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Summer Sounds

In its 16th season, the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival continues to bring entertaining and challenging music to the SPAC season

By Shawn Stone

It’s around 9 PM and the heat has finally broken, making the humidity tolerable on this fine Saratoga evening. There’s no event tonight in the nearby main amphitheater at Saratoga Spa State Park, so it’s pleasingly quiet outside. In the soft darkness, people are milling about in front of the Spa Little Theater, munching biscotti, chatting, and drinking coffee and bottled water. And many of these people seem to be talking about the excellence of the evening’s performers, New York City-based ensemble the Claremont Trio.

The trio, who got together while they were students at Juilliard in 1999, are making their first appearance at the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival. Pianist Donna Kwong and sisters Julia (cello) and Emily (violin) Bruskin opened the concert with Beethoven’s second piano trio, bringing precision and a light touch to this early work by the well-loved German, and followed this with contemporary American composer Paul Schoenfield’s raucous Café Music.

If you’ve listened to any of the NPR classical radio shows over the last couple of decades, you’ve likely heard Café Music. It’s a very popular piece, probably because it’s full of classic 20th-century American popular sounds: jazz, blues, Broadway and ragtime. What the Claremont Trio brought to the piece that made it special, however, was a fierce virtuosity—they attacked the intricacies of the work with relish, and let the “fun” take care of itself. (Which it did.) The audience responded warmly, and, now, as they file back inside, people are clearly looking forward to the second half of the program, Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1in B-major.

As a traveling ensemble, the Claremont Trio are a rarity in the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival season (as are the Tokyo String Quartet, who will perform on Aug. 12). Most of the regular performances feature violinist and musical director Chantal Juillet, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and featured guests, who, usually, are also featured soloists with the Philadelphia Orchestra on the SPAC main stage. And a couple of concerts feature an official SPAC composer-in-residence. This week, for example, the Capuçon brothers—Gautier, cello, and Renaud, violin—will be featured with Juillet and pianist Emanuel Ax in an all-Brahms program on Aug. 5, and with Juillet and clarinetist Jose French-Ballester in a pair of works by Schubert and Stravinsky on Aug. 7.

In her introduction to this first concert of the season, Chantal Juillet greets the audience warmly—and vice versa. She has, she says, just arrived by car from Montreal shortly before show time: “I changed in the parking lot,” she explains, laughing.

She wasn’t deliberately tardy—though Juillet doesn’t go into the gory details, she makes it clear that she was extensively delayed by the tender mercies of homeland security, in the person of U.S. customs officers. The experience, she says, helped derail her efforts to come up with a good joke for the concert introduction.

Juillet welcomes back the many “familiar faces” she sees, as this 16th season of the festival begins—“We’re growing old together,” she smiles— and gets right to the point.

This year’s composer-in-residence is Polish-born Krzysztof Penderecki. This is, genuinely, a big deal: Penderecki is one of the most important and acclaimed living composers. And she wants to make sure the regulars, a traditional classical music audience that is probably, even at this late date, wary of 20th-century music, will come out and support Penderecki’s visit.

He didn’t even need much convincing to come to Saratoga. “Right away, he said yes,” she says, and adds that he is disarmingly not prepossessing, telling her that “I don’t want to tell you how to play my music.”

While Penderecki won’t, as is the usual custom, have a newly commissioned work for the Saratoga season—it just wasn’t logistically possible—he will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in his Symphony No. 2, and two of his works will be performed in the chamber music festival. The Quartet for Clarinet and Strings will be featured on Aug. 14, and the Sextet for Clarinet, Horn, String Trio and Piano will be performed in the season- ending concert on Aug. 19.

Juillet explains that she is “very honored to have somebody like him,” a towering figure of contemporary music, coming to Saratoga Springs.

Getting back to tonight’s concert, the Claremont Trio don’t disappoint in the second part of the show with the Brahms piano trio. The audience is again generous with the applause; half even manage to give the ladies a standing ovation.

As Juillet alluded in her introduction, it’s a very gray audience and finding faces under 40 is disturbingly difficult. (There are three—maybe four—not counting the performers themselves.) Maybe the future of classical music is, as some commentators have suggested, in the east, specifically China. Maybe Americans are giving up on this wonderful tradition. But it’s not done yet, and the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival is as musically vital as it has ever been.

Opening night headliners: the Claremont Trio.

SARATOGA CALENDAR

 

Comedy

Saratoga Comedy Club, the Inn at Saratoga, 231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/3-4, 9 PM. Alex House. $15, $44.95 dinner and show package. 792-5233.

