Music in the air

2018 season seeks to break new ground

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MANCHESTER — The Green Mountains will come alive with magnificent melodies for five weeks this summer, as the world-class Manchester Music Festival sweeps into the Northshire for its 44th season.

The classical music soiree will bring a number of virtuoso veterans to Manchester, including violinist Stefan Milenkovich, pianist Vassily Primakov and violist Ara Gregorian. Locals and visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy performances by these festival favorites throughout the summer, as well as MMF newcomers, such as two-time Grammy Award nominee and Avery Fisher Career Grant violinist Jennifer Frautschi, Maestro Michael Stern and the Escher String Quartet.

"This year really represents an amalgamation of the greatest musicians in the world, coming to fill the air with music for five glorious weeks," said Artistic Director Adam Neiman, who assumed leadership of the MMF in 2016. "The music will be sumptuous, lush, powerful, deeply moving, and exhilarating."

While the festival has a long history in Manchester, Neiman and others have worked fastidiously to make classical music accessible to all through free pre-concert lectures and relatively low ticket prices, ringing in between $33 and $45 per performance. Simultaneously, however, festival organizers hope to introduce a new echelon of visitors to summer in Southern Vermont.

"If only the skiers could know just how vibrant the arts scene here is in the summer; Manchester really comes alive," said MMF Board President Peggie Telscher. "We hope to attract more people to the area, and help them realize all of the great things happening year-round. Summers here are short, but intensely beautiful."

The festival will kick off on July 12 with works by composers including Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Neiman himself, who will appear on stage with Milenkovich, cellist Amit Peled, and clarinetist Vadim Lando. Continuing until Aug. 11 the MMF will feature five Thursday night concerts, two Saturday night concerts, four Sunday afternoon Young Artists concerts, an afternoon Family Concert, and an operatic young artists recital on Stratton Mountain alongside free pre-concert programs.

"During the pre-concert talks I speak about the pieces to be performed that evening to explain why they've been programmed together, and provide some socio-historical background," Neiman explained. "I think that provides a more enriching experience, and allows the public to enter into the music more deeply."

"Adam is able to explain what is most interesting about a piece of music so succinctly," Telscher added. "He does it in a way that allows someone with no understanding of music to grasp it, while also making it captivating for those with a more advanced understanding."

Telscher notes that there's something for everybody at the Manchester Music Festival, though the two Saturday night concerts — taking place on July 28 and Aug. 11 — are likely to steal the show. The first, "A Night at the Opera" on July 28, will welcome four singers from the Metropolitan Opera alongside famed pianist and coach Warren Jones.

"We're very lucky to have Warren Jones joining us, as well as four incredible opera singers," Neiman said. "Jones is really the gold-standard for collaborative pianists in the world today."

The festival will conclude with the historically popular "Orchestral Evening," led by Stern, conductor of the Kansas City Symphony for the past 20 years. Grammy nominated Cellist Bion Tsang will be the featured soloist for the evening, performing Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33.

"Maestro Michael Stern's reach in the orchestral world is very deep, and he commands a great power and authority from the stage," Nieman said. "Tsang performed here last year as a featured guest artist, and is returning this year as a concerto soloist. This is one performance in particular that we're really excited about."

Perhaps the most exciting performances for Neiman, however, will be those from the MMF's Young Artist Program, running simultaneously alongside the festival. Throughout the five weeks more than a dozen up-and-coming performers, awarded summer scholarships to study in Manchester, will take part in master classes and concerts right here in the Northshire.

"In a way you could say that we run two festivals at the same time," Nieman said. "Most of these artists attend major conservatories all over the world, and the concerts will in every way rival our professional performances. We really have a world-class level of artistry coming to the stage."

"In the master classes the audience is able to see these incredible teachers working with very talented students, and you can really watch their progress," Telscher added. "It's a very noticeable improvement, and something that you don't get to see very often."

Tickets for these Young Artist Performances will cost only $10, Nieman notes, taking place at the Southern Vermont Art Center's Arkell Pavilion at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Thursday and Saturday evening performances will also take place at SVAC, with curtain times at 7:30 p.m. Pre-concerts programs will include rectial portions at 4:30 p.m. and talks beginning at 6:45 p.m, both free-of-charge and open to the public.

"I feel privileged to be a part of this magnificent organization," Neiman said. "I predict that the 2018 season will be remembered as a true baner year for MMF."

"These musicians come to our own backyard from some of the finest conservatories and concert stages in the world to share the richness of their art," Telscher added. "There's something about these small, intimate experiences that really allows you to experience the emotional intensity of the music. It can touch your soul in a way that's so immediate, and so incredibly beautiful."

For more information, and a full festival schedule, visit http://www.mmfvt.org/.

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