositions tailored, on the one hand, to a nobility that “loves poetic stasis” and, on the other, to a middle class that “loves the sense of dynamic change.” Thus, a sedate Couperin suite, composed in the early 18th century for the court of Louis XIV, will run up against two relatively boisterous songs published in mass-market magazines as revolution was brewing in the late 18th century, drawing parallels between the music and the society at large.
A parallel of another sort—between spoken and musical languages—will inform the presentation of the pianist Frederic Chiu, who will appear in a two-piano recital with Andrew Russo on Aug. 26. After spending 12 years in Paris, Mr. Chiu said, he internalized “the flowing, unaccented ways the French have of spinning their sentences.” That experience reshaped his approach to melodic phrasing on pieces like those he will perform at Maverick, which will include two nocturnes and a prelude by Debussy, Ravel’s showstopping “La Valse” and works by two onetime Americans in Paris, George Gershwin and Philip Glass.
Throughout the festival, the works of Debussy and Ravel will be played in their original form. But they will also become springboards for improvisation in a solo turn by the jazz pianist Fred Hersch on Sept. 8. Mr. Hersch, widely celebrated for the way he organically incorporates improvisations into the frameworks of classical compositions, said he will likely rework Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” and Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin” —pieces he recorded with a trio in 1989.
Like Mr. Hersch, the Ebène Quartet, a French string ensemble, has earned wide praise for its expansive approach to repertory. Unlike Mr. Hersch, however, the quartet erects a firewall between the classical, which it plays straight, and the popular, for which it saves its improvisatory efforts. At Maverick, said Raphaël Merlin, the group’s cellist, that wall will separate two concerts: one on Aug. 18, devoted to arrangements of works by artists like Miles Davis, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen; the other on Aug. 19, dedicated to unadorned readings of Mozart, Fauré and Tchaikovsky.
OPENING ACT The Imani Winds kicked off the series on July 1 with a tribute to Josephine Baker.
The quartet —Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure on violins, Mathieu Herzog on viola and Mr. Merlin— continues a tradition dating back at least to the 1940s, when French musicians moved readily from the practice rooms at the Paris Conservatory to the stages of left-bank clubs. There, they and expatriate Americans like Sidney Bechet and Josephine Baker cooked up a cross-cultural synthesis of art and entertainment that the flutist and composer Valerie Coleman said she and her quintet, the Imani Winds, will tap on Maverick’s opening night.
At that performance, she said, the quintet —Mariam Adam on clarinet, Toyin Spellman-Diaz on oboe, Monica Ellis on bassoon, Jeff Scott on French horn and Ms. Coleman—will transform itself into a wailing street band on Ms. Coleman’s tribute to Baker, “Portraits of Josephine.” With its classical virtuosity and unbridled swing, the piece promises to capture the sensibility that engaged Paris—and to set the stage at Maverick for the conversation to come.
Copyright © 2012 The New York Times Company
By ANN GIBBONS, Freeman staff
Some nonagenarians age and falter. Some age with grace. Maverick, at a venerable 98, hasn’t aged at all.
“Nothing here has changed!” said David Segal, chairman of the Maverick board. “Even with the $130,000 restoration and the $100,000 renovation, the ‘music chapel’ is the same as it was in 1916 when it was built by the Maverick community of artists.”
At Maverick, home to the country’s oldest continuous summer chamber music series, its board has steadfastly refused to modernize, preferring the historic site’s purity and wildness, according to Segal.
“We’ve tried our best to keep everything the same,” he said. When the board decided to add Saturday night concerts about 25 years ago, electricity was reluctantly added, Segal added.
David Segal, chairman of the board of Maverick. (Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo)
“Our concerts, traditionally, were Sunday at 4 p.m.,” he said
Segal has been chairman of the board for two years, vice chairman for eight and a board member for 18.
“I came as a designer for the Woodstock Playhouse in 1966 and never left,” he said. A native New Yorker, he has had a home in Woodstock since then.
Regardless of tradition, Segal said Maverick will present several “firsts” for the 2013 season.
“We always have wanted to present a film here, but, due to renovations, the hall is not quite ready,” he said, “so we are presenting Josh Aronson’s documentary, ‘The Orchestra of Exiles,’ on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. at Upstate Films in Woodstock.”
Aronson will attend to introduce the film and answer questions afterward, Segal added.
The film documentary tells the story of Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who, in 1936, founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (later renamed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra). Huberman recruited leading European Jewish musicians, many of whom had already been dismissed from their posts with leading orchestras. These artists, along with their families, made the journey to Palestine from their homes in Germany, Austria Poland, and Hungary, where they faced almost certain death.
Using historic photos, documentary footage, reenactments and interviews with such notables as Joshua Bell, Leon Botstein, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, the documentary details how Huberman rescued nearly 1,000 Jewish musicians and their families from the coming Holocaust. The film also details the roles of other historical figures, including Arturo Toscanini and Albert Einstein, in the creation of the orchestra.
Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door. (Regular Maverick tickets are not valid for this event.)
Joshua Bell plays the violin once owned by Huberman, Segal said.
This year the season will be extended by two weeks, featuring 24 concerts, through mid-September, he said. And, Segal added, 2013 is the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten’s birth. Maverick will acknowledge his connection to Woodstock, as well as his contributions to contemporary music, by presenting his entire chamber music oeuvre throughout the concert season.
Segal said Britten spent the summer of 1939 in Woodstock as the guest of American composer Aaron Copland.
“Britten composed ‘The Illuminations’ to the text of the poem by French poet Arthur Rimbaud,” Segal said. “But,” and he paused for the dramatic moment, “it has NEVER been performed at Maverick until this year!”
Metropolitan Opera tenor Paul Appleby will perform, accompanied by members of the ensemble Aurea, according to Segal.
“We’re thrilled to bring this wonderful piece to Maverick audiences for the first time,” he said.
The windows above the entrance at Maverick show the craftsmanship involved. (Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo)
Another, more pragmatic “first” is a giving back to the community: renovated restroom facilities. “Our supporters have art in their heart,” Segal said. “Many have been with us for so many years.” The board made what Segal described as a “revolutionary” decision. “We determined that state-of-the art restrooms would add immensely to the enjoyment of the audience’s experience here,” he said.
Work on the restrooms, with a new 110-foot well producing 50 gallons of fresh water per minute, will be finished in time for the June 30 season opener with the Miro Quartet, Segal added. He also said concrete footings have been poured for a four-unit sanitary restroom facility, which will feature environmentally friendly composting toilets and hot and cold water for washing up.
“The new building is just to the east of the historic hall and will replace Maverick’s outdated privy system,” Segal said, adding that Maverick received more than $100,000 as a grant from the Thompson Family Foundation to construct the restrooms.
The new bathrooms at the Maverick are on the left. (Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo)
“We’re delighted to be able to modernize the amenities, but retain the unique charm of our rustic site,” he said.
Segal, an enthusiastic and dedicated chairman, speaks in superlatives about Maverick.
“Maverick is the world’s greatest chamber music venue, performed by the greatest musicians, its walls graced by the greatest artists. How great is that,” he said.
Asked how the historic performance space became known as the “music chapel,” Segal didn’t miss a beat.
“God loves beautiful music,” he said.
Actually, however, Segal said the term dates to a 1916 New York Times interview with Hervey White, founder of the Maverick community of artists and musicians, who described the hall as the “music chapel.
While the performance hall has not changed in 98 years, it has been renovated this year with a $130,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“There are about 300 original windows in the hall,” Segal said. “Every single one was numbered, removed, re-glazed and re-installed in the exact place in which they were originally set.”
Interviewed during this week’s torrential downpour, Segal said the Maverick’s drainage system also had been updated, as part of the grant, to prevent flooding of the parking lot and grounds.
“Maverick truly is an American treasure, and we are delighted to be able to preserve it for the next 100 years,” he said.
Maverick Concert Hall Undergoes Renovations
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
By ANN GIBBONS Freeman staff
Most centenarians, suffering the various aches and pains of age, slide gracefully into retirement.
Not Maverick Concert Hall. Celebrating its centennial in two years, and home to the country’s oldest continuous summer chamber music series, the Maverick board has steadfastly refused to modernize, preferring the historic site’s purity and wildness.
As the ground warms, however, a series of restorations is underway that board Chairman David Segal describes as “giving back.”
“Our supporters have art in their heart,” Segal said.“They have been with us for so many years,” he said.
Segal said the board made what he described as a “revolutionary” decision.
“We determined that state-of-the art restrooms would add immensely to the enjoyment of the audience’s experience here,” he said.
Segal said work already has started on a new restroom, with a new 110-foot well producing 50 gallons of fresh water per minute.
He said concrete footings have been poured for a four-unit sanitary restroom facility, which will feature environmentally friendly composting toilets and hot and cold water for washing up.
“The new building is just to the east of the historic hall and will replace the Maverick’s current privy system,” Segal said. He said once construction is complete, the terrain will be restored and beautified by landscape designer Elizabeth Martin.
Construction at the Maverick site. (Photo provided)
Segal said Maverick received more than $100,000 as a grant from the Thompson Family Foundation to construct the restrooms.
“We are grateful to our supporters, who are making it possible for us to prepare the Maverick for the next 100 years,” Segal said. “We’re delighted to be able to modernize the amenities, but retain the unique charm of our rustic site,” he said.
Segal has been chairman of the board for two years, vice chairman for eight and a board member for 18.
“I came as a designer for the Woodstock Playhouse in the 1966 and never left!” Segal said. A native New Yorker, he has had a home in Woodstock since then.
