Democrat Photo by Dan Hust
ELEGANT SETTING: Shandelee Music Festival Founder Dan Stroup, left, and public relations director Barbara Konvalin relax inside the French chateau on the grounds of the music festival in Shandelee. Joining them is one of the festival's trademark Steinway pianos and a bust of Beethoven, who will be a featured part of the festival thanks to pianist Claude Frank.
Shandelee Music Festival
Attracts International Talent
By Dan Hust
SHANDELEE July 28, 2000 The signs are up, pointing the way down the unpaved J. Young Road.
The banners have been hung on the light poles lining the driveway (also unpaved), and the box office-mounted flags of various countries flap in the near-constant breeze that caresses this Sullivan County hillside.
Once more for the eighth time, in fact the Shandelee Music Festival is in preparation.
Founder and organizer Dan Stroup has been busy this past week overseeing everything from cutting the grass to raising the pavilion tent that will soon shelter a concert grand Steinway piano and dozens of festival patrons.
Presented on the western slope of Shandelee Mountain near Livingston Manor, the Shandelee Music Festival has quickly risen to the top of a fairly long list of local arts and cultural offerings thanks in large part to the year-round efforts of a small staff to publicize both the Shandelee and NYC concerts which feature world-class musicians in relatively small, intimate settings.
Of course, one of the key attractions for performers and concertgoers alike is the setting of the summer Sunset Concert Series at the French chateau and its accompanying acreage off J. Young Road in Shandelee. There are always remarks about the natural beauty of the surrounding Catskill Mountains, the well-kept grounds, even the four wooden piano practice cabins built by Greys Woodworks of Grahamsville.
For two weeks this summer, starting August 6, eleven young people between the ages of 19 and 27 will descend upon the chateau and its grounds to participate in the festivals main focus: an intensive piano mastery course, featuring not only instruction in technique but also lessons on piano technology and career development.
This year, those accepted through a rigorous live and taped audition process include one student from Italy, two from Finland, and eight from Korea (although all but four are studying at universities in the United States).
While in the course, the students will be treated to meals, local tours and the family-like setting that Stroup says makes the festival warm and inviting to all.
At the end of their training, all eleven will give concerts on August 17 and 19 (8 and 3 p.m., respectively) underneath the pavilion tent. Four of their classes will also be open to the public.
But while Stroup is looking forward to the students arrival and training, his excitement can clearly be observed when speaking of the faculty who will be teaching those students chief among them, Claude Frank, commonly considered Americas foremost pianist.
Hes just terrific, remarked Stroup. He was friends with all the great pianists of Russia . . . and he is going to bring our students a wealth of knowledge.
Frank, whos wife, Lilian Kallir, taught classes at the festival a few years ago, still tours with his daughter, Pamela Frank, an accomplished violinist.
He performs 30-50 concerts a year, said Stroup.
Known as a Beethoven specialist, Frank began his career with Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic in 1959. He has recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in such a fashion as to warrant the praise of professionals for remaining consistently faithful to the way Beethoven originally envisioned his sonatas.
Frank has also been a repeated soloist with all the major orchestras on five continents, a key member of the most respected chamber music groups, and a featured performer at Lincoln Centers 25th anniversary (and recently, at Carnegie Hall). He teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and at Yale University, and has taught classes at such institutions as Duke University and the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Though not expected to play (his schedule does not permit it), Frank will be teaching students on August 11 and 12, both days at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
His approach is not intimidating. He gets the best out of every student, said Stroup, who added that his own former music professor sent him a note of amazed congratulations when he heard Frank was going to be a teacher at the festival.
Private lessons will be taught to the students by Konstantin Bogino and Yong Hi Moon. Bogino, a staff member of the International Academy of Music and a graduate of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, will also perform for the public on August 12 at 8 p.m.
Moon, several of whose students are among the festivals Class of 2000, is a faculty member of Michigan State University and a lifelong pianist, having debuted with the Seoul (Korea) Philharmonic at the tender age of ten. She will only be giving private lessons.
Returning this year are the festivals artistic director, Lana Ivanov, and its technical operations director, Christopher Kennedy, to teach public classes about career development (August 8 at 2 p.m.) and piano technology (August 10 at 10 a.m.), respectively. Both are highly skilled pianists and professionals in their chosen fields.
But thats not quite all. The festival also features professional musicians who will simply attend to perform for students and audiences.
Violinist Sviatoslav Moroz, soprano Olga Diatchkovskaya and pianist Mykola Suk will open the concert series this Tuesday, August 1, at 8 p.m. with a chamber music concert, to be followed on Thursday, August 3, at 8 p.m. with solo concerts by pianists Margarita Nuller and Laura Garritson, both Shandelee Music Festival alumni.
Sara Davis Buechner will perform on that Steinway concert grand on August 8 at 8 p.m., and fellow pianist Steven Mayer will play on August 15 at 8 p.m. Both have been highly praised by The New York Times and other major publications for their style, grace and technique.
And those who received invitations will be listening to 15-year-old prodigy Daniel Shleyenkov tomorrow on the festival grounds. He has been called the diamond of the Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition by renowned pianist Jerome Lowenthal, and Stroup feels it is fitting that he (and Claude Frank) are featured parts of the festival in this, the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano.
And although a few classes are not available to the public, festival organizers hope to get a repeat of last year, when nearly every event was sold out.
I dont know if people realize that the master classes are open to the public, said festival spokesperson Barbara Konvalin, but they really are wonderful!
To learn more about the festival (this year called Piano 2000) or to order tickets to classes and concerts, call the box office at 439-3277.