[This was done to promote a concert Goode was about to do at Bard College with Dawn Upshaw. Goode was particularly cooperative, I think, because he was a friend of my mother’s. They met when they were both taking lessons with the same piano teacher, Paula Hondias.]

Passing it on to the next generation seems irresistible to great artists. Delta blues musicians taught others to play guitar; opera singers coach the next generation. The new Bard College Conservatory of Music is channeling this kind of energy, with even some great musicians who don’t have time for teaching somehow making the time.

Now, two of the best are about to collaborate on a concert to benefit the Bard Conservatory’s scholarship fund. Thursday, February 9, at 8 PM, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Richard Good will give a benefit recital at Bard’s Fisher Center, including music of Debussy, Ives, Bach, and Berg, and featuring Schoenberg’s rarely heard Book of the Hanging Gardens.

Goode, one of the busiest and most successful concert pianists active today, was drawn into the Bard Conservatory’s activities by its co-director Robert Martin. The two became friends as students at the Curtis Institute of Music. They have remained close and frequently play together in informal settings. “Bob was talking a lot about starting a new school,” Goode told me, “which would encompass music and academics at equal strengths, because he felt musicians should have this kind of breadth.” Goode felt attracted to the basic concept, and although he couldn’t make a commitment to teaching regularly at Bard, he will be giving ongoing master classes for the piano students, which are open to the public. He is also long familiar with the Woodstock area. His first piano teacher, Elvira Szigeti (wife of the uncle of the great violinist Joseph Szigeti) retired to Woodstock and Goode visited her often.

Goode and Upshaw have been performing together since 1990, after they were both asked to participate in an all-Berg concert at Harvard. “I fell in love with her singing,” says Goode.” I thought she was wonderful, which she remains, and we have been doing joint recitals ever since, small tours of seven or eight concerts every couple of years. Besides being a wonderful musician and the kind of person you enjoy rehearsing with, she is tremendously conscientious about every aspect of her singing.”

Goode is currently running a Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall, and he got Upshaw to join him in a program almost identical to the one they will do at Bard. He says he had been trying to talk Upshaw into singing The Book of the Hanging Gardens for years. “After she did Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, she decided to try this piece that I kept bothering her about. Now she loves it.” Goode has just performed a Mozart Concerto with the Boston Symphony; after the Bard performance he leaves for a European tour involving concerts in Italy, Portugal, England and Germany.

When I spoke to Upshaw last year, after the announcement of her appointment to the Bard faculty, she said she was hoping to perform at Bard but she was not certain what form that would take. Apparently her involvement has become more extensive than she originally envisioned, even though she is one of the busiest singers active today. (She couldn’t even make time for another phone conversation last week, being immersed in a Golijov festival in New York.) She has been a major designer of the Graduate Program in Vocal Arts Course of Study (available on line at www.bard.edu/academics/conservatory/graduate/course/), and she will meet with each seminar three times each semester during the 2006-7 academic year.

Meanwhile, Bard Conservatory co-director Robert Martin is thrilled at the upcoming concert. “Its significance is primarily that we’re now focused on the need to raise funds for scholarships,” he told me. “Talent and ambition and willingness to work hard don’t always get distributed along with wealth. We chose a fabulous first year class, and we’re now doing the admissions for the next year. We have to run the school and pay salaries of the faculty and help the students. So with great graciousness, Dawn and Richard agreed to do this concert without a fee. It’s thrilling to tell the world that we have two such distinguished artists on our faculty, and there’s also great benefit from having such a concert.”

While this concert is a Special Event in every sense, it is also part of an ongoing series of faculty and student concerts which will be part of the Bard Conservatory program. Pianist Melvin Chen will be playing in February; Martin himself is scheduled to play next fall with violist Michael Tree and the Shanghai String Quartet. “Concerts like this are designed to inspire the students, to go to the hall and hear their teacher perform. I remember that from when I was a student at Curtis and I heard my teacher Leonard Rose play with the New York Philharmonic.”

On December 10, ten students participated in a concerto competition at Bard, and two of them will be performing at Bard with the American Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bard president Leon Botstein. A mixed faculty-student ensemble from Bard will also be playing next season for the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society. “We have a very diverse group on a very high level,” says Martin, “including nine students from China, one from Berlin, one from Malaysia, two from New Jersey, one from San Francisco.”

Tickets for the concert by Dawn Upshaw and Richard Goode are priced at $20, $35, and $45. They can be purchased from the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or at the Fisher Center website: www.bard.edu/fishercenter. –Leslie Gerber

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