Bard’s Concordium is harmonious in Hudson
Published on November 24th, 2012 | by Tatiana Klacsmann
The TMI Arts Page The Millbrook Independent
Members of Concordium ensemble in front of a photograph by Roy Volkmann. Photo by Tatiana Klacsmann.
ClaverackLanding, established in 2010 by artistic director Gwen Gould, sponsors chamber music in an informal atmosphere. Programming includes both guest artists and musicians drawn from the Columbia Festival Orchestra. On November 17, at the First Presbyterian Church in Hudson, ClaverackLanding hosted musicians from the Bard College Conservatory of Music. The ensemble group, Concordium, comprises Greg Drilling and Alex Meyer, oboes; Noémi Sallai and Molly Wyrick-Flax, clarinets; Josh Hodge and David A. Nagy, bassoons; Ferenc Farkas and Jimmy Haber, horns; Bence Botár, double bass; and Frances Lee, piano. Oboist Stephen Hammer coaches the young musicians. Hammer performs with groups including the New York Collegium and Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society and has been affiliated with Bard since 2003.
Concordium is a harmonie ensemble—a group mostly made up of wind instruments. The group’s name relates to Concordia, Roman goddess of agreement, whose Greek counterpart is Harmonia. The harmonie is a large ensemble with up to nine members on stage at a time and, as an ensemble, performs without a conductor. The goddess of cooperation and accord is an apt patron for the group, which played beautifully in unison by staying alert to cues from fellow musicians while each maintaining his or her own intricate part.
The concert, titled The Streets of Vienna, included late 18th- and early19th-century music written and performed in Vienna. Vienna was a hub of musical activity and home to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. It was also the city where the harmonie type of ensemble was popular. Hammer, who selected the three pieces by Mozart, and one each by Beethoven and Franz Krommer, considers the harmonie group to be in some ways analogous to an iPod in that it offered music on the go. Originally these wind ensembles performed out-of-doors and helped popularize music commissioned by and performed for the aristocracy. The contemporary audience was likewise treated to arrangements of popular pieces for symphony orchestra, including the overture from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Program notes written by Michael Collier accompanied the music, providing more information about the composers and each piece. These notes could be helpful to anyone who might be new to classical music or just needed a reminder of the particulars. I found them particularly useful in learning more about Czech composer Krommer, who spent part of his productive years in Vienna as well as Hungary.
The program’s integrated offering of both music and historical information reflects Bard’s approach to conservatory education. Established in 2005, the Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a five-year program during which students complete both a bachelor of music and a bachelor’s degree in a nonmusical subject. Bassoonist David A. Nagy, a Bard senior, describes first becoming acquainted with the program while living in his native Hungary in a conservatory where one needs to know math. Nagy is in the midst of applying to Juilliard for graduate school. At Bard he studied linguistics and will receive a degree in Japanese literature.
ClaverackLanding’s The Streets of Vienna, performed by the Concordium ensemble, offered the audience classical Viennese music. The students engaged with a receptive and enthusiastic audience. ClaverackLanding and Concordium is a win-win situation. Concordia would be pleased.
For more information about ClaverackLanding.com including upcoming concerts: http://claveracklanding.org/.
Concordium brings golden sound to Hudson
by John Paul Keeler
for Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Friday, November 23, 2012
Bard’s Concordium Wind Ensemble came to the Presbyterian Church on Warren Street as part of the 2012-13 season of the ClaverackLanding Music Series. It was an evening of golden sound featuring Greg Drilling and Alex Meyer oboes, Noemi Sallai and Molly Wyric-Flack clarinets, Josh Hodge and David A. Nagy bassoons, Ferene Farkas and Jimmy Haber horns, along with Bence Botar double bass and pianist Frances Lee.
Music for wind instruments was the rage in late 18th Century Vienna. These itinerant musicians could be found on the street corners in the gardens and outside the palaces throughout the city serenading the citizens. Mozart was getting ready for bed on his name day when he heard in the courtyard the first chord of his serenade for winds and he jumped from his bed to enjoy and reward the musicians. Mozart’s operas were so popular that arrangements for wind instruments from these works were played all over town. The gorgeous “Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio” began the program with sparkling sound and stunning energy and humor. Next came the rarely heard “Partita in F Major op 57″ of Franz Krommer (1759-1831). This delightful four movement work put the players through their paces with infectious joy. The first half of the program ended with Beethoven’s only Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat Opus 16. The quintet is modeled after Mozart’s “Quintet K452″ of 1784. Like Mozart, this quintet was the only one Beethoven composed for winds and piano. It is a festive work spilling over with beauty and poetry quite normal for Beethoven the 22 year old genius. The young musicians took to the piece as a fish to a hook. In the midst of glorious wind sound, Frances Lee at the piano was simply brilliant in this exciting performance.
After intermission came Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Bassoons K292″ performed by Josh Hodge and David Nagy. The work might have been a study for a concerto for Bassoon. Although the piece delightfully played seemed somewhat slight, it is important to think of Mozart’s incomparable writing for the bassoon in all his wind works symphonies and operas. In his biography of Mozart, Sacheverli Sitwell declares “No other composer has ever understood the qualities of individual instruments as did Mozart.” He goes further saying, “When Mozart writes for the bassoon it is like a sea-god speaking.”
The concert ended with “Overture and Arias from the ‘Magic Flute’ of 1791″. This wonderful wind octet was the high point of a fabulous concert. The Overture though truncated sounded grand. the Bird Catcher’s Song was infectious delight and the humming scene with Papageno’s mouth locked up didn’t need words to project its great message. The beautiful scene of the magic flute in action was ravishing and the final scene for Papageno and his finally found Papagena brought the audience to their feet. One was delighted in the beauty of the church and glad they ripped the old carpet from the floor revealing the splendid wood and adding greatly to the acoustics for music in the church. the reception following the concert at the beautifully restored Rowles Studio on Warren Street was a food and beverage delight and wonderful time of conversation with the artists and their audience.
