Thriving on the efforts of its musical community: the Manchester Music Festival

Photo: by Ilona Oltuski – GetClassical – Banner of the festival at its concert’s summer home at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavillion

Not unlike its esteemed neighbors, Marlboro Music, which has, for decades, built itself upon its master-performers’ reputation, or Yellow Barn, with its annual workshop geared to foster artistic growth, the Manchester Music Festival counts on  Vermont’s  bucolic Mountain views for its splendorous atmospheric stage-scenery.

During its six-week full scholarship summer program (this year from July 3 – August 14), young musicians are coached in chamber music performance by the festival’s capable faculty, members of its own Michael Rudiakov Music Academy- and an impressive roster of attending guest artists, who are also presented in weekly concert performances.  Concerts are filled to capacity which has helped to build the festival’s thriving reputation and its opportunity to feature fresh and consummate musical talent.

With a demographic of ca. 4,500 all year round residents, an amount that triples during those music filled summer-months with a swelling population of second home owners, it is no surprise that the summer highlights of the festival meet with an especially high enthusiastic support.

In its 40th year now, the festival relies on unyielding support by its local and visiting patrons of the arts, some of whom not only help financially to sustain the festival’s programs, but open their home to visiting artists, as part of their residency.

In accord with the spirit of the festival’s founder, pianist Eugene List and his wife, violinist Carroll Glenn, who initiated the Southern Vermont Arts Center Music Festival in 1974,  Peggy Telscher, a current festival board-member and chair of its artistic committee, explains, ”We have an obligation to foster the love for music and reach out to the next generation.”  A professionally trained singer herself, her interest focuses on bridging the gap between the instrumental and a voice syllabus of concerts. Last year the festival featured the prominent singer/actress Audra Macdonald.

After attending the series’ Young Artists concerts with her own children, when she  moved to Vermont a few years ago, Telscher held her first house-concert, in passionate support of professional singers, in 2012. Since last year, the concert-hall-like acoustics of Tom Snopek’s and Peggy Telscher’s’house has led them to host some of the artists for private recording sessions, while enjoying their home’s equally exquisite mountain views. Returning festival’s artist-in-residence, and co-founder of LP Classics record label, pianist Vassily Primakov, brought in his recording team for two of the performing artists of the festival. Photo: Ilona Oltuski-GetClassical Vassily Primakov after a coaching session with “his” group of students saying they sounded amazing

 

Primakov also has been invited for the second year in a row as “artist in residence,” a weeklong performance and teaching position at MMF. “Attending the festival now for a number of years, it has from the beginning felt like home away from home. MMF always attracts great artists, so I am always grateful and humbled to be among the performers and now also to be part of their guest faculty,” says Primakov.

When recently taking over the chair of the artistic committee, Telscher followed Mary Miller, whose own pianistic background and passionate engagement for the festival made her an advocate for finding and bringing great pianists to the festival. Says Telscher,”I had big shoes to fill, Mary did a fantastic job! The biggest challenge is that the costs of presenting can never be fully paid through ticket sales alone, and people have to understand that we have to pay living wages for the artists, which don’t just cover the performances, but endless hours of preparation.”

Photo: by Ilona Oltuski – GetClassical from left: Tom Snopek, Peggy Telscher, Mary Miller, and Walter Miller at the 40th Anniversary Celebration Cocktail Gala

 

Board member or not, Mary Miller and her husband Walter Miller, made it their mission to look out for “their” artists. “We love it as much as they do,” says Mary Miller, whose renowned hospitality includes filling most of her many rooms with visiting artists and their entourage, during the summer months. “To be surrounded by so much talent is amazing,” says Miller, who met the current artistic director of the festival, violist Ari Rudiakov and his wife, violinist Joana Genova, on the occasion of their daughter’s wedding in 2003. “It is just fantastic, what they have helped to build here, for the community,” says Garry DuFour, and enthusiastically vouches his future support.

”We have work that is still unfinished,” says Ari Rudiakov, the festival’s artistic director. “My job is to not only put together a great festival, but to build our endowment fund, guaranteed to support our Young Artist program. We are half way there now, with activities that go well beyond the summer, and we are incredibly thankful for the support of all our members through their own personal efforts, hosting house concerts and benefits, to profit the organization. Right now, I am looking to unify all the varied elements we already have in place,” he says.

Photo: www.Manchesterjournal.com Ari Rudiakov, Artistic Director MMF.

But perhaps it is exactly these special, personal efforts that create small sanctuaries for the arts in intimate environments which contribute to the festival’s great communal success, as well as providing a unique setting for visiting artists. “There are always great hosts and wonderful performances and it is quite a unique experience, to create, perform, study and teach surrounded by nature – it feels like a retreat,” says Primakov.  Photo: Cottage at the Miller’s residence, hosting a MMF-student dinner.

Two years in a row, Primakov has been performing trios with cellist Ben Capps and violinist Joana Genova at the festival.  Last season it was Rachmaninoff’s PianoTrio élégiaque in D minor, Opus 9, and this year Chopin’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op.8. Primakov describes these experiences as one of the highlights of the season for him and they are soon to plan the repertoire for next season’s program. ”It’s a wonderful feeling to return to a place where you feel welcomed and harmonize with the performers.  I am equally thrilled to have the opportunity to coach the students in chamber music performance, it always creates excitement and a special bond,” describes Primakov.

Photo: Pianist Vassily Primakov with violinist Joana Genova and cellist Ben Capps at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavillion

In 2000, Ari Rudiakov inherited his father’s, Michael Rudiakov’s, mission to give more definition to the loosely organized festival that its founders had created, with an emphasis on a streamlined, full scholarship program for young artists that includes a strong, communal outreach program.

