Digital Program

2023 Season: Brilliant Sounds of Summer

July 26 – August 19

From the Artistic Directors

Welcome to the Skaneateles Festival!

We are happy you are here. By joining us, you become part of this vibrant musical community. You join over 5,000 listeners, 50 performers, 30 families hosting performers in their homes, 100 volunteers, 20 staff members & interns, and 28 board & advisory members.

At any given moment, they are planning, organizing, tuning, practicing, rehearsing, setting up, cooking, directing traffic, moving pianos, setting up chairs, and much other hustle and bustle. It all happens around one beautiful lake. The combination of the music, the community, and the setting can be truly magical, and we hope it will be for you.

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We’ve planned and programmed the concerts, so we’d like to think you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to attend. Go for a season pass! Invite friends and family to join you. We’ll highlight just a few events for you here:

Eliot Fisk – The brilliant, world-renowned guitarist, a Syracuse native, finds his own unique way to play it all on the guitar, from Bach to Paganini. (July 26 and 27)

Danish String Quartet – This foursome, here all the way from Denmark, is in demand throughout the world for their suave and natural playing. (July 28)

Béla Fleck & My Bluegrass Heart (July 29) – The banjo king leads an all-star bluegrass band, a perfect fit for the outdoor Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyards.

“Following Harriet” program (August 4) – We celebrate Auburn luminary Harriet Tubman with an American program of music by Barber, Porter, Still, and the world premiere of Fortitude by Nailah Nombeko. Rising opera star Kearstin Piper Brown, to make her Met debut next season, plays Harriet Tubman.

Kelli O’Hara: Songs from My Heart (August 5) – Tony-winning Broadway and opera star Kelli O’Hara makes her Festival debut! She shares a selection of her favorite Broadway and classical songs.

Joshua Redman Quartet (August 19) – Since the start of his career, the ultra-charismatic saxophonist has kept everyone guessing about what he will play next – and he seems to hit a new kind of home run
every time.

While you’re with us, we hope you will get to know someone new – introduce yourself to a fellow audience member, to a performer, or to us. Music uplifts us and brings us together.

Aaron Wunsch & Julia Bruskin
Artistic Directors

Board of Directors

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Heather Carroll, President

Doug Whitehouse, Vice President

Edward Conan, Treasurer

Katie Peck, Recording Officer

Dave Birchenough

Somak Chattopadhyay

Barb Connor

Kim Driscoll

Alison Ferretti

Leanna Fischer

Steve Frackenpohl

Kathleen Haddock

Jessica Millman

Steve Scheinman

Carrie Scholz

Paige Williams

Bridget Wynne


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Susan Mark, Executive Director

Julia Bruskin & Aaron Wunsch, Artistic Directors

Ellen Sorber, Marketing & Digital Communications Manager

Reese Nesbitt, Project and Outreach Manager

Anna Bender, Molly Dolan, Owen Taylor, Office Interns

Sarah Moth, Operations Manager

Corey Riley, Technical Manager

AnnRae Martin, Stage Manager

Kosta Georgiadis, Ryan Hefferna, Assistant Technical Managers


Jack Patterson, Stage Assistant

Oliver Butler, Katie Combs, Kelly Goldberger, Natalie Hale, Emma Hill, Kayleigh King, Nathan MacLachlan, Joe Meaney, Jack Van Epps, Jena Wilbur, Owen Wilmot, Amelia Yengo, Caitlyn Yengo, Crew

Betsy Carter, Bookkeeping

Doug Whitehouse, Creative Director

Nancy Boyce, Graphic Designer


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Artist Pianos, Trinity Concert Series, Hamilton College – Steinway Pianos

Colin & Corrie Carroll, Heather & Tim Carroll, Maryellen Casey & Bruce Keplinger, Barb Connor & Doug Wood, Ed & Paula Conan, Liz & Evan Dreyfuss, Kim & Charley Driscoll, Koko Fuller, Don & Chacea Sundman – Musician Dinners

Joan Christy – Musician Dinners & Guarantor Reception

First Presbyterian Church, and Anyela’s Vineyards – Concert Locations

Koko Fuller – Ticket Sales

Bill Mercer, Skaneateles, West Genesee, and Westhill Central Schools – musical instruments and equipment Arthur Nick Smith – Piano Tuning

Many thanks to the generous Skaneateles residents who open their homes to the Festival’s visiting musicians.

Advisory Council

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Thomas Bersani
Judith Bryant
Joan Christy
Mary Cotter
William Davis
Michael P. Falcone
Lindsay Groves
Claire Howard
Andrea Latchem
Sharon Magee
Doug Sutherland

Thank you to our 2022 volunteers and hosts

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Mary Allen Scott Allyn

Miki and Dan Bangs

Henry and Helga Beck

Dave Birchenough and Carrie Lazarus

Barbara Bolton-Smith

Nancy Boyce

Judy Bryant

Maryellen Botsford

Holly Gregg and Patience Brewster

Patti Carey

Kathryn Carlson

Colin Carroll

Heather and Tim Carroll

Carol and William Stokes-Cawley

Joan Christy and Tom Bersani

Kip Coerper

Brendan McGinn and Rebecca Cohen

Ed and Paula Conan

Barb Connor and Doug Wood

Mary Pat Cottrel

Susie Dailey

Sidnie and Salvatore D’Amelio

Holly Dorsch

Kim and Charley Driscoll

Alison and Brendan Ferreti

Leanna Fischer

Fran and Ham Fish

Paul and Erika Fiutak

Steve and Sandi Frackenpohl

Pam Freeman

Koko Fuller

Mary Germain

Michele Chander and Robert Gilfoil

Sarah and Kevin Goode

Becky and Bart Goodell

Kathleen Haddock

Scott Heinekamp

Thomas Higgins

Donna Himelfarb

Deborah Hole

Don Hughes

Pamela Jenkins

Mark and Diane Kaminski

Maryellen Casey and Bruce Keplinger

Mary Knepper

Kay Kraatz

Gail van der Linde

Christopher and Pat Mack

Ginny and Fred Marty

Jessica Millman

James and Nancy Mion

Michael Murray

Richard Naughton

Bob and Sally Neumann

Jim and Patti Nocek, Anyela’s Vineyards

Tonette Orlando

Eva and Dan Pajak

Katie and Mark Peck

Greg and Debbie Quick

Greg and Kelly Ripich

Dan Fisher and Lori Ruhlman

Steven and Kelly Scheinman

Carrie Scholz

Marianne Sherman

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Jean Shook

Barbara and Bolt Bolton-Smith

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Jo Speicher

Anita Sterns

Jay Stith and Hilary Fenner

Don and Chacea Sundman

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Brenda Switzer

Helen Tai

Margaret Thomsen

Connie Walters and Mark Bostick

Doug and Peg Whitehouse

Paige Williams

Bill Witter

Sheryl Woodmansee

Dan and Bridget Wynne

Gary and Diane Zdan

Thank you to all the 2023 Donors

(Gifts received as of July 14, 2023)

Platinum Guarantor

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Armory Square Ventures

Somak Chattopadhyay and Pia Sawhney

Central New York Community Foundation

Joan Christy and Sharon Ryan, in memory of Carolyn Stein

CNY Arts

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Bob and Sally Neumann

New York State Council on the Arts

Onondaga County

Daniel and Linda Scaia

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Elsa and Peter Soderberg

Doug Sutherland and Nancy Kramer

Sieglinde Wikstrom


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Lynn Cleary and David Duggan, in memory of David & Louise Robinson

CNY Arts – Sen. John W. Mannion & Sen. Rachel May

Young Artist Scholarship Program

Bill and Donna Davis

The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Patricia A. Lynn-Ford and Steven J. Ford

Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University

Elizabeth and Evan Dreyfuss

Koko Fuller

James Gregg, Managing Director, Stifel

Holly Gregg and Patience Brewster

Dana and Susan Hall

Jacqueline Jones, Finger Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty

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Martha Sutter and David Ross

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1911 Established, Beak & Skiff


Artist Piano

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She Rents Vintage

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Michael and Helen Glowacki

Melvin and Dorothee Goldman

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Anne Jamison and Peter Vanable

Jackie Keady

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Robin Kinnel

Jeffrey Kirshner and Lorraine Rapp

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Judy Krieger

Roger and Anna Krieger

Carol Krumhansl and Jeffrey Roberts

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Daniel and Grace Labeille, in memory of David Stam

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Anne Lynn

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Susan Martineau

Modern Kitchens of Syracuse

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Susan and David Palen

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John Pulos

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Patrick and Kuni Riccardi

Nancy Rice and Mary Lee Miller

Kelly and Tony Scalzo

Carrie and Chris Scholz

Jean Shook and Chris Johnson

Judith Stoikov and Richard Miller

Dan and Peggy Surdam

Frank and Rose Swiskey

Paul and Mary Torrisi

Jaime Tuozzolo

Fred Van Sickle

John and Jean Vincent

Jo Werner

Dr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Wickwire

Eleanor Williams

Joseph and Maureen Wilson

Bridget and Dan Wynne

Jeff and Kate Youle

John and Carol Young


SkanFest U: Why Mozart?

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles

Weekly Sessions

Tuesdays, July 25, August 1, 8, and 15

4:00 – 5:00 PM

The Skaneateles Festival’s educational sessions are FREE and open to all.

A wine social will be included after each class.


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Mozart’s music remains a cultural touchstone, even in today’s pluralistic world. What gives Mozart’s music its staying power, and how does it continue to inspire both listeners and composers? Get inside the music, including several works to be heard on Festival programs this season, and learn how Mozart’s music inspired those who followed him, including Chopin, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and even contemporary artists from diverse backgrounds, such as Chick Corea and Vijay Iyer (whose Mozart Effects will be heard August 3). Hear exclusive live performances by Festival artists and mingle with your fellow Mozart enthusiasts afterward over a glass of wine.

The program will be led by Co-Artistic Director Aaron Wunsch, who teaches about Mozart’s music at The Juilliard School.

For more information: 315-685-7418 or

Aaron Wunsch is sponsored by The Skaneateles Consortium: George Bain, Sam & Debby Bruskin, Dana & Susan Hall, and Judy Robertson

SkanFest U is sponsored by the Julie Sharpe Fund.


Sizzling Strings with ECCO

Friday, August 11, 11:00 AM

Mandana Barn, 1274 Lacy Road, Skaneateles

For all ages, Kids FREE

Adults $5 at the door

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ECCO (East Coast Chamber Orchestra) leads a sonic exploration of strings, including the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Learn about the many sides of stringed instruments, from sweet singing to fiery fiddling! The virtuoso members of ECCO share music by Mozart and Grieg, as well as some musical surprises.

Steven Banks: Meet the Saxophone!

Steven Banks, saxophone

Xak Bjerken, piano

Wednesday, August 16, 11:00 AM

First Presbyterian Church, 97 East Genesee Street, Skaneateles

For all ages, Kids FREE

Adults $5 at the door

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Find out how the saxophone can sing, talk, laugh, and everything in between, with Steven Banks, the classical saxophonist who has taken the music world by storm. Hear diverse music for saxophone and piano by Saint-Saëns, tango master Astór Piazzolla, and others.

KidsFest is presented in memory of Faye Panasci

Steven Banks is sponsored by 

Xak Bjerken is sponsored by Bousquet Holstein, PLLC

ECCO is sponsored by Armory Square Ventures, Somak Chattopadhyay & Pia Sawhney, and Jessica & Toby Millman

Nick Kendall is sponsored by Kevin & Sarah Goode

July 26: An Afternoon with Eliot Fisk

Wednesday, July 26

3:00 PM

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles

This concert is sponsored by Ed and Paula Conan

Eliot Fisk is sponsored by Andrea Latchem

FERNANDO SOR Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Op. 9

Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Op. 9 (1821) FERNANDO SOR (1778-1839)

Unless one counts Falco’s 1985 pop hit “Rock Me Amadeus,” Mozart and the guitar make unlikely bedfellows. Mozart’s soaring “cantabile” melodies seem unfit for plucking and strumming. But if anyone could bridge that gap, it was Spanish composer-guitarist Fernando Sor. He had fought Napoleon’s superior army upon its invasion of Spain in 1808, proving he was not one to shy away from a challenge. Like Mozart himself, Sor composed operas, symphonies, and string quartets, but, unlike Mozart, the guitar was his personal weapon of choice. He pioneered a way to simultaneously play melodies and chords, as outlined in his seminal guitar method book, called by one scholar “easily the most remarkable book on guitar technique ever written.” His Introduction and Variations have become a rite of passage for aspiring guitar-virtuosos who seek to show that they, too, can make Mozart’s music sing with a guitar.

Sor’s Variations spin out from a charming tune, originally sung by evil minions. Since evil minions don’t sing charming tunes, opera audiences usually laugh out loud during this scene in The Magic Flute, as Papageno casts a spell upon Sarastro’s hordes with magic bells. In his Variations, Sor casts his own musical spell, first with a grand and somber introduction. The tune is thereby rendered more charming when it finally appears, and, as German is not the world’s most charming language, Sor sets the tune’s rhythm to the Italian translation of Mozart’s original (“O cara armonia” instead of “Das klinget so herrlich”). Next, Sor applies charms specific to the guitar: fanciful flourishes decorate the tune, combined with melodious, Italianate thirds and sixths. The simpler second variation laments in the style of Pamina’s aria, “Ach, ich fühl’s,” but the charms return in repeated notes (Variation 3), strumming (Variation 4), and finally triplets (Variation 5), which launch directly into a joyful coda. By the end, Sor has convinced us that Mozart and the guitar are compatible after all. Rock me, Amadeus

J.S. BACH (arr. Fisk) Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007

Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 (ca. 1720)

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750), arr. Fisk

J. S. Bach’s music for solo cello is one of the great unsolved mysteries of music history. Why did he write six cello suites? For whom, and when? It could be that the mystery surround- ing these works enhances the mystery of hearing them, for the music seems to exist apart from the world, inhabiting a soundscape that no other music has ever quite replicated. Naturally, musicologists have applied their powers of deduction to the problem, ever since Catalan cellist Pablo Casals found an obscure edition of the works in a Barcelona thrift shop, in 1890. Thanks to his performances, the suites found their way into the hearts of many and, eventually, in the case of Prelude from Suite No. 1, into Verizon commercials.