Oliveira’s violin brings noble classical beauty to Hudson
by John Paul Keeler
Friday, May 18, 2012
One of the most astonishing musical events in the history of Hudson occurred on May 12 in a great room at the Hudson Armory which is currently being changed and fitted for a library amongst other interesting things in construction.
Gwen Gould brought to town for her ClaverackLanding concert series the great American Violinist Elmar Oliveira whose recitals and orchestral appearances around the world are already legendary. He is the only American Violinist to win the Gold medal at Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky International Competition. He is also First Prize Winner at the Naumberg International Competition and the first violinist to receive the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. His acclaimed CD recordings run from the Baroque to the present.
The recital opened with Handel’s “Sonata No. 1 in D Major for Violin and Piano.” Oliveira’s sound was thrilling, like that of the greatest full throated opera singers. His violin mastery places him in the exalted company of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century from Fritz Kreisler, Menuhin, Zimbalist, Francescatti and Joseph Szigeti. He has no rivals in the present century.
In the Handel Sonata the beautiful pulsing long lines of bel canto purity touched the heart and the subtle touch of piano and forte from his fiddle reached poetry. The zest of the two allegro movements was sheer magic and the Larghetto a serene reverie. The audience at the end of the Handel rose and shouted their bravos and the applause here and throughout the concert was thunderous.
The Dvorak “Sonatina for violin and piano Op. 100″ is a late work the composer created in tribute to his children. It is brilliant and playful and the Larghetto second movement reminds of Rachmaninov’s great song “To The Children” bringing a passing sadness as though like in the Rachmaninov song “The children are children no more.” But joy returns quite quickly to the initial playfulness. The final movements Molto Vivace and Allegretto sweep merrily dramatically and lyrically covering the full gambit of violinistic expression.
After intermission the Debussy “Sonata for violin and piano of 1916″ was a tour de force with all the stops pulled out and the sonata seemed a fantastic whirligig. This fantastic Impressionist piece was all creative lightnings falling from the sky with no melodic development but intense brilliance of sound and technique again bringing the audience to their feet.
The concert ended with three interesting single movement works. First Brahms’ “Sonatensatz Scherzo” had a majestic blazing brio. Then Tchaikovsky’s “Melodie Op 42 No. 3″ with its ravishing melody gave Oliveira a chance again to make music soar heavenward. Pure poetry again without a trace of sentimentality and surely the highest taste and sure musical penetration. The final work on the program the violist-composer Wieniawski’s wonderfully humorous “Mazurka Op 19 No. 2″ celebrates with aplomb a rustic primitive fiddle maker up in the mountains with a telling sparkle not unlike Mozart’s “A Musica Joke” – again the audience loved it. Encores came next and two delightful pieces by Fritz Kreisler the violinist-composer were just right.
Pianist Robert Koenig who played the recital with Oliveira is a great artist and their perfect ensemble collaboration was just as marvelous as the concerts Robert Casadesus and Zino Franciscatti played together and recorded in the 1960′s. Mr. Koenig brought splendid sonority from his instrument and rythmic and musical dovetailing to every work on the program.
This spectacular music making must return again to Hudson in the near future.
Posted on March 4, 2012 by Word on the Street
“Architecture is frozen music,” Goethe once remarked, and in the spirit of that quote, Claverack Landing, an offshoot of the Columbia Festival Orchestra, has embarked on a series of chamber music concerts in a number of Hudson’s many eye -opening architectural spaces. “We love the history of this city,” says founder and artistic director Gwen Gould. “We wanted to give our audience a chance to visit some of the great spaces in Hudson and, at the same time, hear wonderful musicians. “ The first concert in November, with the Reinhold/Jolles violin duo, took place on the second floor of TK Home and Garden. The second, with the amazing Intimate Voices string quartet, happened this past Saturday in the main chapel of First Presbyterian Church, in front of the Tiffany Glass- designed Christ mosaic (respectfully augmented by Roy Volkman’s graphic of a trumpet created for the series); attendees could almost see the 1870s ceiling trusses melting as the group masterfully tore through pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and most excitingly, Dmitiri Yanov-Yanovsky, a contemporary Uzebeki- born composer who meticulously notates violin and cello rapping and plucking syncopations in his scores. (Upon inquiring, the groups lead violinist, Renee Jolles, helpfully showed me the notations during intermission — just one example of the casually interactive approach that the series offers its audience.) The concert was followed by a reception in the trippily detailed Tin Ballroom upstairs from Vince Mulford Antiques, catered by the gourmet food shop Olde Hudson. (Great salami and chamber music turn out to go very well together.)
There is something truly tonic about being able to experience well-played classical music –or any other performing art of this caliber — in a large- scale historical space with great acoustics, a melding of the eyes and ears that Hudsonites will hopefully get to experience more often whenever the Hudson Opera House auditorium opens for business. In the meanwhile the town will have just a couple of other such events this season: Paula Robison, flute, and Frederic Hand, guitar, in “Songs without Words,” Saturday, March 31 at Christ Church Episcopal Church, and Elmar Oliveira, violin, Robert Koenig, piano, Saturday, May 12, at The Armory. (The last of these may be a unveiling of sorts of what Galvan Partners may or not be doing with the interior of the building.) –Scott Baldinger
Music in Columbia County
Notes from the Grid by Musica’s Rob Caldwell, 8/21/11
…It’s no surprise to discover that the Columbia Festival Orchestra has made better and more frequent use of spaces throughout the area than any other organization. Commercial joints, churches libraries, the county fair, you name it they will play and entertain. Since 1988 Gwen Gould, the artistic director of CFO, has provided the opportunity for county folk to access more excellent music in more places than anyone else. Kudos…
May 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm by Priscilla McLean
By Priscilla McLean, Special to the Times Union
Club Helsinki is full of surprises. Who knew that above the bar and restaurant was a warmly reverberant concert space? It is also very charming, with gleaming hardwood floor, brick walls and wooden rafters, premiered on Sunday by Tapestry, a quartet of stunning women vocalists.
