Another week of diverse programming is in store for curious and intrepid listeners, with music across the stylistic spectrum. From Beethoven and Dvorak to jazz, klezmer and three premieres for string quartet and chamber opera. No, this is not Boston or New York City; it’s the Berkshires, where musical life is often as enriching and stimulating as you’d expect to find in the major musical East Coast capitals.
Music & More
Saturday, Sept. 29, at 4:30 p.m. Music & More presents a themed program entitled "Jazz, Latin and World Fusion - from American jazz to klezmer, and Latin jazz to Sephardic music." This program veers from the classical repertory, and focuses on the populist, exploring the inter-connections between ethnic/world music and its cross pollination with elements of classical. Featured artists are Maria Rivas, an internationally acclaimed vocalist, and clarinetist Paul Green, Artistic Director of "The Jewish/Jazz Project," based in the Berkshires. Green is a stellar virtuoso of both the klezmer/Yiddish instrumental style and traditional jazz. Both genres feature improvisation, and Green is a master of extemporaneous playing.
Why go? It’s always fascinating to experience the hybrid sounds that are created when talented and creative performers combine differing styles. Experience what happens when musical worlds collide.
The concert will take place at the historic Meeting House on the village green in New Marlborough. There will be a pre-concert lecture by the artists at 3:30 p.m. A post-concert reception will follow in the Meeting House gallery. Tickets are $25/$20; students with ID and children with parents will be admitted without charge. For further information, visit online at newmarlborough.org or call 413-229-2785.
South Mountain Concerts
The two final South Mountain programs, this week and next, feature world premieres - an unusual but welcome occurrence at this vaunted bastion of conservative classical programming.
Sunday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m. South Mountain Concerts in Pittsfield presents the fourth in its series of five Sunday chamber music concerts. This week’s featured artists are the world-famous Brentano String Quartet - since 1999 the ensemble-in-residence at Princeton University - and special guest soprano Christine Brandes.
The repertoire for this concert includes Haydn: Quartet in D Minor, Op. 42; Eric Moe: "Of Color Braided All Desire" (world premiere,) and Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130.
Why go? Beethoven’s Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Op. 130 will be performed, either with or without its original "Grosse Fuge" last movement. Most ensembles opt for Beethoven’s later, alternative ending, which is much less demanding that the original "Grosse Fuge" finale. (At press time, it was unclear which movement the Brentano will perform). Either way, given the superlative ensemble the group possesses, it will be predictably exhilarating.
Eric Moe’s music has been described as "maximal minimalism" and "music of winning exuberance." According to The New York Times, Moe "subversively inscribes classical music into pop culture." To be sure, it will be an aural adventure to hear this premiere.
Sunday, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m. The Saint Lawrence String Quartet is the acclaimed ensemble on this, the fifth and final South Mountain concert of the season. Repertoire for this program will be Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6; Dvorak: Quartet in A-flat Major, Op. 105, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: "Voyage" (world premiere).
Why go? Beethoven’s sixth, and last quartet of his Opus 18, composed in 1801, is primarily known for its fourth movement, subtitled "La Malinconia." In the score, the composer tells the players "to perform this piece with the greatest sensitivity." It’s a very powerful and urgent piece, functioning as a brief introduction to a lilting, lighthearted finale. The harmonies and dark mood anticipate Schubert’s final G Major Quartet, composed in 1826, and is filled with the same sense of trauma followed by relieved anxiety. Beethoven’s "La Malinconia" is clearly a harbinger of early Romanticism.
The Dvorak opus is the last of the great Bohemian master’s quartets, and is both musically advanced and stylistically folk-inspired. All Dvorak’s music is beautiful. With his patented Romantic warmth, colorful exuberance and memorable melodies, this work is no exception. Pulitzer-prize winning composer Ellen Zwilich writes in a post-modernist, audience-friendly style. Trained as a violinist, Zwilich’s music is neo-Romantic: expressive, melodic and lyrical, and in the hands of the superb Saint Lawrence Quartet, her piece should receive a wonderfully realized performance.
The South Mountain concert hall is located on Routes 7 and 20 (South Street) in Pittsfield, approximately two miles south of Park Square. Call 413-442-2106 or go online at southmountainconcerts.org.
Sunday, Oct. 7, at 5 p.m. The Cantilena Choir, now in its ninth season under the direction of Andrea Goodman, will present a themed program entitled "Music of the Gilded Age." A highlight of the concert will be the premiere of selected scenes from "Ethan Frome," a new three-act opera by composer Caryn Block.
In addition to choral music drawn from the opera, the concert will also include dramatic solo arias, duets and trios for the principal characters in Wharton’s tragic love story, which is set in the Berkshires.
There will also be a lecture/Demonstration Oct. 6, at 4 p.m. on the opera, presented by The Mount - the Edith Wharton Estate and Gardens, located at 2 Plunkett St., Lenox.
Also on the program will be performances of Gilded Age music by composers Edward MacDowell, Stephen Foster and others, to be sung in combination with original Gilded Age recordings on Edison and Victrola phonograph records of performances by Alma Gluck and Thomas Chalmers, who were leading singers of the era. These recordings are provided by music specialist Wally Stock and will be played on turn-of-the- century phonograph machines.