[Every year I write a preview of the upcoming Maverick Concerts season for the Woodstock Times. While there have been two concerts this season altered because of illness, this remains a reasonably accurate summary.]

As far as this listener is concerned, one never needs an excuse for Haydn. Today too many music lovers seem to think of Haydn as a “curtain-raiser” composer (good for musicians to warm up) and a kind of second-rate Mozart. You wouldn’t have dared say anything like that to Mozart, though, since he venerated his older colleague and dedicated some of his best music to Haydn.

Maverick Concerts’ 2009 season begins this weekend. Music Director Alexander Platt writes, “I’m very proud and exited about this season, due to its Hungarian theme. Of course our excuse is that 2009 marks the bicentennial of the death of that greatest of “Austro-Hungarian” composers, Joseph Haydn. You might ask, why use a death-anniversary? Well, any excuse to focus on the man who truly is the father of the string quartet–sometimes, the old cliches are true–is a boon for us at the Maverick. And Haydn, in that Magyar theme, goes so well with so many others of similar bent: Brahms, Bartók, Dohnányi, Kurtág, Kodály…it’ll be an immensely fun summer.”

Arts organizations are trimming their activities all over the U.S., due to current economic conditions. (Aston Magna just began its season at Bard, reduced from four to five concerts. The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society’s 2009-10 season, beginning this fall, is down from seven concerts to five.) Yet Maverick’s schedule for this summer is as full as it was last year. Platt has his own explanation: “You ask how we manage to keep on with exactly what we’re doing at the Maverick, in spite of the economic meltdown. It’s simple actually: really compelling and eclectic artists and repertoire, in an utterly unique and special venue, with an extraordinarily devoted “working board’ of directors. I can’t wait to get back there!

“I’m also very excited about some artists making their Maverick debuts. The Enso Quartet, one of the most brilliant string quartets in the business these days, is bringing up a perfect program [Haydn, Bartók, Schumann]. The Janaki String Trio is simply amazing–and how many truly world-class string trios are out there, to play this smaller, but profoundly treasurable repertoire? And the contemporary-music ensemble, Antares, who played a Saturday morning kids’ concert for us years ago, is finally coming back for a Saturday night: with two masterpieces of Woodstock’s current “star composer'(along with Peter Schickele), George Tsontakis, and then, the ultimate modern work, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time–how fabulous is that?”

Music of the 20th and 21st centuries will have unusually strong representation at Maverick this summer–an amusement to those of us who remember when Maverick’s board resisted an all-Bartók program from the Tokyo Quartet a couple of decades ago. (It filled the hall.) For the opening weekend, the Tokyo Quartet will be playing the wonderful and seldom-heard Janáček Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters,” along with Beethoven and Mendelssohn on Saturday evening. On Sunday afternoon the Shanghai Quartet will play the recent Penderecki Quartet No 3, written for the ensemble, along with Mendelssohn and Debussy. Bartók will also be heard on the programs of July 19 (violinist Tim Fain, with the challenging Sonata for Solo Violin along with unaccompanied Bach); August 2 (Trio Solisti, along with Beethoven and Brahms); August 8 (violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Wendy Sutter, and pianist Andrew Armstrong, along with Kodály, Glass, Hubay, and Brahms); August 23 (Enso Quartet, along with Haydn and Schumann); and August 30 (American String Quartet, along with Haydn and Schubert). For the August 8 program, featuring the area premiere of Philip Glass’s Violin Sonata, the composer is expected to attend.

Contemporary music is not the season’s only focus, though. The first weekend includes two of Mendelssohn’s rarely-heard String Quartets, and on August 29 cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Robert Koenig offer an all-Mendelssohn program. Haydn shows up on five programs, including one of the rarely-heard Piano Concertos, in F Major, on September 5, when Alexander Platt conducts the Maverick Chamber Players with pianist Frederic Chiu. They will also collaborate in Liszt’s even-more-rarely-heard Malédiction. Platt describes the Haydn Concerto as “not the jokey, overly-familiar D Major but more gossamer-like, more reflective “really gorgeous.” Platt claims the Liszt is “the mother-of-all-rarities for the summer, an early stunner of his that has completely gone by the wayside. A violent, one-movement fantasy, it represents all that is wonderful about Liszt: the passion, the hypnotic thematic-transformation, and this ineffable generosity of spirit….truly amazing.”

One Bartók Quartet disappeared from the schedule when the Juilliard String Quartet had to cancel its July 12 concert after the first violinist broke his wrist. (Ow!) The Juilliards will be replaced by the Rossetti Quartet, which will play music of Mozart, Ravel, and Gounod. “Yup,” says Platt, “the guy who wrote Faust also wrote a string quartet!” If it’s as delightful as Gounod’s Petite Symphonie for winds, we’re all in for a treat.

As in recent summers, Maverick will be presenting a few concerts of what I like to call “other civilized music.” On July 18, the superb jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd will offer “An Evening of Jazz Explorations” (at 8, not the usual Maverick Saturday time of 6) with his Trombone Tribe. (Rudd will also perform at the Young People’s Concert that morning at 11.) On July 25, also at 8, “An Evening with Mike Seeger, Master of American Folk” says all you need to know. I show my own age by remembering how much I enjoyed Mike Seeger with the group he helped to found, the New Lost City Ramblers.
[Alas, he was seriously ill and the concert was canceled.] And on Saturday, August 1, “An Evening with Mike & Ruthy and Friends” brings back half of the wonderful group The Mammals; they have recently been building a major folk music career.

Without any special occasion, Maverick still includes Beethoven’s music on the programs of July 4 and 26, August 2, and September 6 (the “Friends of the Maverick” benefit concert by the Daedalus Quartet). Another highlight I’m looking forward to is the solo cello recital on August 9 by Katinka Kleijn, including two Bach Suites, the Sonata for Solo Cello by Ligeti, and the daunting Sonata for Solo Cello by Kodály, probably that composer’s masterpiece and one of the most difficult and exciting works ever written for the cello. The August 16 concert, “Danube Reflections,” presents wonderful old Maverick friends, the Amernet String Quartet and pianist James Tocco. Tocco will play wonderful solo music by Haydn and Brahms; the Amernets play Tchaikovsky’s wonderful String Quartet No. 1 (even if you don’t know the whole piece, you’ll probably recognize the Andante cantabile); and then they all collaborate on one of the great debut publications in musical history, the Piano Quintet Op. 1 by Dohnányi, a piece highly acclaimed by Brahms. (The same composer’s lovely Serenade shows up on July 26.) I’ll also be extremely interested to hear the August 22 Young People’s Concert, featuring “Alice Burla, Piano Prodigy.”

Perhaps the most wide-ranging concert of the season is the “Quad Tribute” on August 22, with soprano Nancy Allen Lundy and pianist Stephen Gosling. Lundy will sing a group of Purcell songs, followed by solo keyboard music of Sweelinck and Couperin. Then, the concert concludes with Mr. Tambourine Man, original settings by John Corigliano of Bob Dylan texts which make no reference to the original Dylan music. Only at Maverick! – Leslie Gerber

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