Approximately fifty miles northwest of the Chicago city limits lies the quaint, Victorian era town of Woodstock. The cultural and social centerpiece of Woodstock is without doubt its Woodstock Opera House. This architectural gem which holds landmark status, dates back to 1889. It dominates Woodstock’s historic Downtown Square, and throughout the decades of the twentieth century and now into the twenty first century, it has become a destination for world-class performers representing all of the performing arts. On Saturday evening I had the privilege of attending the opening of the Mozart Music Festival featuring the keyboard virtuoso, David Schrader. This is the twenty sixth anniversary season for the Mozart Music Festival, and judging from the audience turnout and the level of excitement, this series, consisting of six concert dates is certainly a perennial favorite with music lovers. Saturday’s concert comprised an all Mozart program beginning with his Symphony No.29 in A major, followed by his Symphony No.8, known as the Lutzow Symphony- named after the woman for whom Mozart composed this concerto, the Countess Antonia Lutzow. The third and final offering of the evening was the Concerto No.9 in E flat major for Piano and Orchestra, or the Jeunehomme. This final selection truly showcased Mr. Schrader’s brilliance. This piece in particular allowed him to put on an exhibition of technical dexterity. Going back to the Concerto No. 8 for a moment, Schrader’s virtuosity was also very apparent. His command and execution were perfect, especially during the second and third movements. His hands, sliding across the keyboard, conjured up images of lightning bolts streaking across a stormy sky. For this performance, Mr. Schrader took on the dual role of pianist and conductor, as was the custom in Mozart’s day. Another added treat of the evening’s musical offerings was a short but informative explanation and description by the conductor of the piano used in the performance. At one point, he charmed the audience by disassembling his instrument on stage to show how pianos have evolved and have been modified through the years. It was this sort of interaction between performer and audience that made for a unique and wonderful music experience. Additionally, he provided the audience with an overview of each work that was performed. This added the historical perspective, which served as an important backdrop for the music.
As for the ensemble of musicians, this was a very tight and well-disciplined group. They responded to Mr. Schrader’s cues with precision and perfect timing.
ď»żI would urge anyone with even a casual interest in music to visit the Woodstock Opera House. The venue is welcoming, intimate and allows for that critical connection to happen between the audience and performer.
In addition to last evening’s performance, the next concert dates for the Woodstock Mozart Festival are: July 29, 2012, August 4th, 5th, 11th and 12th. Saturday performances are at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from: $25 for students, to $30, $40 and $52 for the Conductor’s Circle.
Photos provided by: JAC Communications
You can also visit the following sites for more information:
Address: Woodstock Opera House
121 W. Van Buren St.
Woodstock, Il 60098
Payment can be made by: check, Visa, MasterCard or Discover.
There is ample parking on the streets surrounding the Opera House and several good restaurants as well as some casual but charming cafes, which ring the Downtown Square area.
Artistic Director: Anita Whalen
Pianist and Conductor: David Schrader