By Shawn Stone
months of isolated toil, SPAC’s composer-in-residence Behzad
Ranjbaran debuts his Saratoga-specific overture
a beautiful night to en -joy the Philadelphia Orchestra in
concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Sure, it’s
a little humid, but patrons are undeterred: On this recent
Wednesday (Aug. 10), the amphitheater is almost full. Couples
in folding chairs or on blankets are spaced across the lawn
with an almost mathematical equanimity, and the pleasing glow
of citronella candles in metal holders dots the same landscape
as dusk begins to settle in. The bell begins to toll, letting
everyone know that the concert is only minutes away.
This is SPAC at its best, and a fitting backdrop for the world
premiere of the Saratoga overture, specially commissioned
from this year’s composer-in-residence, Behzad Ranjbaran.
The orchestra, dressed down in what could be called “classical
casual” (white shirts/blouses, black pants) has been onstage
for a few minutes, tuning up. After the concertmaster does
his bit and the musicians settle in, a man walks out onstage
and the audience applauds.
The applause is somewhat muted, however, presumably because
the crowd, expecting conductor and music director Charles
Dutoit, doesn’t recognize this guy.
It’s Ranjbaran. He introduces himself, and tells a bit about
how the overture was composed. The background is interesting,
because Ranjbaran has combined the esoteric, the historical
and purely musical to create the work. He explains that the
notes of the main musical materials are “all drawn from these
three names”: Charles Dutoit, Saratoga and Philadelphia. He
then sings a bit of the lovely hymn-like theme, which charms
the audience into applause.
overture,” he concludes, “comes to a big finale with a tremendous
amount of energy.”
He’s right. The piece is alternately raucous and playful,
with quiet moments of melodic beauty building to that big
finale, complete with a blazing cannon. (Interestingly, the
Times Union reported that the cannon fire drowned out
the orchestra inside; on the lawn, the blend of musical and
actual explosions was pleasing and effective.)
The following afternoon, Ranjbaran smiles as he reflects on
the premiere: “It went really well.”
He explains that after working in solitude for months, a lonely
period when “people don’t understand what you’re doing,” it’s
almost like the birth of a child.
And, he adds, getting audiences to accept new works can be
difficult, as too often “people compare the most-loved repertory
works with one new composition.” Despite being paired with
two such warhorses, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3
and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, this was not the
case with his overture and the Saratoga audience.
Ranjbaran adds that he has been delighted with the entire
experience of working with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Maestro
Dutoit and the musicians, he says happily, understood the
music quickly and embraced it with tremendous passion. The
orchestra was “so warm and affectionate—I was touched by their
expressions of support.”
The rapport is easy to see. Just before sitting down for this
interview, he was spending part of this sunny afternoon at
the amphitheater, where Dutoit was rehearsing Ranjbaran’s
Violin Concerto with the orchestra. The atmosphere
was convivial, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves—just
as they seemed to be during the previous evening’s performance.
Asked about this, Ranjbaran explains that musicians are “happy
whenever we can see the trees,” adding that SPAC’s natural
setting “enhances the experience.”
Ranjbaran found out two years ago that he would be SPAC’s
artist-in- residence for 2005: “I was very delighted.” Though
he had never spent much time upstate, he was immediately drawn
to the beauty and history of the area.
The Iranian-born, Juilliard-trained composer teaches at that
venerable Manhattan institution, and lives in Long Island.
He has earned a wide variety of awards and honors, including
the Charles Ives Award from the American Academy of Arts and
Letters, and a Distinguished Artist designation by the New
Jersey Council on the Arts. Always busy, he came to Saratoga
Springs directly from South Korea, where his Awakening
for string orchestra had its world premiere; he jokes that
he’s “still 13 hours ahead.”
So far this season he’s premiered two new works here, the
Saratoga overture and the Piano Quintet; still
to be performed are his Violin Concerto (on Saturday,
Aug. 20, by the Philadelphia Orchestra as part of the Grand
Finale) and his String Quartet No. 1 (by the Fine Arts
Quartet on Sunday, Aug. 21, on the last day of the Saratoga
Chamber Music Festival).
The concerto has been chosen by Juilliard as the “required
work” for next year’s student violin concerto competition;
this is considered a particular honor, as the school will
be celebrating its centennial.
fact that they chose this for the competition,” Ranjbaran
notes, “is a vote of confidence.”
