Filling the Days with Music

The Emerson String Quartet

The Emerson String Quartet

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Boscobel to host its first chamber festival

Following the departure this year of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which had been a summer tenant at Boscobel for more than 30 years, the historic site in Garrison had 150 days to fill.

“It was important to us as an organization to think about what could be uniquely Boscobel experiences, so that visitors could appreciate us not just as a stage, but as the main player,” says Jennifer Carlquist, its executive director and curator.

One of those experiences will be the first Boscobel Chamber Music Festival, with a performance by the Emerson String Quartet on Saturday (Sept. 3) and three other concerts through Sept. 11.

“We felt that we needed to present programs which matched the high quality set for us by the incomparably beautiful landscape,” she says. “We looked at our core values to guide us in a process of developing what we want to do.”

Those values, she says, include natural history, Boscobel’s location in the Hudson River Valley and its 18th-century neoclassical mansion. 

A music festival felt like just the right fit, she says. There have long been concerts on the grounds, but nothing tied them together. 

As the pandemic wound down, many arts organizations contacted Boscobel looking for venues, Carlquist says. At the same time, Arnaud Sussmann, a New York City resident who is the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, asked if Boscobel would be interested in joining forces. Both organizations were interested in expanding their reach, particularly by attracting high-caliber musicians, Carlquist explains, and Boscobel didn’t want to be “just the setting for a festival, but instead a part of it.”

With Sussmann’s help, and after much planning, the Chamber Music Festival emerged. It will open with the Emerson String Quartet, as its first stop on a yearlong farewell tour. It will perform Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2

The festival’s artists include violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Stella Chen; violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt; cellists David Requiro and Nicholas Canellakis; double bassist Blake Hinson; pianist Gloria Chien; and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein. 

Violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, pianist Gloria Chien, Artistic Director Arnaud Sussmann and violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Stella Chen Photos provided

Pajaro-van de Stadt, Chien, Sussmann, Frautschi and Chen (Photos provided)

The festival wanted to give the visiting musicians a fuller experience than standard template of arrive, rehearse, perform, depart. So Boscobel arranged for them to stay with local hosts, take part in a free concert on Thursday (Sept. 1), and visit local attractions such as the Storm King Art Center and Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, as well as do some hiking.

“The musicians are reacting incredibly positively to the whole program,” says Carlquist. “They’re naming it as one of the reasons they said yes” to the invitation to perform.

The musicians will also interact with students, from kindergarten to college, with Q&As and classes. A family concert is scheduled for Sept. 11, and the musicians will have open rehearsals for children on Sept. 1 and 8. Reservations are required through the schools or by calling Boscobel.

The Schedule

Sept. 3
Emerson String Quartet
Ravel: String Quartet in F Major
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 8

in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2

Sept. 5
Chamber Music on the Lawn
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, K. 581

Sept. 10
Schubert’s Trout Quintet
Schubert: Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 “Trout”
Vaughan-Williams: Piano Quintet in C minor

Sept. 11
Family Concert

“It’s such a critical time to reclaim an interest in music because many kids put down their instruments during the pandemic and didn’t pick them up again,” says Carlquist. “All the school trip cancellations disrupted many childrens’ chances to hear live music, some for what would have been the first time.”

Some performances will take place on the Great Lawn, but most will occur in the West Meadow in a new, 5,000-square-foot space with air conditioning and Wi-Fi. 

“We needed a space like that to launch this festival,” Carlquist says. “There’s no such thing as a rain date; the instruments must be protected. The beauty of this design is that it was worked out carefully with sound engineers so our neighbors wouldn’t be bothered. When you’re in that pavilion, you feel like you’re in a garden. 

“This is our debut season,” says Carlquist, “and we’re hoping it continues and grows.” 

Boscobel is located at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison. For program details, see boscobel.org. Festival tickets range from $25 to $85, with a 20 percent discount for Boscobel members. There will be a free shuttle every 20 minutes from the Cold Spring train station beginning two hours before each concert and for an hour after. Face masks and proof of vaccination or a recent (72 hours) negative test are required for indoor performances. 

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