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29th Annual Bard Music Festival “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World” Opens Next Friday (Aug 10) with Weekend One: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five

“A hotbed of intellectual and aesthetic adventure” – New York Times

The 29th annual Bard Music Festival – an exploration of “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World” – opens next Friday, August 10, with Weekend One: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five. The first of the weekend’s six themed concerts, Program 1: Fashioning the Russian Sound,” offers an overview of Rimsky-Korsakov’s long and prolific career alongside music by his fellow members of the Mighty Five and their musical godfather, Glinka. Works include the latter’s seminal orchestral work, Kamarinskaya; Balakirev’s virtuosic piano fantasy, Islamey; Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death; chamber rarities by Borodin and Cui; and Rimsky-Korsakov’s own early Overture to May Night, beloved Russian Easter Festival Overture, defiantly political Dubinushka, and the posthumously created Suite from his final, satirical opera, Le coq d’or. The New York Times has praised Bard’s “track record of presenting fine young performers and some good veterans,” and the opening event features Turkish bass-baritone, Önay Köse, a member of Berlin’s famed Komische Oper; award-winning violinist Dongfang Ouyang; and pianists Andrey Gugnin, who swept the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition, and festival favorite Anna Polonsky, “a chamber musician of exceptional refinement” (New York Times). They will be joined by The Orchestra Now, Bard’s unique graduate training orchestra, 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 provides an illuminating commentary on the performance.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) played a pivotal part in defining the style we now recognize as Russian. Despite this, he remains so woefully underappreciated outside his homeland that Russian music specialist Richard Taruskin considers him “perhaps the most underrated composer of all time.” Botstein explains:

“[Rimsky-Korsakov] is a much more substantial and interesting composer than most American audiences realize. He also had an unbelievable influence on Russian musical life. He was one of a group called the Mighty Handful. These are composers who decided they were going to create a particularly Russian sensibility in music. It was a kind of national agenda that went along with the visibility and growth and significance of the Russian Empire, turning more to the East than to the West to make sure that Russia was not a backwater of Europe but an independent source of culture and of an aesthetic.”

Click here to see Botstein talk about Rimsky-Korsakov.

The Bard Music Festival’s signature thematic programming, multidisciplinary approach, and emphasis on context and reception history – all drawing on recent scholarship –provide the perfect platform for a reexamination of Rimsky-Korsakov and his world. Four of Weekend One’s programs are augmented with pre-concert talks by eminent experts, and Program 4 is accompanied by commentary from Swarthmore College’s Emily Frey. Titled “The Legacy of Pushkin,” this offers a broad and thoughtfully curated selection of music inspired by Russia’s literary founding father, Alexander Pushkin, by composers dating from the time of Glinka to the Soviet era.

The American Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the season is Program 3, Music Under Tsarist Autocracy,” which offers an orchestral snapshot of Russian Romanticism through such works as Tchaikovsky’s Festival Coronation March, Balakirev’s symphonic poem Tamara, the overture to Serov’s opera Judith, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s tone poem Sadko and seldom-programmed Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, with Gilmore Young Artist Award-winner Orion Weiss as soloist. The program concludes with a rare live account of the Fourth Symphony of Taneyev, a Tchaikovsky protégé known as the “Russian Brahms.”

Additional events shed further light on the creation of the distinctive Russian sound. Program 2, “Amateurs and Professionals,” juxtaposes little-known chamber works by aristocrats like Dargomyzhsky and amateurs like the eminent chemist Borodin and one-time naval officer Rimsky-Korsakov with the consummate professionalism of Tchaikovsky. Likewise Program 5, “Moscow/St. Petersburg” – highlighted by the Grammy-nominated St. Petersburg Quartet’s accounts of quartets by Rimsky-Korsakov’s students Glazunov and Arensky and his own Brahmsian Piano Trio – contrasts Tchaikovsky’s Muscovian cosmopolitanism with the nationalism of the Five.

To round out the opening weekend, Program 6, “The Piano in Russia,” explores one of the world’s greatest keyboard traditions. Three more stellar pianists – three-time Gramophone Award-nominee Danny Driver, Van Cliburn finalist Fei-Fei, and festival favorite Piers Lane, for whom “no praise could be high enough” (Gramophone) – join Gugnin and Weiss for a program featuring Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition, in the original version for solo piano; Scriabin’s Second Piano Sonata; Prokofiev’s Toccata; Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 for two pianos, and works by such forgotten figures as Alexei Stanchinsky and Vladimir Rebikov and great virtuoso composer-pianists Anton Rubinstein, Prokofiev, Medtner, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff.

Complementing Weekend One’s offerings is a panel discussion on “Russian Music before and after the Mighty Five.” Guest speakers will include the festival’s Scholar-in-Residence, Marina Frolova-Walker, who is the author of Russian Music and Nationalism: from Glinka to Stalin and editor of the forthcoming 2018 volume, Rimsky-Korsakov and His World, and Russian music specialist Richard Taruskin, whose publications include, most recently, Russian Music at Home and Abroad.

Critical acclaim:
“A highlight of the musical year” – Wall Street Journal

“Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festival always unearth piles of buried treasure.”
New York

“One of the ‘10 Can’t-Miss Classical Music Festivals’” – NPR

“Simply irresistible: a fabulous wealth of music by a major composer from the classical tradition, surrounded and contextualized with works by forebears, peers, colleagues, friends, enemies, students, followers – you name it.”  – Steve Smith

“The talks and panels are nearly as well attended as the concerts: this audience wants to think about the music, not merely bathe in it.” – New Yorker

“One of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals and frequently … one of the most musically satisfying.” – Wall Street Journal

“Nothing quite compares to the fascinating summer programs popping out of Leon Botstein’s brain.” – Bloomberg News

“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.”  – New York Times

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 (Programs 1, 6, 9, and 12). The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required; they may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Further details are available at

Complete programs for Weekend One of the 2018 Bard Music Festival follow.

