Woodstock Chamber Orchestra conductor essay continues

Guillaume Stevens

William Stevens’ musical ambitions and accomplishments extend far beyond being an orchestral teacher for the Arlington Central School District. Stevens is principal clarinet with two regional orchestras, the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Newburgh Symphony. His background as a conductor includes leading the Hudson Valley Saxophone Ensemble (I’d love to hear this band!) And numerous musical productions with the Admiral Players. On January 14, Stevens will demonstrate his qualifications to conduct a small symphony orchestra as the last candidate for musical conductor of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. Stevens is the third of four candidates for the post left vacant by Nathan Madsen. So far we’ve heard from Gwen Gould and Jonathan Handman; after Stevens, in March, the last candidate will be Marissa Kaczynski. The winner will be announced during his first gig as Music Director in May.

Stevens selected a fairly mainstream program for his essay, but with some interesting aspects. Mozart is always an interesting challenge for an orchestra and a conductor. Stevens will conduct the overture to Mozart’s “Der Schauspieldirektor” (“The Impresario”), K 486, a short and delightful comic opera. To demonstrate his ability to coordinate with a soloist, he chose Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No.1, a piece written for the composer’s father, who was a great horn player and who did not always approve of the music of his son. Stevens’ soloist is Ryan Walther, Principal Horn of the Greater Newburgh Symphony. The remainder of the program consists of two works by Mendelssohn, the Overture to the “Hebrides” and the Symphony No. 4, “Italian”. They show the contrasting facets of this composer, the darkly dramatic overture and the light and light symphony. The show takes place on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. at the Woodstock Playhouse. Tickets are usually available at the door, but you can check and get more information on www.wco-online.com.

My main concert experience in December was “Peace in the Midst of War” by Ars Choralis, commemorating the Christmas truce of World War I when soldiers on both sides spontaneously decided to stop the fighting and embrace their hearts. enemies at Christmas. (Senior officers on both sides ensured that this did not happen again during the last years of the war.) As usual with the complex and ambitious programs that Barbara Pickhardt puts in place for her ensemble, there was a quite a fair amount of worthwhile music (including Vaughan Williams), all of the “Trois B’s” (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms), Lauridsen and a quintessentially charming piece by Pickhardt herself. There were also some musical anecdotes but I can live with them, especially in performances as fine as those of Ars Choralis (and I do not want to forget the small expert instrumental ensemble). The only real issue I had with this concert, which I heard on December 4th at the Overlook Methodist Church, was the amount of storytelling. Yes, it was a unique, memorable and moving event that deserves to be remembered, and the spoken passages were generally well chosen. But I felt they lasted far too long. About half would have been enough. However, musically speaking, it was a beautiful event. Ars Choralis will be back with us in March; Check www.arschoralis.org.

Saugerties Pro Musica returns to Saugerties United Methodist Church at the corner of Washington Avenue and Post Street in Saugerties on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m., with another light but fun program from the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers. Heavier dishes await you on February 19 with a recital by the excellent pianist Yalin Chi. See www.saugertiespromusica.org for more details.

The Met Live in HD series returns to Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on Saturday January 7th as Placido Domingo plays another baritone role in Verdi’s “Nabucco” (1pm, my pre-broadcast speech at 12.30pm). Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” will be at UPAC in Kingston on January 21st. And it’s already time to start planning Saariaho’s magnificent “L’Amour de Loin”, a contemporary opera you are almost certain to love, at Bardavon on February 11th. (This is a delayed release; most countries around the world saw it in the last month.) Details on these events and all Bardavon / UPAC events are available at www.bardavon.org.

These are quiet days in college, with nothing but sporting events on SUNY New Paltz and Bard’s calendars. So catch up and get ready for the next February Floods.

About Roy B. Westling

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