As a second act to an afternoon of music, I attended the Bard Music Festival for its opening night of Chopin and his World entitled “The Genius of Chopin”. Was there ever any doubt? The first number was Chopin’s “Variations on ‘La ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.” It was played by the Orchestra Now with pianist Orion Weiss who gave us a thrilling performance. He simply took over and made it his own. He was super-charged. His dexterity triumphed. Chopin was off to a good start. (A Youtube video below features Weiss playing Debussy.) He was followed by Bard Music Conservatory graduate, Katazyna Sadej who sang four Polish songs. She has a strong, lovely voice and delivers. Conservatory teacher Erika Switzer was her accompanist.
All of Chopin’s 24 Preludes were played from memory by Ke Ma, who is best known in England where she lives. Her pacing was even and her playing strong, but her she moved from Prelude to Prelude without pausing to take stock and give us a chance to digest and adjust. The epigrammatic short pieces would have been better served had they been given more space to exist as separate statements. I felt she missed some of the poetry.
Benjamin Hochman, a teacher in the Conservatory, gave a gorgeous performance of the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat Major, Op 61 (1846). This is late Chopin whose genius was evident in every measure. It was played with exquisite care and great feeling. He was followed by three more songs that suggested a Polish identity that was still in the dream state. Ms Sadej’s dream state was perhaps better than any real state. As Maestro Botstein pointed out in his introductory remarks, Chopin was to become the national hero of Poland, unlike any other composer anywhere.
At the conclusion of the songs, I made for the parking lot as the heavens above were playing a deluge that needed my full attention. The band played on with the Piano Concerto in F Minor with Helen Tysman as pianist and the Orchestra Now, Leon Botstein, conducting. This was Program One. There are eleven more.