Segal is an award-winning lighting designer with many dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway plays and other productions to his credit. He has designed lighting at The American and Canadian Stratford Shakespeare Festivals, The Dallas Opera, The Washington Opera, and The Kennedy Center.
David Segal. (Photo provided)
“People come here only for the music. Not because Maverick is chic, or the place to be seen or buy souvenirs,” Segal said.
“Our patrons are our donors and this is one way for us to give back,” he said.
This year, in a separate restoration, Maverick is giving back to its visiting artists.
“When musicians come there, they stay with us. We have wonderful people here who ‘adopt’ artists for the season,” he said.
Some families host the same artists when they return several seasons later. “We have artists who came to us single, who are now married, with families of their own. And, they stay with the same host each time they come. It’s wonderful to see them grow as individuals and as performers.”
“We get the best chamber musicians in the country,” Segal said. “These musicians perform at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and in Europe.”
As soon as the weather gets warmer, Segal said, construction will begin on an entirely new Green Room.
“The Green Room we have now is not part of the original structure and is just too small,” Segal said, noting it was added 40 years ago. He said Maverick presented the Schubert octet recently.
The Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock is undergoing renovations, which includes new bathrooms
and a new green room.(Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo)
“It’s a piece for eight players and only four could sit down!”
Segal said musicians relax in the Green Room before a performance and during intermission. They also leave their instrument cases there.
“The new building will have private changing rooms and hot and cold running water,” he said.
Segal said plans for the work were developed by architect Stephen Tilly of Dobbs Ferry, who has been involved in most of the major projects undertaken by the Maverick in the past few years.
“Stephen is one of the great historical architects in America,” Segal said. “People never see his renovations because they never detract from the original structure.”
Both restorations are the latest in a series of major projects undertaken to restore, renovate, and update the distinctive, nearly 100-year-old concert hall and the surrounding woodland, according to Segal.
Segal said projects in the last several years have included repair and restoration of the Maverick’s unique and striking north wall of diagonally set framed windows, reconstruction of the footings, replacement of portions of the shake roof, and a major landscape engineering project to improve drainage on the site and divert water away from the hall, which is situated at the bottom of a rise.
The construction is being carried out by Yankee Construction of Mountainville, specialists in historic restoration, he said.
The Green Room replacement was made possible with a major gift from an anonymous donor.
There are no plans to enlarge the performance hall, Segal said. “The acoustics are perfect just the way they are.”
“We’ve tried our best to keep everything the same,” Segal said. He said when the board decided to add Saturday night concerts about 25 years ago, electricity was reluctantly added.
“Maverick is a wonderful place to visit because its history is so palpable,” he said.
Asked about the famous Maverick mosquitoes, Segal laughed and said, “Mosquitoes like music, too!”
He said the concert hall has added devices to ward off mosquitoes, but there are no chemicals involved.
“We’d rather have our audiences alive and scratching, than the alternative,” he said, noting that Saturday concerts are performed earlier in the evening before the insects get active. Insect repellent is also available, he said.
Segal said both restorations are environmentally sensitive and compatible with the woodland setting.
“We will not disturb this wonderful environment,” he said. “We’re not cutting down trees.”
Segal said both restorations are expected to be completed before the 2013 concert series begins in June.
Segal said 2013 marks the 100th birthday of one of the greatest composers of all time, Benjamin Britten.
“Britten lived in Woodstock in 1939 and wrote the piece ‘The Illuminations’ here. But, it’s never been heard here, so we’re recreating and creating.” He said works by Britten will be performed throughout the season.
by Paul Smart on May 3, 2012
Photo by Dion Ogust
They say the best preservation jobs are invisible. You can’t tell they happened afterwards; everything just seems to have been heightened, magically. There’s a new glow to all that’s remembered, a freshness of vision. A renewed sense of permanence.
Years from now, many will be able to use the just-completing work at the Maverick Concert Hall in West Hurley as a textbook example of all that can go right when historic preservation and maintenance work is done spot-on right. You see the place now and one can hardly tell anything’s been done on it over the last year, or that the work entailed expenses of nearly $1 million in federal, private, and state arts funding grants and donations.
“I think it’s been a wonderful effort,” said noted architectural historian Neil Larson, who served as owners’ rep on the project. “When we entered into this, trying to ensure that the north window wall would be preserved, our main interest was to put it all back together as it had never been taken apart. As it turned out, everyone used such a very soft touch on the work at hand that now we’ll have to put together a slide show to show that there was actually work done there.”
What’s now almost done came into view four years ago. In 2008, now-retiring U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey helped secure a $448,000 Save America’s Treasures matching grant from the federal government towards stabilization work at the historic Maverick Concert Hall, hand-built by festival and colony founder Hervey White and his friends and followers. Later, the New York State Council for the Arts gave Maverick Concerts one of two fully-funded $50,000 grants for preservation work.