In the Baroque Era, the cello was primarily a bass instru- ment, usually heard with at least one treble instrument above it, plus harpsichord. The only surviving manuscript source, in the hand of Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, calls attention to the cello’s unusually solitary pose with the special indication “senza basso,” without bass. (That didn’t stop Robert Schumann from adding his own fanciful piano accompaniments, 130 years later.) Because the suites take the cellist far outside the bass range and through forests of chords and interweaving melodies, they are still among the most difficult works cellists play. Bach himself transcribed one of the suites for lute (No. 5, in C minor), and so the transfer to guitar follows a path forged by the composer himself.

In Baroque music, G Major typically signals a pastoral sound world: delightful, outdoorsy, free of conflict. Sun radiates from the famous opening notes. The cello dances with a special kind of peaceful enthusiasm that has rendered this Prelude among the most iconic three minutes in classical music. (Yo-Yo Ma’s recent rooftop video performance with a view to the hardly pastoral Empire State Building has garnered 15 million views.)

As in all Bach suites, the unaccompanied instrument has absolute freedom over timing, which allows for the per- former’s highly individual sense of how this dance suite should ebb and flow. So dance at your own risk. Although stylized, Bach knew the dances first-hand from his days at the Knight’s Academy in Lüneburg, where noble boys gathered to learn them from a French dancing master. (Guess who played in the band for these lucky fellows.) In the Allemande (the French word for German), the Prelude’s bouncy arpeggios have given way to the more reflective and lyrical scales that bring our hypothetical couple together, arm in arm. By contrast, the Courante is all hopping and jumping; accord- ing to a leading theorist at the time, every courante should convey “a mood of sweet expectation.” The heartwarming Sarabande gives way to two tender and graceful minuets and finally the Gigue, French relative of the Irish jig. Bach’s Gigue is light-footed and genial, the musical equivalent of a smile – which you may well note on the faces of those seated around you.

AGUSTÍN BARRIOS MANGORÉ Three pieces for Solo Guitar

AGUSTÍN BARRIOS MANGORÉ    Three pieces for Solo Guitar

Vals, Op. 8, No. 3 (1928)

Danza Paraguaya (1928)

Sueño en la Floresta (1917)


Agustín Barrios was born to perform. First, probably, for sheep. Of indigenous Guaraní heritage, he grew up in the remote, agrarian Misiones district of Paraguay, where he picked up his father’s guitar at age seven. Admitted to the National College in Paraguay’s capital by age 15, Barrios also studied literature and was a lifelong poet later known to hand his fans autographed poems. But his true calling was to perform on the guitar, so he eagerly traveled through Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile. When he left South

America, in 1930, he crafted a new stage presence, renaming himself Nitsuga (Agustín backwards) Mangoré, a Guaraní chieftain, and donning feathers and headdress. Even without the elaborate costume, however, his charisma was legendary. He captivated audiences throughout Europe before “settling” in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and finally El Salvador).

Many of Mangoré’s 300+ known guitar works draw from Paraguayan folk influences, including the first two selections heard tonight. The yearning Vals, Op. 8, No. 3, is a vals criollo, a blend of the European waltz and Peruvian folk music. Danza Paraguaya (Paraguayan Dance) is a galopa, a lively version of the Paraguayan polka. Here the guitarist must negotiate two melodies plus a bouncing accompaniment with apparent ease and charm. Sueño en la Floresta

(A Dream in a Forest) is an enchanting, extended work full of romantic fantasy and feeling. In the hands of a guitarist like Mangoré or Eliot Fisk who can master its atmospheric repeated notes, it casts a truly mesmerizing spell.

5 Pieces from Latin America: Homage to Alirio Diaz (1923-2016) (on occasion of his centenary)

5 Pieces from Latin America: Homage to Alirio Diaz

(1923-2016) (on occasion of his centenary)

“Por ti mi Corazón” (1912)

MANUEL M. PONCE (1882-1948)

Vals Venezolano (“Angostura”) Vals Venezolano (“María Luisa”) Vals Venezolano (“Tatiana”) Seis por Derecho: Joropo ANTONIO LAURO (1917-1986)

A composer’s name perches permanently atop a musical score, but the performer who may have instigated, motivated, or popularized that work rarely gets any billing at all. Mozart, for example, never would have penned his famous Queen of the Night aria if he hadn’t known for a fact that his sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer, could sing well into the stratosphere. But even if the performer doesn’t inspire a work’s composition, they can compel people to listen to it. Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Diaz did that for a swath of guitar music played today. He would have turned 100 this year.

Diaz first learned the cuatro, a four-stringed folk instrument, giving him valuable insight into folk styles. After picking up the classical guitar, repeated successes led him toward studies in Siena with the great Andrés Segovia, who he succeeded as a professor in 1965. Mexican composer Manuel Ponce had arranged his song “Por ti mi Corazón” (“For you my heart”) as a solo guitar piece for Segovia in the ‘20s; Diaz later assumed Segovia’s mantle, performing and promoting Ponce’s music around the world. This is a deeply felt song of love and loss: “You were my passion and brightened my pathway like a song.” But now, “You will not return…and I die of love.”

Diaz was especially crucial in popularizing the music of fellow Venezuelan Antonio Lauro, whose music he edited, performed, and recorded. Lauro excelled at the Vals, a Latin American blend of the European waltz (à la Chopin) and local folk music. While the folk-influence is palpable, these are often intricate, challenging pieces. They also have a personal dimension: he dedicated each to an important person in his life. He told a student that the one dedicated to his wife, María Luisa, is “as difficult as she is.” Others went to his daughter, his son, his niece (“Tatiana”), and his home- town (“Angostura”, Ciudad Bolívar’s ancient name). Fisk’s set ends with a Joropo, an exhilarating dance from the plains of Venezuela

Backstage Pass: Season Preview

with Eliot Fisk and Artistic Directors Aaron Wunsch and Julia Bruskin

Thursday, July 27

7:00 PM Backstage Pass

(for ticket holders only)

July 27: Opening Night, Eliot Fisk and Friends

8:00 PM Concert

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles

Tonight’s concert is sponsored in memory of Carolyn Stein by her dear friends Joan Christy and Sharon Ryan

Julia Bruskin is sponsored by The Skaneateles Consortium: George Bain, Sam & Debby Bruskin, Dana & Susan Hall, and Judy Robertson

Eliot Fisk is sponsored by Andrea Latchem

Media Sponsor:   


PAGANINI Sonata Concertata for Guitar and Violin

PAGANINI       Sonata Concertata for Guitar and Violin

Allegro spiritoso

Adagio assai espressivo

Rondeau: Allegretto con brio, Scherzando


Eliot Fisk, guitar Asher Wulfman, violin

Sonata Concertata for Guitar and Violin (1804)


So associated is Paganini with the violin, one could easily overlook his prodigy on the guitar: some 140 solo works, nearly 40 duets with violin, and various other ensemble works featuring the instrument. As a child, he had learned mandolin from his music-loving father, a dock worker, and made a quick leap to guitar. Paganini composed this first sonata for guitar and violin not long after he set out on his own in the town of Lucca; here he astonished the locals with his violin facility, which apparently included using it to imitate the sounds of nearby farm animals. Don’t expect any such hee-haws in his elegant Sonata Concertata, nor the demonic, supernatural qualities later ascribed to Paganini’s playing; this sunny, charming work is closer in style to Mozart than to Liszt.

Paganini generously shares his melodies between violin and guitar; this is by no means a violin showpiece with guitar accompaniment. The genial but sophisticated dialogue between the instruments would have been appreciated by his dedicatee, Emilia, married to Paganini’s Genoa patron, Gian Carlo di Negro. Negro was a nobleman and poet who loved to host literary salons, where he enjoyed improvising verses, kind of like early Italian hip hop. (What rhymes with ‘salami’?) Paganini may well have played the work here. Following the sunny first movement, a deeply felt Adagio draws upon the expressive vocabulary of opera. The third movement lightens up for a spritely rondo, which gives us an inkling of Paganini’s later, more brilliant style. He had just recently started the caprices for solo violin on which his fame would ultimately rest. For today, at least, he was content to share a spotlight with the guitar.

GEORGE ROCHBERG Selections from American Bouquet

Selections from American Bouquet (1997)


(Dedicated to Eliot Fisk)

“My Heart Stood Still” (Richard Rodgers)

“I Only Have Eyes for You” (Harry Warren)

“Deep Purple” (Peter DeRose)

“Notre Dame Blues” (George Rochberg) 

Eliot Fisk, guitar

If you’d aspired to be a respectable composer in the mid- 20th century, you’d better make sure the public hated your music. Popularity was treated with suspicion, and dissonance had become a prerequisite of intellectual rigor. “The twelve-tone composers are the only ones who have a discipline I respect,” Igor Stravinsky said in 1952. By this

time, George Rochberg had already established himself as a brilliant twelve-tone composer, but in the 1960s he became dissatisfied with what he saw as dissonant music’s limitations. “Modernism ended up allowing us only a postage- stamp-sized space to stand on,” he later said, in 1983. “We cut the rest away.”

The catalyst for his reorientation was the tragic death of his teenage son in 1964, from a brain tumor. When Rochberg reintegrated a post-romantic tonal lyricism into his works to express his grief, he caused heated controversy among musical circles. Rochberg was unapologetic. “If I want to contrast dissonant chromaticism cheek by jowl with a more accessibly tonal style, I will do so. All human gestures are available to all human beings at any time.” His approach

proved prophetic; today, he is seen as a proto postmodernist, among the first to draw from multiple musical styles within a single work. His Nach Bach (After Bach), for example, quotes

J.S. Bach one moment and dissolves into pungent dissonances the next. In American Bouquet, composed for Eliot Fisk, his source material is American popular songs of the 1920s and 30s. How dare he!

Rochberg ruminates upon his source material rather than merely transcribing it; as he explained, “I have not made ‘arrangements’ but ‘compositions’ in which the tunes are embedded as the essential melodic thread.” His starting point is Richard Rodgers’s 1927 hit, “My Heart Stood Still,” later recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and even Rod Stewart. This wistful tune creates a lover’s haze: “I took one glance at you, that’s all I meant to do, and then my heart stood still.” The haze becomes even thicker in Harry Warren’s 1934 “I Only Have Eyes for You”: “Are the stars out tonight? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright. I only have eyes for you.” Rochberg’s music is both achingly tender and virtuosic at the same time; it often seems to float off in the air. Nostalgia reigns in Rochberg’s take on Peter DeRose’s 1934 “Deep Purple (Dreams),” but Rochberg brings us back to earth with his stomp-worthy “Notre Dame Blues,” music entirely of his own invention. Who knows, you might even clap at the end.


J. S. BACH Chaconne from Partita in D minor, BWV 1004

Chaconne from Partita in D minor, BWV 1004


arr. Eliot Fisk

Eliot Fisk, guitar

There are few works that fascinate professional musicians like Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin. “The Chaconne is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful and most incom- prehensible pieces of music,” Johannes Brahms reflected. “Using the technique adapted to a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I could picture myself writing, or even conceiving, such a piece, I am certain that the extreme excitement and emotional tension would have driven me mad.” The work’s allure has not abated; today, musical scholars often treat it like a puzzle in need of figuring out. They give lectures to highlight its proportional adherence to Fibonacci’s “golden section”; discuss whether one should play it more briskly, like a dance, rather than a grand statement; and speculate on whether it could be a musical monument to his late first wife, Maria Barbara.

The circumstances of its composition are indeed puzzling. Why would Bach end a dance suite of short movements with a 15-minute psychological tour (de force) of over 60 different emotional states? The chaconne is, technically speaking, a dance, but Bach’s theme could hardly be less dance-like: grand and somber, it spreads across all four strings with

full chords, as if Bach’s organ was condensed into a small wooden box. He applies his theme’s underlying harmony to variations, exploring the limits of violin technique and expression, as Brahms noted. But the ultimate triumph of the work is not its cleverness but its narrative continuity.

The emotions naturally lead from one to the next, through sadness, contemplation, struggle, relief, celebration, awe, and resignation. In short, it encapsulates the human experience.

Brahms did take up the challenge of transcribing it for his own instrument (the piano), a path followed by at least 200 others, including Eliot Fisk. The guitar offers six strings to the violin’s four, a considerable advantage in negotiating Bach’s simultaneous melodies, or counterpoint. Yet the challenge remains, as Brahms said, to express “a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings.” And performers love a good challenge.

ENRIQUE GRANADOS “La Maja de Goya” from 12 Tonadillas en estilo antiguo

“La Maja de Goya” from 12 Tonadillas en estilo antiguo (1912)

ENRIQUE GRANADOS (1867-1916), arr. Fisk

Enrique Granados called the painter Francisco Goya “the representative genius of Spain.” After the 150th anniversary of Goya’s birth, in 1896, Spanish intellectuals asked whether the cultivation of Spanish traditions should or should not be central to modern life. Granados believed Goya had already provided an emphatic yes in his paintings of majos and majas – residents of Madrid who paraded their Spanish pride before their Napoleonic French occupiers by wearing flamboyant anachronistic costumes, with defiant attitudes to match. Granados’s tonadilla, originally for voice and piano, is a musical tribute to Goya. Because he portrayed the Spanish

maja in all her beauty and strength, the singer imagines Goya himself as her lover: “If I could find someone to love me like Goya loved me, I would no longer yearn for better luck.”

