MAESTRO IGNAT SOLZHENITSYN TO LEAD MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA EVENING
On Thursday, August 3rd, Manchester Music Festival Artistic Director Adam Neiman presents one of the organization’s season highlights at Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavilion at 8pm. On this evening, Maestro Ignat Solzhenitsyn will lead the group of musicians in two epic works of the orchestral repertoire: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major.
Recognized as one of today’s most gifted artists, and enjoying an active career as both conductor and pianist, Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s lyrical and poignant interpretations have won him critical acclaim throughout the world. He is the son of famed Nobel Prize winner and Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who settled his young family in Vermont in the late 1970’s. Of his return to the state for Manchester Music Festival after growing up here as a child, Ignat states that while he doesn’t perform here as often as he’d like, “it’s a wonderful and dear place that I love to share with people who also celebrate its beauty.”
In describing the evening’s works, Solzhenitsyn emphasizes how the two compositions are both unique in their own right and rarely performed together, “Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony is a familiar piece in the orchestral world, but still shocking and mesmerizing. At the time it was written, the composer was attempting a symphony on a scale that had never attempted before, by him or anyone else. The composition pushes the envelope of the range of human emotion that can be conveyed in one piece and Beethoven creates an entire journey within each movement resulting in a performance where the audience is truly transformed over the course of the hour.” Solzhenitsyn continues, “To have music that has that kind of profound and immediate impact on our lives, this is why I became a musician. I am grateful to live with music like this and share it with the public; it is such a privilege to create an experience like this for an audience.”
Presenting both works in one evening is unusual. They are big pieces that are typically performed alongside shorter compositions, but together they are complementary and create a musical dialogue.
On what to expect in the second half of the evening, Solzhenitsyn says, “Brahms only wrote four concertos, but they are all symphonic. The writing is superb and while he did not set any records for quantity, anything he deemed worthy of being published was highly sophisticated. At the time, concertos were a chance to show off for a soloist and wow the public. In these cases, what tended to be sacrificed was the work of the other orchestra parts and in their supportive role they were not terribly impressive. Brahms turned this on its head and made the orchestra and soloist equal protagonists. In this piano concerto, the piano writing is virtuosic and alongside the orchestra it creates a piece where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
On the 3rd, Solzhenitsyn is joined on stage by celebrated pianist Alexander Kobrin, 2005 Gold Medalist of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition – an event that is only held once every four years and brings together the best pianists in the world for two weeks of competition.
Of Solzhenitsyn’s appearance, Adam Neiman, Manchester Music Festival’s artistic director says, “We are ecstatic to have Ignat Solzhenitsyn headline our orchestral concert on August 3. He is one of the world’s great musicians and brings with him a tremendous amount of experience and wisdom. I think our audience will be blown away by his electric musicianship in this remarkable program.” He continues, “Alexander Kobrin is a powerful and dynamic pianist who will undoubtedly imbue his performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with poignancy and impressive virtuosic power; we are extremely fortunate to have him join Maestro Solzhenitsyn for this exciting evening.”
Tickets to the August 3rd Manchester Music Festival Orchestral Experience are $45 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at mmfvt.org, by calling 802-362-1956, and at the Southern Vermont Arts Center Arkell Pavilion box office.
Friends Open Manchester Music Festival
July 7, 2017
They played like they had known each other for decades, opening Manchester Music Festival’s 2017 season Thursday at the Southern Vermont Art Center — perhaps because they had.
Pianist Adam Neiman, the festival’s new artistic director, and his excellent colleagues — violinist Stefan Milenkovich, violist Che-Yen (Brian) Chen and cellist Bion Tsang — proved their mettle in a brilliantly rhapsodic performance of Richard Strauss’s youthful Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 13.
Their sheer joy and deeply personal sense of ensemble, to say nothing of virtuosity, resulted in a performance of this not-quite-a-masterpiece that was both exciting and sheer pleasure.
Neiman is an able pianist, and he played with power and clarity, and a convincing musical sense throughout. Violinist Milenkovich’s understated expressiveness drew the listener in, while Chen’s overt viola expressiveness brought out the inner lines. And Tsang’s cello was not only expressive, but provided the bedrock. Most importantly, the four played together with a collegial comfort that allowed them to share the work’s unfettered passion and joy. In particular, the slow movement, Andante, was richly exquisite. The four applied these same qualities to one of the great masterpieces of the repertoire, Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, K. 493. Although some unwarranted rhythmic freedom and flourishes (“ornaments”) by Neiman proved distracting, the playing was virtuosic and expressive, yet respectful of Classical era strictures. In short, it was elegant and at the same time muscular — a compelling performance.
