Concert series range from Ravel and Bartok to Mary Oliver

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BERKSHIRES AND VERMONT >> In contrast to the larger festivals, there are small concert series in nooks and crannies around the region that have earned a loyal audience. Among them, Concerts at Tannery Pond series held at the Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y., opens on May 23, with duo parnas, sisters Madalyn and Cicely Parnas performing works by Arvo Part, Maurice Ravel, and Bela Bartok.

The performances take place at the old Tannery on the grounds of an old Shaker village there, and that the space is well-suited to chamber music, set in the countryside in a way Artistic Director Christian Steiner said makes the series unique.

"The grounds are gorgeous," he said. "It's really quite magical."

Steiner programs the series of seven performances are put together with an eye to an audience geared toward classical chamber music. He puts together the program himself, based on artists he has met in his own career as a pianist and as a photographer specializing in musicians.

"I have to hear the performers myself," he said.

They include the Miro Quartet (Aug. 1), acclaimed pianist Jeremy Denk (Aug. 15), and in the closing concert of the series, a visit from violinist Aleksey Semenenko with pianist Inna Firsova (Sept. 26).

This season a few concerts will extend beyond the traditional emphasis on chamber music, he said. On June 13, pianist Pedja Muzijevic will accompany baritone Tyler Duncan in songs by Robert Schumann and piano works from Franz Schubert.

The Bennington Chamber Music Conference's Concert Series will return July 25 with performances Saturday and Wednesday evenings at Greenwall Auditorium at Bennington College and a rotation of highly-skilled chamber players.

"It's a real mixture of styles, with different compositions from different periods," said the conference's executive director, Marilyn Bell.

Among their performances this summer, several will highlight pieces from their composers in residence — Kurt Rohde's "maestoso misterioso" (Aug. 1), "Filigree in Textile" by Hannah Lash (Aug. 8), and "Lonesome Roads" by Dan Visconti (Aug. 15).

Many summer concerts come with a sense of fun and informality, which reflects the mindset of a long warm twilight in New England. The Mohawk Trail concerts, a series of nine "informal and informative" performances, have been held at the Federated Church of Charlemont since 1970. This season begins with "The Two Faces of Violin" (June 26 and 27), in which baroque violinist Emlyn Ngai and traditional fiddler Liz Carroll compare and contrast their distinct playing styles.

This season is the first for new Executive Director Mark Fraser, who succeeds co-founder Ruth Black. It will run through Aug. 1, ranging from jazz to Poulenc, and on July 24 and 25 Ellen Story will narrate poetry by National Book Award-winner Mary Oliver, with Eugene Friesen on cello. Oliver once wrote a poem simply called "Music" — "I tied together / a few slender reeds, cut / notches to breathe across and made / such music you stood / shock still "


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