It was my pleasure to hear another Mohawk Trail Concert in Charlemont on Saturday evening to hear cellist Matt Haimovitz. Matt is a local favorite, and he spent several years teaching at UMass Amherst. My particular interest in attending was to hear the Francis Poulenc sonata. The slow movement of this piece I have loved, especially the last few bars. Why?
The Mohawk Trail Concerts have been taking place in the Federated Church in Charlemont, Massachusetts since 1969, when Arnold Black, the distinguished violinist and composer, discovered the outstanding acoustics of this attractive old church. Since then, the festival has presented a rich variety of standard repertoire, modern, contemporary, and less familiar older works. Regulars look forward to the annual concert of Joan Morris and William Bolcom, who will celebrate Bastille Day this year.
I get in my little car, and I go to marvelous things. My favorite is the Mohawk Trail Concerts. This marvelous series, run by Ruth Black, was for years the summer destination of the great Jan DeGaetani, and still boasts yearly visits from Joan Morris and William Bolcom. At various times I have heard the Fiordiligi who was singing Don Giovanni with James Levine at Tanglewood, a young woman who was sitting principal cellist later in the summer for a great performance of the Alpine Symphony with Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and major artists like Carol Wincenc. I have never heard a bad concert in this venue. The structure itself is a small church in the hamlet of Charlemont, Mass. Everything about the concert is informal. Mrs. Black speaks elegantly before each concert. One feels like one is at home. There is an almost bewildering variety to the series. It is not expensive. This summer I heard an all-too-rare performance of Fauré’s piano quartet, Op.15 played by an old friend, John van Buskirk and the other members of the La Belle Alliance trio. This was limpid, detailed playing with an acute sense of the quick-changing affect Fauré’s music possesses, early or late. The trio made these shifts, like the shifts in thinking itself, into a consistent rhetoric that showed me how neglected this masterpiece is. It was an unaffected performance, which I was able to hear from about ten feet away. When you go, take note of a magnificent elm tree just across the street from the church. The elm is majestic. The church is humble. Hearing music in these concerts is a real experience, not a media event.