JOHN SCHAEFER: New York is a great city to live in, but let's face it, it's also a great city to get away from. Good thing is, it's easy to get away from New York. Just an hour north of Manhattan, for example, there's a little piece of Italy where you can sit in the garden and listen to the birds.
Or you can walk over to the Venetian theater and hear some humans making music instead.
The place is Caramoor, an Italian style estate in Katonah, New York, where summer concerts have happened since 1946. And it is just one of the many concert venues that surround New York, and which we'll take you to in the next hour on New York in Concert. I'm John Schaefer and yes, fellow New Yorkers. For once, we're going to be the bridge and tunnel crowd.
We like to say that New York in Concert is your guide to New York's classical music scene. But the fact is there's great music in New Jersey, and out on Long island, and upstate in places like Katonah. And they're all just a bridge or a tunnel away. So load up your EZ Pass and let's get out of town for a bit.
We'll start in Newark with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. They've been playing concerts since 1922. They really are New Jersey’s orchestra, performing in venues around the Garden State. But one of their main venues is the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or NJPAC for short. It's a big hall with a big sound, and when it opened back in 1997, I had a chance to speak to the architects and they said the inspiration for the hall was imagining what it would sound like inside the body of a cello.
So, the hall is wrapped in wood. It has a very warm sound. And this recording from 2018 features the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Xian Zhang performing two of Respighi's most famous pieces: the Pines of Rome, which we'll hear some of later, and the Fountains of Rome, which we'll hear a bit of now.
Fountains of Rome - Respighi
III. Trevi Fountain at Noon
IV. Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Xian Zhang, conductor
JOHN SCHAEFER: Two of Ottorino Respighi's Fountains of Rome. We heard the Trevi Fountain at Noon, and that led directly into the Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset. These were recorded live at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark in January of 2018 with Xian Zhang leading the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. We'll get a chance to hear from her a bit later on in the program. And we'll also hear her conducting the orchestra in some of Respighi's Pines of Rome. That's later on this Bridge and Tunnel edition of New York in Concert, bringing a little bit of Italy to our tour of the city suburbs.
Up in Westchester County, that Italian influence is clearly visible in the estate, known as Caramoor, named for its original owner, Caroline Moore Hoyt. But Caramoor was purchased by Walter and Lucie Rosen, in part because the Cedar trees on the property reminded them of the Cypress trees of Italy. And they turned it into a center for music and art after their son died in World War II.
So summer concerts have happened there since 1946. The main performance space at Caramoor is a later edition, but it's in keeping with the Italian theme. It's actually called the Venetian Theatre, and this recording we're going to hear was made in June of 2018. The piece is Cypresses by Antonín Dvořák, so the same trees that got the Rosen's to buy the estate in the first place also seemed to have inspired this music. It was originally a set of songs, but then arranged into this more frequently heard version for string quartet. And we'll hear the Verona Quartet playing two of the Cypresses by Dvořák, live at Caramoor.
Cypresses String Quartet - Dvořák
Jonathan Ong, violin
Dorothy Ro, violin
Abigail Rojansky, viola
Jonathan Dormand, cello
JOHN SCHAEFER: The Verona quartet recorded live at Caramoor in Westchester County. That was in June of 2018. They just played two of the Cypresses a series of works by Dvořák. Caramoor is in the town of Katonah. It's been a regular source of great summertime performances since the forties.
This is New York in Concert, we're looking outside the five boroughs for the moment. If you live in Brooklyn or Queens, you don't need to take a bridge or a tunnel to get to our next venue. Out on Long Island's east end you'll find another summer event: the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. It started in 1984 and most of the concerts there take place in the Bridgehampton Presbyterian church, which was built in 1842. And that's where this performance took place. Flutist Marya Martin founded the festival back in ‘84 and every year a rotating cast joins her.
This is the 2018 version of the Musicians of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival playing the final movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in an arrangement for Flute String Quartet and Piano
Symphony No. 104 - Haydn (arr. Salomon)
Marya Martin, flute
Paul Huang and Kristin Lee, violins
Tien Hsing Cindy Wu, viola
Jakob Koranyi, cello
Orion Weiss, piano
JOHN SCHAEFER: Musicians of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival playing the finale movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 arranged for Flute String Quartet and Piano. The founder of the Bridgehampton Festival, Marya Martin played flute on that recording!
