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28th Annual Bard Music Festival “Chopin and His World” Opens Next Friday (Aug 11) with Weekend One: Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century

“The summer’s most stimulating music festival.” – Los Angeles Times

The 28th annual Bard Music Festival – an exploration of “Chopin and His World” – opens next Friday, August 11 with Weekend One: Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century. The first of the weekend’s six themed concerts, Program 1: The Genius of Chopin,” provides an overview of the composer’s all-too-brief career through works including the beloved F-minor Piano Concerto, a teenage masterpiece; his rarely heard songs set to Polish texts; and his Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni (in the original version for piano and orchestra), the work that prompted the young Schumann to proclaim him a genius. The New York Times has praised Bard’s “track record of presenting fine young performers and some good veterans,” and the opening event features award-winning Canadian mezzo-soprano Katarzyna Sadej and several outstanding pianists, among them Gilmore Young Artist Award-winner Orion Weiss, Wigmore Hall International Song Competition “Best Pianist” Erika Switzer, and Benjamin Hochman, of whom the New York Times marvels, “classical music doesn’t get better than this.” They will be joined by The Orchestra Now – Bard’s unique graduate training orchestra, now in its sophomore season – under the leadership of music director and festival co-artistic director Leon Botstein, a distinguished scholar recognized as “one of the most remarkable figures in the worlds of arts and culture” (THIRTEEN/WNET), who also presents an illuminating pre-concert talk.

Botstein explains:

“Chopin … showed that the piano was an instrument of the voice. It was a poetic instrument. It was an instrument that could sing. It was an instrument that could tell a story. … He is the key Romantic figure from the early 19th century that showed how our conventions of music – melody, harmony, rhythm, dance – can be converted from simply background or entertainment into the language of our inner feelings.”

One of Bard’s two Scholars-in-Residence is Halina Goldberg, author of Music in Chopin’s Warsaw. She adds:

“Chopin’s genius is ‘of the future.’ Some critics have allowed themselves to be fooled by his preference for the piano and frequent use of ‘pedestrian’ small genres, such as the mazurka or prelude, into rejecting his compositional mastery. But therein lies the crux of his ingenuity. He took up an instrument that for most composers was a vehicle for didactic or virtuosic pieces and, following in Beethoven’s footsteps, gave it the ability to sing of poetry and tragedy. Likewise, he took up middlebrow genres, disdained by the cognoscenti, and imbued them with unheard-of profundity.”

Drawing on recent scholarship, the Bard Music Festival’s signature thematic programming, multidisciplinary approach, and emphasis on context and reception history provide the perfect platform for a reexamination of these contradictions. All of Weekend One’s programs are augmented with pre-concert talks by eminent experts, with the exception of Program Four, which sees returning festival favorite Piers Lane present one of his signature performances with commentary, offering from the keyboard a guided tour of the Romantic piano. A pianist for whom “no praise could be high enough” (Gramophone), Lane is a leading expert on his instrument who wrote and presented BBC Radio 3’s 54-part series The Piano.

The American Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the season is Program Three, which investigates the relationship between operatic and instrumental writing, with rarely heard instrumental works by operatic masters Spohr, Bellini, Weber, and Meyerbeer, crowned by the superb third act from Rossini’s unjustly neglected take on Otello, starring 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Nicole Cabell as Desdemona and tenor Issachah Savage, winner of the 2014 Seattle International Wagner Competition, in the title role.

During this first weekend, additional events shed further light on Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century. Program Two pairs some of Chopin’s early compositions – including his Piano Trio, as performed by the superlative Horszowski Trio – with music by those composers most prominent in the Warsaw of his youth. Program Five juxtaposes works that the Polish-born composer dedicated to Jewish patrons and students, like the masterful Ballade in F minor, with those by such Jewish acquaintances as Mendelssohn, Charles-Valentin Alkan, his close friend Ferdinand Hiller, and Ignaz Moscheles, a rare account of whose Third Piano Concerto concludes the concert.