The program opened with Beethoven’s String Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 9, No. 3, a precursor to his great string quartets. This is delightful music and these three delighted in its intimacy. The playing not only combined — as Beethoven does — muscularity and lyricism, it proved simply a pleasure.
Preceding the concert, at 5:30 p.m., the festival offered a short free concert in which Milenkovich and Neiman performed Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30. Although Milenkovich experienced some intonation issues, it was a highlevel virtuosic performance with the two speaking in one voice. Also, preceding the evening performance by half an hour, Neiman gave well-received lecture on the program. Both the pre-concert recital and lecture are to be regular Thursday features during the festival this year.
If the quality of Thursday’s concert is any indication, Manchester Music Festival is off to a winner of a season with its new artistic management.
MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL
Manchester Music Festival presents festival faculty concerts at 8 p.m. Thursdays, through Aug. 17, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavilion in Manchester.Young Artists Concerts are at 2 p.m. Sundays, July 9-Aug. 13, also at the Arkell Pavilion. For tickets, subscriptions and information about these and other MMF programs, call 1-800-639-5868, or go online to www.mmfvt.org.
June 28, 2017
Violinist Milenkovich brings talent, drive to Manchester, July 6
MANCHESTER, VT: My first contact with Stefan Milenkovich was while he was walking around the small, ranch town, Round Top, Texas (pop. 90) trying not to lose cellphone service. We weren’t successful that day, but a week later we were able to connect when he arrived back home in Chicago to talk about his career in chamber music.
Milenkovich hails from a musical family, his mother was a pianist and his father played the violin. At three years old, he performed violin in public for the first time. At five he made his debut with the local orchestra and at seven won his first of many competitions. With his parents’ connections, by nine years old he was performing more than 100 times a year.
The family lived in Belgrade, Serbi, and when the Yugoslav Wars began in the late 20th century, they collectively realized that their way out of the country was Stefan’s impressive violin talent. As a 15-year-old, he began practicing for over eight hours each day, and within two years had entered ten international violin competitions. He won all ten.
His talent was undeniable and the global music community took notice. Milenkovich was invited by famed instructor Dorothy DeLay to join her at The Julliard School in New York. There, he excelled and became her teaching assistant as well as the teaching assistant of conductor and pedagogue Itzhak Perlman.
Now a professor himself at the University of Illinois, Milenkovich gets incredibly excited about working with prospective musicians, violin or otherwise.
Of aspiring violinists, he says with a laugh, “anyone who is interested in playing violin is crazy!” Recognizing that it is incredibly difficult, he is passionate about taking every opportunity to nurture not just someone playing violin, but the human who has set out to learn this difficult skill. “Their desire to pursue this deserves the utmost respect and support. No matter how much time I have with students, I’d like them to take something valuable out of the experience for both the immediate and the long term so that they can carry it with them.”
Outside of teaching, Milenkovich is still a much-in-demand performer, and his career brings him to stages around the world with some of its best classical and rock musicians (and to places like rural Texas). He reunites here in Manchester with Manchester Music Festival’s artistic director, Adam Neiman (piano) after playing together for years while at Julliard. The two have performed many times alongside accomplished violist Brian Chen and on July 6, the trio will be joined by Bion Tsang (cello), an experience Milenkovich is delighted to take part in. One particular piece, composed by Richard Strauss, he is particularly excited to perform as he says it is “an amazing composition that is up there as one of the best piano quartets.”
When not playing violin, Milenkovich spends his time doing martial arts and yoga, is an experienced sky diver, and has ridden across the United States on a motorcycle, twice. He tells me he believes that one is a better musician for experiencing as much of the world as possible. “It’s a challenge to present concertos that have been around so long in a fresh way,” he says, “and to experience the world and self and reflect that inspiration in the music is what can make a particular expression of it so compelling.”
Stefan Milenkovich performs with Manchester Music Festival at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 6 at Southern Vermont Arts Center. The public can also watch his teaching in action at a masterclass at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, where he will work with students of MMF’s young artist program.
June 29, 2017
Manchester Music Festival: Same festival, new flavor
By Jim Lowe
The Manchester Music Festival will begin its 43rd year of fine chamber music July 6, but it will be the first season under the artistic direction of Adam Neiman. A pianist at the festival for more than 10 years, he promises more similarities than change from previous years.
