Bard Music Festival Returns August 4 With VAUGHAN WILLIAMS AND HIS WORLD

A centerpiece of the 20th Bard SummerScape festival, the Bard Music Festival also represents a highlight of the Fisher Center's landmark 20th anniversary season.

By: Jul. 24, 2023
Bard Music Festival Returns August 4 With VAUGHAN WILLIAMS AND HIS WORLD
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On Friday August 4, the Bard Music Festival returns with an intensive two-week exploration of “Vaughan Williams and His World.”

In eleven themed concert programs, the festival's 33rd season examines the great but frequently misunderstood English and Welsh composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of the 20th century's preeminent symphonists, contextualizing the composer among his fellow Victorians, Edwardians, and Moderns (Weekend One: Aug 4–6), and exploring his role in creating what may be considered A New Elizabethan Age? (Weekend Two: Aug 10–13). Complemented by two special events in nearby Rhinebeck, these concerts take place in the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard College's idyllic Hudson River campus. New Yorkers can take round-trip bus transportation to the final concert (see details below), and home audiences around the world can enjoy livestreams of Programs 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, and 11 on Upstreaming, the Fisher Center's virtual stage. A centerpiece of the 20th Bard Summerscape festival, the Bard Music Festival also represents a highlight of the Fisher Center's landmark 20th anniversary season, “Breaking Ground.”
“One of the most remarkable figures in the worlds of arts and culture” (NYC Arts, THIRTEEN/WNET), festival founder and co-artistic director Leon Botstein is music director of both the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and Bard's unique graduate training orchestra, The Orchestra Now (TŌN). For his first, livestreamed ASO appearance, Botstein leads two late Vaughan Williams symphonies – the darkly atmospheric Seventh (“Sinfonia Antartica”), a work scored for vast forces, and the award-winning, vividly orchestrated Eighth – as well as music by Jean Sibelius, William Walton and Vaughan Williams's woefully underrated student Elizabeth Maconchy [Program 9]. Botstein and the ASO also give a livestreamed performance of Vaughan Williams's Shakespearean comic opera, Sir John in Love, starring bass-baritone Craig Colclough as Falstaff alongside sopranos Brandie Sutton and Ann Toomey, mezzo-sopranos Lucy Schaufer and Sarah Saturnino, tenor Joshua Blue, and the Bard Festival Chorale in a rare, semi-staged production by Alison Moritz [Program 11]. The director explains: “In creating a concert staging of this bucolic comedy for Bard, I wanted to lean into the festival atmosphere of Bard in the summertime. … The gentle humor in this lyric comedy of manners comes from misunderstandings between the sexes and between classes, and I wanted to make sure that these themes would be immediately enjoyable by today's audiences. So, instead of setting the story in Elizabethan Windsor, we have created a summer holiday inspired by English humorist P.G. Wodehouse's classic Blandings countryside – filled with tea and crumpets, lawn games, cocktail parties, savvy servants, and plus-fours.” Botstein conducts TŌN in performances of Vaughan Williams's famed Tallis Fantasia and neo-classical D-minor Violin Concerto, featuring Naumburg Competition winner Grace Park [Program 1], as well as three of the composer's mature orchestral works: Job, A Masque for Dancing; the seldom-programmed, blisteringly uncompromisingly Fourth Symphony; and the C-major Piano Concerto, in a two-piano arrangement showcasing festival favorites Danny Driver, a Gramophone Award nominee, and Piers Lane, for whom “no praise could be high enough” (Gramophone) [Program 3]. Led by James Bagwell and Zachary Schwartzman, TŌN also gives livestreamed accounts of music by British composers Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Peter Warlock, and Grace Williams, together with Vaughan Williams's Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus” for harp and strings; The Lark Ascending, featuring violinist Bella Hristova, “a player of impressive power and control” (Washington Post); and the seldom programmed Flos Campi, the composer's sensuous, wordless setting of erotic verses from the biblical Song of Solomon, with Tokyo Competition winner Luosha Fang as viola soloist [Program 7].
The festival's chamber highlights include accounts of both Vaughan Williams's Second String Quartet [Program 8], and Samuel Barber's Serenade [Program 10] by the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet. The Horszowski Trio – “the most compelling American group to come on the scene” (New Yorker) – performs “Per aspera ad astra,” the tightly constructed Third Piano Trio by Vaughan Williams's teacher Charles Villiers Stanford, and the Cleveland Quartet Award-winning Ariel Quartet joins Grammy-nominated clarinetist Todd Palmer for the Clarinet Quintet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whom Stanford considered his most gifted pupil [Program 2]. With Danny Driver, members of the group also undertake Herbert Howells's Piano Quartet, one of the great masterworks of British impressionism [Program 5]. “One of New York's finest organists” (New York Times), Renée Anne Louprette plays the newly renovated organ of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in nearby Rhinebeck, where the festival makes its first foray off-campus with two special programs of “Music for School, Parish, and Home.”
As in previous seasons, all choral works showcase the Bard Festival Chorale and James Bagwell. Hailed as “one of the high points of every Bard Festival” (New York Arts), this season's annual choral program also represents the second special event at Rhinebeck's Episcopal Church of the Messiah. Surveying 350 years of English choral music in the ecclesiastical environment for which it was written, “The Anglican Choral Tradition” features composers ranging from William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons to Howells and Benjamin Britten, interspersed with organ works by Vaughan Williams and Ethel Smyth.
Soprano Katherine Lerner Lee, mezzo-soprano Hailey McAvoy, tenor Maximillian Jansen, and baritone Tyler Duncan trace the evolution of a uniquely British sound in “Heirs and Rebels: British Art Songs,” a concert with commentary by Scholar-in-Residence Byron Adams [Program 4]. Similarly, soprano Ann Toomey, mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce, tenor Martin Luther Clark, and baritone Theo Hoffman offer an entertaining and wholly original tour through half a century of British light music, in a concert with commentary by award-winning author Christina Baade [Program 6]. Other vocal highlights include a rendition of Vaughan Williams's beloved song cycle On Wenlock Edge by three-time Grammy-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan, “one of the world's most remarkable singers” (Boston Globe) [Program 5].

Supplementary events and companion book

Besides the eleven concert programs and two special events, there will be two free panel discussions – “Composer and Nation” and “The Artist in Time of War” – and a series of informative pre-concert talks, all free to ticket-holders, by scholars including Christina Bashford, Michael Beckerman, Daniel M. Grimley, Imani Danielle Mosley, Philip Rupprecht, Eric Saylor, Tiffany Stern, and Richard Wilson. SummerScape and ASO also present the first major American production of Saint-Saëns's Henri VIII, a French grand opera set in Tudor England (July 21–30). Edited by Bard's 2023 Scholars-in-Residence Byron Adams, a contributor to both the Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams and Vaughan Williams Studies, and Daniel M. Grimley, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford, the companion book Vaughan Williams and His World is published by the University of Chicago Press.

Round-trip bus transportation from New York City

Chartered coach transportation from New York City is available for the festival finale, Program Eleven (Aug 13). This may be ordered online or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900, and the meeting point for pick-up and drop-off is at Lincoln Center on Amsterdam Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets. More information is available here.

SummerScape tickets

Tickets for mainstage events start at $25 and livestreams are $20. For complete information regarding tickets, series discounts, and more, visit or call Bard's box office at (845) 758-7900.


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