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Opening August 5, Bard Music Festival Explores Life and Times of One of the Last Great Romantics in “Rachmaninoff and His World”

July 5, 2022 | By 21C Media Group

Rachmaninoff & the Philadelphia Orchestra (photo: courtesy of Philadelphia Orchestra Archives)

(Annandale-on-Hudson, July 2022)—On Friday August 5, the Bard Music Festival returns with an intensive two-week exploration of “Rachmaninoff and His World.” In twelve themed concert programs, the festival’s 32nd season examines Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943), perhaps the last great exponent of Russian Romanticism, tracing the complex course he navigated between Russia and Modernity (Weekend One: Aug 5–7), and investigating his relationship with the New Worlds he went on to conquer (Weekend Two: Aug 12–14). Enriched by the music of Rachmaninoff’s compatriots, contemporaries, fellow pianist-composers, American influences and more, all events take place in the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College’s Hudson River campus. New Yorkers can take round-trip bus transportation to Programs 6 and 12 (see details below), and home audiences around the world can enjoy Programs 1, 3, 6, 7, 9 and 12 when they stream live on the Fisher Center website. Anchoring Bard SummerScape as in previous seasons, the Bard Music Festival once again promises to be “the summer’s most stimulating music festival” (Los Angeles Times).

“One of the most remarkable figures in the worlds of arts and culture” (NYC Arts, THIRTEEN/WNET), festival founder and co-artistic director Leon Botstein is music director of both the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and The Orchestra Now (TON), Bard’s unique graduate training orchestra. His festival appearances with the ASO include an all-Rachmaninoff event pairing the composer’s posthumously rediscovered First Symphony, celebrated for its melodic invention, thematic cohesion and rich orchestral color, with his last one-act opera, The Miserly Knight. Featuring vocal soloists Nathan BergLimmie PulliamRodell Rosel and Ethan Vincent under Jordan Fein’s direction, Bard’s semi-staged production of the Pushkin adaptation marks a bona fide rarity (Program 6). Botstein’s TON performances include accounts of Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead, a symphonic poem inspired by Swiss symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin (Program 1), and of Henry Cowell’s avant-garde theater piece Atlantis (Program 9), which received its long overdue New York premiere under Botstein’s leadership in 2020. This will be heard alongside other examples of the extraordinarily diverse array of musical styles and approaches on offer in 1930, from Webern’s Symphony, a modernist poetic miniature, to Ferde Grofé’s tone poem Grand Canyon Suite, a one-time audience favorite; the Suite from Shostakovich’s satirical, politically charged ballet, The Golden Age; and Respighi’s orchestral transcriptions of Rachmaninoff’s Études-tableaux (Program 9).

Rachmaninoff was one of classical music’s preeminent pianist-composers, and the piano figures prominently in this year’s festival. A top prizewinner at the 2021 Sydney International Piano Competition, Ukrainian pianist Artem Yasynskyy joins TON as soloist in the composer’s virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Program 1); celebrated Rachmaninoff interpreter Zlata Chochieva undertakes the composer’s accomplished but seldom-performed Fourth Piano Concerto (Program 9); and Gramophone Award-nominated festival favorite Danny Driver joins the ASO for Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto (Program 3), arguably the best-loved example of the genre in the canon. This is juxtaposed with Busoni’s Piano Concerto (Program 3), a monumental rarity for vast forces that was previously championed by Botstein and the ASO at Carnegie Hall. There, as now, their soloist was Piers Lane, who brought “drive, athleticism and muscularity, certainly, but also lyricism and shapeliness” (New York Times) to Busoni’s fiendishly challenging score.

BBC Music Magazine Award-winner Andrey Gugnin joins the Viano String Quartet for the Piano Quintet by Rachmaninoff’s teacher Anton Arensky (Program 2), and peerless collaborative pianist Brian Zeger for that of the composer’s great friend and colleague Nikolai Medtner (Program 5). Solo piano highlights include Yasynskyy’s accounts of Rachmaninoff’s perennially popular C-sharp minor Prelude (Program 1) and the beautifully crafted, single-movement Third Piano Sonata by Prokofiev (Program 5); and Lane’s interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s masterful Variations on a Theme of Chopin, heard on a wide-ranging program that sheds light on the grueling touring careers of virtuoso pianists (Program 8). Driver and Lane join forces for the composer’s little-known two-piano arrangement of his own Symphonic Dances, which synthesize nostalgia for Rachmaninoff’s Russian roots with the sounds of Cole PorterDuke Ellington and other contemporary Americans, whose music may be heard at the same event (Program 7).