“It’s primarily a chamber music festival with a concurrent young artist program to train and educate budding professionals in chamber music performance, with the added special benefit of producing an orchestral concert and an opera concert,” Neiman said in a recent phone interview from his Chicago home.
Festival Concerts, featuring the international faculty, will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursdays, July 6-Aug. 17, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavilion in Manchester. Young Artists Concerts are at 2 p.m. Sundays, July 9-Aug. 13, also at the Arkell Pavilion. New this season are preconcert activities, beginning at 5:30 p.m., with 30-minute solo or duo recitals, followed by a short Q&A session, at the next-door YesterHouse.
“This is a way for the audience to get to know one of the artists on that program a little bit more intimately,” Neiman said. “At 7:30, I will be giving preconcert talks, talking about the lives and times of the composers, and things to listen for. Then we’ll head over for the 8 p.m. concert.”
The season comprises seven Thursday Festival Concerts, including the orchestra performance and an opera evening.
“I have a lot of pride in all of the programs we have put together, but we’re certainly making a string statement with our opening concerts,” Neiman said. “I have some of the greatest string players in the world joining me, and I can’t imagine a better program to present their strengths.”
Violinist Stefan Milenkovich will join Neiman in Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30, No. 2, for the July 6 preconcert recital. The evening program will begin with a Beethoven string trio and the Mozart Piano Quartet in E-flat, K. 493.
“We cap the program the Richard Strauss Piano Quartet, which is a piece I’ve been wanting to play at Manchester for a very long time,” Neiman said. “It’s a very powerful, sumptuous work, and the audience is going away feeling very optimistic about future MMF concerts.”
All the concerts have programmatic underlying themes or linking connections between pieces. For example, the second program, July 13, is built around Chicago Symphony horn player David Griffin.
“We’re going to hear Messiaen’s ‘Appel Interstellaire,’ a solo horn piece that doesn’t get played that often,” Neiman said. “It’s an absolutely magical piece of music, evoking the sounds of the stars conversing with each other above the Grand Canyon.”
Griffin will also be heard in the Strauss Sonata and Brahms Horn Trio. The program will be rounded out with music of Beethoven and Schubert.
The Aug. 3 “Orchestral Experience” will be conducted by Vermontbred Ignat Solzhenitsyn, and feature as soloist Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Alexander Kobrin. Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 are on the program.
“We almost have a mini-Orpheus Chamber Orchestra,” Neiman said. “We’re rounded out by our string player young artists, which are at a much higher level than years before. I think it’s going to be a great experience for them — and I think it’s going to make the orchestra sound fantastic.”
Different from previous years is that the 16 Young Artists will be performing complete works in their 2 p.m. Sunday concerts. Comprising three pianists and 13 string players ages 18-26, participants are conservatory and graduate level from the United States, as well as China, Denmark and Taiwan.
“These are full concerts, programmed with full works,” Neiman said. “They have known what they will play well in advance. The rehearsal schedule has been set up to essentially resemble a professional chamber music organization. It’s preparing for the life of a professional chamber musician — which can be quite grueling.”
Let the music begin.
May 9, 2017
MAESTRO IGNAT SOLZHENITSYN RETURNS TO HIS VERMONT ROOTS
World-Renowned Conductor to Lead Manchester Music Festival Orchestra
MANCHESTER, VT: Manchester Music Festival is no stranger to featuring acclaimed musicians from around the world, but this summer, one in particular stands out. Maestro Ignat Solzhenitsyn is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. But for all of his travels around the globe performing in New York City, London, Milan, Zurich, Moscow, Tokyo, Sydney, Seattle, Toronto, and many more, appearing at the Manchester Music Festival is a sort of homecoming.
Solzhenitsyn is the son of famed Nobel Prize winner and Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and as a result was expelled from the republic in 1974. In 1976, he settled his young family in Vermont. Ignat took to music at a young age and went on to study piano in London with influential instructor Maria Curcio. In 1994, he was the recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, a prestigious award designed to give recognition to talented instrumentalists who have great potential for solo careers.
Recognized as one of today’s most gifted artists, and enjoying an active career as both conductor and pianist, Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s lyrical and poignant interpretations have won him critical acclaim throughout the world. The New York Times lauded him as “an uncommonly thoughtful, communicative musician.” He currently serves on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Tanglewood Music Center and resides in New York City with his wife and three children.