Their program featured medieval and Renaissance music as well as very new pieces— an astounding span of a thousand years. The concert began and ended with folk stories that were acted out by the women as they sang, the first being medieval music from Portugal about a queen with magical powers, sung dramatically by Laurie Monahan, mezzo soprano as the queen. The women sang in a clear tone, using vibrato only slightly and holding high notes with no vibrato, evoking a pure sound that is very striking and the hallmark of medieval singing. Diana Brewer, soprano, also played the vielle, medieval violin-like instrument.
Hildegard von Bingen’s Antiphon for Divine Love, composed in the 12th Century, was sung mainly in unison, with held notes for some harmony and casting a hypnotic spell with these clear voices. The music split into polyphony for the 13th Century Ave Maria Stella from the Las Huelgas Codex, the voices intertwining in supple and interesting ways.
After a set of songs by Patricia Van Ness, written in the medieval and Renaissance styles, with a particularly lovely florid melody sung by Cristi Catt in her silvery voice, the tour de force of the afternoon was a 35-minute operatic cantata, The Tale of the White Rooster by Sheila Silver.
The story features five Tibetan Buddhist nuns fleeing into India when one is shot by a border guard. The others try to find help for her. Imbedded in this story is a folk tale about a prince who is imprisoned in a white rooster’s skin by demons. During this mildly dramatic presentation, the quartet played Tibetan singing bowls, mixing their pitches with the bowls’ tones, and sometimes sang quicker rhythmic music to two mid-Eastern frame drums, played ably by Takaaki Masuko, who also assumed the role of Tibetan doctor at the end.
The music was fascinating, using Tibetan chants, modern harmonies and interweaving original melodies with much variety. All the bowls and singers combined for a strong finale, and Masuko continued playing the bowls to end the cantata in a timeless sonic gesture.
Priscilla McLean is a freelance writer and composer/performer.
ClaverackLanding series: Tapestry vocal quartet
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Club Helsinki, Hudson
Length: 90 minutes with one intermission
Crowd: Full house, mixed ages
Thrilling musical revelation with the Chimeng Quartet
by John Paul Keeler
for Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Four beautiful young Asian ladies, graduate students at Bard College came to Hudson as part of Gwen Gould’s “ClaverackLanding” series in Hudson. The young artists Luosha Fang and Yang Li, violinists, Shuangshuang Liu, viola and Jia Cao cello formed “The Chimeng Quartet”.
This writer has heard most of the major Quartets in America since the arrival in New York of the Lowenguth Quartet from Paris in 1949. From the evidence of the Chimeng Quartet in this concert, they seem destined to reach the top. They bring ravishing tone from their instruments and a stunning ensemble spirit, rare in any period of classical performance.
It was brave to begin the concert with the best, Mozart’s “Quartet No 22 in B, K589″ of 1790. This was no warm up but a thrilling musical revelation. Amidst the beauty the Chimeng brought to the quartet one could almost hear the great Joseph Haydn saying to Mozart’s father, “In the face of God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either personally or by reputation.” The quartet was commissioned by King Friedrich of Prussia. the King played the cello and Mozart gave the instrument a royal part in the quartet. The astonishing variety Mozart brought to all the instruments and the seemingly effortless singing sound soared forth in lyric splendor. Mozart always seemed to triumph where other masters simply could not compete. The Chimeng mastered all the turns of the quartet from mezza voce to soft brilliant forte.
The dramatic Janacek “Quartet No 2, Kreutzer Sonata” of 1923 was based on Tolstoy’s story of failed marriage, infidelity and outright craziness. Jealousy and murder abound and Janacek’s quartet is like a bizzare voiceless opera. The quartet is a technical challenge which the Chimeng ecitingly mastered. The concert ended with the Brahms “Quartet No 1 in C minor, op 53 no 2″ of 1873. This big lush work was a splendid finale to this fabulous program. The four ladies brought such a full exciting almost orchestral sound from their instruments that the audience erupted with enthusiastic applause and bravos.
It seems amazing that the old factory building on Columbia Street down street from Parkers Beverage Plant of the 1930′s and 40′s should be restored wonderfully and that Mozart, Janacek and Brahms would be played there.
By Priscilla McLean, Special to the Times Union
A very pleasant way to spend a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon occurred at the third concert of ClaverackLanding, a series that mixes classical and more popular forms of music at the Club Helsinki in Hudson. Since their first concert in October, some welcome changes have been made. Noise from the bar was non-existent this time, and amplification was better adjusted, making for a good listening experience for the overflow crowd which filled every nook and cranny. The waiters and waitresses slunk silently around, taking and filling food and drink orders amid the attentive audience.
Joshua Rifkin, pianist and conductor who became famous through his three Nonesuch Recordings of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music in the early 70s, bringing Joplin’s music to the public, is also known for his books on J.S. Bach’s music. During this concert he dared to alternate between music of Bach, Joplin, and a Brazilian composer, Ernesto Nazareth, a contemporary of Joplin who mixed Brazilian dance rhythms with tangos and European forms.
At first, the effect was very jarring, as Rifkin, smoothly performing J.S. Bach’s Prelude in C Major BWV 846/1 continued without a break into Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” rag, which was in the same key but with oh so different musical material. The move from Joplin’s “Elite Syncopations” to Nazareth’s “Vitorioso-Tango”, because of their roots in popular dance music, was less startling. As the afternoon progressed the change of styles became increasingly less obvious, and the pieces began to compliment each other in interesting ways.
Rifkin is a master of these different styles, playing the Bach with almost-flawless dexterity and balance while creating individual moods for each Prelude and Fugue. His rendering of Joplin is classic and has been the trend-setter for the last forty years, so that Joplin seems almost to be a personal friend of his. The new unknown was Ernesto Nazareth, and Rifkin performed his music with Chopinesque flair, complete with extended rubatos and dynamic changes. In fact, Nazareth’s music at times became reminiscent of Frederick Chopin’s mazurkas, and harmonically was the most modern of the three composers.
All in all, a delightful concert, full of subtle surprises, audience good cheer and appreciation, and another happy success for Club Helsinki.
Priscilla McLean is a freelance writer and composer/performer.