Photo by Dion Ogust
At first, according to former Maverick board chair Susan Rizwani, the main problem in view was that iconoclastic window wall, which was starting to shake, lose caulking, and drop window panes. It was realized there were foundation problems in the rough-built hall, constructed directly on the ground. The idea was to keep things lasting another 100 years, to match the length of time since White and crew first built their hall in 1916.
Once work started on drainage issues around the hall, however, it was discovered that the sills upon which it all stood were badly damaged by rot, over time.
“It was more than we had anticipated,” Rizwani said. “All those years of the hall sitting directly on earth had an effect.”
What resulted was a compete reconstruction job, following the elemental drainage and foundation work needed beneath the structure. Eventually, all the windows and siding planks were taken off the concert hall, numbered and labeled, and eventually put back, using original nail holes.
“It was incredible the care everyone took,” Rizwani continued, noting the contributions of architect Stephen Tilley of Croton, building contractors Ren and Elaine Tate of Tate Construction in Red Hook, and drainage and sill specialist Mark Peritz of The Joy of Building, right here in Woodstock, as well as all their local crews. “The end result looks just slightly more beautiful than what was there before.”
Timing, of course, was of the essence…the new steel reinforcement beam beneath the structure, along with all the original glass from the north window wall, had to be in place by now…because the concerts are set to start by late June. Which leaves only so much time for the natural world to re-surround and embrace its friend of 96 years now, this grand, quirky structure.
“Everyone’s been very pleased by this project,” said Larson, noting the contributions of Building Committee chairperson Sandy Siegel in the process (Siegel was unavailable for comment at the time of this story).
“We hope this will be appreciated,” added Rizwani.
Which we suspect it will be…especially given the double punch of welcome surprises included in this summer’s as-always grand schedule.
Photo by Dion Ogust
Music to their ears,
by Paul Smart | Almanac, June 30, 2011
Want a special way really to impress those out-of-town visitors babbling on about all they’re missing by taking a rural retreat to your neck of the woods? Take them to the Maverick Festival Hall, the nation’s oldest continuously running chamber festival, and watch as their faces alight and their mouths slip into awe-filled ovals, finally silenced from those endless comparisons to Central Park concerts or lawn nights at Tanglewood and SPAC.
Maverick breathes history and lives in a very special upstate New York fairytale world of woody settings, superb musicianship, spot-on acoustics lent ambiance by the trill of evening crickets and distant frog chirps (plus some of the most memorably odd but effective and cute-as-can-be self-composting toilets anywhere). The place itself, built in 1916 as a “music chapel” in the woods, is a treasure that may be some sort of classical equivalent to New Orleans’ Preservation Hall. And the programming? Ahhh…
The Festival has filled its 96th season with a series of concerts that commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Leonard Bernstein, the bicentennial of the birth of Franz Liszt and the always-surging legacy of the great Gustav Mahler. Some of the world’s top quartets will be gracing the schedule, along with a host of established and rising soloists, top new artists in the classical world and several top jazz players on hand to demonstrate the new elements of crossover between musical genres marking the contemporary scene.
Many of the main concert performers, as always, will present special events just for kids, and local favorites Elizabeth Mitchell and Family will again fill (and rock out) a house of toddlers and their older siblings and parents. The culmination of the summer, in what has become a new Maverick tradition, will be a special chamber orchestra concert: the world premiere of a new orchestral version of Bernstein’s Songfest featuring a half-dozen vocal soloists.
Things kicked off in the past two weeks with a new play from the beloved Actors & Writers Theater, a pair of Ars Choralis concerts and the much-celebrated Tokyo String Quartet playing some Mozart favorites. The Festival moves on, over the coming weekend, with the annual Woodstock Beat benefit for the Byrdcliffe Guild (see separate piece); the Miró Quartet with a program of Beethoven, Schubert and the contemporary composer Kevin Puts on Sunday afternoon, July 3; plus another Actors & Writers presentation of Denny Dillon’s great Improv Nation troupe in action on Sunday night, July 3.
On July 9, the first of Maverick’s Young People’s Concerts kicks off at 11 a.m. with noted guitarist Jason Vieaux, who also plays a program of Pat Metheny and classical works that evening at 8 p.m. The St. Petersburg String Quartet, with Peter Kolkay on bassoon, plays on Sunday, July 10 at 4 p.m. The same superb patterning of innovative programming, chamber greats and young persons’ concerts—on a Saturday morning kids, Saturday evening experiments and Sunday afternoon chamber classics—continues through the summer, with occasional additional concerts and lectures on Sunday afternoons.
