Typical Paltzonian reaction, I guess. When you get used to spotting somebody at the grocery or the post office, after a while you stop thinking of him or her as very famous. (Woodstockers must have a real problem with this.) The story of how the Russian émigré pianist ended up in New Paltz in 1987, with an assist from the SUNY college president at the time, is well-known around town; but I don’t think that even those of us who love the place the most ever really understood why Feltsman decided to stay, when he could have received a royal welcome, a more prestigious teaching post and a much bigger salary in almost any metropolitan cultural center in the US. We’re betting that a world-class concert pianist doesn’t risk mangling his fingers by jamming them in a rock crevice and hanging from them because he likes to climb on weekends, that’s certain.
Maybe it’s not so important why Feltsman set up shop here as the fact that he did. At his instigation, the teaching Institute and performance Festival jointly known as PianoSummer at New Paltz has become a focal point of the mid-Hudson’s summer cultural cornucopia, drawing keyboard prodigies from around the world to attend master classes and take part in the annual Jacob Flier International Piano Competition. It’s hard to believe that PianoSummer is already in its 16th year, but here it is, back again!
The season traditionally kicks off with a Faculty Gala spotlighting the talents of the distinguished instructors brought in specially to participate in PianoSummer: Robert Roux, Phillip Kawin, Alexander Korsantia, Susan Starr, Paul Ostrovsky and Robert Hamilton, as well as Feltsman himself. That concert takes place this Saturday evening, July 9 at 8 p.m. in the McKenna Theatre on the SUNY-New Paltz campus, and ticket prices range from $21 to $26. On the program will be selections by Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Scriabin and a fair bit of Liszt.
That other big summer classical music festival across the Hudson may be fixated on Sibelius this year, but PianoSummer at New Paltz is taking ample note of the fact that 2011 is the bicentennial of Liszt’s birth and celebrating accordingly. Lisztomania continues in the special recitals scheduled for July 16 and 23 that will highlight the celebrated talents of pianists Roberto Plano and Jon Nakamatsu. The Festival concludes with the popular Symphony Gala featuring the Hudson Valley Philharmonic on July 29 with Maestro Feltsman conducting.
The PianoSummer Institute’s schedule of high-quality lectures, master classes, student recitals and piano competition brings artistic excellence to the community throughout the month of July. Highlights of this year’s events include student recitals and master classes conducted by Alexander Korsantia, Jon Nakamatsu and Yefim Bronfman. In addition, two lectures will be offered: “Liszt and Religion,” presented by Robert Hamilton, and “How Much Was Added to Music before 1830?” by guest faculty member Anthony Newman (yes, that Anthony Newman: the guy Wynton Marsalis calls “the High Priest of Bach”). The latter takes place next Tuesday, July 12 at 2:30 p.m. in the Max and Nadia Shepard Recital Hall, located in the building known as College Hall on the east side of the Old Quad on the SUNY campus; admission is free!
The Jacob Flier Piano Competition conducts its first elimination round on Monday, July 18 at 3 p.m., also in Shepard Recital Hall and also free of charge. Its white-knuckle final round will be held in McKenna Theatre at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20; a $10 donation at the door is requested. All Institute events are open to the general public; you can even audit a master class. See www.newpaltz.edu/piano for the complete PianoSummer schedule or order tickets online. Or call the box office at (845) 257-3880 Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.