We also heard: Paul Huang and Kristin Lee, violins, Tien Hsing Cindy Wu, viola, Jakob Korany, cello and Orion Weiss piano.
I realize there are some residents of Manhattan for whom bridge and tunnel includes Brooklyn. And yes, you do need to take a bridge or a tunnel to get there. So let's get there because every Wednesday there is a free concert of sorts in Brooklyn Heights. Since May of 2020, Peter Kendall Clark, who sings opera and musical theater, has serenaded his neighbors who were stuck in their homes during the lockdown. He calls his concert series Songs from the Ledge, and the set list is a mix of showtunes and classical songs. And he's performed over 160 times, sometimes with other friends, from the music world.
VOX POP #1: "I've been at almost all of them."
VOX POP #2: "I walked by it on the way home from work. It's enjoyable, I like it."
VOX POP #3: "And it has been such a delight. Tell them how you like the opera."
VOX POP #4: "I like it so much."
VOX POP #5: "It's bringing opera and Broadway standards to the streets."
VOX POP #6 (RITA): "When Peter was singing, you saw people from all over just showed up. And it's made us all neighbors and friends. I don't want the pandemic to continue one more minute but I do want Peter to continue to sing. [Laughs]”
PETER KENDALL CLARK: The outdoor acoustics in Brooklyn Heights are kind of amazing wherever you go. You really get the ambiance of a theater because the streets aren't that wide. And if there isn't a lot of traffic, you just hear the voice echoing.
My name is Peter Kendall Clark, also known as The Brownstone Baritone.
I didn't really come up with the idea. I was more kind of coerced into just singing in front of the building. And I have a neighbor, a very dear friend, her name is Marcy Chapin, and so this was during the quarantine. She and some friends were coming out on the street for the 7:00 applause for the front line health care workers, and she kept saying to me, “Peter you got to come sing.” And I kept thinking, “Marcy, it’s 7:00. That's Jeopardy,” Singing on the street is the last thing I would ever do at 7:00.
She kept asking, and it was May 1st, and I said, “Okay, Marcy, I'm going to come sing.” So I brought down my Bluetooth speaker for just a couple people on the street. And I just started singing, “[French].” Started singing the Toreador Song from Carmen. And the next thing you know, people were clapping along and my neighbor across the street actually caught this on video,
It was a really scary time and people were staying indoors and it was very quiet out. So to suddenly have a loud opera singer in the street certainly got people's attention.
And people started to open up their windows and come down the street and they were like, You got to keep doing this. So the next time I came out on a Saturday night, and I'm telling you they were, you know, maybe a hundred people there. And it just sprang to life. It was not planned at all. But once I saw how much people had missed hearing live music and what their response was, I just decided to keep doing it. And so for 100 nights in a row, we did this concert...
Previously, you would ask yourself, Well, why am I singing? Why am I -- Why am I doing this job? And you would say, Well, because I want to have a career. Because I want to get another job, I want to be working in show business. And when show business paused, and I hope it's a pause, the reason to sing became something else. It's like, I'm singing because I love it.
And many of my neighbors are elderly, and they were scared and scared to be out, so if I could provide a half an hour, 45 minutes every day for people who are going to gather and socialize and hear some music, it was something really, really useful.
Tonight will be the 161st performance in Brooklyn. My three friends that are joining me are going to bring their best material.
The very first song I sang when I came out of the sidewalk was Votre Toast, the Toreador Song from Carmen, and people love that, and love to to sing along and clap along. So that's definitely on the program tonight…
And we're going to end with a big finale of… It’s the Judy Garland / Barbra Streisand mashup of Happy Days Are Here Again and Get Happy.
When you start to hear the lyrics in the context of the year we've gone through, it becomes almost painfully poignant. All these lyrics you've heard your whole life, suddenly they have this meaning that you didn't foresee. You didn't foresee being so completely.... choked up by Happy Days Are Here Again.
JOHN SCHAEFER: You can follow Peter Kendall Clark's concert series at songsfromtheledge.com. Still to come. We'll take you to a parking lot in New Jersey. I realize that doesn't sound very promising, but the parking deck atop the Morris Museum became a pretty remarkable place to experience live chamber music during the pandemic last summer. That's just part of what's still to come. I'm John Schaefer, you're listening to New York in Concert, your guide to New York's classical music scene.
