UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 2019 Penn’s Woods Music Festival (PWMF) kicks off Tuesday, June 11, with Music in the Gardens at The Arboretum at Penn State, featuring the Altoona Brass Collective, with the festival orchestra and chamber music concerts taking place in the School of Music’s new recital hall starting June 16. This year’s festival, running through June 29, is sponsored by Dotty Rigby.
This year, for the first time, the season will include opera and jazz, along with the classical music PWMF audiences know and love.
In keeping with the mission of the festival to inspire audiences both today and in the future, the festival advisory board suggested to the PWMF music director, Maestro Geraldo Edelstein, that they explore genres beyond orchestral and typical chamber music.
“The opera concert came about when Penn State Opera Director Ted Christopher was working on a new project and was looking for performance options,” said Edelstein. “The jazz component has been requested by our audience for a number of summers. We wanted something that we normally don’t hear in Central Pennsylvania. Bringing back an alum of the Penn State School of Music whose interests include Brazilian jazz seemed to be the right option.”
The first concert of the main season, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 16, will feature the premiere of a new opera, “LEAVINGS, or The Borderland.” The semi-staged new work is based on the life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, with words by Susan Russell, School of Theatre professor and the 2015 Penn State Laureate; and music by Alex Heppelmann. The afternoon’s repertoire also includes beloved arias from the collaborative work between Mozart and Da Ponte.
A highlight of the orchestral concert on June 22 is the great virtuosic violin concerto of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Penn State faculty member and Penn’s Woods Concertmaster James Lyon will thrill audiences with this extremely difficult concerto — so difficult that the virtuoso Leopold Auer to whom it was originally dedicated refused to play it.
Little compares to the opening call of the horn in Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto. This immediately identifying passage will be heard on June 29 as Penn State Distinguished Professor Lisa Bontrager and the festival orchestra present the most frequently performed horn concerto written in the 19th century.
The festival’s Wednesday night chamber music concerts, on June 16 and 26, will feature Tchaikovsky’s popular Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70, which is composed for six string players; a new score to the Laurel and Hardy silent film “With Love and Hisses,” which will be shown as the piece is performed; and music for two pianos that will debut the two new Hamburg Steinway D pianos purchased for the new recital hall.
Jazz will be featured in a special Friday night concert on June 28, with the Jeff Kunkel Quintet, which performs original music blending the traditions of bossa nova, samba, MPB (música popular Brasileira) and jazz. The intimate evening will feature some of the finest musicians from New York City, including Leala Cyr, vocals; Kevin Bene, woodwinds; and Penn State School of Music alumnus Jeff Kunkel on piano.
Edelstein is committed to introducing music that may not be familiar to most audience members.
“It is like a fine dinner party. You show up hoping to meet some interesting people, have some meaningful conversation, enjoy some delicious foods and leave feeling very glad you came,” said Edelstein. “We hope to inspire you, to engage you and to leave you wanting more!”
The mission of Penn’s Woods Music Festival is to offer outstanding chamber music and orchestral performances by professional musicians. Supported jointly by Penn State and the surrounding community, the festival seeks to inspire a passion for classical music through innovative concert programming, educational activities and informal events.
In addition to the concert schedule, PWMF offers PW4Kids and PW4U, a series of free live music events designed to acquaint new listeners of all ages with the joy of classical music. Details are available at pwmf.psu.edu/pw4kids-pw4u.
For complete festival information, including how to purchase tickets, visit the website at pwmf.psu.edu. Ticket prices are as follows: Saturday concerts, adult: $33 advance / $38 at door; Wednesday, Friday and Sunday concerts: $23 advance / $28 at door. All student tickets are $10 with valid ID. Parking for the festival orchestra and chamber concerts is available in the Nittany Deck.
Penn’s Woods Music Festival is presented by the Penn State School of Music, College of Arts and Architecture, The Arboretum at Penn State and Central Pennsylvania Visitors and Convention Bureau, and supported by generous funding from festival donors.
2019 festival concerts are held in the Recital Hall, Music Building on Penn State’s University Park campus, unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 p.m. to dusk (rain date June 12)
- “Music in the Gardens”
Penn’s Woods musicians and the Altoona Brass Collective perform in The Arboretum at Penn State (free admission).
Sunday, June 16, 3 p.m.
- “LEAVINGS, or The Borderland”
Join us for a special premiere of a new opera, a semi-staged new work based on the life of Lorenzo Da Ponte with words by School of Theatre Professor and 2015 Penn State Laureate Susan Russell and music by Alex Heppelmann.
- MOZART – Arias from the collaborative work between Mozart and Da Ponte
Wednesday, June 19, 7:30 p.m.
- TCHAIKOVSKY – Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70
- BEETHOVEN – Trio in E flat Major, Op. 38
- SCHOCKER – Sonata for Short Attention Spans
Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.
Festival Orchestra Concert (pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m.)
- IBERT – Hommage à Mozart
- TCHAIKOVSKY – Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 — with James Lyon, soloist
- RAVEL – Pavane for a Dead Princess
- HAYDN – Symphony No. 96 in D Major, Hob.I:96
Wednesday, June 26, 7:30 p.m.
- LARSEN – “With Love and Hisses” – Double Wind Quintet — “With Love and Hisses” is a silent comedy short film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy prior to their official billing as the duo Laurel and Hardy. Seen and heard with a new score!
- SALZEDO – Variations for Harp on a theme in ancient style, Op. 30, featuring Ann Sullivan
- GINASTERA – Pampeana II Rhapsody for Cello and Piano featuring Kim Cook, cello, and Kathy Gattuso Cinatl, piano
- SATIE – La Belle Excentrique featuring Duo Azul: Amy Gustafson and Hyeyoung Song, pianos
- MENDELSSOHN – Overture to a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” featuring Duo Azul: Amy Gustafson and Hyeyoung Song, pianos
Friday, June 28, 7:30 p.m.
- Jazz at Penn’s Woods featuring the Jeff Kunkel Quintet
A new offering this year. Original music blending the traditions of bossa nova, samba, MPB (música popular Brasileira) and jazz. The intimate evening will feature some of the finest musicians from New York City, including Leala Cyr, vocals; Kevin Bene, woodwinds; and Jeff Kunkel on piano.
Saturday, June 29, 7:30 p.m.
Festival Orchestra Concert (pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m.)
- DIAMOND – Music for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
- STRAUSS – Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 — with Lisa Bontrager, soloist
- PÄRT – Silouan’s Song
- MOZART – Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 “Haffner”