Program highlights are constant, from local favorites Perry Beekman on vocals and guitar, with Bar Scott and Terry Blaine on vocals, doing up Bernstein on July 23; jazz trumpeter Don Byron’s new trio on August 6; Justin Kolb and the Amernet String Quartet playing Janácek, Mahler and Schubert on August 14; jazz pianist Uri Caine’s Mahlerian Journey on August 20; and the Daedalus String Quartet, with baritone Andrew Garland, playing Othmar Schoeck’s increasingly noted Notturno: Five Movements for String Quartet and Voice on September 4 among them. For the kids, there will be highlights from West Side Story with the piano duo of Andrew Russo and Frederic Chiu on July 30, as well as that Elizabeth Mitchell blast of wholesomeness on August 6 (you have to hear how they get a roomful of new walkers singing along to the Velvet Underground, if there’s nothing else you do this summer!).
Although the major acts all sell out fast, there’s usually outdoor plank seating for late arrivals. The setting’s magical, no matter where you end up.
The Hall is located off Maverick Road just east of Woodstock in West Hurley. You can leave messages at the Festival's phone number at (845) 679-8217, but it may be best to go to www.maverickconcerts.org or follow them on Facebook for full info and reservations. And hey, if you've never been yourselves: no excuses any longer. Magic is necessary. It’s us. It’s Maverick.
Okay, so maybe I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to outdoor concerts. Unless they consist of good-old band music—music to be accompanied by potato salad and deviled eggs—I get too annoyed by the distractions of the great outdoors to give myself completely to the music. And the big open-ended sheds like the one at Tanglewood aren’t much better.
The great exception, in my experience, is the Maverick Concert Hall. It’s funky but handsome, and it opens on a lovely and well-behaved forest. Most importantly, it’s the right size for chamber music.
I had a brother who was a fanatic string quartet player, and I spent my teenage years surrounded by chamber music, sitting a few feet away from the musicians. There’s nothing more exciting or involving. At the Maverick I feel as if I’m in one of those living rooms of my youth, surrounded by good friends and great music.
The Maverick’s sense of intimacy is matched by its sense of tradition. The rough wooden walls and irregular windows reflect the aesthetic of the men who built it almost a century ago, and the carved wooden horse that looks out over the audience and gives the venue its name is inspiring and surely unique. The feeling of community is enhanced by the photographs of musicians who were prominent in the history of the hall, and also of the town, that adorn the walls; as it happens, I live on a road named after one of those musicians.
It’s a great pleasure to have been a part of the Maverick as an audience member, a performer, and a composer. I’ve sung my songs there, I’ve narrated (along with my wife, Susan Sindall) William Walton’s Façade and I’ve heard the Audubon Quartet premiere my String Quartet No. 5 there. Subtitled “A Year in the Country,” and inspired by a year I took off from living primarily in New York City and touring, it was entirely appropriate that the quartet was commissioned by the Maverick and premiered there; the piece, it turned out, was a harbinger of Susan’s and my decision to move to Woodstock full-time.
It may feel like a large living room, but the Maverick presents performances by ensembles that travel the world to great acclaim—ensembles that could and do play large halls but who like the setting and the audience in Woodstock. Where else could a quartet get away with playing the scherzo from one of Bartok’s string quartets as an encore, and have the listeners love it?
Vincent Wagner (for most of my years here the person who booked groups into the Maverick) and now Alexander Platt have managed, with hard work, a special venue and years of tradition to combine a world-class stage with a living room in the woods.
– Peter Schickele
The Other Woodstock Festival
Maverick Concert Hall
“Mahler’s World: Vienna and Budapest”:
Hugo Wolf: Italian Serenade
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No 1, Opus 7
Anton Bruckner: Quintet for Strings in F Major, WAB 112
Borromeo String Quartet: Nicholas Kitchen, Kristopher Tong (violins), Mai Motobuchi (viola), Yeesun Kim (cello); Guest violist: Michael Klotz
(© Dion Ogust)
Query: What and where is the oldest summer music festival in America? Hint: Compared to the winner, Tanglewood is a toddler, Glimmerglass is a gangly teenager. And when they began, centenarian Elliott Carter was a mere 7 years old.
The answer is Maverick, which could be called the other Woodstock Festival, though they prefer to call themselves “Music in the Woods”. For 93 years straight, this beautiful barn, with its 30-foot-high timbered roof, its big paneled windows looking out on the forest, its giant equestrian sculpture and spacious stage has been a delight not only to the 600-odd visitors each weekend concert but to musicians, who love the wrap-around acoustics of the all-wooden interior.
The history is unique as well. From its outset as a writers/musicians colony in 1915, with the auditorium built soon after by its amateur denizens, both theatre and music have encompassed legends. James Cagney debuted as a child actor/dancer here. Helen Hayes, Edward G. Robinson and Lee Marvin, amongst others, acted and schmoozed and reveled in the arboreal surroundings . Mainly chamber musicians have played with pleasure, and audiences, both local and New York City and beyond get involved.
For me, though, Maverick was (gulp, blush) a first time affair. Woodstock was familiar, but it took a New Yorker notice encourage a trip up here. And the initial attraction was not Maverick itself but the highly interesting program last night.