Solzhenitsyn is joined by six other Avery Fisher Career Grant winners who will perform with Manchester Music Festival this year. His appearance is part of the festival’s Orchestral Experience concert on August 3rd, which brings together featured guest musicians and young artists with Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist Alexander Kobrin as piano soloist. On this evening, Maestro Solzhenitsyn will present two epic works of the orchestral repertoire: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major.
Of Solzhenitsyn’s appearance, Adam Neiman, Manchester Music Festival’s artistic director says, “We are ecstatic to have Ignat Solzhenitsyn headline our orchestral concert on August 3! He is one of the world’s great musicians and brings with him a tremendous amount of experience and wisdom. I think our audience will be blown away by his electric musicianship in this remarkable program.”
April 2, 2017
VERMONT’S MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL POISED FOR AN ASTOUNDING SEASON
World-Renowned Artists Scheduled to Perform
Manchester, VT: The summer season at Manchester Music Festival welcomes award winning artists from around the country for seven weeks of concerts in the Green Mountains of Vermont. July 6 – August 17 concerts on Thursday evenings are slated to feature a number of top caliber musicians who have played with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. Performances will include works from composers such as Mozart, Schubert, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Renié, and many more. Sunday afternoons see concert performances from the participants in the festival’s Young Artists Program which garnered a record number of applicants this year from top conservatories around the world.
One of two major events this season will be the Orchestral Experience concert on August 3rd, which brings together featured guest musicians and young artists with Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist Alexander Kobrin as piano soloist. On this evening, Manchester Music Festival will present two epic works of the orchestral repertoire: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major. The orchestra will be led by Maestro Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the Principal Guest Conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
The 2017 season will conclude on August 17th with a special performance entitled “A Night At The Opera” and featuring a number of performers who have starred in major roles on stages across the globe. Manchester Music Festival’s opera evening is always one of their biggest nights of the year and a favorite among Festival attendees.
In his first season as artistic director, Adam Neiman brings excitement and energy to the Manchester Music Festival. Neiman, a very well respected pianist and composer, who makes frequent appearances at prestigious festivals around the world, is an honors graduate of The Juilliard School and Assistant Professor of Piano at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. He was named artistic director of MMF in late 2016.
Now being offered to patrons are mini festival subscriptions which include either the orchestra or opera evenings along with two additional Thursday performances of choice. 2017 mini festival subscriptions begin at $106 and full season subscriptions begin at $254. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 802-362-1956.
Neiman excited about first season as MMF director
March 15, 2017
By Greg Sukiennik
MANCHESTER — Adam Neiman has been getting ready to be artistic director of the Manchester Music Festival for a long time — well before October, when he was appointed to the post. His preparation even predates his 30 years of professional experience as a pianist.
It goes back to childhood daydreams about what music he’d program for orchestra concerts if he were in charge.
“When I was a little kid I used to sit and make programs,” he said in an interview with the Journal last Friday. “I don’t know why I did this but I literally would just create programs not even stuff that I would play. I always found it fascinating to assemble moving parts.”
Now, Neiman has the opportunity to bring together his friends from his performing career and program a seven-week summer music festival and guide a young artists’ school. He succeeded Ariel Rudiakov and his wife Joana Genova, who had served as artistic directors since 2000 and left in September under terms that neither side disclosed.
“This is kind of the fulfillment of a dream in a way. I thought in my heart of hearts, though I kept it shrouded, that one day I would love to do something like this,” Neiman said.
The schedule for 2017 can be found at the newly-revamped MMF website.
It’s been a whirlwind so far, but Neiman says the support of MMF’s board and support staff has made success possible and “upped the ante in every way,” including a completely revamped website and new brochures.
“We have very supportive and helpful people running this, as well as an enormous support team who made my learning curve a lot less steep,” he said.
Neiman’s enthusiasm is clear when he talks about the music he has chosen for MMF’s 43rd season and the students who will be part of the six-week Young Artists Program.
Setting the program and securing the performers for the season was Neiman’s first task, and he feels like he achieved what he set out to accomplish.
“These are absolute world-class artists who will be coming into town playing top-echelon music,” Neiman said. They’ll be playing a set of programs “that will be diverse, electric, electrifying, interesting and at the same time edifying for a very staunch classical crowd”.
Like other genres of music, classical music can be prone to formulaic programming, in which orchestras and festivals present tried-and-true favorites to assure success at the gate.
Neiman’s response to that challenge is to present familiar favorites, contemporary pieces and lesser-known works that have fallen out of circulation and deserve to be heard again.
For example, MMF’s opening program on Thursday, July 6 will lead off with the Beethoven string trio in C minor Mozart’s piano quartet in E-flat major — both acknowledged masterworks.