 

Classical

Round Lake Auditorium, 2 Wesley Ave., Round Lake. 8/5, 8 PM; 8/6, 2 PM: A pipe organ recital featuring Cherie Wescott of Oklahoma City. $8-$5. 899-2130.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/2, 8 PM: Erich Kunzel conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in a pops program, Broadway Rocks. Music from Hair, Tommy, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia and more. 8/3, 8 PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra, with guests Renaud Capuçon (violin) and Gautier Capuçon (cello), in works by Prokofiev, Brahms and Rimsky-Korsakov. 8/4, 8 PM: The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform works by Weber, Stravinsky, Ravel, and, with pianist Emanuel Ax, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22. 8/8, 8 PM: Yo-Yo Ma joins the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform works by Sibelius, Shostakovich, Saint-Saëns and Debussy. $70-$18. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/5, 2:15 PM: Pianist Emanuel Ax, cellist Gautier Capuçon and violinists Renaud Capuçon and Chantal Juillet, with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, will perform an all-Brahms program. 8/7, 8 PM: Cellist Gautier Capuçon and violinists Renaud Capuçon and Chantal Juillet, with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, will perform works by Stravinsky and Schubert. $40, $35. 587-3330.

 

Museums & Galleries

Barking Frog Art Gallery, 90 Broad St., Schuylerville. 695-5243. The Moving Figure. Reception 8/4, 4-8 PM.

Gallery 100, 462 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818. Horse of a Different Color, works by Audrey Romano. Reception 8/4, 6-8 PM.

Gallery on the Hudson, 92 Broad St., Schuylerville, 695-6131. Early and recent paintings by New York City artist Tom Vincent. Also, works by Susan Reynolds and Joyce Vincent.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. On Browaday. Also, The Dawn of Modern Dance: Music, Myth and Movement, chronicling the lives of Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan; also, works by Frank Ohman. Also, Two Dancers, photography by Charles Bremer and poetry by Robert Bensen. Also, The Moving Figure.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. The Voss Family, Artists of American Sporting Life. Also, California Images: The Racing Photography of William Mochon; also, the Racing Art Collection of Charles H. Thieriot.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Worth a Thousand Muskets: Civil War Field Artillery; also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during the Revolutionary War; also, World War II: United for Victory; also, Fiery Trial and Sacrifice: New York and the First World War.

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. Also, Barn Finds.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Individual View, works by Ann Larsen, Jeffrey Braxton, and David R. White. Reception 8/4, 5-8 PM.

Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino, Congress Park, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Along the Winding River: A Natural and Human History of the Kayderosseras Creek.

Skidmore College, Schick Art Gallery, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Regis Brodie: A Retrospective.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Alumni Invitational 2. Also, West African Masquerade, photographs by Phyllis Galembo.

 

Farmers Markets

Malta/Saratoga 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.

 

Fairs & Festivals

First Friday, downtown Ballston Spa. 8/3, 6-9 PM. Various performances and art exhibits. 884-9913, 885-6302.

 

Sports/Outdoor

Siro’s Scramble, Saratoga State Park Golf Course, Saratoga Springs. 8/7, 1 PM: Registration and lunch begin at 11:30 PM for this annual golf event to raise funds for St. Peter’s ALS Regional Center. $300 per golfer, $1,200 per foursome.

 

Et Cetera

Ghost Walks Haunted History Tours of Saratoga Springs begins every Friday evening July-October and Saturday evenings at 7 PM in August and October. $10, $5. 584-4132, MasonWinfield.com.

Saratoga Spa State Park announces Mineral Springs Tours every Tuesday and Friday in August, 11 AM. $3, $5. Registration required. 584-2000 ext. 119. www.nysparks.com.

 

Saratoga Race Course

Open daily through Sept. 3, except Tuesdays

Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under 12 free; seats are $6 and $7, respectively

Parking $10 per car at the trackside and $5 across the street at the Oklahoma Training Track. General parking is free.

Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering on every race.

First Race Post Time is at 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug. 26, when it’s at 12:30 PM).

Major Stakes Races The Whitney Handicap (July 28); the Sword Dancer Invitational (Aug. 11); the Alabama Stakes (Aug. 18); the Travers Stakes (Aug. 25); the Woodward (Sept. 1).

Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

Jockey Calvin Borel, 40 years old, who won this year's Kentucky derby aboard Street Sense, with fiancée Lisa before riding Street Sense to victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. Earlier this year the Daily Race Form described Borel: "Calvin Borel never wanted anything more than to ride racehorses. Not play with the other kids. Not take up a sport. Not even go to school." Born and raised in southern Louisiana he is nicknamed by some as "Bo-Rail" for his stretch drives down the rail on the inside of other horses. He will ride Street Sense again in the Travers Stakes Aug. 25.


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