Volume 76, Number 11 | August 2 - 8, 2006

The virtuosos of summer

The summer is flying by, as summers do, but it’s not too late to plan a classical music excursion right in the neighborhood.

Still largely overlooked, the River to River Festival is one of the emerging glories of the Downtown cultural scene. Established to help revitalize the neighborhood after 9/11, River to River is a summer festival of a style all too rare in this country — diverse and family-friendly, with over 500 events scheduled at venues all over Lower Manhattan. Most concerts with a classical focus are held at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University.

This Monday, August 7 at 7:30 pm, Summer Stars presents the multi-award-winning Brasil Guitar Duo at the Schimmel Center, hosted by insurance giant AIG. Despite the resurgence of popular interest in classical guitar, well-sited concerts are difficult to come by, especially in New York, because it takes a moderately-scaled room with good acoustics to take full advantage of the guitar’s intimate, romantic sound.

The Schimmel Center should be perfect, and the duo’s repertoire, which focuses on traditional Brazilian music such as samba, choro and baiao, promises an evening of intoxicating lilt and syncopation. Obtain free tickets after 4 pm on the day of the performance, or reserve in advance by emailing culture@pace.edu. (For more information, visit www.rivertorivernyc.com/site/venue_schimmel.html.)

If you’re willing to head Uptown, there’s the Mostly Mozart Festival, which runs through August 26 at Lincoln Center. It’s always indispensable, but especially so in 2006 — the 250th anniversary year of Mozart’s birth. Programming for the festival has come a long way since its early, unadventurous days.

Movie buffs will want to head to the Walter Reade Theater for the New York film premiere of “In Search of Mozart” on Monday, August 14. But I’m going to try to score tickets for “A Little Night Music: Emanuel Ax”, which begins at 10:30 pm on August 15 at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse — a gorgeous, intimate venue, more comfortable and posh than any club. I don’t know what’s in store, but with Manny Ax in charge, it has to be great. If you can’t stay up late on a Monday, try “A Little Night Music: Sarband and Concerto Köln” at The Allen Room on Saturday, August 12 at 10:30 pm for an intriguing program spanning “Viennese waltz ecstasy to the mysticism of the dervishes in Istanbul.” It should be fascinating to discover the connection to Mozart, whose death in 1791 predated the waltz. For ticket information, visit www.lincolncenter.org and navigate to “Mostly Mozart Festival.”

Or head all the way Downtown and one subway stop beyond, to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and Bargemusic. Concerts on this permanently moored barge are captivating, especially in summer, with water-borne breezes and the lights of Manhattan twinkling behind the players. This weekend’s concerts are excitingly programmed, with Mark Peskanov, Marie-Elisabeth Hecker and Jose Ramos Santana playing Mozart, Brahms, and Dvorak’s “Dumky” piano trio — a cornerstone of the modern chamber literature. Ticket information and details of additional concerts are at www.bargemusic.org, or call 718-624-2083.

Meanwhile, what’s happening with New York Grand Opera? The company’s free performance of Puccini’s “Tosca”, originally scheduled for Tuesday, August 1 at the Naumburg Band Shell in Central Park, has been postponed because of the heat wave. The new date hasn’t yet been announced (watch for an update here: www.newyorkgrandopera.org) but an enjoyable performance is virtually guaranteed under the artistic direction of Vincent La Selva, who excels in the Verismo repertoire. Start planning your picnic supper now, and be sure to include a good Barolo to toast Floria Tosca and Baron Scarpia.

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