Wolf’s Italian Serenade is hardly unknown, but is only a bagatelle. In fact, for some reason, an old program had listed the opening as Webern’s Langsamer Satz. Not that I would have minded either one, but the mind had to switch from a musical spoonful of Oesteria caviar to a fresh primavera salad.
Next was the Bartók First String Quartet, hardly played as much as the next five. Third was the real rarity. A string quintet by Bruckner, not a student work but composed in his maturity. More on that later.
The young Borromeo Quartet is so highly acclaimed that they are quartet-in-residence at three different schools, from Boston to New Mexico to Japan. While they naturally swing to contemporary music, the violins have a technical innovation: a laptop computer showing the full score as they play.
But it was the performances themselves, especially in this so natural environment which were astonishing. It began with the Italian Serenade, which too often is a Teutonic version of Italia. Not here, First violin Michael Kitchen’s bow hardly touched the strings at all, and the others let the bouncy opening float above them. Wolf was a song-composer above all, and the Borromeo made lyrical light work of the tiny treasure. Bartók is hardly as simple, but here the Borromeo showed a special individuality. Far from being a seamless tapestry, these four players had their own personalities. Violist played hard muscular solos (especially in the improvisation-sounding first movement), first violin Michael Kitchen had a tone both strong and sweet, Yeesun Kim’s cello technique was faultless, but the sound never really aggressive, and Kristopher Tong offered the filling which second violin must have.
But the whole was greater than its parts, and that finale was a masterpiece of stops and starts, of rhythmic vitality. Add to this the authentic Magyar folk influences. Bartók realized that Liszt and Brahms were using pop and Gypsy tunes having just finished his adventurous explorations, and those exotic relationships and harmonies created a world of whirlwind exotica. More to the point, this quartet had moments of sheer romantic (and post-Romantic) beauty, and the quartet exploited these to the fullest.
After the intermission came the Bruckner Quintet. The composer always called himself “a symphonist”, but this, his only mature chamber music could be more digestible at first or second hearing. The duration, at around 30 minutes, is half the symphonies, and the personnel is five percent of an orchestra.
One never felt that Bruckner was denying himself his usual forces, but we listeners (mea culpa!) frequently filled in the orchestral forces on our own.
Not, though, the Adagio movement, which was a heavenly revelation.. The main theme, introduced by viola and developed with the most intricate and soul-stirring inspiration, could be compared easily to the finest slow movements of Schubert or Beethoven. And in its passion, it far exceeds Barber’s own so self-conscious Adagio. Perhaps the full quintet will never have the popularity of its rivals. But the crowning beauty of this slow movement could easily be performed by itself, even as the final work in a program.
Note that the Maverick has many more concerts to go through September, . with details at www.maverickconcerts.org.
Note Two: amongst its less renowned attributes of the theatre is an adjacent outhouse, probably the original. It is immaculately clean but has its original mechanism. The directions are simple. On the floor is a wooden spoon and a wooden basket. The instructions read: “Place Two Spoonfuls of Sawdust In The Toilet.”
Obviously, after nearly a century, Maverick is no flush-in-the-pan phenomena.
ROll MAGAZINE/June 2008
by Peter Aaron
Built just outside of the village of Woodstock in 1916 by Maverick Art Colony founder Hervey White, Maverick Concert Hall is a beautiful, hand-hewn wooden “music chapel” in a fairy-tale forest setting; similar, perhaps, to the rural “composing huts” used by Gustav Mahler, who, along with Franz Schubert, is the focus of the hall’s 2008 season. While the Maverick’s towering, barn-like scale would certainly have dwarfed Mahler’s more intimately designed sheds, the Austrian composer, famous for his ambitious, large-scoped works, would very well likely have found it most agreeable.
“Oh, Mahler would have absolutely loved the Maverick,” says conductor Alexander Platt, now entering his sixth year as the music director of the event, which is the oldest continuously running summer chamber music festival in America. “And being a modernist he would’ve also approved of what we’re doing with our Woodstock Legends series, which presents concerts by jazz and other, for lack of a better term, ‘non-classical’ artists throughout the season.”
Der Mahler, as he was known around his native Vienna, and Platt actually go back a ways. The conductor became the toast of the classical world in 1991 when he reconstructed conductor Erwin Stein’s “lost” 1921 chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony using only the vague notes Stein had made in the margins of the full symphonic score. “[Arranging the piece] was a very mysterious story,” recalls Platt, 45, who worked with Stein’s daughter to decipher her late father’s handwritten instructions. “The parts that Stein had prepared for the individual players were lost. So making the chamber version was painstaking work, far more complex than I’d imagined it would be.” Platt’s arrangement of the composition has since been picked up and performed and recorded by leading orchestras around the world. Platt, who also conducts Wisconsin’s Waukesha Symphony and Indiana’s Marion Philharmonic Orchestra and has led numerous prestigious orchestras around the world, first conducted the Fourth himself at Maverick in 2003 and will reprise the work as the penultimate performance of this year’s festival.