Rounding out the opening weekend, Program Six explores “Virtuosity and Its Discontents.” Recently shortlisted for this year’s inaugural Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition, young Bard graduate Dongfang Ouyang channels Paganini, while Van Cliburn finalist Fei-Fei Dong plays Chopin’s own Souvenir de Paganini. With the incomparable Brian Zeger at the keyboard, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra concertmaster David Chan interprets Schumann’s First Violin Sonata, and soprano Cecilia Violetta López, one of opera’s “25 Rising Stars” (Opera News), sings Adolphe Adam’s bravura variations on Mozart and excerpts from Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece Maria Stuarda. To complete the program, Piers Lane plays several of Liszt’s more serious works, besides joining Botstein and members of TON for the formidable First Piano Concerto of quintessential virtuoso Friedrich Kalkbrenner, dedicatee of Chopin’s own E-minor Concerto.

Complementing Weekend One’s offerings is a panel discussion on “Chopin: Real and Imagined” with guest speakers including James Parakilas, among whose publications is Ballads Without Words: Chopin and the Tradition of the Instrumental Ballade. The festival’s two Scholars-in-Residence – Halina Goldberg and Jonathan Bellman, who recently published Chopin’s Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom – are editors of the forthcoming volume Chopin and His World.

Critical acclaim:

The Bard Music Festival has impressed critics worldwide. The New York Times reports that “performers engaged by Bard invariably seem energized by the prospect of extending beyond canonical routine, and by an audience that comes prepared with open ears and open minds.” As the Wall Street Journal’s Barrymore Laurence Scherer observes, the Bard Music Festival “has long been one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals and frequently is one of the most musically satisfying.”

Since its inception, Botstein and the festival have infused the standard concert repertory with a host of important rediscoveries. As the New Yorker’s Alex Ross puts it, “Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festival always unearth piles of buried treasure.” And while the Bard Music Festival’s pioneering approach to thematic programming has sometimes been emulated, “Nothing quite compares to the fascinating summer programs popping out of Leon Botstein’s brain” (Bloomberg News).

Reviewing a recent season of the festival, the New York Times reported, “As impressive as many of the festival performances were, they were matched by the audience’s engagement: strangers met and conversed, analyzing the music they’d heard with sophistication, and a Sunday-morning panel discussion of gender issues in 19th-century culture drew a nearly full house. All told, it was a model for an enlightened society.”

Getting to the Bard Music Festival: NYC round-trip bus transportation

Round-trip bus service is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the performances marked with an asterisk below. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900. The round-trip fare is $40, and the bus departs from Lincoln Center at the times indicated:

Program 1: Friday, August 11 at 8pm (dinner at 5:30pm)                                            3:30pm

Program 6: Sunday, August 13 at 4:30pm (preconcert talk at 3:30pm)                        1pm

Further details are available here.

Bard’s sensationally popular European Spiegeltent will be open for dining throughout “Chopin and His World,” besides playing host to the Bard Music Festival Opening Night Dinner (August 11) and a special, free, family-friendly 50th-anniversary performance of John Cage’s Musicircus (August 13) presented by the Bard College Conservatory of Music
and the John Cage Trust.

Complete programs for Weekend One of the 2017 Bard Music Festival follow.

High-resolution photographs can be downloaded here.

Program details of Bard Music Festival, “Chopin and His World”

WEEKEND ONE: Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century

Friday, August 11


The Genius of Chopin

Sosnoff Theater

7:30 pm Preconcert Talk: Leon Botstein

8 pm Performance*: Katarzyna Sądej, mezzo-soprano; Orion Weiss, Erika Switzer, Hélène Tysman, Ke Ma, and Benjamin Hochman, piano; The Orchestra Now, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director; and others

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49)

Variations on “Là ci darem la mano,” Op. 2 (1827)

From 17 Songs, Op. posth. 74 (1831-37)

24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1831–38)

Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat, Op. 61 (1845–46)


Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 21 (1829)

Tickets: $25–$60

Saturday, August 12


Chopin: Real and Imagined

Olin Hall

10 am–noon

*Christopher H. Gibbs, moderator; Halina Goldberg, Anne Marcoline, and James Parakilas