Joshua Rifkin, piano
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Club Helsinki, Hudson
Length: One hour forty minutes with one brief intermission
Club Helsinki Hudson in a Latin Beat –
ClaverackLanding Debuts in Hudson, New York, October 2, 2010
Posted by Seth Lachterman • October 7, 2010
Osvaldo Golijov, Last Round
Arvo Pärt, Fratres (version for string orchestra and percussion)
Jonathan Talbott, Helsinki – An American Tango
Àstor Piazzolla, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
ClaverackLanding, Gwen Gould, Conductor and Artistic Director
Katie Hyun, solo violin
Sheila Reinhold, concertmaster
Sean Carney, Isadora Kohon-Teran, Stan Kurtis, Claudia Saslow, Dorothy Strahl, Alexander Vselensky, violin
Ronald Gorevic, Liuh-Wen Ting, Ljova (Lev Zhurbin), viola
Caryl Paisner, Lucy Bardo, cello
Peter Weitzner, double bass
Ben Harms, percussion
Katie Hyun, violin with ClaverackLanding
at Club Helsinki Hudson (photo: David Frank)
Club Helsinki, the erstwhile restaurant and night club that was so popular in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has arisen like a phoenix as the most interesting and sophisticated performance space in Hudson, New York. Given the many converted industrial spaces that now house galleries and theaters, Helsinki Hudson might very well become one of the region’s most significant venues for many of the arts: jazz, popular music, literary readings, cabaret, gallery exhibitions, and, as we heard tonight, classical music. While food and wine were served, the restaurant will formally open with a full menu later next month. The gradual and sometimes painful gestation of this restaurant-club over the past four years – with many preview events allowing us to sneak a peak at work in progress – has lent an aura of legend and unexpected cachet to the venture. Owners Deborah McDowell and Marc Schafler have great ambitions here, and a classical concert, although an unlikely fit for a debut, was, nonetheless, enjoyable if not fascinating. In their introductory remarks both Ms. McDowell and conductor Gwen Gould made mention of the evening as an “experiment.” Ms. Gould is the founder and conductor of the highly popular Columbia Festival Orchestra, an ensemble that culls from some of the finest talents in the region and New York City. One “experiment” for her was to create a more portable ensemble and repertory that could appeal to new audiences in new, perhaps unconventional, settings. She alludes to the pioneering spirits of the Dutch who settled Claverack centuries ago. Helsinki Hudson, with its coruscations of richly crafted trims, party lanterns, copper detailing, high gloss woods, funky blacks and reds, and a variegation of interior designs, might seem as exotic a venue as the Amazon jungle did for Herzog’s opera obsessed impresario, Fitzcarraldo. The natives here are friendlier and seem to welcome the possibility of the pastiche of music, noise, distraction, food, and the louche charm of a dimly lit salon. Ms. Gould has pared her group down to chamber size, keeping it string-only with a sole percussionist. The program was cagily centered around a tango motif, and presented traditional works (i.e., Piazzolla) and some contemporary works directly or obliquely linked to the genre.
The basic experiment at Helsinki was that of acoustics. Because the space is designed for amplified bands and performers, with special baffles in the rear to accentuate and facilitate stage cueing, the normal non-amplified logic doesn’t apply. Marc Schafler explained that minimal amplification was applied, again, as part of this experiment to accommodate a small classical ensemble. The lively but low-reverberant space, as Schafler explains, is ideal for recording, but presents a challenge for musicians who expect “natural” acoustics where attack and decay play a critical role. The only problem I noted was that the stage-right musicians seemed louder than those on the other side. However, the clarity of strings – and the many purposeful percussive string effects – was outstanding. Ms. Gould had her ensemble, so to speak, in the palm of her hand: the rhythmic complexity of these works never escaped her fine control.
Artistic Director, Gwen Gould
Ms. Gould’s selections, while catering to the easy-to-hear insinuations of tango, could hardly be termed Tafelmusik: frequently, the strings were called upon for brash percussive effects, especially in the first and last pieces. Only in the Pärt was there a respite in mood. The program of mostly unfamiliar works was a welcome blend of tonal compositions with a biting edge – something like comfort food dashed with a habanero topping. The performers, all first-class musicians with conservatory pedigrees, were superb. Especially notable was the consistent intensity of first violinist Sheila Reinhold; Katie Hyun, a virtuoso by anyone’s measure, was dazzling in the evening’s major presentation, the Piazzolla Four Seasons.
The idea of the tango as “reusable” matière musicale is the major project of Argentinean composer Ástor Piazzolla. Disassembling the tango, as genre, down to the component level, a composer will wind up with a variety of reusable harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements. There are only a few harmonic progressions; some have scintillating harmonic changes – colors that early American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk knew very well. Harmonic repetition, through predictable ostinati, coinciding with distinctive rhythmic inflections, is equally prominent. Finally, a passionate, and, at times, improvisatory melodic line is a necessary ingredient to propel the music and to sustain interest.
Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round is work scored for two antiphonal quartets with a shared double bass. Written as a tribute to his musical forebear, Piazzolla, the work sported two contrasting movements. The first, a combative tango-like dialogue between ensembles, made much use of ostinati, jerky hockets, and string squealing: an appetizer that put one’s senses aflame. In the slow lament of the second section, a more somber, rhapsodic nod to Piazzolla was evident.
Pärt’s Fratres, while seemingly a departure from the evening’s tango motif, is, nonetheless, based on repetitive harmonic ostinati that eschew any momentum, buildup of tension, or passion. Thus, like much of his work, Fratres is a study in stasis and served for this listener as a place of calm and restraint – a cloister to the sexually insinuating tangos, and the occasional noise from the bar.
Jonathan Talbott, one of the secret ingredients in the success of Hudson’s Walking the dog Theater, has been writing scores accompanying plays as diverse as Hamlet, Our Town, and Twelfth Night. A violin prodigy, he also writes theatrical incidental works that feature only two or three instruments. Tonight, after a period of study with composer Joan Tower, Mr. Talbott presented a single-movement concerto of sorts for solo violin and string ensemble: Helsinki – An American Tango. Using two sensually evocative harmonic shifts, a pair that are favorites in tangos, Mr. Talbott builds a refreshing, sexy piece. It never fully bent itself to an outright tango, but, instead, left an indelible impression of its character and energy.
