To open its centennial season, Maverick Concerts in Woodstock offered a long day of free music on Sunday. Three segments reflected different genres of music now being offered during the regular Maverick season. The 11 a.m. opener was devoted to a “family concert.” Folksinger and multi-instrumentalist Mark Rust charmed the audience and taught its members how to play the spoons; his concluding hammered dulcimer solo was quite spectacular. Singer-songwriter Marc Black and his band, scheduled for an evening concert later in the season, performed his usual excellent songs. I heard only the first of two jazz groups starting at 1 p.m., the fine Teri Roiger Quartet (she is an excellent singer). Friends reported that the second jazz act, trumpeter Warren Vaché and pianist John di Martino, were also extremely good.
Interestingly, the audience grew during the day, with a relatively small attendance for the morning session and a larger one for the afternoon jazz. By the time the classical performances started, at 3 p.m., the hall was nearly full, perhaps reflecting the improving weather (although we did have a downpour as the concert ended) but also Maverick’s traditional audience.
The two duos who performed, brought in by composer George Tsontakis (who is represented twice this season, once with a premiere), were all fine performers. Flutist Carol Wincenc and harpist Nancy Allen are 2/3 of the group Les Amies, which had played the night before at Bard College. Wincenc charmed me by playing Debussy’s Syrinx from the back of the hall, a lovely spatial effect. But as fine a player as Allen is, neither she nor anyone else can convince me that the harp is a suitable medium for baroque harpsichord music. Harp and harpsichord are both plucked string instruments but their sound is radically different. In Bach’s Flute Sonata in E Flat Major, BWV 1031, the soft attack of the harp turned Bach’s distinct lines into mushy harmonies, destroying the intended contrast between the smooth lyricism of the flute and the staccato harpsichord. What I did enjoy in this performance was Wincenc’s superb execution, liberally garnished with imaginative embellishments. Allen then played two pieces each by Couperin and Rameau, all of which sounded completely ineffectual on the harp.
For the remainder of their program, though, Allen stuck to later French music. Fauré’s Morceau de concert was written for flute and piano but the harp worked fine. Ibert’s brief and delightful Entr’acte was published for flute and harp or guitar. Wincenc had to take off at this point for another event but Allen remained to play Fauré’s beautiful Impromptu, Op. 86, a harp original and the afternoon’s best demonstration of Allen’s artistry.
Pianists Julia Hsu and Peter Serkin unveiled their new four hand team recently at a nearby venue, the Olive Free Library, in a piano series curated by Tsontakis. Evidently the two intend their collaboration to be ongoing, a prospect which delights me. They play with amazing precision, beautiful sound, and excellent musicianship. Their half of the program began with six of Brahms’s Chorale Preludes, organ works transcribed by Serkin. If you don’t know the music you might have trouble identifying it as Brahms, since it shows heavy baroque influence. The arrangements were effective, the playing divine.
Schubert’s Allegretto in A Minor, D. 947, picked up the title “Lebensstürme” when it was published by Diabelli. It’s a large-scale sonata-allegro form, from near the end of Schubert’s life, which automatically commands respect. But it hardly ever gets played, and although I’m familiar with it from recordings I don’t recall every hearing it performed in public before. This duo’s fervent performance, commanding wide dynamic and emotional range, was memorable. The concert concluded with more Brahms, five of the Hungarian Dances, in which the duo managed to produce some very sharp accents without a trace of harshness. The piano four hand repertoire is badly neglected these days. This team could advocate for it with great success. I hope.