Free and open to the public


Chopin and Warsaw

Olin Hall

1 pm Preconcert Talk: Jeffrey Kallberg

1:30 pm Performance: Danny Driver, Rieko Aizawa & Anna Polonsky, piano; Jesse Mills, violin; Horszowski Trio; members of The Orchestra Now, conducted by James Bagwell

Karol Lipiński (1790-1861)

Violin Concerto No. 3, Op. 24 (c. 1835)

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49)

Polonaise in B-flat minor, Op. posth. (1826)

Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello in G minor, Op. 8 (1828)

Václav Vilém Würfel (1790–1832)

Grande fantaisie lugubre au souvenir des trois héros: Prince Joseph Poniatowski, Kościuszko et Dąbrowski, Op. 18 (1818)

Karol Kurpiński (1785-1857)

Fantasia “Chwila snu okropnego” (A Dreadful Dream) (1816/1820)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 85 (1816)

Józef Elsner (1769-1854)

Piano Sonata in D (1805)

Maria Szymanowska (1789–1831)

Etude in C (no date)

Prelude in E (no date)

Tickets: $40


From the Opera House to the Concert Hall

Sosnoff Theater

7 pm Preconcert Talk: James Parakilas

8 pm Performance: Nicole Cabell, soprano; Jenni Bank, mezzo-soprano; Issachah Savage, tenor; Fei-Fei Dong, piano; Alexandra Knoll, oboe; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)

Overture to Faust (1816)

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)

Bacchanal from Robert le diable (1831)

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35)

Oboe Concerto in E-flat (c. 1819-25)

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 1 (1807; rev. 1810)

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49)

Fantasy on Polish Airs, Op. 13 (1828)

Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868)

Act 3 from Otello (1816)

Tickets: $25–$75

Sunday, August 13


The Piano in the 19th Century

Olin Hall

10 am Performance with Commentary, with Piers Lane, piano

Works by Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49); John Field (1782–1837), Robert Schumann (1810–56), Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813–88), Mily Balakirev (1837–1910), and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)

Tickets: $40


Jews in the Musical Culture of Europe

Olin Hall

1 pm Preconcert Talk: Leon Botstein

1:30 pm Performance: Tyler Duncan, baritone; Michael Brown, Danny Driver, Simon Ghraichy, Erika Switzer & Orion Weiss, piano; members of The Orchestra Now, conducted by Benjamin Hochman

Fryderyk Chopin (1810–49)

Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60 (1845)

Variations brilliants, Op. 12 (1833)

Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)

Concerto No. 3 in G minor, Op. 58 (1820)

Henri Herz (1803-88)

Rondo Turc, Op. 85, No. 4 (1835)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47)

Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Op. 35 (1827/1841)

Ferdinand Hiller (1811-85)

Alla memoria di Vincenzo Bellini (1885)

Sigismond Thalberg (1812-71)

Fantaisie sur Andante finale de Lucia di Lammermoor, Op. 44 (1842)

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-88)

From 25 Preludes, Op. 31 (1847)

Songs on texts by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), Robert Schumann (1810-56), and Franz Liszt (1811-86)

Tickets: $40


Virtuosity and Its Discontents

Sosnoff Theater

4:30 pm Preconcert Talk: Kristen Strandberg

5 pm Performance*: Cecilia Violetta López, soprano; Fei-Fei Dong, Piers Lane and Brian Zeger, piano; David Chan and Dongfang Ouyang, violin; Nadine Hur, flute; members of The Orchestra Now, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director; and others

Franz Liszt (1811-86)

From Six chants polonais, S. 480 (1857-60)

Consolation No. 3 in D-flat, S.172 (1849-50)

Gnomenreigen, S. 145, No. 2 (1862-63)

Adolphe Adam (1803-56)

Bravura Variations on Mozart’s Ah! Vous dirai-je maman (1849)

Robert Schumann (1810-56)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105 (1851)

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)

From Maria Stuarda (1834)

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

From Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7 (1826)

Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849)

Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 61 (1823)

Tickets: $25–$60

Weekend Two of “Chopin and His World” takes place at Bard on August 17–20.

Bard SummerScape ticket information

Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit

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.

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© 21C Media Group, August 2017

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