The chamber piece Plume by violist-composer Lev Zhurbin (aka Ljova) was similarly inspired by tango elements. Here, with a simple string quintet with percussion, Mr. Zhurbin brilliantly captured both the improvisatory and ostinato quality of the genre. A piece written with Mr. Zhurbin’s wife in mind as violinist, he explained, the “plume” metaphor was meant to describe the effusion of a certain musical spirit.
Ástor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons, a hugely entertaining work, is full of colorful noises produced by violins scratching at the bridge with the bow’s frog. Cast as a series of concertos, one for each season, it is a playful send-off to Antonio Vivaldi’s overly familiar set. Piazzolla skilfully blends all the tango elements in a style that attempts to rethink the Baroque structure that Vivaldi so soundly established. Perhaps the most humorous winks and nods to the Red Priest were the borrowings that were hemispherically inverted in a corresponding season. Thus, we hear quotes from Vivaldi’s Winter in the Argentinean Summer (and vice versa). As a final tribute to “pop Baroque” as an analogue to “classical tango,” Piazzolla includes a variation of the ground bass (again, an ostinato) from Pachelbel’s Canon – only here without any canonic counterpoint: a gesture to our embracing the harmonic sensuality of Pachelbel’s work without its Germanic superstructure.
In many ways Gould’s ClaverackLanding keenly captured Helsinki Hudson’s eclectic and sometimes jarring charms. If what we heard was an experiment, let it be known how successful it was.
October 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm by Michael Janairo, Arts & Entertainment Editor
By Priscilla McLean, Special to the Times Union
HUDSON Club Helsinki tried a “grand experiment” this evening, as a prelude to their own near-future grand opening in Hudson‹a chamber orchestra playing a concert of classical music in a nightclub setting. Club Helsinki is quite an inviting place, with beautiful wood floors and furniture, red curtains flanking a stage facing the main floor of round tables and a raised balcony area of more tables, plus free-standing chairs for those who only come to listen to the music.
The light food is excellent and the staff very efficient, the clientele this night mostly fans of the Columbia Festival Orchestra who hardly drank or ate anything but cheered loudly. The music, billed as “Tango meets Classical”, was a series of several classically-styled tangos by five composers.
The inspiration for most of the pieces was “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”, written in 1921 by Astor Piazzolla, prominent Argentine composer and master at writing sophisticated tangos, this set using excerpts from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” in at least two of the movements. Katie Hyun played a fine virtuosic solo violin with the chamber string orchestra, and the orchestra, conducted by Gwen Gould, sounded its best due to Piazzolla’s excellent writing.
An imaginative if a bit rough “Last Round” by Osvaldo Golijov began the concert, followed by the worst piece of the evening, both in composition and performance, “Fratres” by Arvo Paert, the only work not connected to tango in any way, very long, and woodenly played. Paert has several versions, some hauntingly beautiful, of this same music, but this was not one of them.
A young composer, Jonathan Talbott, showed his talents with a short but exciting and well-played “Helsinki-an American Tango”, delighting the enthralled audience.
There are reservations for playing this kind of music in a nightclub, although the choice of tangos for an opening night recital was just right. The worst problem is acoustical, as the space lacks any reverberation, causing the amplified stringed instruments to sound uncomfortably harsh. Noise from the bar (not the very quiet audience) was also distracting, although this is to be expected, and the bar did quiet down as the concert progressed. The saving grace was the warm feeling of camaraderie between audience and performers, and even led to composers joking about their music in a relaxed manner.
The evening, on the whole was very successful, and this kind of classical/nightclub mix may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Priscilla McLean is a freelance writer and composer/performer.
Columbia Festival Orchestra
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Club Helsinki, Hudson
Length: 2 hours, one intermission
Crowd: 150 (full house), mixed ages
Classical goes clubbing as Columbia Festival Orchestra starts concert series at Club Helsinki
By JOseph Dalton Special To The Times Union
Published: 12:00 a.m., Thursday, September 30, 2010
Katie Hyun will be a soloist on Oct. 2 as part of the first Claverack Landing event at Club Helsinki Hudson.
Conductor Gwen Gould couldn’t remember the last time she set foot in a nightclub. But last spring she visited Le Poisson Rouge, a Greenwich Village haunt that’s become a favored spot for classical and contemporary music. On Bleecker Street in the historic site of the former Village Gate, the venue boasts of “serving art and alcohol.”
Although Gould went to hear the virtuoso pianist Simone Dinnerstein, what she carried away was an enthrallment with the offbeat space and the notion to try something similar closer to home in Columbia County. Long known as an entrepreneur in the arts, Gould runs the Columbia Festival Orchestra and co-founded the Diamond Opera Theatre.
Her next nightclub encounter was a daytime visit to Club Helsinki, which was just reopening in downtown Hudson after a long run in Great Barrington, Mass. “I saw that they were renovating and walked in and presented an idea,” she recalls. According to Gould, the proprietors Deborah McDowell and Marc Schafler immediately offered a residency.
Starting Saturday night, the Capital Region gets a new take on classical music with the launch of Claverack Landing, an occasional series of concerts co-produced by Gould and Club Helsinki.
For the opening performance, “Tango Meets Classical,” Gould will conduct a string ensemble of 13 players. Along with works of Osvaldo Golijov and Arvo Part, the concert features Astor Piazzola‘s Vivaldi-inspired “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” with the young violin soloist Katie Hyun.
“Our vision is to bridge the gap between classical and popular,” explains Gould. “And that’s happening around the country in many different ways. Young musicians have a new ear for music that has lots of different influences and it’s coming together I think in a wonderful way.”
About the idea of playing in a club environment, Gould continues, “There’s an opportunity for a rapport with the audience, which we don’t get in standard classical venues. It’s more up close and personal, intimate and casual. Audience members are normally so removed from the action.”