High-resolution photographs can be downloaded here.

This season of the Bard Music Festival is made possible in part through the generous support of the Board of the Bard Music Festival and the Friends of the Fisher Center, as well as grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional underwriting has been provided by Jeanne Donovan Fisher, James H. Ottaway Jr., Felicitas S. Thorne, Helen and Roger Alcaly, Bettina Baruch Foundation, and the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust. Special support has also been provided by the Mrs. Mortimer Levitt Endowment Fund for the Performing Arts and the donors to the BMF Mellon Challenge.


Program details of Bard Music Festival, “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World”

WEEKEND ONE: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five

Friday, August 10
5 pm
Tickets include a pre-performance dinner in the Spiegeltent and a premium seat for the evening’s concert. (NB: The Spiegeltent will be closed for regular dining on the evening of the dinner.) 

Fashioning the Russian Sound
Sosnoff Theater
7:30 pm Performance with commentary by Leon Botstein; with Andrey Gugnin and Anna Polonsky, piano; Önay Köse, bass-baritone; Dongfang Ouyang, violin; The Orchestra Now, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Overture to May Night (1878–79)
     Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 (1888)
     Dubinushka, Op. 62 (1905)
     Le coq d’or Suite (c. 1908)
Mikhail Glinka (1804-57)
Kamarinskaya (1848)
Alexander Borodin (1833-87)
Three Songs (c. 1854)
César Cui (1835-1918)
From Kaleidoscope, Op. 50 (1893)
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
     Islamey, Oriental Fantasy, Op. 18 (1869)
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-81)
     Songs and Dances of Death (1875-77)

Tickets: $25–$60

Saturday, August 11
Russian Music before and after the Mighty Five
Olin Hall
10 am–noon
Christopher H. Gibbs, moderator; Marina Frolova-Walker; Olga Manulkina; Richard Taruskin
The panel discussion will include a short question and answer period.
Free and open to the public

Amateurs and Professionals
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk
1:30 pm Performance: Danny Driver, Yelena Kurdina and Piers Lane, piano; Jordan Frazier, double-bass; Monika Krajewska, mezzo-soprano; Parker Quartet

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
From Four Romances, Op. 2 (1866)
Fugue in G minor (1878)
Mikhail Glinka (1804-57)
Grand Sextet (1832)
Alexander Borodin (1833-87)
String Quartet No. 2 (1881)
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor (1900)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-93)
String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11 (1871)
Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-69)

Tickets: $40


Music Under Tsarist Autocracy
Sosnoff Theater
7 pm Preconcert Talk
8 pm Performance: Orion Weiss, piano; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
   Sadko, Op. 5 (1867; rev. 1869, 1892)
Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, Op. 30 (1883)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–93)
   Festival Coronation March (1883)
Alexander Serov (1820-71)
Overture and “March of Holofernes” from Judith (1863)
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
   Tamara, symphonic poem (1867-82)
Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 12 (1901)

Tickets: $25–$75

Sunday, August 12
The Legacy of Pushkin
Olin Hall

10 am Performance with commentary by Emily Frey; with Christine Taylor Price, soprano; Nadezhda Babintseva, mezzo-soprano; Gerard Schneider, tenor; Andrey Valentii, bass; Michael Katz, cello; Han Chen, Anna Polonksy, Liza Stepanova, and Erika Switzer, piano

Works by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908); Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813−69); Modest Mussorgsky (1839−81); Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840−93); Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914); Mikhail Gnesin (1883-1957); Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75); and others

Tickets: $40

Moscow/St. Petersburg
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk

1:30 pm Performance: Lysander Trio; Önay Köse, bass-baritone; Anna Polonsky, piano; St. Petersburg Quartet; Mikhail Veselov, cello

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Piano Trio in C minor (1897)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-93)
Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 35 (1894)
Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
String Quartet No. 1 in D (1882)
Reinhold Glière (1875–1956)
Ballade for Cello and Piano, Op. 4 (1902)

Tickets: $40

The Piano in Russia
Sosnoff Theater
4 pm Preconcert Talk

4:30 pm Performance*: with pianists Danny Driver, Fei-Fei, Andrey Gugnin, Piers Lane, and Orion Weiss

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Novelette and Scherzino from Four Pieces, Op. 11 (1876-77)
Anton Rubinstein (1829–94)
Moderato from Kamennoi-Ostrow, Op. 10 (1853-54)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
Toccata, Op. 11 (1912)
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-81)
   Pictures from an Exhibition (1874)
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Suite No. 2, Op. 17 (1901)
Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915)
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp minor, Op. 19 (1897)
Nikolai Medtner (1880–1951)
Sonata tragica, Op. 39, No. 5 (1919-20)
Vladimir Rebikov (1866–1920)
From Les Feuilles d’automne, Op. 29 (c.1909)
Alexei Stanchinsky (1888–1914)
From Sketches, Op. 1 (1911-13)

Tickets: $25–$60

Weekend Two of “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World” takes place at Bard on August 17–19.

Bard SummerScape ticket information

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

SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Hall, and the Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:

To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

Full Schedule:

For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site

Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets and Subscriptions:; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.

Special offers:

Create Your Own Series: save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.

SummerScape Mainstage Package: save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.

Out-of-Town Package: save up to 23% on mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.

Night Out Package: save up to 15% on mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.

Updates: Bard’s “e-subscribers” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up, or send an e-mail to [email protected].


All programs are subject to change.

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© 21C Media Group, August 2018

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