Besides anchoring piano quintets by two of his Russian contemporaries, the Viano String Quartet – first prizewinner at the Banff International Quartet Competition – performs Rachmaninoff’s own little-known Second String Quartet (Program 1). Sphinx Competition-winner Gabriel Martins is the cellist in the composer’s superlative Cello Sonata (Program 5), Chinese violinist Luosha Fang lends her “finesse and emotional heft” (Gramophone) to Nikolay Myaskovsky’s Violin Sonata in F (Program 11), and two-time Grammy-nominated violinist Jesse Mills takes part in the A-minor Sonata for Violin and Piano by Rachmaninoff’s teacher Sergei Taneyev, whose profile Bard has already done much to raise (Program 2).

Italian American soprano Alexis Seminario, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, tenor William Ferguson and baritone Tyler Duncan interpret songs by RachmaninoffMedtner and Prokofiev in “Rachmaninoff and the Female Muse,” a concert with commentary by Scholar-in-Residence Philip Ross Bullock (Program 4). Other vocal highlights include performances of songs by Rachmaninoff (Program 1) and Florence Price (Program 11) by Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan, second prizewinner at the 2021 Operalia.

As in previous seasons, all choral works showcase the Bard Festival Chorale and James Bagwell. Hailed as “one of the high points of every Bard Festival” (New York Arts), this season’s annual choral program presents Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, a spiritual work in the Russian Orthodox tradition whose resonant a cappella sonorities use the full range of the human voice (Program 10). To conclude the festival, Bagwell and the choir join Botstein and TON for a pair of grand-scale choral symphonies: the Wagnerian, six-movement First Symphony by Rachmaninoff’s classmate Scriabin, and The Bells, the apocalyptic yet ultimately uplifting piece that was Rachmaninoff’s favorite of his own works (Program 12).

Supplementary events and publication

Besides the twelve concert programs, there will be two free panel discussions and a series of informative pre-concert talks, all free to ticket-holders, by scholars Byron AdamsMichael BeckermanLeon BotsteinMarina Frolova-WalkerEmily FreyChristopher GibbsDana GooleyRebecca MitchellSteve Swayne and Richard Wilson. In a special event on August 12, there will be screenings of two films in which Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos play a key part: David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945) and Scott Hicks’s Shine (1996). The Bard Music Festival and ASO also present the U.S. premiere of At the Reading of a Psalm by Sergei Taneyev at Carnegie Hall (July 15), and Bard SummerScape stages The Silent Woman (“Die schweigsame Frau”), a comic opera by Rachmaninoff’s close contemporary Richard Strauss, in a rare new production from German director Christian Räth (July 22–31). Edited by Bard’s 2022 Scholar-in-Residence, Philip Ross Bullock, a Professor of Russian Literature and Music at the University of Oxford, Rachmaninoff and His World is published by the University of Chicago Press.

Round-trip bus transportation from New York City

Chartered coach transportation from New York City is available for select SummerScape and Bard Music Festival programs. Round-trip transportation for Programs 6 and 12 may be ordered online or by calling the box office. The meeting point for coach pick-up and drop-off is at Lincoln Center, Amsterdam Avenue, between 64th & 65th Streets. More information is available here.

SummerScape tickets

Tickets for all Bard Music Festival and other SummerScape events are now on sale, starting at $25. For complete information regarding tickets, series discounts and more, visit fishercenter.bard.edu. or call Bard’s box office at (845) 758-7900.

Click here for high-resolution photos.

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Bard Music Festival: Weekend One

Fri, Aug 5 – Sun, Aug 7: “Russia and Modernity”

All performances are in the Fisher Center and other locations on Bard College campus, Annandale-on-Hudson, which is accessible by regular Amtrak trains. Program Six is serviced by round-trip bus from Manhattan: see below for details.

Friday, August 5

PROGRAM ONE: The Virtuoso as Composer
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestreamed at 8pm
Artists:
Danny Driver, Fei-Fei, Andrey Gugnin, Kirill Kuzmin, Anna Polonsky & Artem Yasynskyy, piano; Mané Galoyan, soprano; Viano String Quartet; The Orchestra Now / Leon Botstein, music director
Program:
RACHMANINOFF: Songs and piano works, incl. selections from Ten Preludes & Six Morceaux; String Quartet No. 2; Isle of the Dead; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
BACH/RACHMANINOFF: From Violin Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006
TCHAIKOVSKY/RACHMANINOFF: “Lullaby” from Six Romances
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$60; livestream: $25
7:30pm: pre-concert talk with Leon Botstein
Click here for tickets and more info.