Gould has pursued a variety of enterprises over the years, all under the banner of the Columbia Festival Orchestra. But the name has always been a little grander than the reality. There were occasional outdoor events with large ensembles, but the most recent activities have been a string quartet concert and some educational projects.
With the series Claverack Landing, Gould may have at last found the right scale and right venue. She envisions a mixture of events featuring her own flexible ensemble, appearances by guest artists and debuts of conservatory talents.
The second Claverack Landing date is already scheduled, a performance of the “Renaissance band” Calliope on Saturday, Nov. 20. A varied slate of events are being planning for the winter and spring seasons.
“I wanted to continue working with the players in the orchestra who are exceptionally talented and doing so many different things in the chamber groups they play in,” says Gould. “There’s a wonderful collection of musical ensembles that I can call on to create something new and different that doesn’t exist in our area.”
Joseph Dalton is a regular contributor to the Times Union.
What: “Tango Meets Classical,” the Columbia Festival Orchestra introduces Claverack Landing, a new series of classical concerts in a nightclub environment.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia St., Hudson
Tickets: $25, available at the door
Info: 828-4800; http://helsinkihudson.com
A Chatham community sing of Handel’s Messiah
By Andrew Amelinckx
Published: Monday, December 21, 2009 2:14 AM EST
CHATHAM — The strains of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah filled the St. James Church in Chatham Sunday afternoon during the annual Messiah Sing and among those 80 voices was this reporter’s.
The event brought together a professional ensemble that included piano, cello, viola and violin, and the public to perform Handel’s best known work.
The Messiah Sing was under the auspices of the Columbia Festival Orchestra—the county’s only professional orchestra—and was conducted by Gwen Gould.
Gould, a recitalist, music director, conductor, and entrepreneur founded the CFO in 1988.
Sunday’s event, she said, was in it’s third year and featured Handel’s oratorio that has become a Christmas tradition.
Apparently, it wasn’t originally associated with Christmas, but rather was performed around Easter.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that it became a winter holiday standard.
The piece was written in 1741 in only three weeks in London, England.
Handel, who was born in Germany in 1685, spent much of his life—and made his career—in England.
“He dashed it off,” said Gould. “He needed money.”
It premiered in Dublin at Neal’s Music Hall on Fishamble Street the following year.
She said there were 56 performances before Handel’s death in 1759 and that the piece has been performed every year since 1749—260 years running.
“That’s pretty amazing,” she said.
According to Gould, Handel, on his way to Dublin for the performance, was stuck in a small town due to bad weather and decided to put together a local group to perform while he bided his time.
Gould said that Handel had been told of a local craftsman who sang bass and could allegedly sight read.
The bass had a tough time,” she said. And when Handel called him out on his ability to sight read the man responded “I can read, not just at first sight.”
That’s how I felt Sunday. I’d never sung Messiah and hadn’t been forced to read music in close to 20 years.
When I took the assignment I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into.
According to Gould, most composers of that time stole from other composers or even themselves and Handel was no exception as parts of Messiah are from earlier pieces.
“A few are arias,” she said and “are very hard to sing.”
No doubt. I found myself running out of air halfway through runs of notes that rose and fell across the entire page.
I stumbled through a few of the pieces but held my own, at least I’d like to believe.
Gould said afterwards that everyone did well this year.
Sunday’s event heralds a taste of more to come for CFO.
Gould said it has been somewhat dormant since 2003, but that there are “exciting new plans” for 2010. But, she said, she wasn’t quite ready to announce them yet.
“We’re getting our ducks in a row,” she said.
The CFO’s mission, according to its Web site is to present classical music and other concerts “to the highest degree of excellence and to cultivate an appreciation of the art of music in young people and adults.”
She has also founded the West Village Chorale and Diamond Opera Theater.
The CFO also has a mentoring program for young musicians.
She said the program has allowed 18 students to play with professional musicians.
Three students of violinist Miriam Shapiro—the first violinist for Sunday’s program—were also part of the ensemble.
Cavanaugh Wolski, Lucy Mino and Lily Sexton all play violin.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Mino, a 15-year-old who attends Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, Mass.
She said it was a useful experience in helping her to play Messiah.
The hard part, she said, is note the notes, but “how you play it … it’s very precise.”
Sexton, also 15 and a Monument Mountain student, said that she always loves playing with an ensemble.
“I’ve never played Messiah before,” she said, but added it was one of those experiences you have to have before you die.
I couldn’t agree more, especially on this the 250 fifth anniversary of the composer’s death.
To reach reporter Andrew Amelinckx call 518- 828-1616, ext. 2267 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
CFO returning to mark 20th year
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
First published: Sunday, June 15, 2008
Under the leadership of Gwen Gould, the Columbia Festival Orchestra has made good on the “festival” part of its name. Its concerts are often celebratory, but also festive in the sense that they are occasional occurrences.
My first exposure to the group was covering what was to be its final concert — a well-played and interesting program of Bach, Mendelssohn, Britten and Part in November 2003. The event drew a capacity crowd to St. James Church in Chatham and prompted Gould to privately wonder, “Where were all these folks earlier?”
Over the prior 15 years, the flexibly sized ensemble performed at least a few times every year and at a variety of venues including the Shaker Museum and Library in Old Chatham and Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall. But mounting financial shortfalls demanded that the group cease operations.
Gould, 65, did not rest long and in 2005 helped to start Diamond Opera Theatre of Hudson. But it’s hard to shed the conducting bug and when Chatham’s nascent summer arts center P.S. 21 wanted to put on a Leonard Bernstein tribute last July, she stepped up to the plate and onto the podium, reviving the CFO for two performances of orchestral and vocal selections from “West Side Story” and “Candide.”
“We received lots of comments, like ‘glad you’re back,’ but most excited were the members of the orchestra,” says Gould. Among the returning regulars were Susan St. Amour, viola, and Steven Walt, bassoon, both principals of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and Benjamin Harms, a percussionist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Gould says that the connections with people — musicians, audiences, patrons — have been some of the greatest benefits of having the orchestra.
