The 96th Maverick Concerts season, which begins officially this weekend with a 4 p.m. concert by the Tokyo String Quartet Sunday, June 26, will resemble the origins of the series more than most seasons in my experience (nearly four decades). Classical music concerts are still the major focus of Maverick. But the season also includes a jazz series, two theatrical events, and a Young People’s Concert of folk music (with Elizabeth Mitchell, on August 6).
Maverick’s Music Director, Alexander Platt, explains the changes: “We must have events on Saturday night if we are going to be truly a festival, as opposed to a concert series. And most people don’t want to go to two classical music events at the Maverick on the same weekend. Many of them may wish to go to another classical event, but then there are Bard and Tanglewood close by. So when we do have an all-classical weekend, it’s something truly unique, like the Bernstein ‘Songfest’ [Sept. 3] or the complete Wolf ‘Italian Songbook,’ with Babette Hierholzer and singers from the New York City Opera” [August 27].
This summer’s special themes for Maverick are celebrations of anniversaries for Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Mahler, and Franz Liszt. It’s difficult to perform Mahler, who wrote mostly symphonies, on a chamber series. But imaginative programming will give us his only chamber work — a one-movement Piano Quartet, written in his teens — on August 14 (Justin Kolb and the Amernet Quartet); two movements from his Symphony No. 7, arranged for two pianos, on July 31 (pianists Andrew Russo and Frederic Chiu); and several of his songs on September 3. Even more unusual, the jazz pianist Uri Caine, who has gained an international reputation with his jazz improvisations on Mahler, will perform a “Mahlerian Journey” on August 20.
Bernstein and Liszt appear frequently. Bernstein’s rare, early Piano Trio is part of Trio Solisti’s concert on July 17. The program also includes the masterpiece “Vitebsk” by Aaron Copland, a longtime friend and colleague of Bernstein. Music by Bernstein’s student, Bright Sheng, also features on the program, and the composer will give a special pre-concert lecture/demonstration at 3 p.m. with the performers. On July 23, singers Perry Beekman, Bar Scott, and Terry Blaine join pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas for “The Leonard Bernstein Songbook.” Transcriptions of two major Bernstein works, his Symphony No. 2 and “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story,’” share the July 31 program with Mahler. (The performers will do a Young People’s Concert of Bernstein on July 30 at 11 a.m.) On August 28, the Shanghai Quartet offers “Three Meditations from ‘Mass’” for cello and piano (Joel Fan), along with works by Copland, Beethoven, and the American romantic Arthur Foote. And as part of Platt’s revival of the old Maverick tradition of chamber orchestra concerts, he will conduct the world premiere of a chamber version of Bernstein’s “Songfest” (with six solo singers) at a special concert on September 3.
Liszt, whose 200th birthday anniversary we celebrate this year, will be heard several times in August. On the 7th, the excellent pianist Jon Nakamatsu, winner of the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn Competition, performs Liszt’s “Three Petrarch Sonnets” and the “Dante” Sonata, along with works of Rameau and Brahms in his Maverick debut. (Nakamatsu also graces this year’s PianoSummer Festival at SUNY New Paltz.) Pianist Justin Kolb, in a 3 p.m. “Prelude” performance on August 14, plays Liszt’s formidable solo piano transcription of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Works of Liszt and Brahms make up the entire Friends of the Maverick benefit concert on August 21, performed by cellist Zuill Baley and pianist Navah Perlman. And another Maverick debut artist, pianist Ilya Yakushev, plays Liszt’s greatest piano masterpiece, the Sonata in B Minor, along with works of Bach and Prokofiev, in a special Friday concert on September 2.
Pianists, not always a major presence at Maverick in recent years, are a special feature of this summer’s programs. “We have an intensity on the solo piano this summer,” says Platt,” with young classical stars like Andrew Russo, Jon Nakamatsu, Joel Fan, Ilya Yakushev, and our old friend Frederic Chiu, and some of the great jazz artists like Bill Charlap (August 13) and Uri Caine. It’s eclectic, and electric too!” Area resident Don Byron, seldom heard nearby in recent years, brings his Ivey-Divey Trio to the jazz series on August 6.
There are also some significant debuts at Maverick this summer. Aside from pianists Russo, Nakamatsu, and Yakushev, the series features the wonderful Leipzig Quartet on July 24 (check out this group’s recordings on the cpo label) and the famous “post-classical” string quartet ETHEL (July 16). I wondered how Platt got a string quartet all the way from Leipzig. He heard about the ensemble from its agent, “the legendary Melvin Kaplan” as Platt calls him, who has also brought to Maverick the American Quartet, the Pacifica Quartet, and Quatuor Ebène from Paris. The Leipzig program features famous names, but the Mendelssohn it plays is the rarely heard final Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80, perhaps the only work by that composer one could accurately label tragic. All three of Schumann’s quartets, including the Op. 41, No. 3 on this program, are fairly well known. But only a classical specialist is likely to have heard Verdi’s only String Quartet, a lovely piece the composer wrote while awaiting a delayed performance of “Aïda” in Naples.
ETHEL, which regularly sells out its New York concerts and tours widely, brings to Maverick a program with some familiar names. Philip Glass is represented by a suite from his music for the 2002 film The Hours, based on the life of Virgina Woolf. Terry Riley was the feature of a tribute at Bard College last season; Julia Wolfe, David Lang, and Mark Stewart are all associated with the famous Bang on a Can performers’ and composers’ collective; and the Chinese composer Ruo Huang was a founder of the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble.
In recent years, Maverick has made its hall available to other performers. This already happened on May 18 and May 19 with a highly successful pair of performances by Ars Choralis. The traditional “Woodstock Beat” concert, a benefit for the Woodstock/Byrdcliffe Guild, occurs on July 2 with NEXUS Percussion and the Canadian Brass. And the theatrical group Actors & Writers will offer programs at Maverick on June 25 and July 3 (a Sunday evening event, after the regular afternoon Maverick concert).
The season begins with longtime Maverick (and world) favorites, the Tokyo String Quartet, this Sunday at 4 p.m. The ensemble will be joined by violist Samuel Quintal in two of Mozart’s String Quintets, separated by the fascinating String Quartet No. 1 by Karol Szymanowski. On July 3, the Miró Quartet performs works of Schubert, Beethoven, and Kevin Puts. Guitarist Jason Vieaux plays a Young People’s Concert on July 9 at 11 a.m. and a regular recital called “Metheny and the Masters” at 6 p.m. The St. Petersburg Quartet plays on July 10, a program surrounding a Bassoon Quintet by Russell Platt (Alexander’s brother and an excellent composer) with works by Borodin and Tchaikovsky. The Babette Hierholzer concert mentioned by Alexander Platt, “Mahler’s Ghosts,” offers Hierholzer playing a transcription of the Adagio from Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and singers Nancy Allen Lundy and Philip Cutlip in the complete “Italian Songbook” by Hugo Wolf, amazingly inspired and engrossing music. The season concludes with the Daedalus Quartet, on September 4, performing quartets of Haydn and Schumann and the rarely heard “Notturno” of Othmar Schoeck with baritone Andrew Garland.
All Maverick Concerts take place at the Maverick Concert Hall, Maverick Road, Woodstock. Saturday performances this year are all at 8 p.m. except for August 27 and September 3, which are at 6 p.m.; Sunday concerts are at 4 p.m. The ever-expanding Maverick website includes more program details and offers the concert program notes a couple of weeks in advance: www.maverickconcerts.org.++