Bringing high-quality, intimate music to South Florida since 2013, the Palm Beach Chamber Music Society is spreading the good word in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Specifically, the company is helping launch a new chamber music festival next month at the historic Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, New York, about an hour north of New York City. Four concerts are planned for the first Boscobel Chamber Music Festival, starting with the first concert of the legendary Emerson String Quartet’s farewell tour.
Set for September 3, 5 and 10-11, the Boscobel festival will also include educational programs for visitors to the house, originally built from 1804 by businessman States Dyckman, who has remained faithful to the British during and after the Revolutionary War. It was rebuilt on its present site about 15 miles north of its original location in Montrose, New York, after being demolished in 1955 to make way for a Veterans Administration hospital.
The house, reconstructed according to architectural plans, photographic evidence and about 30% of its original material, was reopened as a museum in 1961.
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The festival, led by violinist Arnaud Sussman, artistic director of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Society, will feature some of the greatest performers on the international chamber music circuit, including violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Stella Chen, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, cellists David Requiro and Nicholas Canellakis, bassist Blake Hinson, clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and pianist Gloria Chien.
“I know for the quality of the musicians and the music that we bring, you couldn’t ask for more,” Sussmann said earlier this month. “I just hope the public will know about it and be happy to come and listen to the concerts.”
Who performs at the Boscobel Chamber Music Festival?
The first is the Emerson String Quartet, which will end its 47-year career in the next season. Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist Paul Watkins will perform two key pieces: Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 8 (in E minor, Op. 59 , n° 2), one of the so-called “Razumovsky” quartets, named after an aristocratic Russian patron of the composer.
The Emerson Quartet is consistently considered one of the finest American quartets in the history of the genre, winning nine Grammy Awards and releasing more than 40 albums, including landmark readings of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15 quartets and Béla Bartók’s six quartets. Drucker and Setzer have been part of the quartet since its founding in 1976 at the Juilliard School, and its cellist for 34 years was David Finckel, who, along with his pianist wife Wu Han, are artists in residence at the Society of the Four Arts. in Palm Beach.
“The Emerson is, without a doubt, the most important American string quartet of the last 40 years,” Sussmann said, citing as its main quality “a total musical commitment to composers and music, and a level of excellence instrumental and individual that is matched by some groups.
He said he hopes future Boscobel festival audiences will look back on its beginnings 30 years from now and note that the concert series featured the Emerson in its farewell season.
“They are already part of music history, and will be even more so when they retire, and so I’m very happy to have them at our first gig,” he said.
“We found each other at the right time”
The idea for the Boscobel Festival came from Arnold Moss, Co-Chairman of the Boscobel Board of Directors and part-time resident of Palm Beach, patron of the Chamber Music Society. Sussmann said Moss approached the company about two years ago with the idea of performing at Boscobel, and last September the company performed two concerts there during a trial run.
“We saw that there was interest. So we decided to take the plunge and start a festival,” Sussmann said.
For Boscobel, the festival came at a time when the house was looking to refresh its programming, said Jennifer Carlquist, executive director of Boscobel.
“We kind of found each other at the right time,” she said. “They have a huge number of New York clients who attend Palm Beach. They kindly invited me, and I got to see what they do at Norton and get to know these artists. We invited them last September for a pilot program and it was simply exciting: it was a combination of a concert by a patron with a visit to Boscobel, then a family concert which took place the next day on the lawn. It seemed like the ideal model for us.
“And that’s what kept us going,” Carlquist said.
It was important to the house that Boscobel, which already hosts musical programs and has been inundated with requests from performing groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, that the festival is not just a rental venue for another artistic activity. , she said.
“We didn’t necessarily want to sign off as being anybody’s empty place. We wanted to develop a relationship where Boscobel could be a player and could be seen as as important as the music, as important as every musician, and really be a part of it. performance,” said Carlquist.
Most of the festival concerts will take place in the 5,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed, climate-controlled West Meadow Pavilion, which was built at Boscobel for events like this, Carlquist said. Key to Boscobel’s overall appeal is its stunning Hudson River landscape, the kind of view that was central to the work of the school of early to mid-19th century Hudson River painters such as Thomas Cole , Albert Bierstadt and John. Frederick Kensett.
No less an august figure than George Washington called the region “the key to the American continent,” Carlquist said. “When you look at Boscobel’s view, it’s America he’s talking about. The key to the continent is here, our view.”
Carlquist, a decorative arts scholar who says Boscobel contains one of the country’s finest collections of Duncan Phyfe furniture, notes that the landscape is also an irresistible draw for chamber musicians.
“That’s really what draws these musicians to Boscobel. They could play anywhere. But they’re also inspired by the landscape, and that’s so rewarding,” she said.
The Emerson Quartet will perform in the pavilion on September 3. The next concert, on September 5, will take place on the Grande Pelouse and will feature the clarinet quintets of Mozart and Brahms, the two most famous clarinet quintets in the repertoire. Clarinetist Fiterstein will be joined by violists Frautschi and Chen, Sussmann on viola and Requiro on cello.
Sussmann returns to the violin on September 10, when he and Pajaro-van de Stadt, Canellakis, Hinson, and Chien perform Franz Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet (Piano Quintet in A, D. 667), and the lesser-known Piano quintet in C minor by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, written for the same forces as the Schubert, using a double bass rather than a second violin.
Unlike the other pieces on the festival’s first program, which are among the best-known pieces in the chamber music canon, Vaughan Williams’ quintet, written early in the composer’s career in 1903, is relatively rarely performed. But Sussmann said he came across it while looking for a piece using the same instrumentation as the Trout Quintet, and was bowled over.
“I found this Vaughan Williams, which I didn’t play, and I think most musicians on stage haven’t played. And I listened to it and thought, this is a masterpiece. Absolutely fantastic, it deserves to be heard by all audiences,” Sussmann said.
Sussmann said he was otherwise trying to stick to major works for this first edition of the Boscobel festival.
“These are just a few of the most beloved pieces, and this is the first festival we have, let’s not try to wander too far there,” he said. “It’s the greatest chamber music ever written, and I have no problem playing it over and over again, and 99.9% of the public has no problem hearing it over and over again because it is simply amazing music.”
The festival ends on the morning of September 11, when the same five musicians will rehearse the “Trout” quintet for a family concert at the West Meadow Pavilion.
Carlquist said bringing together an iconic venue, historic American arts and architecture, and classic works of Western art music should be appealing to festival-goers.
“The wonderful thing is that the quality comes to the surface. It doesn’t go away even if you’re not a furniture connoisseur, as the majority of visitors to Boscobel aren’t,” she said. “But you don’t have to be a connoisseur to say quality, and experience quality, and appreciate quality. And that’s true of American classical furniture, and true of classical music.
“I’m by no means a music connoisseur, but when you see the best and hear the best, it can only take your breath away,” she said.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
The Boscobel Chamber Music Festival will take place September 3, 5, and 10-11 at Boscobel House and Gardens, 1601 Route 9D, Garrison, NY
Tickets range from $65 to $85 for each concert. For more information, visit boscobel.org or call 845-265-3638, or visit cmspb.org or call 561-379-6773.