Here Comes the Sun
For nearly a century Music Mountain has been woven into the summer experience for countless area residents. That experience continues in 2022, but with an increased emphasis on attracting diverse audiences.
Music Mountain was founded in 1930 by Jacques Gordon, which makes it the oldest continuously running summer chamber music festival in America. After Jacques, it was run by his son, Nick, but after Nick’s death in 2017, the board became more active.
Dee Salomon, a member of the Board of Directors, says the “essential ‘Music Mountainess’ is intact.”
“You’re still on the mountain, surrounded by one hundred acres of nature. We still secure world-class chamber music and jazz. What has changed is that we’re attracting younger and more diverse audiences. And we’ve have changed the logo, too, and the programming is more adventurous. It’s beginning to feel younger.”
“A lot of people think about Tanglewood, but this is a similar experience right in our backyard,” she added. “It’s so easy to get to.”
Once there, attendees can either sit on the lawn, enjoying a picnic while surrounded by heavenly sounds, or they can listen to the concerts in the music hall. “We put in air conditioning a few years ago, which was a big upgrade. And we’re changing the seating a little bit, making it more comfortable,” said Salomon.
The availability of food is changing, too. “People can still bring their own picnics—we have provided picnic tables—but we’re also experimenting with food options, from a to-go box lunch that can be ordered in advance to food trucks,” Salomon said. Wine will be available, especially for jazz concerts.
Jazz has been a big component of programming for decades. “I still encounter people who come to the chamber concerts and love it, but don’t know that we have a jazz festival," said Artistic Director Oskar Espina-Ruiz. “It started in the 1970s—nearly 50 years ago—and still people haven’t fully registered it. This year we’re upping our game in jazz and we have an incredible lineup, starting with the Bill Charlap Trio. He’s a big, important person in jazz and we are thrilled he is coming.”
“Following that, on the next Saturday, we have Five Play, which is the sister group of the Diva Jazz Orchestra. They have been doing amazing work,” he continued.
Other performers slated to appear in 2022 include the Barbara Fasano Trio; the New Black Eagle Jazz Band; the Swingtime Big Band; the Galvanized Jazz Band; the Helen Sung Quartet; the Riverboat Stompers Jazz Band and Jive by Five.
“One of things Oskar Espina-Ruiz has done as artistic director is to make the programming incredibly diverse in a host of ways,” Salomon said, “from new composers to multicultural chamber music; from adventurous music to the tried-and-true. It’s an exciting festival.”
Espina-Ruiz said Music Mountain opens its 93rd chamber music series Sunday, June 5th, with a performance by the Rolston String Quartet, with Paul Neubauer on the viola. “He is one of the best viola players in the world today,” he asserted.
The concert will include Haydn’s </>String Quartet in G Major, Op. 33 #5; Widmann’s String Quartet #3, and Brahms’ String Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
“Jörg Widmann’s String Quartet is a thrilling new music,” said Espina-Ruiz. “It is the discovery piece in the program. The June 5th concert has it all. It’s not to be missed—we hope people will come to support Music Mountain, and I know they will be blown away.”
Espina-Ruiz said 2022 is the 250th anniversary of Haydn’s Sun Quartets. “It’s very important for Music Mountain and its audience because you can argue Music Mountain wouldn’t exist if not for the Sun Quartets.”
Prior to Haydn’s Sun Quartets chamber music gave the melodic voice to the violins with the bass and viola providing accompaniment. “Haydn came and broke with that and gave an equal role to all four,” Espina-Ruiz said. “It became more a conversation in music. We really want to celebrate the set and we will feature it during six separate concerts.”
Some concerts will have introductory talks where guests can enjoy conversations with musicians, poets, composers, scholars and others. “We want to introduce the music first in words that will make the concerts very accessible. It really helps patrons enjoy the concerts more,” said Espina-Ruiz.
On Sunday, September 4th, Espina-Ruiz, himself, will perform “one of the landmark chamber music works of the 20th century.” “The Quartet for the End of Time was written in a concentration camp by French composer Olivier Messiaen inspired in part by birdsong,” said Espina-Ruiz. “It has to be experienced in person.”
It will be preceded at 1:30 PM by a birdsong walk led by Fran Zygmont of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society.
He promises the season will have “something for everyone.”
Salomon said some the season’s marketing reflects the theme of the Sun Quartets with the announcement “Here Comes the Sun.” The artwork, by Duncan Hannah, “is contemporary, colorful and draws you in. We’re trying to give new urgency to this experience.”
Music Mountain is located at 225 Music Mountain Road in Falls Village. All chamber music concerts are presented on Sundays at 3 PM, with the Saturday jazz programs on Saturdays at 7 PM. To see the full schedule and to purchase tickets, please click on the link below.