MANCHESTER – Vermont’s first indoor concert since the beginning of the COVID-19 went off without a hitch Saturday. Masks were worn by 100 percent, social distancing was honored, hand-sanitizing stations were all over the place, the sold-out 50-member audience was appropriately spread out, and everybody was as friendly as could be.
Not incidentally, particularly fine performances of works by Beethoven and Piazzola opened Taconic Music’s four-concert series, “Celebrating Beethoven,” at Burr and Burton Academy’s Riley Center for the Arts. Only an hour long – and streamed online for those who couldn’t get tickets (or didn’t want to take the coronavirus risk) – it was truly a celebration of reopening the arts in Vermont.
Particularly celebratory was Astor Piazzola’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” The Argentinean composer (1921-1992) is known for his tango-infused music that incorporated classical, jazz and pop idioms, yet remained unique to the composer, sophisticated and entertaining. The “Four Seasons” weren’t actually composed as a single work but are four different pieces often played together.
Originally scored for piano, violin, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneón (Argentinean accordion), the Taconic Music players used an arrangement for piano and strings. Pianist Drew Peterson, violinist Joana Genova, violist Ariel Rudiakov, cellist Nathaniel Parke and bassist Steven Moran delivered a stylish spirited performance that drew the audience into the four delightful journeys.
There was also some particularly stylish solo work within the pieces. Genova, an excellent violinist, particularly enjoyed the tango effect giving her singing lines a sly and irresistible Argentinean flair. Parke and Peterson matched her all the way with a delicious virtuosic style. Rudiakov and Moran added irrepressible texture and rhythmic drive. There were a few moments that felt a bit reserved, but the performance was truly delightful.
Contrasting was Beethoven’s sublime Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1, “Ghost,” which was given a deeply rewarding performance by Peterson, Genova and Parke. Genova’s finesse, Parke’s expressiveness and Peterson’s controlled virtuosity combined for a compelling force.
The three’s interaction felt natural making the music’s message inevitable.
The outer fast movements were propelled by barely restrained passion, while the slow movement achieved a beautiful intimacy. Although there were a few aggressive moments, this was a beautiful and powerful performance.
Taconic Music took on a big risk performing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they did their homework.
They religiously adhered to Gov. Scott’s suggestions and regulations, and folks uncomplainingly followed the rules. Though some might get loose in time, I felt safer than I do in Montpelier’s well-run Shaw’s supermarket.
It felt more like visiting Walgreen’s drug store.
Taconic took on another risk too. When Capital City Concerts posted my preview (which included a description of all the precautions taken) on Facebook, they asked folks if they would feel safe attending. The answers were almost universally “no.”
However, Taconic Music sold out all 50 seats, largely to older folk but a few younger ones, turning some away.
Part of this may be personal, as Artistic Directors Genova and Rudiakov are community members of longstanding, and Taconic Music is the area’s community music education center. In Vermont, neighbors count.
Either way, Taconic Music has broken the quarantine taboo, following state guidelines all the way, and so far, it’s working. Brandon’s Barn Opera has announced two opera aria concerts in September, one of which will be indoors, and I expect some other organizations may follow suit.
Vermont has taken another step in reopening the arts.