Granados’ Goya project culminated in a monumental set of seven piano pieces, Goyescas, and finally in an opera of the same name, premiered in 1915 at the Metropolitan

Opera in New York. On the way home, his passenger steam- ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat, rendering him a victim of another country’s desire to occupy Spain. Yet his music remains a monument of Spanish culture, alongside Goya’s paintings.


Habanera (1945)

ERNESTO HALFFTER (1905-1989), arr. Fisk

Although Ernesto Halffter took his surname from his father, a Prussian jeweler, he was Spanish through and through. His mother, Rosario, was a gifted pianist, and, naturally, his teacher. He later studied with Manuel de Falla, who influenced much of his music. This jewel of a Habanera is so painfully charming (especially in Fisk’s own transcription), its final sound is almost guaranteed to be the audience sighing.

ISAAC ALBÉNIZ Sevilla from Suite española, No. 1, Op. 47

Sevilla from Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 (1886)

ISAAC ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909), arr. Fisk

Isaac Albéniz was one of the greatest composers for guitar, which is truly impressive given that he never composed a single note for guitar. He didn’t even play it, yet his piano pieces work so beautifully for the instrument that he might as well have. Although Albéniz was a pianist, he frequently entered the world of flamenco guitar music via his imagination. A gifted improviser, he could hold forth in almost any style of Spanish music. In Sevilla, he evokes the noisy flamenco guitars. The commotion clears out for the flamenco singer’s free and soulful cante jondo (“deep song”) and then the revelry returns. French composers Debussy, Ravel, and Fauré all marveled at how Albéniz could produce such guitar-like sounds from the piano. However, his music most truly sounds like the guitar…when played on the guitar.

LUIGI BOCCHERINI Quintet for Guitar and Strings, G. 448 (“Fandango”)

LUIGI BOCCHERINI     Quintet for Guitar and Strings, G. 448 (“Fandango”)


Allegro maestoso

Grave assai



Eliot Fisk, guitar

Asher Wulfman, violin

Sarah Berger, violin

Melissa Matson, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello

A name like Luigi Boccherini leaves no one in doubt as to his national origins, but the man certainly got around. At age 15, he left his native Lucca to study in Rome, then off to Vienna for his solo cello debut, proceeding next to the salons of Paris (where most of his music would be published), and then to Spain to join the ranks of an opera orchestra in Aranjuez. The patron of the opera there happened to be the King of Spain’s brother, Crown Prince Luis; he took to Boccherini’s music and hired him full-time to compose music for the Spanish court. Compose he did: Boccherini was extraordinarily prolific, completing nearly 100 string quartets, 30 symphonies, and 12 cello concertos. But his favorite genre of all (100+) was the string quintet with two cellos, which allowed him to tag along with the resident string quartet on a second cello. The Quintet for Guitar and Strings heard tonight draws upon material from two of these quintets and refashions it into a quintet with one cello and guitar, penned at the behest of the guitar-playing Marquis of Benavente.

The players in Boccherini’s music are often in agreement, with two playing the same melody together in thirds or sixths. Not surprisingly, his music is highly agreeable. Boccherini preferred the idioms of the galant style: short, melodious snippets, bouncing repeated notes, and gallivant- ing arpeggios. To these he brought a daredevil’s sense of anti-gravity, sending the cello, in particular, far above its typically bass-bound register. (Boccherini purportedly enjoyed playing violin music on the cello at its original high pitch.) His Guitar Quintet begins with a Boccherini specialty, imported from Italy: the pastorale. Listen for the harmoniously chirping lovebirds (violins) and a rustling brook (guitar). Once this soothing daydream comes to an end, the cellist, who seems to have just benefited from a double espresso, cries “Wake up!” at the start of the energetic Allegro maestoso.

The cello plays well above the violins in this movement, eventually rousing the whole ensemble into high spirits. In a slow introduction to the final movement, the guitar comes to the fore as if to say, “Now, let’s go to Spain.” A Spanish fandango ensues. This sensual and lively dance for couples drew consternation from the Catholic Church until in 1764 the pope himself heard one, which he enjoyed well enough not to condemn it. Part of the fandango’s attraction is that it always seems to last longer than one expects, becoming wilder and wilder. The cellist starts to bounce the bow while playing a glissando (outrageous!), and finally, here come…the castanets! Luigi Boccherini may have started out an Italian, but this movement proves he ended up a Spaniard.

July 28: The Danish String Quartet

Friday, July 28

8:00 PM

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles


Tonight’s concert and artists are sponsored by: David Graham, Fred & Ginny Marty, and Peter & Betsy McKinnell

The Danish String Quartet may well be the world’s most in-demand string quartet. The foursome from Denmark has captivated audiences worldwide with its blend of apparent ease and wild abandon. Their program showcases both their mastery of classics by Bach, Haydn, and Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, as well as their inimitable, joyful renditions of Nordic folk music. Hear why the Danish Quartet is “the string quartet’s best hope.” (Wall Street Journal)

HAYDN String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 3

HAYDN    String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 3

Allegro con spirito

Menuetto. Allegretto

Poco Adagio

Allegro molto


String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 3 (1772)


Haydn’s String Quartets, Op. 20, are the bedrock of chamber music, composed at a time when the chamber was truly where one wanted to be. Today, so-called chamber music has long since migrated to the concert hall, and the chamber itself calls to mind stiff manners and the uncomfortable outfits that the cast of Bridgerton would prefer to remove as soon as possible.

Joseph Haydn, on the other hand, dressed up just to compose, and he longed to get into a chamber. In the 1770s, he was stuck in the remote Hungarian countryside in the employ of the Esterházy family, far away from the chambers of London, Paris, and Vienna, places of lively social interaction where group conversation was considered an art form. One might discuss the latest controversial musings of Rousseau or serious political ideas, but also have a good laugh; wit was essential, but only to move the conversation forward, not merely to attract attention. Madame de Staël, the famous Parisian salon hostess-with-the-mostest, compared a good conversation to strong liquor, and especially to music: it animates the spirit. Haydn’s quartets are the kind of conversations we long for today but rarely get: four people with different viewpoints actually listening to each other with respect and good humor.

The initial topic of conversation in the first movement of this quartet is serious, posed vigorously by the first violin and viola. Lively commentary ensues, guided by the first violin (the hostess), and all seem convinced that the situation is not as bad as initially feared. Further inquiry, however, exposes the weaknesses of this more optimistic view. By the end of the movement, the first violin retreats to a pensive and troubled state, where she remains for the second movement, a minuet. A minuet is typically a light, outdoorsy dance, but the first violin’s dark rumination repeatedly brings the entire group to a halt; the others try to console her, but she ends up troubling them as well. In the middle section of the same movement, a street fiddler lightens the mood, providing welcome relief. The warm, gentle third movement is the kind that made Haydn’s quartets so beloved by players

J. S. BACH Selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of Fugue

Selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of Fugue


arr. Danish String Quartet

The exact selections will be announced from the stage.

In transferring these beloved keyboard pieces from one player to four, a string quartet might be accused of cheating. We keyboard players have long tied our fingers into pretzels trying to play up to five distinct parts with only two hands; our copies of The Well-Tempered Clavier are filled with ridiculous fingerings like “4-3” (slide your fourth finger to your third without lifting the note). On the other hand, the logic of assigning each voice to one string player can’t be denied. Mozart first realized this, arranging several of Bach’s fugues for string quartet, given at Baron van Swieten’s Bach-centric salon in 1782. He thus escaped playing them at the keyboard and surely enjoyed his single melody on the viola.

Bach himself, who gladly improvised five-voice fugues on the spot, didn’t seem to mind such intellectual and physical pretzel-tying. His prowess in counterpoint was so legendary that it apparently caused Louis Marchand, a superb French composer, to skip town in the middle of the night rather than face Bach in a fugue-off the next day. In a German’s methodical manner, he composed fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, preceded by preludes (Book 1, 1722). Always one to be thorough, he did the whole thing again 20 years later (Book 2, 1742). Together, these 48 preludes and fugues frequently have been dubbed the bible of keyboard music. This double grand tour of all keys was designed to demonstrate that a “well-tempered” keyboard rendered every major and minor key beautiful, each in its own way. This has to do with how the keyboard is tuned, so that each key is smooth and pleasing, but retains a slightly different sound than all the others. (String quartets can adjust their tuning as they go, for better or for worse.) Bach searches out a special emotional character for each prelude and fugue to match its key.

At the end of his life, Bach undertook a new project to showcase his contrapuntal skills, The Art of Fugue. Here, he did not specify an instrument, composing on four separate staves, as if for four separate instruments. However, Bach clearly rendered it playable on the harpsichord, and even today, the work is most often played on a single keyboard. String quartets have taken it on with increasing frequency, driven in part by the joy of getting inside it, like riding the gears inside a magnificent clock. Bach did not quite finish the work, nor can we be certain about the order of the movements. In any case, the concentration it demands from both players and listeners leads many to perform only selected movements. While there is a high intellectual component here, to say the least, one can find a simple pleasure in following the work’s theme as Bach sends it in and out of the four voices, turns it upside down, speeds it up, slows it down, and makes it disappear and reappear, like a magician with a mischievous rabbit.

SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor, Op. 108

 SHOSTAKOVICH     String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor, Op. 108 (1960)




Allegro – Allegretto

No one can say exactly what Shostakovich’s string quartets are about, but every listener knows they are about something. In Soviet Russia, the string quartet turned out to be the perfect medium for Shostakovich to express his most private thoughts and intense feelings. Since string quartets bore no titles and served no official function, they couldn’t get the composer into hot water with Soviet censors. These unenviable civil servants had the job of declaring whether music upheld the slippery state doctrine of “socialist realism.” Hm, does that G# shout socialism, to you? (Hard to say.) Ever since his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, was condemned by Stalin himself, Shostakovich depended upon what historian Richard Taruskin calls “his capacity for maintaining a poker face.” Outwardly, he espoused Soviet doctrine, a necessity for survival. Inwardly, he gathered kindling for the fire of musical expression.

One clue to the thoughts and feelings expressed in his String Quartet No. 7 is its dedication to his first wife, who had died six years earlier from colon cancer. Yet this quartet is more a psychological state than an outpouring of longing or lament. Shostakovich’s tumultuous second marriage had just ended, health problems mounted, and he was under increasing state pressure to officially join the communist party. This music sounds closed in, like someone caught in a room that is shrinking. It is the shortest and tersest of all his quartets, much of it played with rubber mutes added to the strings. The first movement’s laconic, straight-faced main theme returns several times; its increasing impishness is punctuated by a few sinister moans. A nervous energy develops (which Shostakovich himself embodied), but this ultimately dissolves into resignation. The eerie second movement seems to express a yearning from deep within that is almost overcome by hopelessness. 

The final movement begins suddenly with a fierce shout of the work’s original theme, now turned upside down. The viola, unmoved, at first continues its desolate moan from the second movement but then initiates a furious fugue (a perversion of Beethoven’s finale from Op. 59, No. 3). Fear, paranoia, and obsession reign until the quartet’s opening theme returns, first shouted and then in the form of a delicate, impish dance. There is a glimmer of underlying humor that seems to represent one’s ability to cope with bleak circumstances. It provides the catharsis that brings the work to a close on a major chord.

TRADITIONAL Nordic Folk Music

TRADITIONAL Nordic Folk Music

arr. Danish String Quartet

Selections will be announced from the stage.                 

Frederik Øland, violin

Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violin

Asbjørn Nørgaard, viola

Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin, cello

July 29: Béla Fleck, My Bluegrass Heart

8:00 PM Concert

Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyard

Rain Location: Auburn Junior High School

Tonight’s concert is made possible with support from: The Bob & Sally Neumann Fund for Jazz and Innovative Programming

Béla Fleck is sponsored by Jary & Julie Shimer

Bluegrass all-star musicians are sponsored in memory of Penny Allyn

With additional support from:   

Media Sponsor:  

Featured Advertiser: Parson’s & Associates


My Bluegrass Heart is the return that the 15-time Grammy winner has been talking about –the third chapter in a decades-spanning trilogy which, by his counting, started with 1988’s Drive and continued with The Bluegrass Sessions, released eleven years later. Over the long and lauded course of his unique creative run, Béla Fleck – the world’s premier banjo virtuoso and a celebrated musical adventurer – has both dug deep into his instrument’s complex global history and unlocked the breadth of its possibilities.

Béla Fleck, banjo

Michael Cleveland, fiddle

Sierra Hull, voice and mandolin

Justin Moses, multi-instrumentalist

Mark Schatz, bass

Bryan Sutton, guitar


Program to be announced from the stage.


August 3: Inventing Mozart

Thursday, August 3

8:00 PM

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles


Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Sieglinde Wikstrom

Kyle Armbrust is sponsored by Patricia A. Lynn-Ford and Steven J. Ford

Julia Bruskin and Aaron Wunsch are sponsored by The Skaneateles Consortium: George Bain, Sam & Debby Bruskin, Dana & Susan Hall, and Judy Robertson

Kearstin Piper Brown is sponsored by Mary Cotter

Itamar Zorman is sponsored by:    

250 years later, Mozart’s music continues to uplift and entrance us, as well as a new generation of composers. Hear Mozart’s joyous Exsultate, jubilate for soprano and strings (featuring Kearstin Piper Brown); the ultra-famous Eine kleine Nachtmusik; a new work by jazz polymath Vijay Iyer based on Mozart’s music; and Brahms’ lyrical passionate Piano Quartet in C minor, in a genre invented by Mozart.

MOZART Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525

Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 (1787)




Romanze: Andante

Menuetto: Allegretto

Finale: Allegro


Itamar Zorman, violin

Anna Elashvili, violin

Kyle Armbrust, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello

Edward Castilano, bass

For a work that calls itself “little,” Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik certainly has a big reputation. Mozart’s title (A Little Night Music) proves that composers never can tell what will turn out to be their greatest hit. Johann Pachelbel would surely be amazed to find that one of his least ambitious works, a certain Canon in D, accompanies millions of brides down the aisle. Imagine how the temperamental Beethoven would react to news that his trifle Für Elise gets more airtime than his Missa solemnis. And Mozart, author of well over 600 works in his 35 years, could scarcely have guessed that this diminutively titled work would capture public fancy the most, 236 years later. There is no sign he even intended to have it published, and it wasn’t, until long after his death.