JOHN SCHAEFER: Our next stop is the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. It's an interesting place. It houses the Murtogh D. Guinness collection. A large collection, one of the world's largest, of mechanical musical instruments, some of which go back a couple of centuries. But during the pandemic, they became known as a rare place where you could actually go see a live concert because the museum has an elevated parking deck. And so what they started to do during the Summer of 2020, as the lockdown was beginning to ease a little bit, was to mark out spaces, pods, on that parking deck for patrons to bring chairs or maybe even a picnic, and to enjoy music outdoors at sunset in a safe, socially distanced way. They did a whole series of string quartet performances. And in October of 2020, they welcomed members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who played the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Here is the first movement recorded at, or more precisely atop the Morris Museum in New Jersey in October of 2020.
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor - Brahms
Members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Abigail Fayette, violin
Laura Frautschi, violin
Dov Scheindlin, viola
Jonathan Spitz, cello
Alan Kay, clarinet
JOHN SCHAEFER: The first movement of the Brahms Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor played by members of the Orpheus chamber orchestra. Alan Kay played the clarinet. The violinists were Abigail Fayette and Laura Frautschi, Dov Scheindlin played the viola, Jonathan Spitz, the cellist. And you'll hear Jonathan again when we return to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a few minutes. But that, recorded live at the Morris museum in October of 2020 in a series of elevated parking deck concerts that offered viewers a spectacular view of the sunset over New Jersey.
Up next on New York in Concert, we'll stay in the Garden State. Montclair State University is home to PEAK Performances, a series of arts and cultural events that began in 2005. And a lot of what they present is multidisciplinary. So it's dance and music or theater and film. This piece that we're about to hear was originally written for the Martha Graham Dance Company and ICE, the International Contemporary Ensemble. The composer is Augusta Read Thomas and the piece is called The Auditions. We'll hear an excerpt from The Auditions recorded live at Montclair State University in November of 2019 and ICE, the International Contemporary Ensemble, is conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni.
The Auditions - Augusta Read Thomas
International Contemporary Ensemble
Vimbayi Kaziboni, Music Director and Conductor
JOHN SCHAEFER: Part six of The Auditions. Music by Augusta Read Thomas. She wrote that for the Martha Graham Dance Company and the international contemporary Ensemble, which you just heard conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni . And that recording, that was live at PEAK performances, the performance series at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and that performance took place in November of 2019.
This time around on New York in Concert, we're giving you a little tour of classical music venues outside the five boroughs. And we'll conclude the tour the same way we began it with a performance by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Xian Zhang.
Now the performance we'll hear is once again, from NJ PAC, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, but that's not the only place that the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra plays. They actually perform in numerous venues around the state.
XIAN ZHANG: Well, New Jersey is a very diverse state. Almost every town we perform in is very different, has a different makeup. And the diversity and varieties of things I think is key here in New Jersey. This state really has got every, every ethnic group everything in it. That’s one of the opportunities we have, to embrace as much as we can. And hopefully, to connect with a broader audience.
Xian Zhang has been the music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra since 2016, but her history with the ensemble goes back to 2010, when she led the orchestra in Respighi's piece, the Pines of Rome.
XIAN ZHANG: So it’s one of my favorite pieces, I actually did it twice with New Jersey Symphony. And we, I remember we did it also in the Alexander Hall in Princeton. That’s a tiny little hall. I remember the audience were just so (laughing) so blown away. It was way too loud. It was physically very overpowering for the audience. But that’s what you want. You want people to remember that performance. You don’t want them to go home and say, “I heard this,” and next day you forget. Pines of Rome is never a piece like that. You hear it once, you’re going to hear it for a very long time.
JOHN SCHAEFER: Let's hear the last of the Pines of Rome. It's the grand finale to the piece by Ottorino Respighi . Here is Xian Zhang conducting the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, with Pines of the Appian Way. Recorded live at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in January of 2018.
Pines of Rome - Respighi
IV. Pines of the Appian Way
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Xian Zhang, conductor
JOHN SCHAEFER: The Pines of the Appian Way, music by Respighi. It's the final section of his piece the Pines of Rome, Xian Zhang conducting the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at NJ PAC, the Performing Arts Center in Newark. We recorded that in January of 2018.
New York in Concert is your guide to New York's classical music scene. It's a production of WQXR in New York. Our team includes Lauren Purcell-Joiner, Eileen Delahunty, Sam Kim, Max Fine, Matt Boynton, Matt Abramovitz, and me, John Schaefer. You can find a playlist for the show, listen again on demand, or share with a friend at wqxr.org.
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