Like so many others in Columbia County, she and her husband started out as weekenders from New York City. The couple founded a computer and consulting firm on Wall Street in 1978, which they continue to manage, although they relocated full-time upstate six years ago.
The orchestra’s connection to P.S. 21 came about through Gould’s long friendship with its founder and president Judy Grunberg, a long-time supporter of the CFO.
The notion of a Bernstein concert for P.S. 21’s fourth season occurred to the pair because last year was the 50th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story.”
The CFO will rise again this summer at P.S. 21 with concerts celebrating the 20th anniversary of its founding on Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27. The program will include Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical,” and the Beethoven Seventh, plus Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer 1915″ with the young local soprano Chanel Wood. There will also be a premiere, Prelude to a New Theatre by David Grunberg, who’s a young New York City composer and conductor and also Judy Grunberg’s son.
As usual with Gould, she’s making the event into more than just another outdoor concert; there will also be an educational aspect for young players. The program known as “Take a Seat …” allows instrumental students from elementary though high school age to work with mentors from the CFO and be a part of the rehearsals and the concert performances of the Grunberg piece.
The program runs for three days and is free for participants.
Whether she’s seeking young musicians or generous donors, it’s typical of Gould to be drawing more people into the process of making music and sharing a vision.
“We’re into dreams, all of us,” she says. “It was my dream to start the orchestra and it’s been very satisfying.” For more information on the CFO, its education program, and Gould’s myriad other musical endeavors, go to her Web site: http://www. gwengould.com.
Columbia orchestra shines in swan song
The Times Union, Monday, November 3, 2003
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
CHATHAM — A capacity crowd filled the sanctuary of St. James Church in Chatham to hear the final concert of the Columbia Festival Orchestra. Last month, the board of this 15-year-old endeavor announced that it must cease operations due to persistent financial shortfalls. It was a strong program to go out with, and that made the evening all the more poignant.
Though dubbed an orchestra, the group performed in various guises for three or four concerts a year. On Saturday, an ensemble of 18 strings played with verve and clarity.
Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor featured the noted Ani Kavafian and her student Conrad Chow. They made for a good partnership as they traded the interlocking lines, and the whole was ornate and satisfying.
Arvo Part’s “Tabula Rasa” felt like a long meditation. Along with the same two soloists, the score also called for prepared piano, which was played by Sheila Silver, the CFO’s composer in residence. The slow, repetitive structure and the bell-like gongs of the piano gave it an exotic religious feel that was underscored by the church setting. The violinists stood on either side of the central altar with the conductor and orchestra behind it.
Juvenile but not unsophisticated works of Mendelssohn and Britten made up the balance of the program. In Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10, which opened the evening, the lower strings seemed to lose their way near the end, marring the tuning of the final cadences. A highlight in Britten’s “Simple Symphony” was the second movement, which was all plucked or strummed. Though much of the writing chattered on a bit, the performance was engaging.
Gwen Gould, the CFO’s founder and driving force, is not a showy conductor, and her background in choral music seems obvious. Her gestures are high and not broad, but she seemed to never miss a cue and was clear in her tempos. Though her range of expression was modest, the ensemble was very well prepared and communicated the emotional and stylistic breadth of the well-selected program.
Local violinist and composer Jay Unger joined the CFO for an encore, his “Ashokan Farewell.” Though its tender, unadorned writing was a sharp contrast to the evening’s sophisticated program, it felt right nonetheless.
After such an exemplary and well-received concert as this, let’s hope we’ve not actually heard the last from Gould and her players.
COLUMBIA FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: St. James Church, Chatham
Length: Two hours 20 minutes
The crowd: 250 appreciative listeners of all ages
The Independent, Friday, November 7, 2003
THE SWAN-SONG CONCERT of the Columbia Festival Orchestra at St. James Church in Chatham last Saturday left us both saddened and enthusiastic.
The orchestra, under the gifted leadership of Gwen Gould, is “suspending” operations, ending school programs as well as its concerts after 15 years of continuous operation. Times are tough for organizations like the CFO. Public support has dwindled and private funding has tracked the economic downturn. The demise of this remarkable enterprise is a significant loss to the county.
The audience for classical music in Columbia County (and nationwide) skews decidedly toward middle-age and older judging from Saturday’s crowd. Not many kids have Bach on the Walkman…or would admit to it if they did. Now, even fewer young people will hear this music, so central to our cultural roots. They’ll miss out on the joy from watching as well as hearing symphonic music performed.
It’s not our place here to act as music critic, but we found the farewell concert so sublime we’re tempted to call it way cool. That makes us hope the creative people behind CFO can resurrect the orchestra’s school programs along with some concerts, perhaps on a more limited scale, perhaps in conjunction with some other organization, but somehow.
Whether or not that happens, the Columbia Festival Orchestra has enriched the life of Columbia County. Ms. Gould, the musicians and the board deserve every measure of the standing ovation they received Saturday night.
COMPASS, Thursday, September 26, 2002
by Peter Marshall
Gould had brought with her a fine group of professional string players to an acoustically friendly spot for chamber orchestras [St. James Church, Chatham, NY]. It is quite surprising that this string symphony [Mendelssohn], which is quite a mature work, is not heard more frequently. The final movement (allegro molto) begins in a style reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach, before turning typically to the sound of early Mendelssohn. The slow movement is classical in its sound. It was nicely balanced and Gould obtained some lovely coloring from the strings.
…Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 261. It is scored in the E-major key, one Mozart used very rarely. [Arnold] Steinhardt and Gould gave it the proper festive reading.
The surprise of the evening was the inclusion of Sheila Silver’s “Fantasy on an Imaginary Folk Song,” which she wrote in 1999 in memory of Sam Baron, a well-known flutist. Originally written for flute and harp solo, Silver has since orchestrated this composition. Here it received its world premiere in this form with flutist Laura Gilbert as soloist. The Fantasy is a beautiful work and very melodic. The musicians gave it a very moving reading.
Berkshire Record, October 20, 2000
by Simon Wainrib
..a most enjoyable climax. What we heard here was [Kenneth] Cooper’s transcription of the [Mozart] aria’s soprano part for Paula’s [Robison] flute, while handling himself the piano, thus creating a sort of double concerto for flute, piano and orchestra.
