By JIM LOWE
The Lowe Down
On New Year’s Eve afternoon, I attended a holiday concert in Manchester. My first impression was that the program was a bit under-rehearsed, with an all-strings arrangement of the famous chorale from J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 140, “Wachet Auf,” but that was premature. Soon, the playing was expert and reflected the joy of the occasion in music from the aforementioned Bach to the Beatles.
The Inn at Manchester’s concert barn was “packed to the rafters” with a diverse audience, from classical-music aficionados to families. They were celebrating not only the new year, but a successful first year for Taconic Music, the area’s community music education organization.
Taconic Music came about after Ariel Rudiakov was fired as artistic director of the Manchester Music Festival. Not only had the violist and conductor led the summer chamber-music festival for 16 years, his father, cellist Michael Rudiakov, had been artistic director for the previous 15 years. (Manchester Music Festival is now directed by pianist Adam Neiman.)
But, Ariel Rudiakov and his wife, violinist Joana Genova, had created a year-round music education program in the area, as well as settling as a family in Manchester. Rather than give all that up — and drop their students and wintertime music fans — they founded Taconic Music.
Last summer, Taconic Music created its own Chamber Music Intensive for young professionals at Burr and Burton Academy’s Riley Center for the Arts, offering excellent faculty concerts and student recitals. Perhaps more importantly, its Strings for Kids program offers lessons by expert teachers as well as performance opportunities. Its Music in Action program takes the Taconic Chamber Players (i.e. the faculty and friends) into schools, libraries, bookstores, art galleries, assisted-living homes and other nontraditional venues.
Rudiakov and Genova work hard to make this all happen. Both perform around the country and teach at Indiana University’s famed Jacobs School of Music as well — commuting from Manchester.
All this would be just nice, rather than important, if it weren’t for Taconic’s excellence. At the New Year’s concert, Rudiakov and Genova proved expert leaders and players in a wide variety of musical styles. Genova delivered the violin solo exquisitely in Astor Piazzola’s tango-tinged “Oblivion,” with a warm, rich and romantic lyricism.
Most of the nine fine strings enjoyed some delightfully extravagant playing in the over-the-top “Czardas,” a familiar Hungarian Gypsy dance by Vittorio Monti. The two percussionists were happy to exploit their roles in Led Zeppelin’s “All of My Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” by the Beatles.
What made it a real New Year’s celebration, though, were the oh-so-traditional and oh-so-wonderful works that closed the program. Delivered with all their Viennese spirit and joy were Johann Straus Jr.’s “Emperor Waltz,” Op. 437, and Johann Strauss Sr.’s “Radetzky” March, Op. 228. What a joyful way to ring in the new year!
It might come as a surprise to some, but the Manchester-Dorset-Weston region has long been somewhat dormant culturally in winter months. With the beginning of Rutland’s artistic renaissance and the possibilities of Weston Playhouse Theatre Company’s just-built year-round theater, change is beginning. Taconic Music isn’t just emblematic of this growth, it’s a leader.