Tannery Pond 2010, the Twentieth Anniversary Season, with a look back at 2009

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Christian Steiner, director of the Tannery Pond Concerts, with Nikolai, the Sealyham Terrier

Over the past few years, my enthusiasm for the Tannery Pond Concerts has been no secret. Where else can you hear a unique combination of the most celebrated soloists and chamber groups together with handpicked young musicians of extraordinary promise? And in a handsome Shaker tannery from the early nineteenth century with glorious acoustics. All this thanks to its director, Christian Steiner, who as the most prominent photographer of musicians and singers, has a  network like no other. Also, as a musician from a musical family, he has superb taste. Very few concerts ever disappoint, and none are simply routine. For my part I can only be grateful for the discoveries I’ve made there. Beyond this, next summer will be special, since Tannery Pond will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Mr. Steiner has put together a fantastic season.

It is no accident that two of the invitees are repeaters from last summer. The Brentano String Quartet made a brilliant impression last year, as they made the transition from being one of the most promising young quartets to one of the great ones. The pianist Alon Goldstein gave an unforgettable recital of early Bach, little-known early Brahms, a contemporary Israeli composer, Avner Dorman, early Beethoven, and three of Ginastera’s Argentinian Dances. Since the end-of-summer crush—much to my regret—prevented me from reviewing this important event, I’ll say a few words about it now.

Alon Goldstein, a pupil of Leon Fleisher, is a pianist of impressive power and subtlety. Beyond an interest in structure, harmony, and melodic shape, his approach is quite different from Fleisher’s, projecting a mercurial quality, even the illusion of impulsiveness, which makes his playing unique. Some might recall the great eccentric Jerome Rose—and Goldstein occasionally borders on eccentricity—but there is always considerable ratiocination behind his decisions, and a fairer comparison might be Artur Schnabel—although Goldstein has a much stronger technique. The touchstone for me was the most familiar of the works, Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 10 No. 3. He is not the only pianist to see the sonatas in the light of Beethoven’s own performances, in which improvisation played an important role and the spirit of the written music often crossed the wake of the improvised. The voices were independent and clear, and he always made the most of passing dissonances. Every detail was rethought afresh, and this well-known piece sounded new, even unfamiliar. At one transition in the last movement I thought he might have had a memory lapse, it sounded so different, but after the concert I had a chance to ask him about it, and hear him explain what we was doing. Alon Goldstein’s playing is original and intellectually rigorous in the highest sense, and I cannot overstate my admiration for his work. Bach’s Capriccio “On the Departure of a Most Beloved Brother,” BWV 992, was equally alive, coherent, and emotionally engaging. He also introduced a sensitive, even rather mystical sonata by Avner Dorman, and concluded the concert with hair-raising Ginastera. This year, on September 25th, Goldstein will take a different tack, playing Schumann and Brahms. Three actors will read letters of Johannes Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann.

Another revelation of last season was the splendid concert the Parnas sisters played with Christian Steiner. I heard them play at Music Mountain earlier in the summer with their mentor Peter Serkin. As fine as his playing and interpretation were, he dominated them to such an extent that I couldn’t get much of an idea of their personalities as musicians. Christian Steiner did his best to allow them to express themselves, and the result was a terrific success. In Shostakovich’s Sonata in D minor, Opus 40, for cello and piano, Cicely, the younger of the sisters (15 at the time), played with fine articulation and tone, as well as with a passion which thrilled the audience. Seventeen-year-old Madalyn is a more conceptual sort of musician: she seems to form an idea of her goals and strives wilfully to achieve it, as she indicated in her performance of Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata for Violin. In Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Opus 32, they played sympathetically together, in spite of their very different personalities, and this made the performance all the more interesting. Cicely’s warmth, however, provided the sine qua non in this late romantic work. Mr. Steiner not only provided solid support, but a vivid and insightful interpretation of the music.

Of those who are coming in 2010, Vivica Genaux and Craig Rutenberg need no introduction after their brilliant 2008 recital at Tannery, and Ms. Genaux has been interviewed and reviewed most enthusiastically on this site. She combines a beautiful, multi-colored mezzo voice with a powerful interpretive intellect, total immersion in the dramatic and musical content of the music at hand, and winning enthusiasm for her favorite repertoire, which includes the Vivaldi and Handel, as well as Rossini, the German Lied, and Zarzuela. She sings comparatively seldom in the US, so this is an event not to be missed.

Kirill Gerstein, at thirty, is highly in demand with major international orchestras. In fact he will be performing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Tanglewood the evening before his Tannery Pond recital. He emigrated to the US from Russia to study jazz at the Berklee School in Boston, but eventually committed himself to classical music.

The third impressive pianist will be Jeremy Denk, who is one of the most perceptive and intelligent interpreters of nineteenth and twentieth century repertoire today. You will find numerous enthusiastic reviews of his performances of Beethoven, Liszt, and Ives in the review.

Eric Ruske was appointed associate principle horn of the Cleveland Orchestra at the age of twenty, and later toured with the Empire Brass Quintet. He has previously performed and recorded with Pedja Muzijevic, a versatile and intelligent pianist, who has been a fixture at Tannery for many years. Jennifer Frautschi is one of the most exciting young violinists to appear in recent years, known for her wide and daring repertory.

The great flautist Paula Robison has had an interest in Brazilian music for some years, and has built up an enthusiastic following for her performances with guitarist Romero Lubambo and Cyro Baptista, percussion.

Tannery Pond’s 20th season should be one of its best yet.


May 29th – The Brentano String Quartet – (with a guest musician)

June 19th – Paula Robison (flute) – Romero Lubambo (guitar) – Cyro Baptista (percussion) Trio – an evening of Brazilian Music

July 3rd – Jeremy Denk, piano

July 31st – Kirill Gerstein, piano

August 14th – Vivica Genaux (mezzo-soprano) and Craig Rutenberg (piano)

September 4th – Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Eric Ruske (french horn), Pedja Muzijevic (piano)

September 25th – Alon Goldstein (piano) is playing all Schumann and Brahms and three actors will be reading the letters of Johannes Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann.

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