RENSSELAERVILLE, New York — “The Miracle of Bach” is the theme of the seventh edition of the Catskill High Peaks Festival, hosted by the Carey Institute for Global Good, August 7-18. A joint presentation of the Carey Institute and Close Encounters With Music, the Berkshire-based chamber music organization, High Peaks this year turns its attention to the architectural genius and spiritual force of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose influence hovered over every future generation of composers that followed him. On a recent New York Times survey of the all-time top ten classical composers, opinions varied from number two on; however, number one was unanimous, and Bach remains securely at the top of the chart!
The ten-day chamber music festival and teaching institute, directed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yehuda Hanani, offers a combination of concerts, lectures, film and master classes, open to the public—and featuring distinguished faculty artists sharing the stage with outstanding young musicians from around the world. Festival events will take place on the historic 100-acre estate of the Carey Institute for Global Good overlooking Lake Myosotis in Rensselaerville, New York. Throughout the festival, the works and legacy of J. S. Bach, extending through the Romantics (Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, who worshiped him, will be present), will be explored via daily performances and events.
Guest performers include: Peter Zazofsky, winner of the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition, soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, and first violinist of the Muir Quartet; winner of two Grand Prix du Disque and founding director of the String Quartet Institute at Tanglewood, violinist Bayla Keyes; and pianist and conductor Michael Chertock, frequent soloist with the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, and BBC Symphony Orchestra. “We are committed to bringing the very best artists and leading pedagogues to continue this new musical tradition, here in the breathtaking environment that inspired the Hudson River School painters and generations of artists since,” says Hanani. “The majestic setting of the Carey Institute for Global Good provides a backdrop for ten days of music-making and fellowship, bringing together 50 of the most talented young musicians from around the world to work with world the world-renowned faculty.”
An unwavering enthusiasm for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music will be manifest in the programming—two main Sunday evening concerts featuring eminent guest soloists, chamber music ensembles mixing faculty and residents, and the High Peaks Festival Chamber Orchestra; a concert at the newly renovated Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill, NY, and in talks that illuminate subjects such as a “Bravura and virtuosity a la Baroque,” demonstrate how to improvise effectively, and demystify the Fugue as a musical form. Performers and audiences will experience an exciting perspective on the many ways to be “authentic” in approaching music that has survived and flourished for over 300 years.
The festival opens with “A Musical Offering—Celebrating J. S. Bach, Beethoven & Duke Ellington” Sunday, August 7, 7 pm at the Carey Institute’s Guggenheim Pavilion. Like Bach, Ellington was an exemplar of the art of improvisation, embracing the phrase “beyond category” as a liberating principle, and defying classification.
The centerpieces of the second Sunday concert are Bach’s Double Concerto for Two Violins, the Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 3, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Felix Mendelssohn’s String Octet (double string quartet) with faculty and young resident artists joining together for this chamber music favorite. Written when Mendelssohn was sixteen, its brilliance, youthful verve and perfection make it one of the miracles of nineteenth-century music.
“Music From High Peaks,” with a mix of faculty and young artist-participants, has been featured throughout the Hudson Valley-Berkshire region—at Basilica Hudson in Hudson, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, in the orchard at Olana, at historic Clermont, at the Doctorow PAC in Hunter and the Orpheum Theater in Tannersville, NY. This August, in addition to concerts in Rensselaerville, a performance is scheduled on Friday, August 12, 7 PM at Bridge Street Theatre’s Mainstage in Catskill, a former industrial building newly renovated and repurposed as an intimate arts center. Performers include: Bayla Keyes and Peter Zazofsky, violin; Michael Strauss, viola; Yehuda Hanani, Tom Landschoot and Sae Rom Kwon, cello; Michael Chertock and Mikael Darmanie, piano; Baroque specialist Paul Dwyer; and the High Peaks Festival Chamber Orchestra.
On a frothy note, “Bach and Beethoven in the Tavern” will be presented at the Carey Institute on Saturday, August 13 as part of the “Moonlight Sonatas” series, and in conjunction with the Helderberg Brewery. Not some saintly figures above common indulgences, both masters were fond of their beer and the tavern atmosphere. From all accounts, J. S. Bach enjoyed life enormously, and this included beer drinking. He was often paid for his compositions in beer.
Throughout the festival, a series of performances by talented up-and-coming musicians participating in the residency will provide audiences with an opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the classical music world’s future stars. This series of “Moonlight Sonatas” performances showcasing top-tier young artists at the Carey Institute is free and open to the public. This year’s program also features a “Buddy Day” on August 15, in which approximately 20 students from Albany’s Empire State Youth Orchestra and Kids4Harmony in Pittsfield will participate in a full day of interaction with the Residents and Masters, culminating with a performance at 4 PM.
The festival also offers a series of illuminating talks, a “Meet the Artists Tea and Talk,” and free classes and workshops offered each day. For a full schedule of events, visit www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org.
Catskill High Peaks Festival Artistic Director, Yehuda Hanani has received acclaim across the globe for his charismatic playing and profound interpretations. An extraordinary recitalist, he is equally renowned for performances with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Irish National Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, Seoul Symphony, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, and the BBC Welsh Symphony. His engaging chamber music with commentary series, Close Encounters With Music, has captivated audiences from Miami to Kansas City, Omaha, Calgary, Scottsdale, the Berkshires, and at the Frick Collection in New York City. He has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews in the media, and his weekly program on NPR affiliate station WAMC Northeast Radio, “Classical Music According to Yehuda” attracts thousands of fans. A prolific recording artist, he is Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and artistic director of Close Encounters With Music and the new Taipei-New York Festival in Taipei, Taiwan as well as Shanghai, China.
Established in 2012 when international businessman Wm. P. Carey purchased the campus, the Carey Institute for Global Good mission is to make a better world by contributing to a strong, educated and just society, “to bring together innovative and dynamic people from around the world to seek creative solutions to the most pressing challenges of the day.” The Carey Institute is located in the historic hamlet of Rensselaerville, New York on a 100-acre campus in the heart of a pristine nature reserve. It works with local and international partners to achieve its mission through residency programs and initiatives in nonfiction, agriculture, and art and music.
Music From High Peaks at The Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill, NY
Available at catskillhighpeaksmusic.org in advance or at the door: 444 West Bridge Street, Catskill
General admission $25; students $15
Most events are free. To reserve tickets, and for information about concerts, a list of master classes, Stars of Tomorrow concerts and Tea & Talk at the Carey: www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org and (800) 843-0778; or www.careyinstitute.org (518) 797-3692