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Newport Festival Ends Era


One year shy of its 50th anniversary, the Newport Music Festival has disclosed that the family behind its operation since 1975 will cease to be involved following the conclusion of this season.

Artistic Director Mark Malkovich IV, and his 85-year-old mother, Joan Malkovich, an invisible but potent force in the office, recently announced their retirements a year before the celebratory anniversary season that they had been enthusiastically touting only a couple of weeks earlier.

While he was not the founder of the enterprise, paterfamilias Mark Malkovich III transformed it to an international extravaganza. Papers of record such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe took frequent note of the imaginative programming of unjustly neglected romantic chamber music in robber-baronial venues, and celebrated the debuts of both young and legendary artists anointed by M3.

Former Globe classical critic Richard Dyer recalls an early visit to Newport with his predecessor Michael Steinberg when Metropolitan Opera diva Regine Crespin sang. But it was M3’s uncanny ability to persuade important pianists to come to the festival that most characterized his reign. Dyer continues, “Among the elderly and legendary pianists he presented were Vlado Perlemuter, Magda Tagliaferro, Earl Wild, Sergio Fiorentino, and Dame Moura Lympany. Midcareer people he gave a boost to were Dubravka Tomsic, Cecile Ousset, and Maria Tipo among others, and his youngsters included Andrei Gavrilov, Nikolai Lugansky, Gergely Bogany, and Jean-Philippe Collard. There were a lot of competition winners, violinists and singers, and he had also assembled quite a capable and ever-expanding cadre of resident artists to play in programs of unusual music and his annual summer surveys of someone’s complete works.”

One of the glories of the festival is the excitement that comes year after year from newly acquainted musicians winging it on one rehearsal. That the results have been so consistently good testifies to the chops and sightreading abilities of farflung players who encamp in luxury dormitories across the street from the Breakers.

My own enduring memories, even when Marc Andre Hamelin played Alkan or Bella Davidovich extended her legend, center on a dinner-jacketed M3 always present, presiding with pride like Anthony Athanas at Pier Four. Considering how he embodied the festival, it must not have been easy for Mark IV to succeed to command after his father’s death, in a traffic accident in 2010. Yet Malkovich mère and fils soldiered on for seven more years. Could they have done it without Elmer Booze? Known to audiences as the page-turner, the former research librarian at the music division of the Library of Congress was also the individual who uncovered and recovered a lot of the “lost” music that was revived.

The 49th season of the Newport Music Festival will take place July 7-23, with 57 performances in 11 venues in and around Newport, including the celebrated Newport Mansions such as the Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, the Chinese Tea House at the Marble House, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, and the Elms. The festival will include over 80 musicians from around the world. Tickets and more information are available at

According to management, highlights include:

  • A 14-concert series in which all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas will be performed.
  • The return of Boston’s premier chamber ensemble, A Far Cry, to the Breakers
  • Pianist and spoken-word artist Inna Faliks presents Polonaise-fantasie: The Story of a Pianist. This is part monologue and part recital chronicling her emigration to US with her family.
  • Pianist Richard Dowling celebrates the centennial of American composer Scott Joplin, “King of Ragtime Writers,” offering a variety of his rags, waltzes, marches, and cakewalks.
  • Synaesthesia, a unique collaboration from world-renowned visual artist Ima Montoya and cellist Asier Polo. Polo’s performance of Bach’s Cello Suites 1 and 3 will set the stage for Montoya’s striking art exhibition at the Newport Art Museum.

Responsibility for planning and executing the 50th-anniversary season will devolve to Pamela A. Pantos, opera singer, speaker of five languages, musicologist, and nonprofit-organizational guru. Word has it that ingredients in her secret sauce will include more full-time ensembles and more American performers.


8 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Dear Joan and Markie,

    In spite of occasional thoughts now and then, this must be a monumental decision, and surely one you have both come to with great difficulty, as well as great relief. Surely, your last years at the festival are a huge part of your lives, and will always be with you, and although all things must end, the Malkovich reign will be remembered as a glorious and magnificient tradition.
    Apart form the huge loss Newport will suffer without the Malkovich presence, we rejoice that the years you spent creating such incredible music brought great pleasure to countless listeners, and the years in which I participated in the music making, will always play a huge part in my life.

    Comment by Agustin Anievas — July 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm

  2. Elmer Booze fans might be interested to know that, although he has now “hung up” his piano, Elmer was a very impressive pianist. Just plug “elmer booze” into youtube to hear him in a variety of 19th and 20th century piano-guitar duets. I apologize for having dragged my feet putting up his knockout duo piano recital (two pianos, four hands) from 1982 at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. But just you wait!

    Comment by Donald Sauter — July 5, 2017 at 4:11 pm

  3. Well, your wait is over! I just put up the 1982 piano duo recital by Elmer Booze and Mary George on SoundCloud in this playlist:

    Or, you can find it easily by searching for “elmer booze” in Soundcloud.


    Comment by Donald Sauter — July 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm

  4. To fully appreciate the Newport Music Festival you have to go back to the 70s when the two men who founded it- Glen Sauls and John Stranack curated amazing programs- a Viardot Opera involving live sheep, musicians playing on a yacht, critics from major papers covering the concerts, all of it was heady stuff. For me the real backbone of the operation were pianists like Hrynkiw, Philip Bush, Flavio Varani, myself, all of us were pressed into never ending service- and once Malcovich took over it became more glitzy due to bringing in Russians, players from Europe- we Americans got pushed aside, and became drones. I am aware of the challenging businesss end of classical music, but I hope the Fetival could return to presenting valid musicians, maybe without the bling- focus on the music
    As I once said to Malcovich “why can’t we program 3rd rate Americans, like Foote or Chadwick, instead of these 5th rate Europeans……….Spindler, Fesca, etc” he laughed and agreed!

    Comment by virginia eskin — July 13, 2017 at 11:21 am

  5. There’s nothing “third-rate” about Chadwick or Foote.

    Comment by Vance Koven — July 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm

  6. So, Vance, on which tier do Foote and Chadwick reside? I think Ginny was trying to advocate for two of her guys.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — July 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm

  7. Haha, thus has ‘rate’ been replaced (rightly) by ‘rank’ and ‘tier’. Imagine conveying such fine gradations of judgment idiom to ESL students.

    Comment by david moran — July 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

  8. David, you forgot “class,” as in Strauss’s famous remark “I may not be a first-rate composer, but I’m a first-class second-rate composer.”

    For the record, I also don’t like obsessive taxonomizing of artistic achievement. You can put the Three Bs, Mozart and Haydn on a pedestal if you like, maybe throw in specialists like Wagner and Verdi, but just about everybody whose music gets played (self-evidently except for premieres) wrote music that at least some people find endearing, moving, enlightening, etc. at least part of the time, and for this they are all first-rate, at least part of the time. Even Beethoven and Mozart had some clunkers, and every dog has his day, even Anton Rubinstein.

    The rest is all a matter of taste. I used to say, à la Sara Lee, “everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Schubert,” but then I once saw a posting here by someone who dissed Schubert. So for that person, Schubert was second-rate at best.

    Comment by Vance Koven — July 14, 2017 at 9:15 am

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