Marlboro Music finishes season

New co-Artistic Director Jonathan Biss becomes only the fifth pianist in Marlboro history to play the traditional closing Beethoven ‘Choral Fantasy’

MARLBORO — When Marlboro Music closes its 69th season on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 2:30 p.m., with the traditional performance of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, it will mark the first time that newly-appointed co-artistic director, pianist Jonathan Biss, will play the work that brings together the whole community.

Musicians play in the orchestra or sing in the chorus with family members, neighbors, and even some audience members.

It is a joyous and emotional summation of seven weeks of living in dormitories and country cottages, sharing meals together in the dining hall, and of intensive exploration of over 215 works, requested by the musicians themselves, with the rare opportunity of unlimited rehearsal time and with less than 20 percent performed at the public concerts.

Biss will be only the fifth pianist to play the work, which has closed 47 of Marlboro's 69 seasons.

In 1957, Rudolf Serkin, Marlboro Music co-founder and artistic director for four decades, felt that the Beethoven piece would be a wonderful way to celebrate the musical and life discoveries of each summer and the bonds of family.

The legendary pianist and musician performed the work with a rare passion for 31 summers. After his death in 1991, Peter Serkin played it in his memory in 1992 and 1993, and not until after the appointment of Mitsuko Uchida and Richard Goode (both former participants) as co-artistic directors in 1999, did the Marlboro community consider re-instating what many had believed was “Rudolf Serkin's piece.”

The tradition was revived in 2003 with Richard Goode as soloist, alternating with Mitsuko Uchida through his 22nd and last season at Marlboro in 2013, with Ms. Uchida performing it in 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Opening Sunday's program will be the Poulenc Sextuor for piano and woodwind quintet with Metropolitan Opera Principal Oboe Nathan Hughes, pianist Gloria Campaner, and four exceptional young wind players.

A neglected work of Schubert's, Kantate zum Geburtstag des Sängers Johann Michael Vogl, D. 666 , follows, with Lucy Fitz Gibbon, soprano; Miles Mykkanen, tenor; Simon Barrad, baritone; and Lydia Brown, piano.

The first half then closes with Bartók's String Quartet No. 3 performed by violinists Mari Lee and Carmit Zori (who first came as a young artist in 1980), violist En-Chi Cheng, and cellist Julia Yang. As has been the case for decades, this year's final concert has been sold out for months.

Some tickets are still available for the Friday and Saturday concerts and can be obtained at or by calling 802-254-2394.

Friday's concert offers Marlboro's frequent mix of the rarely-heard and the more familiar, starting with Beethoven's String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, with Brian Hong and Carmit Zori, violins; Zoë Martin-Doike, viola; and Alexander Hersh, cello.

There will also be a work by English composer Jonathan Dove, The End, for tenor, flute, oboe, and string quartet, and two more cherished chamber music works: Mozart's String Quintet in D Major, K. 593, in which the noted violist Kim Kashkashian will be joined by four young musicians (two of them attending Marlboro for the first time), and the Brahms Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op 60.

Another internationally-recognized violist, Nobuko Imai, will be heard in the Brahms together with three younger colleagues.

Joseph Lin, former first violinist of the Juillard String Quartet, will lead a performance of the great but less frequently played Schubert String Quartet in G Major, D. 887 with Rose Hsien, violin; Tanner Menees, viola; and cellist Yi Qun Xu to close Saturday's concert.

The first half will offer the Beethoven Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2 with pianist Anna Polonsky, violinist Brian Hong, and cellist Christine J. Lee and three of Bruch's Eight Pieces, Op. 83, Nos. 2, 6 and 7 with clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, violist Jordan Bak, and pianist Gloria Campaner.

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