The changing face of classical music in the Hudson Valley

Helena Baillie (above) and conductor Gwen Gould, Classics on Hudson is offering an ambitious first season. (photo by Pete Mauneys)


On Saturday, November 8. at the Bardavon, celebrated actor David Strathairn will narrate Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.


The American Symphony Orchestra under Leon Botstein will perform two Romantic masterpieces, Chopin’s First Piano Concerto and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, on October 24 and 25 at Bard College. (photo by Steve J. Sherman)


When I came to the Hudson Valley four decades ago, there was not very much classical music in the area. Maverick Concerts had been in existence for more than half a century, offering one concert each weekend in July and August. The Hudson Valley Philharmonic played in Kingston and Poughkeepsie. There were a few small series, like the Hudson Valley Chamber Music Circle, and a few concerts at the colleges.

Today the classical music scene seems to have exploded. Even Maverick has more than doubled its offerings. And during the remainder of the year, there are numerous series larger and smaller throughout the Almanac Weekly area. The following summary attempts to catch most of the coming activity for the remainder of 2014, including two new series.


Olive Free Library’s Piano Plus

If you rebuild it, they will come. That was the attitude of Israel Schossev and Rackelle Rodin, the couple who founded the Trail Mix Music Festival in Olive. The Olive Free Library owned a piano in need of restoration, and Schossev is a piano restorer. With an excellent piano available, Schossev and Rodin took advantage of their many music contacts to put together a concert series at the Library.

When the couple relocated to Virginia and their series ended, composer George Tsontakis decided to step into the gap and keep music going at the Library. “If Trail Mix hadn’t been there,” he told me, “ I would never have been up for curating a music series. But Trail Mix proved they could draw a crowd, and then it left a vacuum and a piano.” Last spring he curated the first Piano Plus concerts, all of which featured excellent musicians. This spring will see another Piano Plus season.

Meanwhile, Tsontakis himself is joining with his High Point ensemble to bring music to the Olive Library on Saturday, November 8 at 4 p.m. Although he has a very active composing career with constant commissions, Tsontakis likes to do some playing. “Composers should all play,” he says. “It changes the way they write music. And playing makes me feel engaged with the music scene.”
The entire program isn’t yet set, but it will include Mozart’s E Flat Piano Quartet, with Tsontakis as violist, and a Haydn trio played by the other members of High Point: pianist Hiroko Sakurazawa; violinist Steven Starkman, a former member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; and cellist Ling Kwan, principal cellist of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. See for information on the concerts and many other programs of the Library.


Hudson Opera House’s Classics on Hudson

Meanwhile, across the river, another rebuilding project is bearing fruit. While the restoration of the Hudson Opera House’s actual opera house isn’t complete, the organization is starting a new series: Classics on Hudson. Co-directed by violinist Helena Baillie (who played recently at the Kingston Festival of the Arts) and conductor Gwen Gould, Classics on Hudson is offering an ambitious first season.

The opening concert takes place on Saturday, October 11 at 7 p.m. at the Opera House, located at 327 Warren Street in Hudson. The Horszowski Trio will play works of Haydn, Schumann and Tower (her For Daniel). Tickets are priced at a modest $20, $18 for Hudson Opera House members. The series continues on November 22 with a performance by ETHEL, a very hip string quartet that specializes in contemporary music, some written by its members.

A listing of the season, including some quite well-known musicians (among them Baillie herself), can be found at


Leaf Peeper Concerts in Columbia County

The venerable Leaf Peeper Concert series, founded by the late Newell Jenkins, has already gotten off to its start with a September concert in Hudson. The series continues with two October concerts.

On October 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Copake Methodist Church in Copake, a concert of Baroque chamber music (including Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann) features four well-known musicians: flutist Eugenia Zukerman, oboist Virginia Brewer, violinist Sanford Allen and harpsichordist Anthony Newman. On October 25, also at 7:30 p.m., at St. James Catholic Church at Routes 66 and 203 in Chatham, “Celebrating Sanford Allen” (the organization’s music director) features an unusual but highly appealing program: the three Op. 9 String Trios by Beethoven. Allen will be joined by violist Daniel Panner and cellist Frederick Zlotkin.

Tickets cost $25. There’s plenty of information at, or you can call (518) 329-5613.


Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society

The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society kicks off its 36th season on October 19 with a performance by soprano Julia Bullock and pianist Renate Rohlfing. Bullock, a graduate of Bard College, was recently announced as the winner of the important Naumberg Vocal Competition. She has received strongly positive reviews from Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times and Ann Midgette in the Washington Post. Among Rohlfing’s previous concert collaborators are composer John Adams and soprano Anna Netrebko.

The season continues on November 16 with the ensemble SHUFFLE. This sextet, a singer and five instrumentalists, brings a “menu” of about 40 compositions and invites the audience to choose the program for the concert, ranging from Baroque music to jazz and Broadway. Concerts take place at 3 p.m. at the Church of the Messiah at 6436 Montgomery Street in Rhinebeck.

Tickets cost $25 each or $100 for the series of five concerts, $5 for students. You can find detailed information on the organization, the programs and the performers (with links to their websites) at


Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck Guitar Concerts

Nearby, on Route 308 east of town, the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck is noted more for quality theater productions than for music. But David Temple, an excellent classical guitarist, performs his annual post-Christmas concert at the Center on December 27 and 28: “Sambas in a Season of Joy,” including his own compositions and others from Latin America and Europe.

Tickets cost $20 for this event, and there’s more information at


Woodstock Chamber Orchestra

Continuing its comeback from near-oblivion, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra (WCO) has announced its 2014/15 season of four concerts. The opening program takes place at the Woodstock Playhouse on Sunday, October 12 at 3 p.m. Cellist Lillia Keyes is featured in Fauré’s beautiful Elegie. Music director Nathan Madsen also leads the WCO in Satie’s Two Gymnopédies (don’t bother looking it up; Satie made up the word), Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and the rarely heard Symphony No. 2 of Gounod.

Program 2 will be a Christmas show, at Quimby Theater at SUNY-Ulster, on December 13 at 7:30 p.m., featuring the Rondout High School Chorus. Tickets cost $20. Call (845) 679-6431, or go to for more information.




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