Manchester Music Festival: Taking a new direction

Provided photo

Provided photo

Jim Lowe
THE LOWE DOWN

For the first time in 16 years, Manchester Music Festival is making an artistic change. Pianist Adam Neiman, a longtime veteran of the festival, is its new artistic director for 2017.

“I’m bringing in some stellar artists to make this festival something special,” Neiman said in a recent telephone interview from his Chicago home.

“It already is something special, and I’m going to try to put my own personal touch on it,” he said.

Perhaps the most recognizable name on the 2017 roster for Vermonters is Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the Russian-born, Vermont-bred pianist and conductor.

“He’s coming to conduct the orchestra,” Neiman said.

Manchester Music Festival was founded in 1974 by pianist Eugene List and his wife, Carroll Glenn, becoming one of Vermont’s foremost summer chamber music festivals and schools. With List’s accidental death in 1985, cellist Michael Rudiakov took the reins, moving to more of a year-round program. In 2000, with the unexpected death of Michael Rudiakov, the leadership went to his son, Ariel, a violist.

For the last 16 years, the festival has been led by Ariel Rudiakov with his wife, violinist Joana Genova. In September, their contract was not renewed by the board, citing a wish for new direction, including a return to a summer-only program. (Rudiakov and Genova have since founded their own Taconic Music, a year-round Manchester-area chamber music and education program.)

I’ve been a part of Manchester Music Festival for going on 10 years, and I’ve known Ari and Joana for a long time,” Neiman said.

Neiman is a world-traveling concert pianist and has performed as soloist with major orchestras, including Chicago, Detroit, Saint Louis and San Francisco, among others, under the likes of Yoël Levi, Andrew Litton and Leonard Slatkin. Currently, Neiman is assistant professor of piano at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.

“What kept me coming back to the festival over and over again was just a wonderful atmosphere for music making,” Neiman said. “Certainly the colleagues I was surrounded by, the location in idyllic southern Vermont, the audiences, the board, and all the people I’ve gotten to know over the years, I’ve gotten to know it as an inspiring place to work and make music.”

Manchester’s Young Artist Program for college- and graduate school-age instrumentalists has long been a special interest for Neiman.

“It’s been part of my development as a professor, because it gave me a lot of my early experience in teaching chamber music to young artists,” he said. “I kind of came up as a professor in that program in a way that has translated to my skills in a tenure-track position here in Chicago, where I teach both piano and chamber music. I find that to be a parallel.”

Neiman has something unique to offer these young artists, who will face a real challenge making a living in today’s classical music world. He took over his own management and created his own recording company, Aeolian Classics, LLC, moving the business end of his career into his own control.

“When I go to the festival and I look at these young artists, I see a bright future in front of me. And that inspires me,” he said.

Neiman considers what has come before him in planning for the future.

“Obviously, I’m inheriting a festival that has really illustrious roots, great people involved, and certainly a Rudiakov legacy of 30 years, that has been wonderful and brought so much to the festival,” Neiman said, adding, “Ari and I are still very good friends. In fact, he is coming here in January to judge a competition I have.”

Thus, Neiman isn’t looking so much at how he can change things, or make them better.

“I’m taking something that’s already very fine, and really tailoring it to what I have to offer as an artist and an organizer,” he said. “So I would say that my greatest assets are my contacts. … By expanding the network of other musicians that come to Manchester, I think I can really expand the offerings that have been presented thus far.”

Programming for 2017 is still under way, and not all of the personnel has been finalized.

“I want to be able to deliver a wide range of programmatic options for the audience. So I’ve got string players, a harpist, a soprano, a horn player, possibly a clarinetist and, of course, we have a host of wonderful pianists joining us, and symphony concerts,” Neiman said.

“So, between all the forces of instrumentation that I have available, and just the incredible range of options, I’m hoping to give something to this crowd that will produce something for everyone.”

Manchester Music Festival

For information about the 2017 Manchester Music Festival, go online to www.mmfvt.org.