Bard Music Festival
and The Polish Cultural Institute New York
invite you to
Chopin and His World
Friday, August 11, 2017 – Sunday, August 20, 2017
“A highlight of the musical year”- Wall Street Journal
This summer, the Bard Music Festival will focus on a composer who wrote almost exclusively for the piano–still the instrument most prevalent in Western culture today–with a two-week, in depth exploration of “Chopin and His World.” In twelve themed concert programs, complemented by pre-concert lectures, panel discussions, two special events, and expert commentary, Bard examines Fryderyk Chopin (1810-49), a true original who did more than any other composer to transform the aesthetic potential of his instrument. Offering an immersion in Parisian culture and Polish politics, Weekend Oneof the festival investigates Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century (August 11-13), while Weekend Two explores the nature of his Originality and Influence(August 18-20). Enriched by a wealth of compositions from Chopin’s predecessors, contemporaries, and successors, every events takes place in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College’s Hudson River campus.
As well as a broad sampling of Chopin’s own work–from canonical favorites, like his Op. 10 Études, to comparatively rarely performed pieces, like his songs–music by many of his compatriots and contemporaries will be heard. These include Maria Szymanowska, and Karol Lipinski; his primary teacher, Józef Elsner; his fellow virtuosos, including Paganini, Liszt, and Sigismond Thalberg; the operatic masters who inspired him, like Donizetti, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Halevy, Rossini, and Weber; and those he himself would influence, from Schumann and Brahms to Scrabini, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Faure, and Poland’s Szymanowski, Wieniawski, and Paderewski. The festival will close with a pairing of masterworks by Chopin and Berlioz: two friends who nonetheless took very different approach to musical Romanticism.
Józef Elsner was one of several who explicitly expressed the hope that Chopin would be the one to write Poland’s first great opera, but that distinction fell instead to his contemporary Stanislaw Moniuszko. On August 19, the American Symphony Orchestra presents “The Polish National Opera: Halka” in an all-too-rare semi-staged performance of Halka, the four-act masterwork that ensured Moniuszko’s legacy as the father of Polish opera. A story of love and betrayal set to libretto by Wlodzimierz Wolski, Halka is regularly performed in Poland but virtually unknown abroad, despite being “melodious, affecting and appealing: & a rare treat” (Washington Post).
Even during his brief lifetime, which coincided with one of the most important periods in the evolution of the modern piano, Chopin was regarded as the quintessential poet of his instrument. A salient feature of Chopin’s distinctive sound is his predilection for the folk melodies and dance forms of his native Poland. He came to be seen as the voice of this dismembered and oppressed nation, and he remains a cherished national icon in Poland today. A leading nationalist, his work is consistently celebrated–perhaps most notably, in Asia–as universal. The writer of profoundly introspective music, he nonetheless cultivated a distinctive kind of keyboard virtuosity. An important political figure, his music remains deeply personal. Despite his short lifetime, the modest number of his surviving works, his preference for short single-movement compositions, and indeed his own diminutive frame, he continues to loom large on the musical landscape.
Leon Botstein “one of the most remarkable figures in the world of arts and culture” (Thirteen/WNET), now in his 24th year as music director of the American Symphony Orchestra, Botstein will lead the ensemble in both its Bard Music Festival Appearances. He also helms The Orchestra now (TLN). The Bard Festival Chorale will take part in all choral works under the leadership of James Bagwell, and this year’s chamber and vocal programs boast an impressive roster of guest artists, including pianists Anna Polonsky, Orion Weiss, Danny Driver, Benjamin Hochman, and Brian Zeger. Other instrumentalists include two-time Grammy-nominated Jesse Mills, and among this year’s vocalists are soprano Amanda Majewski and mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford.
The 2017 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Special support for “The Polish National Opera: Halka” is provided by the Polish Cultural Institute New York.