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Charles Ives Festival in Danbury!

Music Preview
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Thu Aug 2nd, 2018

Paul Frucht

Charles Ives (1874-1954), one of the first American Modernist composers, is being remembered in his native state of Connecticut.  Paul Frucht, Artistic Director of the Charles Ives Concert Series based at the Danbury Music Centre, an 83-year old community music organization, has organized a larger-than-ever and more exciting program this year in commemoration of Ives. The Festival runs from August 5th to 11th. This year the series will feature performances by cellist Julian Schwarz and Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Emily Levin among others, a celebration of Samuel Adler's 90th birthday, and a collaboration with our regional symphony, the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. Frucht (depicted above) is himself a noted contemporary composer who has been influenced by Ives. This year the concert will be augmented by the Ridgefield Symphony (on closing night) for a performance of Ives’ most noted influential work, The Unanswered Question.  

Not recorded in any biographies of Charles Ives is an interesting anecdote related by Reverend Douglas Grandgeorge, former pastor of Central Presbyterian on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where Ives served as organist and Music Director for a couple of years. On a Tuesday night the Church Council decided to replace Ives who had resigned as Director of Music. Ives was told to clean out his organ bench by Sunday; he arrived on Saturday morning to find the bench empty. When the new organist arrived on Friday, he found the bench full of music scribblings. They appeared to him as gibberish, so he took the sheet music down to the basement, tossing the sheet music in the incinerator. What he burned was the entire folio of work Ives had composed while at the church: mainly the musical arrangements of all of the Psalms, which Ives had composed over the past couple of years. For music lovers this remains an immense, painful tragedy. For reasons that are not entirely obvious (except that Ives was ahead of his times), Ives has been somewhat neglected and it is refreshing that this little resurrection in his home state is now taking flight under the direction of Paul Frucht and his assistant, Jonathan Cziner.

On Sunday, August 5th, the Ives Series Artist-Faculty kick things off with a private house party and a program called 'Duo Spotlight' centered around the Principal Harpist of the Dallas Symphony, Emily Levin, and Baltimore Symphony Violist Jacob Shack. The afternoon will also feature the winner of the CMI (Chamber Music Intensive) Piano Competition, Emily Zagorec. The concert is open to the public, but interested attendees must RSVP here for the location/details.

On August 8th at 7:00 PM, the series collaborates with City Center Danbury for an evening of music on the Danbury Downtown Green, featuring the return of 'rockstar' violinist Charles Yang and award-winning pianist Peter Dugan performing everything from Ravel to the Beatles. Opening for Yang and Dugan will be, the CMI Concerto Competition winners, Jason Boada and Lauren Tsai, CMI Participants, and Ives Series-Artist-Faculty.

The Series returns to its home on August 9th at 7:00 PM at the Marian Anderson Recital Hall at the Danbury Music Centre for a celebration of the 90th birthday of Samuel Adler, a legendary American composer who, upon escaping the Nazis in Germany with his father in the 1930's, emigrated to America. He has gone on to become one of the 20th and 21st centuries' most influential composers. The Series welcomes back the award-winning duo, cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki, to perform with Ives Series Artist-Faculty in a program celebrating Adler, who will be on hand for a Q&A with the Series' Artistic Directors.

The Series closes on August 11th at 7:30 PM with a historic collaboration between the Danbury Music Centre and the Ridgefield Symphony at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Ives Series Artist-Faculty and Guest Artists, led by newly-appointed RSO Music Director, Yuga Cohler, will performing a program titled 'A New Sincerity: From Darkness to Light.' The evening will feature music by 2018 Ives Series Composer-in-Residence Nina C. Young, associate artistic director Jon Cziner, artistic director Paul Frucht, award-winning composers Chris Rogerson and Charles Peck, Ravel, and an arrangement of the famous Ives work, The Unanswered Question.  

Ives Series Artist-Faculty include: Molly Goldman, Ben Laude, Mitch Lyon, George Meyer, Ariana Nelson, Mika Sasaki, Jacob Shack, Caeli Smith, and Chelsea Starbuck Smith.

Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found here: http://danburymusiccentre.org/charles-ives-concert-series/