But as lengthy a history Mahler has with Platt, the composer’s ties to America of course go back even farther, 100 years to be exact. 2008 marks the centennial of Mahler’s historic and influential arrival in New York to lead the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. So what better way for Maverick to celebrate than with a full season honoring Mahler, his milieu, and his fellow Romantic-era pacesetter, Schubert? The festival, which runs from June 29 through August 31, promises Viennese chamber music by Mahler contemporaries like Brahms, Bruckner, Korngold, Ives, Debussy, and the masters of the Second Viennese School as played by pianists Frederic Chiu, James Tocco, Babette Hierholzer, and the Miro, Daedalus, Borromeo, and Pacifica string quartets.
Much of Schubert’s greatest chamber music will also be performed by such artists as the Tokyo, Shanghai, Amernet and American string quartets, Trio Solisti, and the cello-and-piano duo of Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein; Schubert’s cello quintet will be played by the St. Lawrence String Quartet with the Ying Quartet’s cellist, David Ying. Two intimate “Schubertiade” evenings will be given by New York City Opera soprano and Dutchess County resident Nancy Allen Lundy and pianist Marc Peloquin; in a program titled A Modern Schubertiade, Peloquin will combine the piano music of Schubert and the music of David Del Tredici. (Previously at Maverick, Platt famously premiered a chamber version of Del Tredici’s renowned 1970s masterpiece Final Alice, earning raves from The New York Times and the composer himself.)
One of the top musicians set to appear at Maverick’s eclectic, local artist-oriented Saturday-night Woodstock Legends series is Woodstock master guitarist and lutist Frederic Hand, whose music blurs the lines between classical, folk, and jazz. “Playing at Maverick is a very unique experience,” says Hand, a returning performer. “It’s almost like an outdoor concert, because the far end of the hall is completely open. But the all-wood construction makes the acoustics just extraordinary—even though there’s absolutely no amplification whatsoever, you can still hear every single nuance. It’s a beautiful space.” Also booked for the Woodstock Legends series are reed player Steve Gorn, the long-running String Trio of New York, and jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell. (Hand, Crispell, violinist Maria Bachmann and cellist Zuill Bailey will each also offer solo performances for Maverick’s series of Young People’s Concerts on Saturday mornings.)
As he speaks on the phone from New York, where he’s about to conduct a performance by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, it’s clear that Platt is excitedly looking forward to returning to the region for another exceptional run.
“I work in other places throughout the year, but Maverick has become central to my existence, both personally and professionally. Anyone who attends one of the concerts at Maverick can look forward to the most authentic musical experience possible. It’s a chance to hear the world’s greatest music in the absolute purest setting.”
From the front page of the Arts section of the New York Times:
What a Curious Feeling! Making a Big Idea Small
By Steve Smith
Published September 3, 2007
WOODSTOCK, N.Y., Sept. 1 — Chamber music could be described as the art of expressing big ideas in small packages. Occasionally it also denotes the necessity of conveying big pieces with limited means. That definition came to mind on Saturday night at Maverick Concerts, a long-running summer series housed in a handsome, rough-hewn wooden shed here, set among stately trees.
Maverick, like many rural chamber-music festivals, presents a steady stream of soloists, string quartets and chamber ensembles; recurring themes and repeated composers provide a sense of unity to its offerings. But the season’s penultimate program brought an ambitious undertaking: David Del Tredici’s “Final Alice,” described by the composer as a “grand concerto for voice and orchestra” and an “opera written in concert form.” Saturday’s presentation was a new chamber version by Alexander Platt, a conductor and the Music Director of Maverick Concerts.
Mr. Platt is an experienced hand at this kind of reduction. In 1993 he reconstructed a version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 scored for soprano and 12 players, created in 1920 by Erwin Stein for Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna. Mr. Platt’s arrangement has been widely performed and recorded.
“Mahlerian” is an apt description of the forces for which Mr. Del Tredici originally wrote “Final Alice,” commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; it had its premiere in 1976. The piece, a setting of passages from the last two chapters of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” lasting more than an hour, required a gargantuan orchestra, an amplified soprano and a “folk group” of two saxophones, accordion, mandolin and banjo.
For his orchestra Mr. Platt made do with a string quartet and double bass, one apiece on flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet and French horn, pairs of percussionists and pianists, and a harmonium part played on synthesizer. The saxophonist Rob Scheps did the work of two in the folk group, which also featured impressive contributions from the accordionist William Schimmel. Patrice Michaels provided a vivid account of the high-flying vocal part, secure in pitch and with careful delineation of multiple characters.