To be fair, Mozart’s evening serenade is as good as an evening serenade gets. This is a mature, skillfully composed work, at once familiar and inventive, quickly drafted in 1787 alongside his operatic masterpiece, Don Giovanni.

No one expected such high-quality Nachtmusik, essentially disposable party music for a certain (in this case, unknown) occasion, but Mozart couldn’t help himself. In the famous first movement, Mozart gives us the impression that music is a language we all speak: the upward swing of the opening phrase (question!) quickly finds its downward partner (answer!), like witty, genial party conversation. The delicate second movement passes onward to a jovial minuet. A rondo with a laughing theme of “ha-ha-ha-ha” brings Mozart’s musical diversion to a close.

Oh, and if you ever feel you’ve heard Mozart’s greatest hit one too many times, surely P. D. Q. Bach’s A Little Nightmare Music will cure you.

VIJAY IYER Mozart Effects

Mozart Effects (2011)

VIJAY IYER (B. 1971)


Anna Elashvili, violin

Itamar Zorman, violin

Kyle Armbrust, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello

Son of Indian Tamil immigrants, American pianist-composer Vijay Iyer was born in Albany and grew up outside Rochester. After completing a degree in math and physics at Yale, he pursued a PhD in Physics at UC Berkeley but shifted his studies toward music cognition, an interest that has some bearing on Mozart Effects, composed for the Brentano Quartet (which appeared at the Skaneateles

Festival in 1994). In the meantime, Iyer has grown into one of the most outside-the-box musicians of our time: a brilliant and successful jazz pianist, he also composes fully notated music for the likes of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Silkroad Ensemble. His music brings together the rhythms of South Asia, idioms of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, and an awareness of classical music.

In his commission for the Brentano Quartet, Iyer was tasked with “completing” a one-minute unfinished sketch by Mozart, K. 417d. About the new work and its title, he writes:

In 1993, a short research article was published in Nature claiming that listening to Mozart could induce a short-term IQ boost in the area of ‘spatial task performance.’ The control conditions in the experiment were ‘relaxation’ and ‘silence,’ not ‘Brahms’ or ‘Ellington,’ so there was nothing in the study to show that this effect was unique to Mozart. (On the other hand, for all they knew, the effect could have been wholly specific to the Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448, the only piece used in the study.)

Nonetheless, sensationalized news about ‘the Mozart effect’ touched off a nationwide Mozart frenzy. Something about that brazenly Eurocentric claim ‘Mozart makes you smarter’ seemed to offer a quick fix for everything wrong in America. Adding to the furor, the governor of Georgia at the time decreed that every baby born in the state would receive a Mozart CD upon leaving the hospital. The self-help industry had a field day: You too can touch the untouchable genius of a great master! Unlock your true potential while you sleep! It was good old-fashioned snake oil – let’s call it Wolfgang’s revenge.

Finally, in 2007 a Requiem for the Mozart effect arrived, in the form of a thorough scientific review published by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. The conclusion: if we experience any cognitive boost at all from passive listening, it is very brief, very small, and equal for all types of music. But null results are never newsworthy, so word didn’t quite get around; the story was buried in a pauper’s grave. Few have been disabused of the idea of the Mozart effect today, and those who have still wish it to be true anyway. For a composer, to be tasked with ‘finishing’ an unfinished piece by Mozart is to serve as the punchline to a joke. There was no one I told about this commission who didn’t burst out laughing. Perhaps we are all Salieri, still haunted by those infernal cackles – Wolfgang’s revenge, yet again.

MOZART Exsultate, jubilate for Soprano and Strings, K. 165

Exsultate, jubilate for Soprano and Strings, K. 165 (1773)



Exsultate, jubilate – Allegro

Fulget amica dies – Secco Recitative

Tu virginum corona – Andante

Alleluja – Molto allegro


Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano

Anna Elashvili, violin

Itamar Zorman, violin

Kyle Armbrust, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello

Edward Castilano, bass


Mozart loved sopranos. Quite literally: after meeting the four soprano sisters of the Weber family in Mannheim, he flirted with three of them, proposed to two of them, and married one of them (Constanza). Mozart had also been a soprano himself, performing several times in public until his voice broke at age 13. By that time, he had already composed four operas with soprano leads, and when he composed his Latin motet, Exsultate, jubilate, he had just finished his eighth, Lucio Silla, at age 16. However, this new motet was not composed for a soprano, technically speaking. While in Milan for his opera production, he composed the motet for the leading man in the opera, Venanzio Rauzzini. Yes, leading man (primo uomo): Rauzzini was a castrato. A (shall we say) biological alteration allowed him a ravishing yet powerful high vocal range, and Mozart greatly admired his musicianship. Exsultate, jubilate was a gift of sorts for Rauzzini, who gave its premiere in church on January 17, 1773, performing Mozart’s opera later that same day. 

Exsultate, jubilate is essentially a concerto for voice, one of Mozart’s most virtuosic creations. The text is of somewhat secondary importance; Rauzzini himself may have penned it, but Mozart altered it for performances in Salzburg several years later. The first word, “rejoice,” sums up the overall spirit of the work. Like an instrumental concerto, the ensemble plays first, establishing an exultant atmosphere. Mozart saves the real rejoicing for the singer, however, who emits exhilarating flurries of sixteenth notes that flow through the full soprano range.

A serious recitative briefly tells of storms and night, followed by “unexpected calm” and joy for a “fortunate dawn.” The lyrical second section, a prayer to the Virgin Mary, is the emotional heart of the work. Here the 16-year-old Mozart shows just how far his gift for melody had already developed; his greatest opera arias are only a hop, skip, and jump from here. The concluding “Alleluia” is so brilliant, sopranos keep it in their back pocket (so to speak) in case they need a showstopper. Mozart loved sopranos, and, thanks to music like this, sopranos love Mozart.

BRAHMS Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60

Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60 (1875)


Allegro non troppo



Allegro comodo


Itamar Zorman, violin

Kyle Armbrust, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello

Aaron Wunsch, piano

Anyone looking for a genial, easy-going piece of chamber music should avoid Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor. “On the cover you must have a picture of a head with a pistol to it,” Brahms wrote to his publisher. “Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose.” Brahms was only half joking. He had started the work 20 years earlier, at the age of 22, during a time of romantic fervor and personal tumult. He had become infatuated with Clara Schumann, wife of his mentor, Robert Schumann; Robert recently had been committed to an asylum with “psychotic melancholia” after a suicide attempt. Meanwhile, Brahms had immersed himself in romantic literature by Goethe and E. T. A. Hoffmann, including Goethe’s tale of a suicidal young man in love, Sorrows of the Young Werther. Now, 20 years later, Brahms cast his younger self in the role of Werther; he suggested his publisher to paint Werther’s costume, a blue coat and yellow breeches, over his own photograph.

Brahms had a clear model for his tragic piano quartet: Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor, composed in 1785 at a time when almost all chamber music was genial. But whereas Mozart relented his tragic tone after the first movement, Brahms maintains it through much of his quartet. By the 1870s, chamber music had largely migrated from the chamber to the concert hall and demanded a more serious tone, virtuosity from the players, and a thicker overall sound. Brahms himself performed the premiere of this work in Vienna’s newly completed, temple-like Musikverein; today, the chamber music auditorium there is fittingly called Brahms Hall.

Brahms establishes the gun-to-the-head atmosphere with severe octaves from the piano; the strings respond with despairing, two-note sighs. These turn into a longer melody that some scholars believe spells out Clara’s name (C-B[L]-A- G#[R]-A, here transposed to Eb-D-C-B-C). However autobi- ographical, its tragedy quickly amplifies with an outbreak of crashing chords. Once these dissipate, a noble and lyrical second theme reveals the true character of our protagonist. Both conflict and heroism lie ahead in the central section of the movement. A tumultuous coda crashes into the same note that opened the movement, and finally the music sinks back into sorrow and despair. The second movement bears the title “Scherzo,” the Italian word for joke, but good luck finding a single moment of humor in it. A fierce battle is immediately underway, with only a few moments of respite to come. Unlike the first movement, however, this one ends in triumph, with three C Major chords.

Cellists everywhere dream of playing the third movement, which begins with one of the most heartrending cello melodies in the entire repertoire. This can only be music of love, alternatingly ardent and tender. Brahms wisely chose the peaceful key of E Major for it, a welcome respite from tragic C minor. The final movement returns to that key, beginning uneasily with a four-note rhythmic motive borrowed from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (also in C minor). After a struggle, a heavenly chorale descends, played by the strings with a halo provided by the piano. Alas, our protagonist cannot, or will not, be redeemed, and the work ends in resignation.

2023 Community Outreach Events: Following Harriet

2022-23 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth (exact date unknown) of Harriet Tubman, famed abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor. Tubman touched the lives of many who fought for freedom. Yet the journey continues today as American society debates what freedom means for individuals and society at large. We began the celebration of her legacy in 2022 with our Freedom Sounds theme. In 2023, the Following Harriet project invites composers, performing artists, longtime and new listeners of the Festival to learn from Tubman’s vision, courage, fortitude, and civic responsibility. This is a critical juncture as we emerge from the pandemic with focus, clarity, and vigor about the potential for music to move the needle towards wholeness and inclusion in the Central New York region and beyond.

Credit for new Harriet Tubman image: “Beacon of Hope” by Nettrice Gaskins (2021).


Friday, August 4 • 1:00 PM Seward House Museum
33 South Street, Auburn NY

Premiere of Fortitude, a Festival- commissioned dramatic portrayal of Harriet Tubman, featuring rising opera star Kearstin Piper Brown.

This event is free and open to the public, no ticket is required.

Monday, August 14 • 5:30 PM Salt City Market
484 S Salina St, Syracuse, NY 13202

Solo performance featuring classical saxophonist Steven Banks.
Located outdoors in the “alleyway” in front of the mural

This event is free and open to the public, no ticket is required.

Tuesday, August 15 • 11:30 AM Upstate Cancer Center
750 E Adams Street, Syracuse NY

Saxophonist Steven Banks is joined by pianist Xak Bjerken. Located in the Upstate Cancer Center atrium

This event is dedicated to Upstate Cancer Center’s patients and hard-working staff.

Tuesday, August 15 • 3:30 PM Redhouse Arts Center
Solo performance featuring saxophonist and former professor Steven Banks.

Located in Redhouse Arts Center

This performance is dedicated to the summer students at Redhouse and with the hopes of bringing inspiration to a new generation of musicians.

Wednesday, August 16 • 1:00 PM Auburn Public Theater
8 Exchange St, Auburn, NY 13021

Saxophonist Steven Banks is joined by pianist Xak Bjerken. Located on the main stage of Auburn Public Theater

This event is free and open to the public, no ticket is required.
Children and families are welcome.

Thursday, August 17 • 6:30 PM Seymour Library
176 Genesee St, Auburn, NY 13021

Solo performance featuring saxophonist Steven Banks. Performance will take place on the front lawn (will move indoors if weather conditions require)

This event is free and open to the public, no ticket is required.
Children and families are welcome.

Backstage Pass

Join composer Nailah Nombeko; soprano Kearstin Piper Brown; Harriet Tubman’s great-great-grandniece, Judith Gladys Bryant; and the Festival’s Artistic Directors for a conversation about Harriet Tubman’s life in the area, her enduring influence, and Fortitude, the new work about her which premieres tonight.

Friday, August 4

7:00 PM Backstage Pass

(for ticket holders only)

August 4: Following Harriet

8:00 PM Concert

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles


Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Doug and Peg Whitehouse

Kyle Armbrust is sponsored by Patricia A. Lynn-Ford and Steven J. Ford

Julia Bruskin and Aaron Wunsch are sponsored by The Skaneateles Consortium: George Bain, Sam & Debby Bruskin, Dana & Susan Hall, and Judy Robertson Kearstin Piper Brown is sponsored by Mary Cotter

Itamar Zorman is sponsored by

Media Sponsor: 

Featured Advertiser: 


The Festival celebrates the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth with a program of American music on themes of struggle and hope. Samuel Barber’s intense Cello Sonata (with Artistic Directors Julia Bruskin and Aaron Wunsch), William Grant Still’s Violin Suite based on Harlem Renaissance art and spirituals, and selections from the Great American Songbook are preludes to a Festival-commissioned dramatic portrayal of Harriet Tubman by Nailah Nombeko, featuring rising opera star Kearstin Piper Brown.

BARBER Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6

Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6 (1932)

SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981)

Allegro ma non troppo Adagio

Allegro appassionato

Julia Bruskin, cello Aaron Wunsch, piano


In the 1920s and 30s, young artists found inspiration in the new kinetic metropolis; George Gershwin, for example, said the steely rhythms of a train inspired Rhapsody in Blue. Not so for Samuel Barber. “Skyscrapers, subways, and train lights play no part in the music I write,” Barber told a music critic in 1935. Ideas for his Cello Sonata came to him on a hiking trip from Switzerland to Italy, and when he arrived at the family villa of his hiking (and romantic) partner, composer Giancarlo Menotti, he quickly started composing. “I wrote it entirely without [a] piano,” he proudly explained to his parents in a letter.

One can imagine the opening of the Cello Sonata was inspired by the craggy mountain peaks he had just crossed. Its opening themes are powerful and elemental, as if carved from granite. Yet the core of Barber’s music is always emotional. “I write what I feel,” Barber later said to explain his compositional method. Sincerity became a hallmark of his music at a time when grand emotions were treated with suspicion and irony was in. The lyrical second theme here is unabashedly romantic, pure, and heartfelt – as if from a modern Brahms. The structure of the movement, too, is Brahmsian, with well-ordered themes that convey a clear narrative.

