Neiman excited about first season as MMF director

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@manchesterjournal.com

MANCHESTER — Adam Neiman has been getting ready to be artistic director of the Manchester Music Festival for a long time — well before October, when he was appointed to the post. His preparation even predates his 30 years of professional experience as a pianist.

It goes back to childhood daydreams about what music he'd program for orchestra concerts if he were in charge.

"When I was a little kid I used to sit and make programs," he said in an interview with the Journal last Friday. "I don't know why I did this but I literally would just create programs not even stuff that I would play. I always found it fascinating to assemble moving parts."

Now, Neiman has the opportunity to bring together his friends from his performing career and program a seven-week summer music festival and guide a young artists' school. He succeeded Ariel Rudiakov and his wife Joana Genova, who had served as artistic directors since 2000 and left in September under terms that neither side disclosed.

"This is kind of the fulfillment of a dream in a way. I thought in my heart of hearts, though I kept it shrouded, that one day I would love to do something like this," Neiman said.

The schedule for 2017 can be found at the newly-revamped MMF website.

It's been a whirlwind so far, but Neiman says the support of MMF's board and support staff has made success possible and "upped the ante in every way," including a completely revamped website and new brochures.

"We have very supportive and helpful people running this, as well as an enormous support team who made my learning curve a lot less steep," he said.

Neiman's enthusiasm is clear when he talks about the music he has chosen for MMF's 43rd season and the students who will be part of the six-week Young Artists Program.

Setting the program and securing the performers for the season was Neiman's first task, and he feels like he achieved what he set out to accomplish.

"These are absolute world-class artists who will be coming into town playing top-echelon music," Neiman said. They'll be playing a set of programs "that will be diverse, electric, electrifying, interesting and at the same time edifying for a very staunch classical crowd".

Like other genres of music, classical music can be prone to formulaic programming, in which orchestras and festivals present tried-and-true favorites to assure success at the gate.

Neiman's response to that challenge is to present familiar favorites, contemporary pieces and lesser-known works that have fallen out of circulation and deserve to be heard again.

For example, MMF's opening program on Thursday, July 6 will lead off with the Beethoven string trio in C minor Mozart's piano quartet in E-flat major — both acknowledged masterworks.

But the program will be anchored by a piece that the audience may not know — Richard Strauss' Piano Quartet in C minor.

"This is a masterpiece. And for whatever reason it's extremely rarely programmed," Neiman said of the quartet. "People are going to literally jump out of their seats. It's so good. They're going to be like 'Why have I not heard this before?'"

Neiman has also programmed contemporary music. The third concert, on July 20, will feature a piano trio by New York composer Lowell Liebermann, who Neiman describes as "accessible and edgy."

When it comes to introducing contemporary work, Neiman has a card up his sleeve — his experience as an assistant piano professor at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He'll give 30-minute talks before each main concert, explaining not only what the composers were setting out to do, but the personal, social and cultural factors that influenced the music.

Neiman, who has been performing at MMF since 2005 came into the role relatively late for planning a summer festival, and was concerned that the artists he'd want to bring to Manchester would already have summer plans for 2017.

"I was lucky. Because they knew me and we're friends, they said 'we'll make it work," he said.

For example, the opening program will feature Stefan Milenkovich, who performed at MMF last year, along with cellist Bion Tsang and violist Brian Chen.

For MMF's orchestral concert on Aug. 3, pianist Alexander Kobrin, a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist, and acclaimed conductor Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the son of the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, will perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (the "Eroica") and Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2.

"[Solzhenitsyn] has roots here in southern Vermont and he was delighted to be able to combine professional and personal," Neiman said.

As for the Young Artists Program, Neiman is hoping to mold it into a "high-intensity semi-professional training ground."

"What I think is going to be exciting for audiences when they go to young artists on Sunday afternoons and main programs on Thursday evenings they will see there's a gap [between the two] that is not that far," he said. "I can throw amazing repertoire at these kids and they can handle it."

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.

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