What emerged was a vision of “Final Alice” that underscored aspects overshadowed by the voluptuousness of the original work: in particular, its jarring juxtapositions of disparate melodies, harmonies and rhythms. Where Mr. Del Tredici’s work once heralded a bold return to tonality via melodies so luscious they verged on parody, Mr. Platt’s offered a muscular, sometimes discordant edginess, in tune with contemporary parsings of Carroll’s tales for the forbidden passions they contained!
And More praise from our neighbor in Albany
A landmark piece, well played
By JAMES HENNERTY, Special to the Times Union
First published: Monday, September 3, 2007
Maverick Concerts in Woodstock scored quite a coup on Saturday with a special program of works by American composer David del Tredici.
In the early 1970s, the National Endowment for the Arts commissioned del Tredici to write a work for the American bicentennial. "Final Alice" was the result. It is best described as a dramatic cantata using texts from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The composer had already used the same work as inspiration for earlier pieces, and this was intended as a grand finale.
Not exactly a salute to the red, white and blue—but “Final Alice” became important for purely musical reasons.
For one thing, it used a familiar story together with a huge orchestra of 120 or so players. It was a serious work which used traditional tonality, not the 12-tone system invented by Schoenberg and accepted at that time as the only musical language fit for important statements in classical music. It had its premiere in Chicago in 1976 and was performed all over the nation. A recording boosted its popularity even further.
Now, 12-tone music is on the outs, and traditional tonality is more or less the accepted norm. Del Tredici can take a lot of the credit for that change.
The problem is that the work is rarely performed. Only the largest orchestras can afford the players and provide the space to re-create the original. Maverick's music director, Alexander Platt, has arranged "Final Alice" for chamber music proportions, with the composer's blessing. Would such a pared-down version put the important points of the piece across?
At least in this performance, the answer was a resounding yes. Maverick Concerts uses a small wooden hall built early in the 20th century. In that resonant setting, the five strings, several brass instruments and various percussion pieces easily recalled the sounds of the work when this reviewer heard it in Boston's Symphony Hall several months after its premiere.
Soprano soloist Patrice Michaels has a sizable voice, but even so she was occasionally drowned out by the chamber ensemble. That didn't detract much from her expert recitation of the text and singing. The writing calls for her to sing at ever higher pitch, which never fazed her. Best of all was her depiction of Alice herself.
The Maverick Chamber Players, a small folk group (playing saxophones, accordion, mandolin and so on), and pianist Stephen Hargreaves were all led by Platt. Hargreaves opened the concert with a small piano piece by del Tredici on the same subject. The smaller "Final Alice" packed just as much punch as the original, as the reactions of the audience and the composer, who was on hand for the event, showed.
James Hennerty is a freelance writer from Albany and a regular contributor to the Times Union.
Music review: Maverick Concerts, When: Saturday, Sept. 1, Where: Woodstock , New York, The crowd: About 250 enthusiastic listeners of various ages!
From the May 30 issue of
Time Out New York
In the 2007 CONCERTS issue of Time Out, New York, music editor
and critic Steve Smith wrote: “Plan ahead of the season’s choicest
Steve went on to list only four venues outside of New York City
that were “Notable Outings.”
Foremost among these destinations was our own Maverick Concert series and he
generously devoted a quarter of a page to our wonderful season and made special note of Alexander Platt’s world-premiere re-orchestration of David Del Tredici’s evening length work for soprano and Chamber Orchestra, FINAL ALICE on September 1.
For your further information, Steve Smith only listed three
other festivals of note out of the City: Bard, Glimmerglass Opera, and the Caramoor International Music Festival. We know that those other venues are in very good company!
July 26, 2007
MUSIC / Leslie Gerber
"The program opened with Beethoven's String Quartet in G, Op. 18, No. 2, the most conservative and Haydnesque of Beethoven's quartets. But this was no routine performance; the Pacifica's playing was alert, well-balanced and very expressive, every passage played with real attention to detail and content. The Pacificas really let loose in Gyorgy Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1, "Metamorphoses Nocturnes." This very post-Bartokian music is full of amazing invention, and although it's still recognizable as folk-influenced music, Ligeti uses many sonic tricks and devices which point the way towards his unique music of the 1960s and later. The amazingly well-coordinated and detailed performance was full of drama and imagination, and it will stay in my memory for a long time. ... Theirs was as expressive and moving a performance of the music as I've heard from contemporary performers, and it was a real treat. I don't mind admitting the conclusion left me with a tear or two."
House Poised To OK Hinchey Request Of $150,000 For
Washington, DC - The House this week is expected to approve Congressman Maurice Hinchey's (D-NY) request of $150,000 for a wide array of improvements to the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, a 91-year old, all-wooden structure that every summer plays host to leading chamber music groups from the United States and around the world. The House Appropriations Committee, of which Hinchey is a member, approved the funds last week as part of the Interior Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008. A full House vote on the funds is expected mid-week.
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