Inevitably, whenever classical music is under discussion,
the subject of attracting younger people naturally comes up.
This time, a mention of the surprisingly diverse age-range
of the previous night’s crowd brings out Ranjbaran’s take
idea of repertory,” Ranjbaran says, “is foreign to the younger
It’s an interesting point. If there’s one thing American pop
culture hinges on, it’s the never-ending triumph of the new.
Even if it’s based on something old—like, say, movie remakes
or samples of old songs in new music—it’s packaged and sold
as something wonderfully fresh. (Even if it isn’t.) Consistently
mixing new works in with the much-loved standard repertoire,
Ranjbaran suggests, is a way to connect with this vast potential
audience: “It shows, particularly to new audiences, that there
is a future to this music.”
Right now, he’s enjoying playing to the friendly, receptive,
actual audience here in Saratoga Springs. Ranjbaran smiles
again, and explains “I’ve been very encouraged by their support.”
PARK (Saratoga Springs, 587-3241). Tue: Sonny &
SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park,
Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000). Sun: 50 Cent.
Tue: Tori Amos, the Ditty Bops.
SARATOGA VISITORS CENTER (Congress Park, Saratoga Springs,
587-3241). Fri: Saratoga Pie Picnic.
COLLEGE (Tang Museum Rooftop, Saratoga Springs, 580-5320).
Fri: Camille West.
ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Tue:
karaoke with Mark the Shark.
(Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060).
Thu: Juan & Corbin. Fri: Pangaea. Sat:
Rich Ortiz All-Stars. Sun: Chuck Kelsey.
BETTER THAN TOAST (454 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, www.thefarmtomarket.com).
Sun: Ponies in the Surf.
RESTAURANT (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262).
Fri-Sat: High Definition.
LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu:
open mic (7 PM). Fri-Sun: Melanie.
CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Sat:
karaoke with A-Man Productions.
CAROLINE (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0155).
Thu: karaoke. Fri: DJ. Sat: DJ. Tue: karaoke.
CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686).
Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.
O’DWYER’S (15 Spring St., Saratoga Springs, 583-6476).
Fri: Paranoid Social Club. Sat: Jim Weider Band
II, Rich Ortiz.
(16 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-7359). Thu: Garland
Nelson, Soul Session. Fri: 44 Blues. Sat:
Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers. Sun: Sirsy
INN (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909). Thu:
TS Ensemble. Sun: the Heaters.
TAVERN (241 Union St., Saratoga Springs, 584-9643). Fri:
Brevator, Struction benefit show; Catacomb
Gypsy Vagina, K Sonin CD release party. Sat the
Sixfifteens CD release party.
MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB).
Fri: Mulligan Stew. Sat: Tom Laniewski Quartet.
CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026).
Thu: Dave Payette, Lee Shaw Duo Fri: Mike Tremante,
Colleen Pratt & Friends Sat: Scott Bassinson,
Dave Payette Trio Sun: TBA Mon: Peg Delaney
Tues: Masters of Nostalgia Wed: Scott Bassinson.
PARTING GLASS (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916).
Thu: the Redeemers. Fri: Good For the Soul.
Sat: the Groove Syndicate. Tue: Vesper, Goin’
CITY TAVERN (Caroline Street and Maple Avenue, Saratoga
Springs, 581-3230). Thu: Rick Bolton. Fri: DJ
Chris. Sat: DJ Chris. Tue: Dark Day Blues,
George Fletcher’s Bourbon Renewal.
(168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). Thu-Fri: Terrance
Simien and the Zydeco Experience. Sat: Electric City
Horns. Sun: Party of Three. Mon: Rocky Velvet.
Wed: New York Players.
is a Musical, Arts Center Theatre, 320 Broadway, Saratoga
Springs. Semi-autobiographical one-man production about “the
life and mind of a musical playwright.” Through 8/31. $15,
Party, Saratoga Savoy Center of Dance, 7 Wells St., Saratoga
Springs. 8/19, 8-11 PM: two rooms of music from Latin to rockabilly.
Diamond Dance, Saratoga Savoy, Saratoga Springs Music
Hall, City Hall, Saratoga Springs. 8/20, 8-11:30 PM; dance
lesson at 7:30. Music by Sonny and Perley’s Jive Five. $12;
includes dance lesson, refreshments and more. 587-5132.