At the opening of the second movement, the cellist steps fully into the role of a singer. Barber studied voice and was an accomplished baritone, and this expertise lent itself to the cello’s lyrical gifts. As one critic put it, in 1936, “the composer…never forgets that the instrument he is writing for was intended to sing and he gives it ample opportunity to do so.” This sad song is interrupted by a sparkling scherzo, which dances like beams of sunlight glittering on Lake Lugano beneath the villa where Barber composed the Sonata. The time he spent in Europe with Menotti was some of the happiest and the most musically productive of his life. The final movement is oceanic. Barber marked it “appassionato,” which applies to a darkly hued melody buoyed on a sea of arpeggios. Barber’s lyricism is modern in that it tends toward the darker end of the emotional spectrum, as his famous Adagio for Strings (to be heard on August 12) attests. The Sonata ends defiantly as the cello belts out its lowest note.


Troubled Water (1967)

MARGARET BONDS (1913-1972)

Aaron Wunsch, piano


The African American spiritual tradition provided a well-spring of inspiration for pianist and composer Margaret Bonds. Not only did she recognize the latent musical possibilities of this source material, but she could personally relate to its themes of adversity, persistence, and spiritual triumph. Her father, a successful doctor, was denied admission to the American Medical Association based on his race, so he proceeded to form an association for black doctors.

Growing up in Chicago, she was fortunate to study with Florence Price, who had already started to integrate the spiritual with classical forms. A formidable pianist, Bonds was the first black soloist to appear with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, at age 20, performing Florence Price’s Piano Concerto. She was also one of the few black students admitted to Northwestern University, where she faced discrimination; at a low moment, she discovered a volume of poetry by Langston Hughes in the Library basement and resolved to meet and work with him, which she did. After coming to New York to study at Juilliard, she moved to Harlem and collaborated with Hughes on numerous projects. She also formed a music society to promote the works of black composers.

Troubled Water, based on the spiritual “Wade in the Water,” dates from the height of the Civil Rights Era, in which Bonds took an active role. She had played a version of it in the 1950s designed for audiences to sing along, and now she refashioned it as a powerful and virtuosic solo work. The refrain, “Wade in the water…God’s a gonna trouble the water,” likely refers to enslaved people who sought a path to freedom through clouded river water that leaves footprints untraceable. Civil Rights leader John Lewis drew another meaning out of it, however, with the phrase “Make good trouble.” The spiritual melody here is always front and center, but Bonds integrates it with modern harmonies and knuckle-busting virtuosity, infused with a spirit reflective of the 1960s. A reflective middle section draws from the sensuous harmonies of French music, while the coda presses fast and furious with stark parallel fifths. It is fearless, persistent, and determined to win you over.

WILLIAM GRANT STILL Suite for Violin and Piano

Suite for Violin and Piano (1943)


African Dancer

Mother and Child


Though music is invisible, we often speak about it as if it has three dimensional properties: surface, thickness, structure. In his Violin Suite, William Grant Still renders these qualities more palpable by tying each movement to an actual sculpture by Harlem Renaissance artists: Richmond Barthé’s African Dancer, Sargent Johnson’s Mother and Child, and Augusta Savage’s Gamin. The music brings these frozen figures to life.

Still grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where his early exposure to music included RCA classical records brought home by his stepfather and African American spirituals sung by his formerly enslaved maternal grandmother. He had a knack for teaching himself to play instruments, including the cello and oboe, but his greatest proficiency was on the violin. Still’s mother preferred he study law, but he chose to study classical music at Oberlin College. In the following year, he was hired by W. C. Handy, “the father of the blues,” as an arranger. Still, who followed Handy to New York

City, where Still worked with poet Langston Hughes and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance (including our three sculptors). His Afro-American Symphony, premiered by the Rochester Philharmonic in 1931, became the most frequently performed American symphonic work of its era by a composer of any race.

The athletic joy in the first movement of the Violin Suite reflects the ecstatic “African Dancer” depicted in Barthé’s sculpture. Still’s skillful treatment of the violin here demonstrates his expertise on the instrument he formally studied from age 15. Relief from the hard charging dance comes in a lyrical episode that brings the African dancer to America, via the blues. Still came to believe that the blues, rather than the spiritual, provided a compass for the future of African American music. The soulful second movement, “Mother and Child,” however, does show some influence of lullaby-like spirituals, such as “Steal Away to Jesus,” even if its rich, chromatic harmonies are more contemporary. It also reflects the smooth, modern lines of Johnson’s sculptures.

The third movement captures the mischief and cleverness visible in Augusta Savage’s sculpture of a street urchin, Gamin, now in the Smithsonian Museum. Despite untold hardships, this boy makes the best of the hand he’s been dealt. Still’s infectious, virtuosic music persuades us to hope he can succeed beyond the expectations we’ve set for him based on his social status and race – as Still himself did.

Itamar Zorman, violin Aaron Wunsch, piano


Fortitude (2023)


(World Premiere, commissioned by the Skaneateles Festival) Text by Alicia Haymer


Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano

Itamar Zorman, violin

Anna Elashvili, violin

Kyle Armbrust, viola

Julia Bruskin, cello


Nailah Nombeko is from (and currently lives in) New York City, where she studied at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Mannes College of Music. Her vocal settings of diverse poetry from William Blake to Mahzi Kane are especially sensitive to the text, and she recently composed a string quartet for Ethel, premiered at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. She brings both song and quartet genres together in Fortitude, commissioned by the Skaneateles Festival for the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth. About the new work, Nombeko writes:

“The opening violin solo marks the uncertainty of what Harriet Tubman was about to embark on. Although she was confident that this was a godly mission, the outcome was still unknown. All throughout this section Harriet was summoning the strength to escape.

There are two refrains that mark a bright spot where Harriet gathered her strength. Both refrains are woven between painful recollections of life as a slave and her escape. It was important for the melodic material in both refrains to be memorable. This helps to give the listener something to be anchored into as they follow this story. Refrain #1 marks the first place where I commit to a key. The sections where Harriet recalled life as a slave are intentionally keyless. This helps to highlight the level of uncertainty and distress that she felt.

From the Great American Songbook: HAROLD ARLEN A Sleepin’ Bee, JEROME KERN Can’t Help Loving That Man, COLE PORTER So In Love, HAROLD ARLEN Over the Rainbow

From the Great American Songbook:

HAROLD ARLEN A Sleepin’ Bee (1954)

JEROME KERN (1885-1945) / OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II (1895-1960) Can’t Help Loving That Man (1927)

COLE PORTER (1891-1964) So In Love (1948)

HAROLD ARLEN (1905-1986) Over the Rainbow (1939)

Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano

Aaron Wunsch, piano

The so-called Great American Songbook is great enough not to be containable in any one book. Its boundaries are loosely defined as influential songs from Broadway musicals,

Tin Pan Alley, and Hollywood films, from the 1920s to the 1960s. They often transcend their source material and are adaptable as both jazz standards and as concert pieces. Jerome Kern’s 1927 musical Show Boat is a familiar start- ing point, proving that the American musical need not be merely comedic. “Can’t Help Loving That Man” is a love song of sorts, but not only: Kern and Hammerstein apply it to a larger dramatic purpose in Show Boat, reprising it several times. Julie sings it to younger Magnolia as proof that once one has fallen in love, climbing out of it won’t be easy. But the song is framed as familiar only to African Americans, and through the boat’s black cook, the audience realizes that Julie is passing as white. Even aside from the plot, this song can be heartbreaking, as anyone who has heard Lena Horne sing it can attest.

By the 1940s, comedic musicals had transcended vaudeville, thanks in part to lyrics like those from Cole Porter in Kiss Me, Kate. The title lyric “So In Love” sounds simple enough, but Lilli (playing Shakespeare’s Katherine, the “shrew”) reveals that she is still in love with her divorced husband, the egotistical Fred (playing Petruchio), so the situation in this play-within-a-play is considerably more complicated. Porter’s brilliant lyrics bear out these complexities: “Taunt me, and hurt me, deceive me, desert me, I’m yours ‘til I die: so in love am I.” The song has been recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Julie Andrews to Plácido Domingo.

Kiss Me, Kate’s producer went on to mount House of Flowers in 1954; never heard of it? It was a flop, but not for lack of talent. Truman Capote wrote the story on which it’s based, about bordellos battling for business in Haiti, and Harold Arlen provided the calypso-blues score. Its use of the steel pan drew attention, but Diahanne Carroll stole the show with her rendition of “A Sleepin’ Bee,” a song about her “one true love,” who, by the way, has yet to be found. The first line already shows her naivete: “When a bee lies sleepin’ in the palm of your hand. ” (No chance that bee will sting you, surely.) Carroll went on to become the first black woman to win a Tony award for best actress, in 1962.

Hollywood learned early on that an extra musical asset to a film, beyond its score, can be a single good song. The prototype, which has yet to be improved upon, was Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” composed for The Wizard of Oz (1939). Of course, it also helps if Judy Garland is the one singing it. Arlen was on his way down Sunset Boulevard to a Chinese restaurant when the tune hit him; he pulled over and wrote out the melody, which itself resembles a rainbow, rising upward an entire octave before floating back down. Studio head Louis B. Mayer felt the song slowed down the movie and had it deleted; the director and others lobbied for it to be included and eventually prevailed. Who knows what other great songs may have actually died via the editor’s guillotine? At least the stories these songs tell are safe with you, in the concert hall.

August 5: Kelli O’Hara, Songs From my Heart

8:00 PM Concert

Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyard

Rain Location: TBA

Tonight’s concert is made possible with support from: The Noreen and Michael Falcone Fund for Artistic Excellence

Kelli O’Hara is sponsored by Steve and Kelly Scheinman

Dan Lipton is sponsored by Koko Fuller

Media Sponsor:

Featured Advertiser: Mackenzie Hughes


Star of stage and screen, Kelli O’Hara, has established herself as one of Broadway’s greatest leading ladies. Her portrayal of Anna in The King and I garnered her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical; she recently starred in HBO’s The Gilded Age and at the Metropolitan Opera in The Hours; she has numerous Grammy, Emmy, and Olivier nominations. Tonight she shares a selection of her favorite Broadway and classical songs.


Kelli O’Hara, soprano

Dan Lipton, pianist/musical director


Summer Suite

Hosted by Todd and Jill Marshall

Wednesday, August 9 • 6:30-8:30 pm


An evening of gourmet food and drink, amazing lakeside views, & even better company.

Thank you to all the area businesses and volunteers who make this event possible.

August 10: ECCO Plays Schubert

Thursday, August 10

8:00 PM Concert


First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles


Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Holly Gregg & Patience Brewster and Dave Birchenough & Carrie Lazarus

ECCO is sponsored by Armory Square Ventures, Somak Chattopadhyay & Pia Sawhney, and Jessica & Toby Millman

Nick Kendall is sponsored by Kevin & Sarah Goode


ECCO (East Coast Chamber Orchestra) fills the stage to share music of remembrance, nostalgia, and the will to live life to its fullest. The program features Edvard Grieg’s heartrending Holberg Suite “in the olden style”; Jamaican composer Eleanor Alberga’s tender elegy for her mother; and Franz Schubert’s searing, intense “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, heard here in Gustav Mahler’s unforgettable arrangement for string orchestra.

East Coast Chamber Orchestra


Karla Donehew Perez

Rebecca Fischer

Emma Frucht

Nick Kendall

Min-Young Kim

Siwoo Kim

Li-Mei Liang

Kobi Malkin



Paul Laraia

Jessica Thompson

Dov Scheindlin



Gabriel Cabezas

Michael Katz

Julia Yang



Nate Farrington



Remember (2000)


For most musicians, the experience of becoming one is bound up with their parents. When a child plays an instrument, parents play the roles of practice coach, cabby, caddy, publicity agent, and applauder in chief. Eleanor Alberga’s mother did this for her in Kingston, Jamaica; from age five, she studied piano and soon after composed her first piece, Andy, named for her family’s golden Labrador retriever. As a teenager she joined the Jamaican Folk Singers but soon

after received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she now teaches. After the passing of her mother, she composed this tender, loving tribute to the person who first fostered her musical gifts. It is subtly based on a Jamaican folk song (later recorded by Harry Belafonte), “Come back, Liza,” which goes: “Ev’ry time me remember Liza, water come a’ me eye.” Like the folk song, Remember is emotional, and not without grief, but it also seems to quietly say what we rarely tell our parents soon enough: “Thank you.”

GRIEG Holberg Suite, Op. 40

Holberg Suite, Op. 40 (1885)

EDVARD GRIEG (1843-1907)






If Grieg’s Holberg Suite doesn’t quite sound like his famous Peer Gynt, well, that’s entirely the point. To commemorate the 200th birthday of philosopher-playwright and fellow Bergen native Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), Grieg composed this suite “in the olden style,” as the score declares. This was as much an act of imagination as historical practice. Grieg applied his knowledge of French and German Baroque music to the work, but the spirit of Norwegian folk music prevails, as if Handel ended up frolicking in the fields out- side Bergen.

Grieg was indeed commissioned to compose an outdoor work for Holberg’s bicentenary: the town council specifically requested a cantata for male voices that could be performed next to the new Holberg statue as it was unveiled. Unfortunately for Grieg, Holberg’s birthday was on December 3. As anyone who has wintered in Norway knows, an outdoor performance in December could be less than optimal. Grieg complained to a friend: “I can see it all before me, snow, hail, storm and every kind of foul weather, huge male choir with open mouths, the rain streaming into them, myself conducting with waterproof cape, winter coat, galoshes, and umbrella…. Oh well, it’s one way of dying for one’s country!” After this ill-fated cantata, Grieg proceeded to pen a suite “From Holberg’s time” for piano; it sounds more outdoorsy than the cantata but could be safely per- formed inside, on the piano. In the following year, after audiences were consistently charmed by it, he arranged it for string orchestra, and it remains one of his most popular works.

