APPRECIATION: Sign of the times: Please ignore your program

“YOU’RE PROBABLY WONDERING WHY I’M ONSTAGE ALONE,” cellist Cicely Parnas said midway through the opening concert in the Tannery Pond summer series, May 23. “There’s been a change in the program,” she explained to the full hall.

No illness or accident was involved; simply that instead of the Bartok Rhapsody No. 1 for cello and piano, she would be playing “From the Zodiac,” a piece for solo cello in three movements, Virgo, Aquarius and Taurus, composed in 2012 by Peter John, who, she said, was in the audience.

Zodiac was like looking at an abstract painting, Parnas said, not about form or structure, just sound as sound. Fine with me, exactly the kind of music I like best, and Parnas assured us she had performed the piece before, in New York City and Washington, D.C.

John stood to our warm applause after the piece and turned out to be the young man who, in shirtsleeves, had moved furniture between prior pieces and, jacket on, turned pages for pianist Ran Dank.

I caught up with John during intermission. He has just finished his Ph.D. in music at the University of Minnesota and is looking forward to at least two recording projects this summer: Cicely Parnas’ recording “Zodiak”, and recording a piano trio he wrote with him at the piano, Cicely Parnas on cello and Madalyn Parnas, Cicely’s sister, the other half of duo parnas (lower case theirs), on the violin. And yes, he and Cicely are a couple; they’ve been dating for two years.

Cicely Parnas “will turn 22 this year,” according to the concert program; Madalyn Parnas is 24, and the two men, John and Dank, are 32. For the Tannery series, Tannery board President Leslie Teicholz said Sunday, a date is set and artists contracted who then develop a program that “optimizes their time.” Christian Steiner, artistic director of the series, will “pretty much agree to” what the artists want to play, Teicholz said, as long as it hasn’t been performed in the Tannery recently. In this case, she said, the artists had changed the program four days before the concert date.

Plan a program with four artists whose combined ages don’t add up to 110, and you might get a maverick, “let’s put on a show!” experience.

Certainly the composers planned for the initial concert interested me immediately: Arvo Part (b. 1935), Ravel and Bartok. To hear their works, I would also sit still for a Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt and a piano trio by Shostakovich.

The performers also drew me: the Stephentown-based duo parnas and Dank, an Israeli classical pianist who now lives in New York City.

Other than Bartok, I got what I came for, and more. My balcony seat allowed a view of the entire intimate concert space in the Tannery on the grounds of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village and Darrow School in New Lebanon. I enjoyed talking with three Tannery regulars: a couple from Sheffield, MA, and a woman from Albany. The lilacs and other blossoms on the stage were so gorgeous as to be unreal; I sniffed them during intermission to confirm their veracity.

Steiner welcomed us to Tannery Pond’s 25th season. In addition to witty, well-written program notes by Clair W. Van Ausdall, the musicians talked briefly about the pieces before playing them.

The short Part piece that began the program was the only, slight disappointment of the evening, being not quite Part, whose stunning minimalism is seldom heard live locally, and not quiet Mozart, the master. Applause was polite.

Applause was enthusiastic for Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G major, No. 2, set apart by its second, “Blues: Moderato” movement with a hint of Gershwin’s “Summertime” and “percussive” piano accompaniment. Dank dove into his own arrangement of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in A minor, a dramatic showpiece the pianist had fun with. And Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E minor started with sweet, sorrowful strings, before ending with the Shostakovichian gallop I’ve come to expect.

A fine, sustaining evening with a delightful surprise that only a live program can bring. Next up: Pedja Muzijevic, pianist, and Tyler Duncan, Canadian baritone, in a program of Schumann and Schubert on Saturday, June 13 at 8 p.m. Duncan is the only vocalist in the Tannery series this summer; I’ll be there. For tickets ($39 or $30), call 888 820-1696. Series subscriptions are available.


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