New York City Ballet Workout, Total Body Trifecta Studio,
61 Lawrence St., Saratoga Springs. Mon, 6:15-7:15 PM; Wed,
5:15-6:15 PM. With Mary Ann Fantauzzi. 581-8025.
Swing, Maui Wowi Surf Shack, 441 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
Wed, 9 PM. 580-1433.
Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/21, 6 PM: United States Military
Academy Band in concert. Rain location is the Saratoga Springs
High School. Free. 587-3241.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park,
Saratoga Springs. 8/18, 8:15 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra will
perform works by Stravinsky (Suite from Pulcinella),
Rimsky-Korsakov, Respighi and, with pianist Martha Argerich,
Schumann (Piano Concerto). 8/19, 8:15 PM: Yo-Yo Ma
joins the Philadelphia Orchestra for the annual gala, with
works by Ravel, Haydn and Strauss. 8/20, 8:15 PM: The Grand
Finale, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and guests performing
Ranjbaran’s Violin Concerto and Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga
Springs. 8/21, 2:15 PM: Saratoga Chamber Music Festival presents
the Fine Arts Quartet, performing works by Haydn, Ranjbaran
and Mendelssohn. $34.50-$29.50. 587-3330.
MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132.
Saratoga Inside Out. Through 9/3.
Café, 392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 583-1106. Works
by Pierre Bellocq. Through 9/5.
Congress Park, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Also,
Public Art Works, featuring works by Lee Nicholls,
Bill McTygue, and Michael L. Noonan. Through 12/31.
Books, 441 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 583-0025. Horses
on Broadway, paintings by Sharon Crute. Through 8/31.
Gallery 100, 445 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818.
Photographs by Phillip V. Caruso. Through 8/28.
Trading Co., 68 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 584-5772.
Truth Be Told, paintings by Chris Murray. Through 9/2.
Museum of Dance, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225.
Dancing Rebels, an exhibit highlighting the work of
the New Dance Group. Through May 2006.
Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga
Springs. 584-0400. Peb: The Art of Humor, featuring
cartoons and caricatures by Pierre Bellocq, celebrating horses
and racing personalities. Through 12/31. Also, 11th Annual
Horsing Around with the Arts student art show. Through 9/30.
Also, Golden Memories: Fifty Years of the Racing Hall of
Fame; also, paintings from the Charles H. Thierot Collection.
New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga
Springs. 581-5100. New York’s Fighting Zouaves. Through
Oct. 2005. Also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during
the Revolutionary War. Ongoing. Also, To the Standard:
Civil War Cavalry Flags from the NYS Battle Flag Collection.
Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga
Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. East
of Detroit, and New York Racing exhibit. Ongoing.
County Arts Council, Member Exhibition Hall, 320 Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Works by Paul Arnold. Through
Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
584-7860. Works by Monique Lemaire. Through 8/31.
Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241.
Works by Robert Ewell. Through 8/29.
Skidmore College, Schick Art Gallery, 815 N. Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Anything But Realism, group
exhibition. Through 9/22.
Street Gallery, 110 Spring St., Saratoga Springs. 587-6433.
Pathways, paintings by Joanne K. Murphy. Through 8/31.
Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N.
Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Weapons of Mass Dissemination:
The Propaganda of War. Through 10/30. Also, Opener
9: Michael Oatman. Through 9/5.
LECTURES & LEARNING
Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga
Springs. 8/24, 11 AM: A panel discussion with people who work
behind the scenes in important jobs at the racetrack. 584-0400.
Farmers Market, Dave Meager Community Center, Route 9,
Malta. Tuesdays, 11 AM-2 PM.
Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue,
Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.
Mountain Bike Association. Informal rides Tuesdays 6 PM,
Sundays 10 AM. 788-0847, www.saratogamtb.org.
Polo Association, Bloomfield and Denton roads, Saratoga
Springs. Matches every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday through
9/4, weather permitting. Gates open 4 PM, start time 5:30
PM. Post-game dinners 7:10 PM. $8 per person or $20 per carload.
Under 16 free. Season passes available. 584-8108, www.saratogapolo.com.
Storm Cat colt was purchased in auction for $3.1-million to
top the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga two night sale of thoroughbred
race horses in Saratoga last Wednesday night.