Saturday, August 6

PANEL ONE: Rachmaninoff and the 20th Century
Venue & time:
Olin Hall from 10am–12 noon
A panel discussion with noted scholars, including a short Q&A.
Christopher H. Gibbs, moderator; Philip Ross Bullock; Marina Frolova-Walker; Rebecca Mitchell
Tickets: Free and open to the public
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM TWO: Mentors, Rivals, Patrons
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 1:30pm
Artists:
Rieko Aizawa, Fei-Fei, Andrey Gugnin & Anna Polonsky, piano; Jesse Mills, violin; Gabriel Martins, cello; Viano String Quartet; and others
Program:
RACHMANINOFF: from Six moments musicaux
César CUI: from 20 Poèmes de Jean Richepin
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Flight of the Bumblebee
TCHAIKOVSKY: Pezzo capriccioso
Sergei TANEYEV: Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor
Mykola LYSENKO: Song Without Words
Aleksandr DARGOMYZHSKY: from Rusalka
Aleksandr GLAZUNOV: Courante from Les vendredis, Book II
Anatoly LYADOV: Sarabande in G minor, from Les vendredis, Book II
Anton ARENSKY: Piano Quintet in D
Tickets:
Live in-person: $25–$55
1pm: pre-concert talk with Rebecca Mitchell
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM THREE: The Pianist-Composer
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestreamed at 8pm
Artists:
Danny Driver, Piers Lane, piano; Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell, choral director; American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein, music director
Program:
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI: Prelude to Act 3 of Manru
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
BUSONI: Piano Concerto in C
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$75; livestream: $25
7pm: pre-concert talk with Michael Beckerman
Click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, August 7

PROGRAM FOUR: Rachmaninoff and the Female Muse
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 10am, with commentary by Philip Ross Bullock
Artists: Alexis Seminario VAP ‘22, soprano; Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, mezzo-soprano; William Ferguson, tenor; Tyler Duncan, baritone; Erika Switzer & Victoria Schwartzman, piano
Program:
Songs by RACHMANINOFF
Nikolai MEDTNER: from Seven Poems after Pushkin
PROKOFIEV: Five Poems of Anna Akhmatova
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$55
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM FIVE: Rachmaninoff’s Russian Contemporaries
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 1:30pm
Artists:
Fei-Fei, Anna Polonsky, Artem Yasynskyy and Brian Zeger, piano; Gabriel Martins, cello; Viano String Quartet; and others
Program:
Felix BLUMENFELD: from Three Etudes
Vasily KALINNIKOV: Russian Intermezzo
STRAVINSKY: Two Poems of Paul Verlaine
SCRIABIN: from Five Preludes
PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 3
Nikolai MEDTNER: Piano Quintet in C
RACHMANINOFF: from Thirteen Preludes; from Études-tableaux, Op. 33; Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$55
1pm: pre-concert talk with Emily Frey
Click here for tickets and more info.

* PROGRAM SIX: Failure and Recovery
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestreamed at 5:30pm
Artists:
Limmie Pulliam & Rodell Rosel, tenors; Ethan Vincent, baritone; Nathan Berg, bass-baritone; Jordan Fein, director; American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein, music director
Program:
RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 1; The Miserly Knight
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$75; livestream: $25
4:30pm: pre-concert talk with Leon Botstein
Click here for tickets and more info.

Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $75 and reservations are required; click here for details.

Bard Music Festival: Weekend Two

Fri, Aug 12 – Sun, Aug 14: “New Worlds”

All performances are in the Fisher Center and other locations on Bard College campus, Annandale-on-Hudson, which is accessible by regular Amtrak trains. Program Twelve is serviced by round-trip bus from Manhattan: see below for details.

Friday, August 12

SPECIAL EVENT: Film Screenings

Venue & time:
LUMA Theater
2pm: Brief Encounter (1945)
4pm: Shine (1996)

PROGRAM SEVEN: From Bolshoi to Broadway: Rachmaninoff in America
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestreamed at 8pm
Artists:
Allegra Chapman, Danny Driver & Piers Lane, piano; Luosha Fang, violin; Bard Festival Ensemble and guests, Zachary Schwartzman, conductor; and others
Program:
Ferde GROFÉ: Russian Rose (Fox Trot)
STRAVINSKY: Ebony Concerto
Jerome KERN: All the Things You Are (Hammerstein II)
Cole PORTER: Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love
Vernon DUKE: April in Paris
Irving BERLIN: Russian Lullaby
Duke ELLINGTON: It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got that Swing)
Jascha HEIFETZ: “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess; March from Prokofiev’s The Love of Three Oranges
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue
RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$60; livestream: $25
7:30pm: pre-concert talk with Dana Gooley
Click here for tickets and more info.