The opening Prelude is surely music of springtime, not winter. The violins and viola rustle and bustle with energy as an optimistic, lyrical theme soars above. The gentle Sarabande, a slow Baroque dance, reminds one of Bach’s sarabande for solo cello in the same key (performed by Eliot Fisk on July 26), but the harmonic inflections point toward Grieg’s own Norwegian idioms, and the texture is richly romantic. A rustic Gavotte follows, marked by the drone bass typically associated with folk music. A songful, minor-key Air comes next, which Grieg marks “Andante religioso.” J. S. Bach’s spirit hovers over this dignified yet emotional lament.

The final movement, Rigaudon, takes its name from a lively French Baroque dance. While this movement’s poised middle section might take its cue from a courtly French ballroom, the beginning and ending sound more like a hardanger fiddle playing to a Norwegian field. In summer, of course.


SCHUBERT arr. Mahler String Quartet No. 14, D. 810 (“Death and the Maiden”)

String Quartet No. 14, D. 810 (“Death and the Maiden”) FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828),

arr. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)


Andante con moto

Scherzo: Allegro molto


In Schubert’s Vienna, death was visible in ways foreign to our society, which tends to hide it. The reasons were both cultural and circumstantial. A local tradition known as “schöne Leich’,” or “beautiful corpse,” consisted of dressing the corpse of a beloved deceased person in finery and parading it through the streets for all to see. Public funeral processions were therefore common, as Schubert himself could tell you; he was a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral parade in 1827, which drew some 30,000 spectators. Death was also visible in ways more horrific than honorific. Mortality rates were on the rise; Vienna had no modern hospital, no sewer system, nor any reliable source for clean water, and pollution rose dramatically due to sudden industrialization. Nine of Schubert’s siblings died in infancy, while only four survived, and that was hardly atypical.

Schubert’s preoccupation with death was also personal. He had secondary syphilis, which turned his thoughts increasingly morbid. In 1824, the year he composed his “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, he wrote to his friend, Leopold Kupelwieser: “I find myself to be the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair continually makes things worse and worse instead of better…I ask you, is he not a miserable, unhappy being? …Upon retiring to bed each night I hope that I may not wake again, and each morning only recalls yesterday’s grief.” Despite this dramatic pronouncement, his quartet expresses the will to live far more than it wallows in misery.

Schubert chose to anchor his new quartet with variations on the chordal accompaniment from his own song, “Death and the Maiden,” composed when he had just turned 20. The text by Matthias Claudius depicts death gently embracing a young woman who struggles to stay alive. Whereas musical expressions of death are almost invariably in the minor mode, the skeletal embrace here is warm and comforting, in a major key – rendering it equally terrifying. Schubert’s variations in the second movement are a kind of psychological rumination on his theme – anxious, defiant, terrified, and finally, accepting. Given his health condition, one can’t help but imagine Schubert working through his own emotions in this music.

Preceding the variations is a highly dramatic opening movement; it starts with a dynamic of fortissimo (very loud), as if to shout, “I wish I were a symphony!” The great Viennese composer/conductor Gustav Mahler got the message, adapting the quartet for string orchestra some 75 years later. After the variations comes a short but extremely stubborn Scherzo; a delicate trio section tries to look back to a happier time, with mixed success. The final movement is in the style of an Italian saltorello, a fast dance in triple meter that typically involves jumping and convulsive arm motions. The relentless quality here suggests a totentanz (dance of death). It is punctuated by a grand chorale that offers a glimpse of redemption, but the earthly struggle ensues with ever more determination. Death may be lurking, but Schubert refuses to embrace it.

Prelude Concert

Featuring the 2023 Robinson Award winner, Paul Di Folco, piano

Friday, August 11

7:00 PM Prelude Concert

(for ticket holders only)

LOWELL LIEBERMAN Gargoyles, Op. 29

SHOSTAKOVICH Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 40

DEBUSSY L’isle joyeuse


August 11: Angels and Ghosts

Friday, August 11

8:00 PM Concert


First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles

Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Don & Chacea Sundman

ECCO is sponsored by Armory Square Ventures, Somak Chattopadhyay & Pia Sawhney, and Jessica & Toby Millman

Nick Kendall is sponsored by Kevin & Sarah Goode

Shai Wosner is sponsored by Jacqueline Jones, Finger Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty

Aaron Wunsch is sponsored by The Skaneateles Consortium: George Bain, Sam & Debby Bruskin, Dana & Susan Hall, and Judy Robertson


Pianist Shai Wosner, known for his “remarkable blend of the intellectual, physical and even devilish sides of performance” (Chicago Sun Times), joins members of ECCO for a program of music from the spiritual to the spooky: J. S. Bach’s heav- enly chorale preludes; Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s alternately serene and demonic miniatures; and Beethoven’s hair-raising “Ghost” Trio. The program ends back on earth with Max Bruch’s lush, romantic Octet for Strings.

J. S. BACH arr. György Kurtág Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106
J. S. BACH arr. György Kurtág Trio Sonata No. 1 in E-Flat Major, BWV 525, I.
KURTÁG Selections from Jatékok (Games)

KURTÁG    Selections from Jatékok (Games)

Hommage à J. S. B.

Beating – Quarreling

Play with Infinity

György Kurtág is one among a remarkable generation of Hungarian performers and composers for whom music is far more than an entertainment, even more than a passion – it is an essential anchor of meaning in a life splintered by war and conflict. This generation witnessed both the Nazi and Communist occupations, as well as the failed revolution of 1956. Kurtág recalled: “I realized to the point of despair that nothing I had believed to constitute the world was true.”

In the 1950s, Kurtag visited a psychologist, who suggested exploring all the relationships that are possible between just two notes. This exploration resulted in a new, distinctive compositional style: very short pieces of typically 30 seconds to 3 minutes in length that highlight the beauty of expressive musical gestures.

At the same time, Kurtág studied the music of J. S. Bach, the model of integrity and purity, arranging selections from his large-scale public works for the intimate genre of piano four-hands, thereby enshrining the music in private. In recent years, however, Kurtág has frequently performed these transcriptions in public with his wife, Marta, usually on an upright piano where the keyboard faces the audience, as if to invite the listeners in on the intimate experience of playing in private.

Beginning and ending our set is Kurtág’s signature Bach transcription, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (“God’s time is the best of all possible times”), the first movement of Bach’s funeral cantata, originally scored for two flutes, viols, and continuo. It simply yet profoundly conveys both consolation and quiet joy, the harmony of life and death: a view of the world as it should be, not as it is. The inviting first movement of Bach’s Trio Sonata in E-Flat Major follows, originally for hands and feet (organ). Counterpoint, the name for multiple independent melodies heard at the same time, can often seem “difficult” to listeners, but Bach’s miracle here is to render it delightful and even charming.

Next is Kurtág’s own flight of contrapuntal whimsy, Homage to J. S. B. (guess who). These pieces are called Games (Jatékok), so expect some playing. The childish Beating – Quarreling, for example, reminds us that adults are perfectly capable of fight- ing like children. Yet some of these “games” are also mystical; Play with Infinity depicts the fleeting events of life against the backdrop of the eternal ‘tick tock’ of time. After this contemplation of mortality follows Bach’s searching chorale, Out of the depths I cry to you, where a lone anguished voice rises, searching for answers. In Bach’s world, at least, those answers could be found. This search comes to the present with Furious Chorale, which combines an argumentative idea with a Bach-like chorale, a strange intersection of anger and serenity. One more voice from far away allows us to hear the distant voice from beyond that we yearn to hear, and the return of our opening number, Gottes Zeit, brings us home.

J. S. BACH arr. György Kurtág Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 687
KURTÁG Selections from Jatékok (Games)

KURTÁG    Selections from Jatékok (Games)

Furious Chorale

One more voice from far away

J. S. BACH arr. György Kurtág Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106
BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1 (“Ghost”)

Piano Trio, Op. 70, No. 1 (“Ghost”) (1808)


Allegro vivace e con brio

Largo assai ed espressivo



Kobi Malkin, violin

Michael Katz, cello

Shai Wosner, piano


The opening of Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio might scare you, but it won’t be the haunting you’d expect from the Trio’s nickname. Whereas classical chamber music usually begins with a genial gesture, Beethoven’s Trio goes off like an accidentally ignited pile of firecrackers. This upward launch has all three instruments playing at top speed and volume. The cello hovers longer than the others, and after a surprising low note from the piano, the trio relaxes into a more comfortable pose with a sunny disposition. This music won’t settle down for long, however; Beethoven marks it “Allegro vivace e con brio,” which one could loosely translate as “Fast, energetic, and did I say energetic?”

This level of hyperkinetic energy is usually associated with a symphony, which is what Beethoven had been composing. The Trio followed on the heels of his “Pastorale” Symphony, with which it shares a bustling activity and overall good humor. The Trio’s second movement, however, is notably contrasting, and here is where things get spooky. Beethoven indicates “very slowly and expressively” but also “sotto voce” (whispering), as if a voice cries out from the beyond. Beethoven’s student, Carl Czerny, wrote that this movement reminded him of the father’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet; apparently enough listeners agreed for the nickname to stick. Beethoven requires the strings to move their bows extremely slowly and sustains the uncanny atmosphere with a tremulous piano part. The sun shines again, and good humor returns in the third movement. The opening of this movement is a little like a game of freeze tag, charging forward and immediately coming to a halt. Such games are all in good fun, even its maneuvers are increasingly elaborate, like meandering, blindfolded melodies and bouts of harmonic hide-and-seek.

Beethoven dedicated his two Trios, Op. 70, to Countess Anna Maria Erdödy, with whom he was sufficiently close to call her “father confessor.” She offered him lodging during the time he composed the trios and went on to negotiate an annuity for him from his greatest (and richest) supporters so that Beethoven could have a regular income. If this Trio is largely in a good mood, perhaps it is in part because Beethoven was, too.

BRUCH Octet for Strings

BRUCH    Octet for Strings

Allegro moderato


Allegro molto


Min-Young Kim, violin

Karla Donehew Perez, violin

Rebecca Fischer, violin

Li-Mei Liang, violin

Jessica Thompson, viola

Dov Scheindlin, viola

Julia Yang, cello

Nate Farrington, bass

One can either think of an octet as big, or small: a string quartet on steroids, or a miniature symphony. Felix Mendelssohn, the octet’s progenitor, managed to treat the octet as both at once, with moments of quartet-like intimacy broadening into the full sound of a string symphony. Ninety-five years later, Max Bruch found a similar balance in his Octet. This work was an expansion of an earlier string quintet, a chamber genre championed by his friend, Johannes Brahms. But because Bruch’s Octet includes the double bass, an orchestral instrument, it was long assumed this work was actually intended for string orchestra.

Whether you hear it as a large chamber work or a small sym- phony, there is no question the work is entirely Romantic. Composed in 1920, at a time when the most influential composers were the modernists Schoenberg and Stravinsky, his Octet appeared to many a little like bringing oil paints to a computer-aided design conference. The Octet was Bruch’s final major composition before he died in the same year at age 82. This octogenarian Octet is such an effusion of romantic feeling, however, one would think it pours from the heart of a 20-year-old. Bruch’s most famous work remains his Violin Concerto, composed when he was 28, and his style remained essentially unchanged for the follow- ing six decades.

Bruch’s mastery of melody and thematic development, however, show his age and wisdom. He was unapologetic about his emphasis on melody at a time when romantic lyricism had gone out of fashion; the violin, in particular, remained the greatest instrument of his affection for this reason. The violin “can sing a melody better than a piano,” Bruch said, “and melody is the soul of music.” Like Mendelssohn’s Octet, the first violin often steps into a concerto role, or singer-in-chief.

The Octet begins with a warm blanket of sound from the lower strings, echoed by a more angelic version from the violins. Soon all the strings join forces for a rich and ardent outpouring.

Despite one lyrical theme after another, Bruch sustains the music’s forward momentum and finds textural variety through bustling cross rhythms (2-against-3, like Brahms). The scope of this first movement is grand and symphonic.

The second movement begins in a somber, almost funereal mood, from which a noble melody emerges. Bruch had recently lost his wife, Clara, and was already struggling with the poor health that would soon take his own life.

Nevertheless, he was determined not to wallow; the Octet provided a music therapy of sorts, and the second movement charts a path from the chill of grief to a warm serenity. The final movement resumes a youthful enthusiasm, an echo of Mendelssohn’s Octet (composed at age 16). The rich, upward-reaching second theme ultimately raises the spirits into an exuberant coda.

August 12: Mozart Under the Stars

Saturday, August 12

8:00 PM


Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyard

Rain Location: Skaneateles High School


Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Peter and Elsa Soderberg

WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM The Physicians Consortium: Tom Bersani, Donald Blair, Craig Byrum, Barb Connor, Randy Green, Brendan McGinn, Steven Scheinman, and Robert Weisenthal

ECCO is sponsored by Armory Square Ventures, Somak Chattopadhyay & Pia Sawhney, and Jessica & Toby Millman Nick Kendall is sponsored by Kevin & Sarah Goode

Shai Wosner is sponsored by Jacqueline Jones, Finger Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty

Featured advertiser:



The Skaneateles Festival welcomes back the “exciting conductor-less band of strings” ECCO (New Yorker). Joined by founder-violinist Nick Kendall of Time for Three, the orchestra performs beloved music by Mozart as well as American composer William Grant Still’s joyous Danzas de Panamá. Eminent American pianist Shai Wosner, who has a “keen musical mind and a deep musical soul” (NPR) joins ECCO to bask in the orchestra’s signature “warm glow” of sound. (New York Times)

MOZART Divertimento for Strings, K. 136

Divertimento for Strings, K. 136 (1772)






Should you happen to bring teenagers to a classical concert, a divertimento is not a bad repertoire choice. The movements are shorter than a symphony, generally hyperactive, and deliberately aim to divert (i.e., away from that iPhone). Dance to it, and one could post it on TikTok. The divertimento is also a good choice for teenage composers, as Mozart discovered. He was just 16 years old when he composed his Divertimento for Strings, K. 136. He had his first romantic encounters around the same time, and this music contains a share of fluttering eyelids and jokes designed to impress. Call it “Di-flirt-imento.”

