Newport Music Festival, Newport, RI
July 11-27, 2014
by Michael J. Moran
Celebrating its 46th season in 2014, the Newport Music Festival is newer but longer, if still perhaps less famous, than its Jazz and Folk counterparts. This year 62 performers presented 68 concerts of music from the Romantic Era and beyond in twelve sites from 18 countries, with 27 making their Newport and/or American debuts. Seven concerts showcased over 100 works by Richard Strauss in observance of his 150th birthday anniversary.
This year’s repertoire continued last year’s expanded focus on jazz and Latin music. The closing weekend, for example, featured “Ragtime Jazztime,” a program that included rags by Scott Joplin and William Bolcom, and a “PercussionFest” marking the Newport debuts of Spanish percussionists Rafael Galvez and Juanjo Guillem. Mike Mower’s “Deviations on The Carnival of Venice,” puckishly played by flutist Goran Marcusson and pianist Tim Carey, and two movements from Claude Bolling’s first Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano, lovingly rendered by Marcusson and pianist Kevin Fitz-Gerald, were audience favorites in the first concert.
A festival highlight was a “Viennese Evening” program at the Breakers, in which chestnuts by Johann Strauss II, Fritz Kresisler, and Franz von Suppe shared the stage with lesser-known fare like a delightful set of Viennese Waltzes by Robert Fuchs. Violinist extraordinaire Eugen Tzikindelean led two ensembles in rousing and idiomatic performances, but charismatic tenor Jason Karn stole the show with a dramatic account of Lehar’s “You Are My Heart’s Delight.”
The bane of any festival director’s life must be the occasional last-minute need to replace an ailing performer. But when popular pianist John Bayless was indisposed, impresario Mark Malkovich IV had only to call on his roster of musical stars to whip up an instant new concert that featured knockout renditions of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 by rising young American pianist Chad Bowles and of Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G by Tzikindelean and Fitz-Gerald.
The glamour of the performance venues, including the Newport Art Museum as well as several mansions, and the evident joy of music making by a longtime family of returning artists make the Newport Music Festival a uniquely intimate and enjoyable attraction.