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Chopin Extravaganza at Bard

Music Preview
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Tue Jul 18th, 2017

Susanne Bartsch

Bard College’s SummerScape puts its spotlight on Fryderyck Chopin this year. The program of Chopin and His World has already begun with the Wooster Group providing a taste of 20th Century Polish Theater, the currently running A PINK CHAIR (IN PLACE OF A FAKE ANTIQUE) at the LUMA Theater. (Yes, the summer Spiegeltent with host Justin Vivian Bind is also concurrently running with an array of talen drawn from Rock, Blues, and Jazz.) For the convenience of the general public, events will take place over two weekends, August 11-13 and August 17-20. There will be a special festival Gala Benefit at Montgomery Place on July 22nd. Cocktails, performances, and dinner begin at 6pm. There will be an exclusive performance by Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter.This will be followed by an After-Party with famous event producer Susanne Bartsch (icon of NYC nightlife) at the Spiegeltent. For more information or to buy tickets call 845-758-7414.

But before pianos begin to sing, a rarely produced opera, Antonin Dvořák’s Dimitrij (1822), known for its haunting melodies and dramatic choral compositions will be performed at Sosnoff Theater from July 28 to August 6. This opera begins where Mussorgsky’s noted opera Boris Godunov leaves off, as the opera examines tensions between Russia and Poland in the wake of the Tsar’s death. Director Anne Bogart has brought in David Zinn for set design, Constance Hoffman for costumes, and tenor Clay Hilley for the title role.  

The opening night Festival Dinner will take place in the Spiegeltent on Friday, August 11th. Opening night program will feature pianists Benjamin Hochman and Orion Weiss, performing with The Orchestra Now under the baton of Leon Botstein. Chopin’s famous Piano Concerto in F minor will be performed wherein the piano illustrates the limitations of a full orchestra. (For tickets to this special event dinner and concert call 845-758-7414.)

Morning lectures and panels will be free and open to the public. Among the featured piano performers are Piers Lane from England, Anna Polonsky, Danny Driver, Michael Brown, Erika Switzer, and Simon Ghraichy. On August 19th, the most famous Polish Romantic opera of the nineteenth century, Stanislaw Moniuszko’s Halka (1858), will be performed with James Bagwell directing the chorus and Leon Botstein conducting the American Symphony Orchestra; singers include Amanda Majeski, soprano; Teresa Buchholz mezzo-soprano; Miles Mykkanen, tenor.  

On August 20th there will be a special program devoted to choral music from Poland and France under the direction of James Bagwell. Musical compositions by Chopin’s Polish and French contemporaries (Hector Berlioz and Charles Gounod) will be performed. There will be a program devoted to Chopin and the salon which will feature works by Dubliner John Field—who invented the nocturne (that Chopin perfected in St. Petersberg); Louis Spohr; Auguste Franchomme; and the talented composer Pauline Viardot (friend of of George Sand, as well as Chopin, and eventually Ivan Turgenev’s mistress).

Of particular interest for music fans is an unusual session on Chopin’s influences on other composers (August 20th at 1 pm at Olin Hall): Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Henryk Wieniaswski, Edvard Grieg, Gabriel Fauré, Mortiz Moszknowski (a favorite of Vladimir Horowitz), Ignacy Paderewski, Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Karol Szymanowki. Michael Brown, Piers Lane, and others will perform at this event. For a complete schedule click here.

As an adjunct to SummerScape there will be a Polish film festival at Bard’s Ottaway Film Center which will run from July 27 to August 20th. Tickets are a reasonable $10 and all screenings will begin at 7 pm. Films that have heavily employed Chopin’s music (especially Ingmar Bergman) will also be screened. The first film in the series is Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002). For a complete schedule, click here