As performed by those two masters of their instruments, the whole thing was a virtuoso performance and a delightful piece of musical whimsy. While Paula twittered and emoted, at once wildly irate and wildly amorous, Kenneth stroked the keys with ornate runs and swooning trills, like gentle caresses.
It was Mozart at the keyboard thanking his pretty diva for a job well done and perhaps for something more.
…what a lovely echo to ring in your ears as you walked out into the crisp autumn night, a full moon wryly smiling overhead.
Berkshire Record, October 22. 1999
By Simon Wainrib
With the First Beethoven Symphony we are still close to the Haydn model and that is how Gould treated the music. Keeping it light and fluffy, she offered a perfect bookend to the Prokofiev opus with, ensconced between the two, the Barber Concerto that stood out with all its romantic fervor and fever but also its charm and grace manifestly on display….The heroine of the performance was, obviously, Ani Kavafian, who delivered it with the assured intensity that is the hallmark of her artistry and personality.
The rousing ovation that followed was repeated at the end of the evening by a gratified audience, who may also have expressed a hearty “welcome” and “come again” to our neighbors across the state line.
Compass, October 21, 1999
by Peter Marshall
Gould at Ozawa Hall Makes Off Season Shine
“The evening’s guest artist was Ani Kavafian…the soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14….she brought a lively reading with a whirlwind tempo to the Finale and received splendid support from Ms. Gould and the CFO, making this a most satisfying performance.”
“Both the tension and the relaxation of the symphony’s [Beethoven’s 1st] first movement were clearly stated by Ms. Gould who directed her musicians with authority. ….The ragged attacks and the mixes of the woodwinds and strings were nicely interpreted in this early Beethoven symphony …a good ending to this concert.”
Berkshire Record, May 8, 1998
by Simon Wainrib
“Gwen Gould and her Columbia Festival Orchestra have been a prominent force for the enhancement of the classical music scene in Columbia County.”
“The audience’s lively applause was more than a show of gratitude for some excellent music-making: it also expressed, for Gwen Gould and the Columbia Festival Orchestra, a warm welcome…and surely a wish to deepen the acquaintance in the future.”
Compass, May 7, 1998
by Peter Marshall
“The program was quite imaginative…(flutist) Wincenc’s superb control of her instrument, matching her beautiful sound projections with those of the harp, added considerable eloquence to this very fine performance.”
Letter, September, 1997
by David Amram, composer and conductor
“The Columbia Festival Orchestra and the exciting music created by the tremendous musicians who travel wide and far to work with multi-talented Gwen Gould are a cause for rejoicing.
This delightful festival is what music needs – great performances, great audiences and a continual sense of joy.
Bravo and long life!”
The Independent, June 26, 1997
“North Pointe may not yet be a match for Tanglewood, but the Columbia Festival Orchestra doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone.”
from an unpublished review, July, 1996
By Kenneth Cooper, harpsichordist, conductor
“With her splendid Columbia Festival Orchestra, she [Gwen Gould] mounted “Salute to America ’96” and deserves praise for her courage, adventure and canny sense for summer entertainment.”
“The rhythms and textures of this delightful score [Stravinsky’s Pulcinella] sparked like fireworks, largely due to some spectacular wind-playing, especially by oboist Henry Schuman and bassoonist Stephen Walt. The “Vivo” section was a standout: bassists Peter Weitzner and Richard Ostrovsky and trombonist Larry Witmer proved that a delicious transcription, as much realizing as defying “authenticity,” can put on the map a nice but harmless Pergolesi cello sonata. Ms. Gould’s lively and easy-going approach to this score had this writer recalling Stravinsky’s smile as he had his own playful and casual way with it.“
“A group of lovely Shaker songs, sung enthusiastically by the Occasional Chorale, alternated with some “updated versions” for brass quintet by the Vermont composer Gwyneth Walker. These “character pieces”, well-written for brass, generated a spectacular performance by Allan Dean, Mark Gould, Kaitlin Mahony, Larry Witmer and Andrew Rodgers.”
“A salute to Gwen Gould and the Columbia Festival Orchestra and to her Salutes to America.”
Chorale, March, 1993
by R. Schartoff
“The 44-member West Village Chorale, under the baton of its founder Gwen Gould, gave a secure and very entertaining performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus …and John Rutter’s Magnificat, with the skilled backing of soprano Elizabeth Hendreckson-Farnum and what Gould calls her passion: the Columbia Festival Orchestra. Together they presented a “joyous celebration” of two works, that although written 250 years apart, seemed ideally juxtaposed for this concert. … a thoroughly enjoyable evening.”
The Times Union, October 6, 1992
by Ron Emery
“Gould led a secure, loving performance of Copland’s sweet score [Appalachian Spring Suite], full as it is of difficult rhythms and quirky phrases.”
The Independent, August 7, 1990
by Peter Marshall
“The collaboration among conductor, orchestra and soloist was good. …made this a fine performance of the last concerto [clarinet] Mozart composed.”
“Ms. Gould’s approach to Copland’s 13-instrument version of the Appalachian Spring Suite was more mellow. She took the tempos of most of the suite’s parts a little slower than usual. But this was not disturbing. It was an honest approach – a matter of taste – with full comprehension of the score.”
The Independent, August 7, 1989
by Peter Marshall
“This melodious three-movement gem [Mozart’s Serenata Notturna] was presented with just the proper tempi.”
Ms. Gould’s orchestral accompaniment [Bach’s Cantata #82] was most sensitive and considerate of the soloist [Jan Opalach, bass].”
The Times Union, August 7, 1989
by Ron Emery
“Really a double concerto for voice and oboe, Ich habe genug [Bach’s Cantata #82] featured some extraordinarily beautiful oboe playing by Joel Evans. Conductor Gould and Opalach risked a lot in a rather quick tempo right at the opening, but everyone managed the final, exultant Ich freue mich with just the right sense of a combination of joy and relief. It was a memorable performance.”
“Conductor Gould knew all evening what she wanted.”