 

 

 

 

Photo: by Ilona Oltuski- GetClassical – student rehearsal and coaching at the Riley Center for the Arts at Burr and Burton

The philosophy of the festival was built on different premises than those of its eminent neighbor at Marlboro. While there was a fair amount of crossover participants between Marlboro’s and Manchester’s stellar performers, the Manchester Festival focused on giving students their separate curriculum and stage experience, while Marlboro’s concept integrated its students’ and professionals’ performances.  A student of Bernhard Greenhouse, member of the famed Beaux Arts Trio, Michael Rudiakov was a veteran cellist, principal cellist of the Indiana Symphony Orchestra and had administrative experience from running a chamber music series at Sarah Lawrence. Invited by List to join him in Manchester, he took on full leadership of MMF in 1985, after the passing of the festival’s founders.

Their son, violist/conductor Ari Rudiakov and his wife violinist, Joana Genova, continue to pass on the tradition of great, classical music, taught and performed in an environment geared to enhance the music’s outreach, as well as the personal maturity of its performers. Some travels are taking place, sometimes as a string orchestra, sometimes as chamber music tours and the faculty varies from year to year.

“We are building on the previous year’s teacher’s faculty, but also have some new additions every year; the only truly constant are Joana and me. That way we keep it fresh, but still make it possible for musicians to return and build a wider community. What’s great is that students always have more than one opinion, we break them up into groups, switch coaches, change repertoire and put them back together again – often they have already become different players.”

 

 

 

Making of a Modern Musician

“Due to the shrinking market for traditional classical music, its “graying” audience and overall lack of funding for costly productions, the generation of the great impresarios and dedicated press coverage has vanished. Because of all this, the solo-piano virtuoso is all but dead,” she commented. “However,” she continued, “where there is crisis – there is opportunity.”

Mostly Martha – The Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano

“Martha needs to play concerts, at least a good amount of them; she can never be without music,” says Piccardi, who seems to know this from a place in his heart that understands her. He adds: “chamber music is like a life elixir for her,” and when one sees her in action, one has to believe him. Her playing has remains unchanged: her tone is natural, highly imaginative, and brilliant, and it is exciting to watch her pour all of herself into the piano.

Adrienne Haan – channels dynamite energy and freethinking zest into Cabaret and American Art Song

“Within those melodies and lyrics lays the sort of dark humor that enabled people to assimilate the pain caused by war, loss and death, but also share the humor, joy and sorrow of emotions expressed in love and human relationships.”

Cellist Yoed Nir- Living the musician’s dream

These days, Nir’s composition process happens very fast and freely. The creation of each track does not take longer than a few hours: “I never come back and change things around. That’s how I work; I spontaneously bring all my ideas with me, and then take them down, without restrictions or boundaries. I believe that’s a very powerful tool, but of course that did not happen out of the blue. There was a long learning experience, and I did my share of over thinking, but I found myself limited in creating then – it was not quite me. It’s the most difficult thing to find it in you, what you have to say as an artist. The first part is knowing that you want to express yourself, the second – endless – part is to search and find what exactly that is. Now I am at a point where I’ve found myself in my music. It’s all there – all you have to do is listen.”

The joyous spirit of sound – cellist Ani Aznavoorian

It was, after all, the first time the cellist had had the opportunity to hear the full piece as a whole; a complex moment, certainly, even for an intuitive and sensitive musician like Aznavoorian, whose most pervasive passion is chamber music. “I love everything about it, most of all the music, but also the whole process of rehearsing together and then being on stage together with friends. I sometimes laugh hysterically and say to myself – I can’t believe this is my job!” Indeed, watching Aznavoorian’s ways with her cello, one realizes instantly the great joy she feels connecting with her instrument.

Pianist/Composer Michael Brown – Music’s Wingman

“They are funny, indeed,” says Michael, who feels the model for their Conversations is somewhat based on the humor in Zack Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns. “But, they also are great musicians. If that would not be the case, no one would really take them seriously. Their shows work because the music works; it allows them to be wacky.” And that is the thing Michael wants to be known for: being the wingman, in all kind of collaborations, and making great “music he loves.”

Musicians of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at LPR

  It seemed like a fun trip to New York City for the Seattle Symphony, who came as one of the visiting orchestras to Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music Festival and decided to include a preamble, late-night gig at lePoisson Rouge, yesterday evening. Ludovic Morlot, the orchestra’s conductor, led musicians of the orchestra in mixed [...]

Christopher Rouse’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall

In 2012, Rouse was offered the position as composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic’s Marie-Josée Kravis program, which began under Alan Gilbert’s leadership in 2009 with composer Magnus Lindberg’s three-year residency; the program was just recently extended to incorporate Rouse’s third and last year of collaboration with the orchestra into the 2014/15 season. “We inspire each other,” says Rouse. Gilbert follows: “There was just more work to do.” Rouse’s collaboration with the orchestra began in 1984 with a performance of his work The Infernal Machine, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, marking a sort of breakthrough in his career. In October 2014, the world premiere of Rouse’s new work: Thunderstuck, a rock-inspired Philharmonic-commissioned orchestral work, will be performed under Gilbert’s baton, bringing his experience with the New York Philharmonic full-circle.

Lavrova-Primakov Duo – Rachmaninoff- Duo Repertoire Concert And CD Release

I noticed the duo’s remarkable communication when both artists performed for GetClassical at the Gramercy Park Hotel Rose Bar, and again just recently at the latest GetClassical Salon event, which took place on March 25th at the historic India House.