“I visit about 30 schools a year in North America, talking to kids about Classical music, and I tell every one of them, ‘There’s a Classical music composer within an hour of your house, I don’t care where you live,’” pianist Justin Kolb says. Kolb belongs to the Post-Neo Trio, which will prove his thesis by performing two works by Hudson Valley composers at the Belleayre Summer Music Festival on Friday, July 25.
The centerpiece of the concert will be “Remembering Felix” by Robert Starer, a celebrated Woodstock composer who died in 2001. The libretto was written by his longtime partner, novelist Gail Godwin. It tells the tale of Felix, a concert pianist and teacher, who dies and is remembered by his concert agent, publicist, accountant, students, and two critics, who disagree about Felix’s talent.
The Post-Neo Trio is a “supergroup” of local heroes. There are three instruments: cello, piano, and voice. The voice is not a tenor or soprano, but that of poet Mikhail Horowitz (who plays all 11 roles in “Remembering Felix”). Cellist Abby Newton performs with symphony orchestras, as well as with the Celtic trio Ferintosh, where she is known for her deft, prayerful solos. Kolb has played in over a hundred recital halls throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Kolb and Horowitz will also present selections from David Alpher’s “Land of the Farther Suns,” a musical setting of ten poems by Stephen Crane. The score is jazz-inspired and frisky. In 1992 “Land of the Farther Suns” was recorded with Garrison Keillor as narrator. Alpher lives in Stone Ridge.
William Bolcom, who is perhaps the most prominent living American composer, wrote “ This massive three and a half hour work includes a chamber choir, a children’s choir, a madrigal group, a folk singer, a rock singer, a country singer, a speaking actor, a coloratura soprano, and a symphony orchestra. The main chorus contains 50 to 80 voices. In 2006, a recording of the piece received three Grammys. Kolb has arranged two of the poems from “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” for piano and spoken voice: “The Tiger” (“Tiger, tiger, burning bright...”) and “London.” (The score for “London” gives the tempo as “apocalyptic rock” and is dedicated to John Lennon.)
Horowitz will recite his poem “Fireworks” with improvised accompaniment by Kolb. The pianist explains: “Mikhail has taken his knowledge of fireworks configurations in the sky, and he’ll say something like: ‘Aerial chrysanthemums!’, then I describe it on the keyboard. Or ‘Constellated hosannas’—I love that one.”
Abby Newton and Kolb will duet on Schumann’s “Fantasy Pieces, Opus 73,” a fitful quarrel between piano and cello.
Kolb will also perform solo piano pieces. “When I play music by traditional composers, I usually pull out what Leon Botstein loves to call ‘works that live in undeserved obscurity,’” he remarks. “So one of those works is
‘The Grand Gallop’ by Franz Liszt, which is transcendental in virtuosity, truly.” Kolb will also perform the final movement from Beethoven’s "Appassionata Sonata."
“We’re quite proud of the name of our ensemble: Post-Neo Trio—some people get it, some people don’t question it,” Kolb observes. (In other words, how can something be “post-new?”) The concert will be unpretentious and relaxed; hecklers are welcome. Mikhail will recite the anonymous 17th century “Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song” while walking through the crowd.
The Post-Neo Trio will perform at the Grand Lodge at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, Highmount, on Friday, July 25 at 8 pm. (800) 942-6904 ext. 344;www.belleayremusic.org.