This music bounces along from the beginning, grabbing attention with grace notes, trills, and fast scales. These briefly get moody and minor in the middle of the movement, an inkling of Mozart’s later gifts for expressing darker emotions. The second movement is pure pastorale, like two sweethearts out for a walk, holding hands, represented by the two violin parts playing in thirds. The final movement is pure athletic fun. If one can’t be young again, at least one can enjoy being diverted by someone who is.

BARBER Adagio for Strings

Adagio for Strings (1936)

SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981)

Like Pachelbel and his Canon, Samuel Barber scarcely could have anticipated the extraordinary fame his Adagio would attain. For starters, the 26-year-old composed it as part of his first (and only) String Quartet, and there wasn’t (and isn’t) a string quartet on earth as well-known as this Adagio has become. Second, the circumstances that propelled it to become the universal embodiment of grief in America – the assassination of Kennedy and the Vietnam War – were far off. When he penned it, in 1936, Barber wasn’t even in the United States; he was traveling in Italy and Austria. Yet he did have a sense from the start that it was one of his best works. On September 19, he wrote to cellist Orlando Cole, “I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today – it is a knock-out!” Popularity aside, the Adagio has few detractors. Bernstein and Copland, generally cool towards Barber’s more conservative musical vocabulary, expressed admiration for it (Bernstein both conducted and recorded it, one of only two of Barber’s works in his repertoire). As Copland put it, “It comes straight from the heart.”

Barber indicates to the players that the Adagio should be played “very slowly, expressively singing.” It’s simple, stepwise melodic line is emotional but dignified, like amourner maintaining outward (if not inward) composure. The darkly shaded harmonies underneath are perhaps the most essential and masterful part of the work – hymn-like and comprehensible, but not familiar. The melody leads ever forward, phrase after phrase, to a climax that cries out in anguish. From here, the melody starts to find catharsis, if not comfort. Whether or not Barber intended this music as an expression of grief, it’s certainly easy to hear it that way.

Arturo Toscanini popularized the work in its string orchestra version by performing it during an NBC Symphony broadcast, in 1938. From then on, it was a radio piece; it played immediately after the deaths of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945) and John F. Kennedy (1963). Barber arranged it again in 1967 as an “Agnus Dei” for choir, popular today despite the propensity of its long melodies to turn singers blue in the face. But the more famous it became, the less Barber wanted to hear it. “Everybody always plays that!” he complained. Its fame did not abate after his death, either it proved integral to the Academy Award-winning movie Platoon (1986) and was often heard after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Through all this, it never seems to lose its effect. In the interest of diversity of opinion, however, here’s a postscript from fellow American composer and influential music critic Virgil Thomson: “I think it’s a love scene.”


Danzas de Panamá (1948)



Mejorana y Socavon


Cumbia y Congo

We tend to measure artists by their independence and originality, but every artist needs a role model. Before Beethoven developed his reputation as an obstinate genius, he idolized Mozart, attempting to study with Mozart in Vienna, copying out his music, and modeling his own works on Mozart’s. As a black composer growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, William Grant Still didn’t have such a clear role model at hand. However, he found one abroad: the extraordinary Afro-European composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who had given three successful tours of the United States and had been received by Theodore Roosevelt in the White House. Coleridge-Taylor composed works on Native American, African, and African American themes (including the world-famous Song of Hiawatha) even though he had grown up in London without direct exposure to any of these cultural traditions; Coleridge-Taylor cited Brahms’ Hungarian Dances as a precursor to his deliberately multicultural approach. Still’s Danzas de Panamá follow a similar pathway.

Still had never been to Panama, but he came across a collection of Panamanian melodies collected by violinist Elisabeth Waldo, who had toured extensively in Central and South America before settling in Mexico City. The dances draw from Panama’s rich multicultural traditions, indigenous, Spanish, and African. The first dance, Tamborito, shows the influence of African drumming, asking the players to tap on the wood of their instruments, while the melodic idiom is noticeably Latin American. Mejorana y Socavon brings together the plucked sound of the Panamaian guitar, the mejorana, with the three-stringed violin, the rabel. Punto is a gentle zapatea, a Spanish flamenco-influenced shoe-tapping dance, followed by a paseo (promenade). Cumbia y Congo returns to African influence, this time from the Kongo (Bantu) people. The cumbia was traditionally danced by cou- ples in a circle, with the women holding lighted candles and accompanied by drums. Near the end, Still allows his own modern sensibility to guide an exhilarating coda.

MOZART Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414

Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414 (1782)





The perennial focus on Mozart’s vast musical abilities can obscure the fact that “genius” is not a profession. The hustle required to make a living as a freelance musician in Vienna was a bit like selling new cars (or carriages). To that end, Mozart brought to the sales floor his Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414, advertising it in the local newspaper. Selling its virtues, Mozart wrote about himself in the third person (advertising tip #1: summon a fictional expert), referring to himself as “Kapellmeister Mozart,” which he wasn’t (tip #2: exaggerate your qualifications), he declared that this new music could be performed with full orchestra or with string quartet alone (tip #3: showcase your product’s many uses). Finally, he said the concerto (along with two others) would be issued “only to those who have subscribed to them beforehand” (tip #4: make your product appear “exclusive”). Despite this deft advertisement, sales were abysmal. This was the first and the last time Mozart published a piano concerto.

The real appeal, it turned out, was to hear Mozart perform his piano concertos himself. This, too, required him to hus- tle – and this time, he succeeded. Mozart’s Viennese piano concertos constitute one of the great entrepreneurial acts of music history: he composed the music, hired the perform- ers, arranged the rehearsals, rented the venues, printed the tickets, invited the guests, performed, and conducted – not necessarily in that order. If he didn’t finish composing his own part, no matter – he improvised a bit. (And not for the first time; in 1784, the Emperor, armed with some newfan- gled binoculars, noticed Mozart playing in the court theater from a blank page of music paper on the piano desk.) The whole enterprise involved considerable daring and risk, and the piano concertos themselves are full of the same qualities.

When Mozart penned this concerto, he was fresh off a recent operatic success, The Abduction from the Seraglio. Like his opera, this concerto overflows with melodies, one after another. Mozart’s contemporaries felt there were just too many of them. His colleague Dittersdorf complained that Mozart “gives his hearers no time to breathe; as soon as one beautiful idea is grasped, it is succeeded by another and a finer one, which drives the first from the mind; and so it goes on, until at the end not one of these beauties remains in the memory.” Well, you be the judge. The first movement’s melodies are all amiable and charming, but not merely; they express goodwill, camaraderie, even a vision of social harmony for the players on stage and the audience Mozart worked hard to assemble.

The second movement begins intimately, but with a feeling more spiritual than amorous: a prayer-like chorale played by the strings and echoed by the piano. But the pianist’s chords soon dissolve into an operatic arioso with accompaniment, the emotional response of a single individual. Thoughts turn gloomy in the middle of this movement, the only shadow cast in this entire sunny concerto. A free cadenza allows the pianist to chart a way back to the opening prayer. In the jovial third movement, Mozart delights in surprising the listener as to who will play which theme when. By the end, the orchestra and pianist have shared them equally, almost as if to say to his audience: Go and do likewise.

August 17: Parker Quartet, Beethoven Illuminated

Thursday, August 17

8:00 PM Concert


First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles

Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Doug Sutherland & Nancy Kramer

Tonight’s concert is presented in memory of David Stam

Parker Quartet is sponsored by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation


The Grammy-winning Parker Quartet (“something extraordinary,” New York Times) leads a Beethoven-based program that includes a work by Beethoven’s teacher, Haydn; three short works inspired by Beethoven’s Quartets, by Wang Lu, Anthony Cheung, and Michi Wiancko (also heard at the Festival as violinist); and Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet, Op. 130 (with the epic Grosse Fuge). The Parker Quartet illuminates Beethoven’s quartet with an engaging verbal introduction to the work.

BEETHOVEN String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95 (“Serioso”)

String Quartet, Op. 95 (“Serioso”) (1811)


Allegro con brio

Allegretto ma non troppo

Allegro assai vivace ma serioso

Larghetto espressivo – Allegretto agitato


Applying the nickname “Serioso” to a work by Beethoven is a little like applying “cold” to ice cream: it could describe most of his famous works, not to mention the man himself. Yet the so-called “Serioso” Quartet has a serious claim to this title. First, Beethoven himself wrote the words “quartetto serioso” at the top of his manuscript and used the word again to define the third movement (“Allegro assai vivace ma serioso”).

Secondly, this music is almost unrelentingly intense and concentrated, the shortest of all his quartets. Finally, Beethoven was having a serioso kind of year. The tumult of Napoleon’s recent attack on Vienna; financial insecurity from the rapid devaluation of the currency; ongoing hearing and other health problems; and the rejection of his romantic overtures to Therese Malfatti each marred Beethoven’s life at the time. Predictably, he could be a downer to those around him. When the poet Goethe met Beethoven in the same year, he said that Beethoven “is not altogether in the wrong in holding the world to be detestable but surely does not make it any the more enjoyable either for himself or for others by his attitude.”

Beethoven himself realized that the serious bent of this new work would not immediately appeal to those who prefer their chamber music sunny and pleasurable. He told English impresario George Smart, “The Quartet [Op. 95] is written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public.” (Oops.) The first movement begins with a white-hot intensity, as if the four instruments are already amidst a struggle. There is an almost immediate, somewhat disorienting shift to lyrical music, a sudden retreat toward the ideal over the real. This kind of change is a compositional freedom that Beethoven would allow himself in his later music; it may closer approximate actual human experience but requires a willingness in the listener to accommodate such sudden shifts. Struggle marks the remainder of the brief first movement, which like a captive tries repeatedly to escape its confines, without any lasting success.

The second movement begins peacefully, but darkness lies around every corner. Instead of a melody and its development, Beethoven gives us a rumination, with the four instruments like various trains of thought within a single troubled mind. An ominous chord ends the movement, launching a third movement back into a vigorous struggle. Twice during the movement, a wandering contemplation offers a hopeful vision but fails to transcend the circumstances at hand.

A brief Adagio lament leads into the final movement, an outpouring of anxiety. This music seems to herald a tragedy, like Beethoven’s recent music for Goethe’s tragic play, Egmont, in the same key of F minor. However, Beethoven counts on our capacity for catharsis, the release of emotional tension, and grants us instead an uplifting, major-key coda. Circumstances may be bad, but life retains a capacity to improve. As he composed the quartet, he wrote in a funk to his oldest friend, Franz Wegeler, “Oh, life is so beautiful, but for me it is poisoned forever.” The end of this quartet proves he didn’t quite believe his own words.


WANG LU Motion

Motion (2023)

WANG LU (B. 1982)

Wang Lu is from Xi’an, the ancient capital of China. Brought up in a musical family, her works grow from an identification with Chinese opera and folk music traditions, yet through the prism of contemporary instrumental techniques and with a desire to explore new sonic possibilities.

Her music often reflects urban environmental sounds, linguistic intonation and contours, traditional Chinese music, and free improvisation. She is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Brown University.

About her short new work for the Parker Quartet’s The Beethoven Project, she writes:

When I was asked to write this short piece for the Parker Quartet’s Beethoven cycle, I had it in mind to follow the ending of the Quartet, Op. 59, No. 3, continuing the tempo and momentum directly from the thrilling the C Major fugue that concludes the piece. My work celebrates the exuberant energy of the Beethoven with rich, sonorous chords and rhythmically compressed contrapuntal materials, dashing towards a gratifying chordal tutti at the end.

ANTHONY CHEUNG rondo relay

rondo relay (2022)


Composer Anthony Cheung writes music that explores the senses, improvisational traditions, and multiple layers of textual meaning. His music reveals an interest in the ambiguity of sound sources and constantly shifting transformations of tuning and timbre. He is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Brown University.

About his short new work for the Parker Quartet’s The Beethoven Project, he writes:

rondo relay is short piece that plays with repetitions, ruptures, and returns, written for the Parker Quartet as it embarks on a complete Beethoven cycle in 2023. After the opening establishes a flowing, steady pulse, inter- ruptions become a familiar presence, sometimes leading to detours and derailments. Short motivic strands with loose tie-ins to the Op. 131 quartet, particularly the 2nd and 5th movements, take on rhetorical significance, with the opening music never far away as it comes back in cycles. I’ve always been attracted to the qualities of obsessiveness, unpredictability, and extreme contrasts in Beethoven; the ground under your feet is never as stable as you think it will be, even as you anticipate its return.



MICHI WIANCKO Cosmic Visitation

Cosmic Visitation (2023)


Composer-violinist Michi Wiancko crosses many musical currents in her wide-ranging career, from playing with indie rock bands and the Silkroad Ensemble, to classical chamber music concerts and orchestras (including at the Skaneateles Festival), to composing opera. A native of California, Michi shares her time between New York and a small farming community in western Massachusetts, where she and her husband, composer Judd Greenstein, have created a music festival and artistic retreat.

About her short new work for the Parker Quartet’s The Beethoven Project, she writes:

String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135, was the last string quartet as well as the last complete opus that Beethoven ever composed, and he knew it was his last as he was writing it. It was the piece I studied and performed as a student that had the most impact on my inner artistic life, the piece that cemented the notion for me that music was, ultimately, about returning us to our humanity. This short work is a transparent homage to the quick and playful second movement of Op. 135, repurposing its architectural blueprint but using different materials and colors and design. I may be just a squatter, temporarily living in a house that Beethoven built, but it is my way of trying to bond with him in his old age, bringing him pudding, listening to stories of heartbreak and hardships past, binging dumb shows together. Ultimately, I feel a kind of cosmic reassurance when I’m inside the humanistic universe of 135 – for a piece so historically hallowed, it will never *not* wear its heart on its sleeve. It playfully and humbly takes on death and embraces sadness with a generosity so complete that it starts to feel like joy.