Saturday, August 13

PANEL TWO: The Contested Legacy of Sergei Rachmaninoff

Venue & time:
Olin Hall from 10am – 12 noon
A panel discussion with noted scholars, including a short Q&A.
Philip Ross Bullock, moderator; Steve Swayne; and others
Tickets: Free and open to the public
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM EIGHT: The Piano and Its Protagonists
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 1:30pm
Artists:
Michael Stephen Brown, Andrey Gugnin, Piers Lane, Wynona Wang & Artem Yasynskyy, piano
Program:
HANDEL: from Suite in E, HWV 430
BACH: Prelude in B minor, BWV 855a; Chorale Prelude “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen,” BWV 734
SCARLATTI: Pastorale
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI: Minuet in G
Adolf von HENSELT: from 12 Ètudes caractéristiques
Anton RUBINSTEIN: from Two Melodies
LISZT: from Années de pèlerinage
Eugen D’ALBERT: from Four Pieces for Piano
Ernst von DOHNÁNYI: from Three Pieces; Étude in F minor
Nikolai MEDTNER: Sonata-Fairy Tale
Sergei TANEYEV: Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp minor
GODOWSKY: from 53 Studies on Chopin’s Études
RACHMANINOFF: Variations on a Theme of Chopin
Tickets:
Live in-person: $25–$55
1pm: pre-concert talk with Byron Adams
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM NINE: Whose 20th Century?
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestreamed at 8pm
Artists:
Zlata Chochieva, piano; Heather Buck, soprano; Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, mezzo-soprano; William Ferguson, tenor; The Orchestra Now / Leon Botstein, music director
Program:
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor
SHOSTAKOVICH: from Suite from The Golden Age
RACHMANINOFF/RESPIGHI: from Five Études-tableaux
WEBERN: Symphony
Ferde GROFÉ: Grand Canyon Suite
Henry COWELL: Atlantis
TICKETS:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$75; livestream: $25
7pm: pre-concert talk with Christopher H. Gibbs
Click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, August 14

PROGRAM TEN: Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 10am
Artists:
Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell, choral director
Program:
RACHMANINOFF: All-Night Vigil
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$55
Click here for tickets and more info.

PROGRAM ELEVEN: In the Shadow of the Cold War
Venue & time:
Olin Hall at 1:30pm
Artists:
Allegra Chapman, Kirill Kuzmin, Wynona Wang & Orion Weiss, piano; Mané Galoyan, soprano; Luosha Fang, violin
Program:
Abram CHASINS: Fantasy on Two Themes from Weinberger’s opera Shvanda
RACHMANINOFF: from Three Russian SongsVariations on a Theme of Corelli (La folia)
BARBER: Sonata in E-flat minor
Florence PRICE: “Hold Fast to Dreams”; “An April Day”
Dmitry KABALEVSKY: from Six Preludes and Fugues
COPLAND: from Our Town, Suite for Piano; The Young Pioneers
Nikolay MYASKOVSKY: Violin Sonata in F
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$55
1pm: pre-concert talk with Richard Wilson
Click here for tickets and more info.

* PROGRAM TWELVE: Symphonic Poetry and Spirituality in the Silver Age
Venue & time:
Sosnoff Theater livestream at 5pm
Artists:
Mané Galoyan, soprano; Maya Lahyani, mezzo-soprano; Viktor Antipenko, tenor; Ethan Vincent, baritone; Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell, choral director; The Orchestra Now / Leon Botstein, music director
Program:
SCRIABIN: Symphony No. 1 in E
RACHMANINOFF: The Bells
Tickets:
Live in-person tickets: $25–$75; livestream: $25
4pm: pre-concert talk with Marina Frolova-Walker
Click here for tickets and more info.

Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $75 and reservations are required; click here for details.

SummerScape 2022: other key dates

Until July 17
Theater: Molière’s Dom Juan (world premiere of new adaptation & translation)

Until August 13
Spiegeltent: live music and dancing

July 22–31
Opera: R. Strauss’s The Silent Woman (“Die Schweigsame Frau”; new production)

All programs subject to change

The 2022 SummerScape season is made possible in part by the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Advisory Boards of the Fisher Center at Bard and Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center and Bard Music Festival members. The 2022 Bard Music Festival has received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

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© 21C Media Group, July 2022

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