But the program will be anchored by a piece that the audience may not know — Richard Strauss’ Piano Quartet in C minor.
“This is a masterpiece. And for whatever reason it’s extremely rarely programmed,” Neiman said of the quartet. “People are going to literally jump out of their seats. It’s so good. They’re going to be like ‘Why have I not heard this before?'”
Neiman has also programmed contemporary music. The third concert, on July 20, will feature a piano trio by New York composer Lowell Liebermann, who Neiman describes as “accessible and edgy.”
When it comes to introducing contemporary work, Neiman has a card up his sleeve — his experience as an assistant piano professor at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He’ll give 30-minute talks before each main concert, explaining not only what the composers were setting out to do, but the personal, social and cultural factors that influenced the music.
Neiman, who has been performing at MMF since 2005 came into the role relatively late for planning a summer festival, and was concerned that the artists he’d want to bring to Manchester would already have summer plans for 2017.
“I was lucky. Because they knew me and we’re friends, they said ‘we’ll make it work,” he said.
For example, the opening program will feature Stefan Milenkovich, who performed at MMF last year, along with cellist Bion Tsang and violist Brian Chen.
For MMF’s orchestral concert on Aug. 3, pianist Alexander Kobrin, a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist, and acclaimed conductor Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the son of the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (the “Eroica”) and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2.
“[Solzhenitsyn] has roots here in southern Vermont and he was delighted to be able to combine professional and personal,” Neiman said.
As for the Young Artists Program, Neiman is hoping to mold it into a “high-intensity semi-professional training ground.”
“What I think is going to be exciting for audiences when they go to young artists on Sunday afternoons and main programs on Thursday evenings they will see there’s a gap [between the two] that is not that far,” he said. “I can throw amazing repertoire at these kids and they can handle it.”
Concert promises a rich summer for 2017
January 03, 2017
By Jim Lowe
MANCHESTER — In a New Year’s Eve showcase, Manchester Music Festival offered a glimpse of what the now 43-year-old summer chamber music festival will be under its new artistic management — and it was richly promising.
Chicago pianist Adam Neiman has taken over the reins from violist Ariel Rudiakov, the festival’s artistic director of 16 years, and it promises a change of flavor — still, not a radical one, as Neiman has been performing at the festival for the last decade.
Perhaps the highlight of the program, one of several, was the performance of lieder, or “art song.” World-traveling singer Randall Scarlata, also a veteran of Vermont’s New England Bach Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, is a sensitive but powerful baritone without the dark gravity of a bass.
Scarlata performed well-known favorites (or at least well-known to vocal music lovers). He proved particularly delightful in two French songs, “L’invitation au voyage” by Henri Duparc and “Claire de lune” by Gabriel Faure. Not only was the French diction expert, his nuanced expressiveness delivered the songs’ deep emotions to his appreciative audience. Much the same could be said for his performance of two of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Songs of Travel” and “Spring Waters” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Scarlata was partnered by Neiman, who proved equally expressive, playing with power, yet with a clarity and sensitivity that never covered the singer. It was truly a duo performance by two masters. Neiman employed these same qualities in his performance of Glinka’s “The Lark,” in Balikirev’s arrangement for solo piano. With the pianist’s deep understanding and imagination, this little gem was revealed to be an intimate masterpiece.
Joining the festivities was the Haven String Quartet, the young ensemble in residence at Music Haven, a program of music lessons for more than 80 children in the underserved neighborhoods of New Haven, Conn. Their hearts, though, are matched by their performance prowess. Violinists Yaira Matyakubova and Gregory Tompkins, violist Annalisa Boerner and cellist Philip Boulanger performed with a youthful zest, yet with real musical understanding and refinement.
The quartet’s young exuberance filled the opening Allegro of Mozart’s “Eine Klein Nachtmusik,” K. 525, with joy. Their musical depth could also be heard in movements from chamber music masterpieces by Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Anton Arensky, where they were joined by Neiman. These works also revealed the pianist’s elegant and astute virtuosity.
Another fine pianist, Neiman’s wife, Ariella Mak-Neiman, joined him in popular works for piano four-hands by Debussy and Dvorak. Mak-Neiman also proved a deeply satisfying performer in three Beethoven folk songs for baritone and piano and trio. They were delightful.
Saturday’s concert at the First Congregational Church was a cavalcade of short gems that kept the capacity audience — including children and teens — delighted for 90 minutes. It certainly whetted the appetite for the big stuff this summer.