BEETHOVEN Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130

String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130 (1826)


Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro Presto

Andante con moto, ma non troppo.

Poco scherzoso

Alla danza tedesca.

Allegro assai

Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo

Grosse Fuge


Parker Quartet

Daniel Chong, violin

Ken Hamao, violin

Jessica Bodner, viola

Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

“Indecipherable, uncorrected horror” is how violinist-com- poser Louis Spohr referred to Beethoven’s late quartets, with the String Quartet, Op. 130, as Exhibit A. Spohr had been a great admirer of Beethoven and had moved to Vienna in part to follow in his footsteps. But who would compose a six-movement quartet ended by a bewildering 20-minute fugue? No one who likes their players, nor their audience, reasoned Spohr. The first players required an unheard-of 11 weeks of rehearsal to prepare for the premiere; the first violinist, exhausted, fell asleep during a break because this music had made him “kaput.” The players begged Beethoven to allow them to take home the manuscript parts to practice, but that wasn’t enough to convince the audience, nor the publisher, who requested an alternative ending to replace the monstrous fugue. Beethoven typically did not relent on such matters but did in this case. He provided an optional short and light replacement, which suggests that he believed he had truly reached the limits of the string quartet. But perhaps that was his goal all along.

In its quest to probe the limits of musical expression, however, this quartet has an immense amount to express. The first movement poses more questions than it answers but remains good natured throughout. Whereas a slow introduction of the type heard here usually prepares the listener for an ensuing allegro, Beethoven keeps returning to this opening music, dissolving our sense of it as introductory. While this unpredictable process unfolds, the music itself expresses an amiable contentment on one hand, and spritely joy on the other. By the end of the movement, you may feel convinced this musical push and pull transcends both, attaining a deeper meaning than either could on its own. (Or you may feel like Spohr did and just give up.)

After this lengthy first movement, a series of shorter essays follow. The brief Presto begins straight-faced but quickly interrogates its own seriousness with a series of flighty gestures from the first violin, like the Wright Brothers trying to get off the ground. It falls back to earth, returning the quartet to the opening music, now considerably more mischievous if still laconic.

The comedy (of sorts) continues in the Andante, marked “poco scherzoso” (joking, a little). This music manages to be both flirtatious and spiritual, a strange and wonderful combination, as if one angel in heaven were to ask another out on a date. Back to earth for the Alla danza tedesca, a German dance. Its opening notes are soothing and simple, but Beethoven spins increasingly fanciful variations out of it until it dissolves into pieces.

The Cavatina that follows is one of his most heartfelt creations; musicians adore it, and it even concludes NASA’s Voyager golden record, perhaps now playing somewhere in outer space. It speaks with a language that is at once hymn-like and highly personal. Beethoven called this movement “Cavatina,” a name for a melodious opera aria that probes the emotional state of a leading character. Beethoven said this movement affected him greatly, suggesting he may be that leading character. In the middle section, he indicates that the first violinist is “Beklemmt,” overcome with heavy emotion and barely able to play the notes.

Finally comes the “Babylonian confusion” of the Grosse Fuge, as the first review put it. The movement begins with a fragmentary “overture,” unlike any opera overture before or since. Soon, the double fugue begins, with each instrument blasting fortissimo, like trumpets. Beethoven writes forte, fortissimo, or sforzando 50 times in the first 16 bars, as if to shout in the players’ ears never to let up. Realizing how easily this movement can sound like a woodchopper, Gustav Mahler arranged it for string orchestra. Yet the quartet is more capable of conveying the apocalyptic atmosphere Beethoven seeks; the players strike out with all their might at the limits of the possible, like prophets heralding a new era beyond current understanding. Igor Stravinsky called it “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.” Perhaps he is right that it will never lose its capacity to astonish and bewilder, as it was designed to do. The reviewer of the first performance was less quick to judge than Spohr: “Perhaps the time is yet to come when that which at first glance appeared to us dismal and confused will be recognized as clear and pleasing in form.” Perhaps, if not yet. In the meantime, our awe remains.

August 18: Steven Banks & Friends

Friday, August 18

8:00 PM

First Presbyterian Church

97 E Genesee St, Skaneateles


Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Henry and Helga Beck

Steven Banks is sponsored by 

Xak Bjerken is sponsored by Bousquet Holstein, PLLC

Parker Quartet is sponsored by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation


Steven Banks is a charismatic ambassador for the classical saxophone. Winner of the prestigious 2022 Avery Fisher Career Grant, he captivates audiences with his balance of refined lyricism and virtuosic flair. Traversing classical, con- temporary, and popular repertoire, he leads a program that includes a Saint-Saëns Sonata (with Xak Bjerken, piano), jazz inspired music by Schulhoff, and Banks’ own quintet for strings and saxophone, Cries, Sighs, and Dreams, with the Parker Quartet.

SAINT-SAËNS Sonata for Oboe (Saxophone) and Piano, Op. 166

Sonata for Oboe (Saxophone) and Piano, Op. 166 (1921)



Ad libitum – Allegretto – Ad libitum

Molto allegro

Steven Banks, saxophone

Xak Bjerken, piano

One could say that French composers have done more than any others for wind instruments. Today, woodwind recitals are filled with names like Roussel, Dukas, Taffanel, and Milhaud. Camille Saint-Saëns came rather late to compose for winds – 80 years late, to be exact. He composed his sonatas for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon in the final year of his life, at age 86. However, in another sense, his contribution to the wind chamber literature was still rather early; the most brilliant works for winds were yet to be composed and followed his lead. As he wrote on April 15, 1921, “At the moment I am concentrating my last reserves on giving rarely considered instruments the chance to be heard.” He was not able to complete the planned sonatas for flute and English horn, but fortunately for the oboe (and saxophone), this one he finished. He dedicated it to Louis Bas, oboist at the Paris Opera, who in a read-through had proven to Saint-Saëns that this work, though challenging, could be played with élan.

The Sonata begins in a dignified, neo-Baroque style, harken- ing back to a time when the oboe was central to ensemble music. Although Saint-Saëns affords himself some dreamy, romantic piano flourishes in the middle of the movement, it retains a Handelian spirit. For much of this work, Saint- Saëns treats the piano as a fellow melodic instrument, placing it on equal footing with the oboe. The second movement is like a call of Nature; the oboe plays the bird and the piano, the field. A gentle pastoral dance follows, punctuated by a few bird calls. The challenging third movement is Classical in idiom but its sparkling virtuosity is of its own time. After some delightful passagework, a brief romantic outpouring gives way to an ebullient coda.

CARLOS SIMON hear them

hear them (2021)



Steven Banks, saxophone

Xak Bjerken, piano


Carlos Simon is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, who composes concert music for large and small ensembles and film scores with influences of jazz, gospel, and neo-romanticism. Simon is currently the Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY award for his latest album, Requiem for the Enslaved. About hear them, Simon succinctly writes:

I have been constantly aware of the presence of my ancestors in my life. This piece is inspired by the following poem by Nayyirah Waheed:

if you can not hear


ask the ancestors to

speak louder. they only whisper so

as not to frighten you. they know

they have been convinced. coerced.


from your skin.

communication, from the collection, salt.,

by Nayyirah Waheed


Hot-Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1930)



Steven Banks, saxophone

Xak Bjerken, piano


No jazz musician would mistake Erwin Schulhoff’s Hot-Sonata for jazz, but a roomful of strait-laced German Classical music lovers might. Schulhoff delighted in subversive irony and frequently filtered jazz idioms through classical forms, kind of like sending jazz through a spaetzle maker. Schulhoff himself had been through the spaetzle maker of World War I; the Czech composer (of German- Jewish descent) somehow survived four years of conscription in the Austrian Army. Like many artists, he felt disillusioned, alienated, and adrift. He fell in with the Dadaists in Berlin and applied their anarchic ideas to music, including an astonishing piece that you, too, could play, consisting only of 421 rests without a single note. But when the painter and fellow Dadaist George Grosz shared some jazz records with Schulhoff, he was hooked. In this “hot” music, as the Americans called it, Schulhoff found a pathway beyond the Wagnerian romanticism that had dominated German music prior to the war. When he received a commission from Berlin Radio, he joined forces with American saxophonist and bandleader Billy Barton to delight and/or confuse the ears of whomever was listening to the airwaves on April 10, 1930.

Since jazz musicians don’t play sonatas, Hot-Sonata is a kind of jumbo shrimp, a delicious contradiction. The saxophone starts suavely and seductively, but the piano will not be charmed; it plays dryly and exactly, “staccatissimo” at one point. The saxophone must contend with its own contra- dictions, like “forte ma sempre dolce” (loudly, but always tenderly). Eventually, the two instruments get on the same page, trading jagged syncopations and mellifluous cascades. The jaunty and terse second movement serves up Gershwin- like snippets, mixed into a slightly sardonic salad. Schulhoff was “boundlessly fond of nightclub dancing,” which he told fellow composer Alban Berg provided “phenomenal inspiration” for his concert music. The third movement’s crooning saxophone could only come out of such an environment.

Marked “lamenting but very grotesque,” the saxophone hogs the spotlight; the piano accompanies with dry blues chords.

The increasingly raucous final movement begins as a Charleston, but in floats a smoky haze of themes from the earlier movements. After more wild dancing, a climactic statement of the first movement’s theme draws the sonata to an abrupt close. An avid ironist, Schulhoff was fond of abrupt endings, as three of the four movements attest. Unfortunately, Schulhoff’s life was subjected to one as well; he tragically perished in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. In recent years, his music has seen a resurgence; it testifies compellingly to the creative delirium that marked the interwar years, dancing on the edge of a cliff.

STEVEN BANKS Cries, Sighs, and Dreams

Cries, Sighs, and Dreams (2021)



Steven Banks, saxophone

Parker Quartet

Daniel Chong, violin

Ken Hamao, violin

Jessica Bodner, viola

Kee-Hyun Kim, cello


Steven Banks performed the premiere of his quintet for saxophone and string quartet in Carnegie Hall last year alongside the Borromeo Quartet (last heard at the Skaneateles Festival in 2016). About this new work, composed during the pandemic, the composer writes:

Cries, Sighs, and Dreams references a quote by Hector Berlioz in which he said of the saxophone: “It cries, sighs and dreams. It possesses a crescendo and can gradually diminish until it is only an echo of an echo. I know of no other instrument that possesses this particular capacity to reach the outer limits of audible sound.” At its core, this is a piece about isolation, the chaos of our own inner worlds, and the struggle to find peace in a world that seems to be anything but peaceful.


MOZART Quartet for Oboe (Saxophone) and Strings, K. 370

Quartet for Oboe (Saxophone) and Strings, 370 (1781)


Allegro Adagio

Rondeau: Allegro


Steven Banks, saxophone

Parker Quartet

The string quartet has often been proclaimed the most perfect form of chamber music. Why go and ruin it by replacing one of the violins with an oboe, a second violinist might wonder after receiving a pink slip. Oboes are less agile, and their reedy tone is essentially incapable of blending with the strings. Also, frankly, good oboists are not so easily come by. But Mozart met one, and therein lies the origin of his Oboe Quartet. In 1777, Mozart was job hunt- ing in Mannheim where he met the first oboist in the court orchestra, Friedrich Ramm, who he told his father had a “delightfully pure tone.” Four years later, he found Ramm in Munich, where Mozart was rehearsing his opera, Idomeneo.

Ramm inspired Mozart to devote some of his free time to a new quartet. Mozart, who preferred to play viola in string quartets, presumably got to keep his job in this new quartet for oboe and strings.

Earlier oboe quartets, such as one composed just a few years earlier by Johann Christian Bach (J. S. Bach’s youngest son), were like miniature symphonies, with the strings pretending to be more than they are and the oboe playing an occasional melody, as it does in an orchestral setting. Here, however, Mozart treats the oboe as a full partner, immediately engaging in dialogue with the strings. The oboe’s timbre marks it as different from the others, but their relationship is democratic and mutual, rather than hierarchical. This requires true agility from the oboist (saxophonist). The first movement is perky and jovial, with frequent, lively exchanges of melody. Mozart engages the oboe’s ability to lament in the darkly hued second movement; here, it plays the role of opera singer with the strings as the supporting orchestra from below. The sun shines again in the third movement, a delightful rondo. Here, Mozart allows the oboe to step into the role of a concerto soloist, front and center. It prances and dashes. Out-of-work second violinists might not appreciate it, but the right oboe player, or saxophonist, deserves a seat in the quartet.

August 19: Festival Finale, Joshua Redman Quartet

8:00 PM Concert

Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyard

Rain Location: TBA

Tonight’s concert is sponsored by: Daniel & Linda Scaia

Joshua Redman is sponsored by


Media Sponsor:  



The Festival welcomes back saxophonist, Joshua Redman for an extraordinary night of jazz. In over 20 albums he has garnered top honors from critics and audiences alike, including a 2023 Grammy nomination for his album LongGone. Enjoy tonight’s opportunity to hear a jazz great at the top of his game!


 Jazz selections to be announced from the stage 


Joshua Redman, saxophone

Paul Cornish, piano

Philip Norris, bass

Nazir Ebo, drums


Meet the Musicians

Make a Contribution

Kyle Armbrust 


 Sarah Berger


 Kearstin Piper Brown


 Ed Castilano


 Danish String Quartet


 Eliot Fisk


Béla Fleck


Dan Lipton


Justin Moses


Parker Quartet


Mark Schatz


Shai Wosner


Aaron Wunsch

Steven Banks


 Xak Bjerken


Julia Bruskin


 Michael Cleveland 




 Anna Elashvili


 Sierra Hull


Melissa Matson


Kelli O’Hara


Joshua Redman


Bryan Sutton


Asher Wulfman


Itamar Zorman