Conductors and musicians of the 2018 Peninsula Music Festival will take audiences on an audio tour of the classical music world’s most influential cities during its three-week, nine program run Aug. 7-25.
This year marks the 66th of PMF’s existence, half of which has been under the helm of longtime conductor Victor Yampolsky. The season honors Europe’s great classical masters and some of the most recognizable film scores in America by featuring music from conductors spanning the globe, from Moscow to Los Angeles.
The season has been two years in the making for Yampolsky and PMF Executive Director Sharon Grutzmacher, who have collaborated on programs that will introduce more than a dozen pieces never before played on the peninsula.
“I find it amazing that the repertoire is so vast that there can continually be pieces we have never done here,” Grutzmacher said.
The executive director credits the growing orchestra (at 60-plus members this year) for allowing an expanded selection of music to be heard at the festival’s home base, the Door Community Auditorium. More than half of the orchestra has been with the organization for 25 years or more.
Among the highlights of the upcoming season are a new generation of young soloists, a concert honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of American composer Leonard Bernstein, and a pops program featuring selections from Hollywood film scores.
Soloists in the Spotlight
Yampolsky hand-selected all nine of this year’s soloists, which include pianists, cellists, vocalists and violinists. Among those featured are violinists Tessa Lark and Maya Anjali Buchanan, both of whom will make their debut with PMF this year.
Lark is a New York-based soloist whose role in the “St. Petersburg to Moscow I” program Aug. 16 will be the solo performance of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s nearly 40-minute Violin Concerto.
“It’s one of the most famous violin concertos that exists in the classical repertoire, and most beloved,” Lark said. “It’s quite a challenge to play for everybody – the solo part but also in the orchestra. The melodies are so gorgeous and timeless that it’s worth all the effort that one has to put into playing the piece. It’s what you would expect from the Russian romantic era.”
Door County audiences will enjoy a rare treat with Lark’s performance, as it will mark one of her last playing an “ex-Gingold” Stradivarius violin made in 1683. Lark has had the rare instrument on loan since 2014, the result of her second-place finish in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. It was once owned and played by renowned American violin teacher, the late Josef Gingold, before being bought by the International Violin Competition for $1.6 million. The competition is held every four years, the next of which is Aug. 31-Sept. 16, when a new winner will be crowned and loaned the “ex-Gingold” Stradivarius.
Lark has special connections with the instrument. Her teacher, Miriam Fried, was a student of Gingold’s and many of her collaborators have heard performances featuring that particular violin, either from Gingold himself or other winners of the Indianapolis competition.
“To have a relic like that, an ancient artifact and piece of art that’s still living and breathing to this day, it astounds me every day and I thank my lucky stars that I got to have it for almost four years,” Lark said.
The second young violinist making an appearance in August is 18-year-old Maya Anjali Buchanan, who will lend her talents to the Aug. 21 pops concert, “Los Angeles to New York.” Half of the heavily orchestral, nine-piece program is music from Academy Award-winning composer John Williams, who is responsible for widely recognizable film scores, including Star Wars. The program also includes selections from Ben Hur, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film, Shall We Dance.
Guest conductor Alastair Willis, who makes his debut with PMF, developed a majority of the pops program.
“It’s got a good balance and a lot of the movie music is really loud and a big blow from brass so you’ve got to have a piece here and there which they can rest their lips so we’ve got a few pieces that are just the strings, for example,” he said. “John Williams is one of the greatest, if not the greatest music composer ever, and we’ve got four pieces by him and I’m just so excited about that.”
Willis will reunite with Buchanan, whom he conducted in a Kansas music camp when she was 12. She will take center stage during the program with the foundation of the concert, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D major.
“We programmed it around the Korngold violin concerto which is a pretty serious piece,” Grutzmacher said. “But Korngold composed for many, many motion pictures so it will be a chance for people to discover him as a composer.”
While Yampolsky harbors a great love for the entire 2018 lineup, the Aug. 11 “New York: Bernstein Centennial” rises above all the rest for its significance to the maestro’s journey in the classical music world.
“The concert in memory of Leonard Bernstein is very personal to me because he brought me to the United States to Tanglewood as a recipient of his scholarship and consequently I became a member of the Boston Symphony,” Yampolsky said. “I consider Leonard Bernstein literally as my godfather.”
The four-piece concert will feature two works of Bernstein’s: Symphony No. 1 (Jeremiah) and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. The remaining two are works by Gustav Mahler (“Adagietto” from Symphony No. 5) and selections from Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs. Vocalists Kathy Pyeatt and Keven Keys will perform during the concert.
Yampolsky chose to diversify the program with Mahler and Copland because of their “enormous role in the life and creativity of Leonard Bernstein.” Mahler’s piece was conducted by Bernstein in the first Boston Symphony concert Yampolsky ever performed in.
“He conducted it to commemorate the life of Serge Koussevitzky who was the founder of the Tanglewood summer season of the Boston Symphony and he was who was the mentor of Leonard Bernstein for many years,” Yampolsky said.
Copland, who mentored the young Bernstein and helped bring him to New York, also conducted at that concert and will be honored by PMF.
“Some people say that Aaron Copland not only taught him (Bernstein) composition and promoted him but also paid his rent because the young boy was penniless,” Yampolsky said. “So Aaron Copland was always the closest and most revered friend and mentor of Bernstein.”
For more details on the 2018 Peninsula Music Festival, visit musicfestival.com.