Traffic jams. Sparkler accidents. Uncle Chuck chuckin' it up after too many Old Milwaukees and baked beans. Throwing elbows for the best view of the fireworks. John Philip Sousa.
Face it. America's work hard/play hard attitude makes holidays a bit stressful. I, for one, am tired of being swept along in the impatient mass exodus out of the city every long weekend. And certainly after the events of this past year, I am not too keen on hearing the bombastic finale to the 1812 Overture ad nauseum or Stars and Stripes Forever (and ever and ever) as I fall into the inevitable Independence Day hot dog coma.
For those who share my sentiments?or for those who are looking for something uniquely New York to do on the Fourth?all you have to do is make your way across the Brooklyn Bridge to the Fulton Street Ferry Dock, where, since 1977, 83-year-old impresaria Olga Bloom and her brainchild, Bargemusic, have held court. With concerts Thursday through Sunday every single weekend of the year, this series assures New Yorkers top-drawer chamber music even when the major venues have packed up for the summer.
Bargemusic's All-American program offers a much-needed respite from the pops patriotism that will be overtaking the city. Played by the Russian-born (yet well-traveled) violinist Mark Peskanov and pianist Steven Beck, a rising star in the ranks of Juilliard and Young Concert Artists, the familiarity of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and arrangements of songs from Porgy and Bess is just nostalgic enough to evoke pride in America without the trap of jingoistic renditions of "You're a Grand Old Flag." Sandwiched between the Gershwin is Copland's simple and pastoral Sonata for Violin and Piano, a composition from the heart of his populist period (composed only a year after Fanfare for the Common Man and Lincoln Portrait, two other Fourth favorites.) While these pieces make for a delightful way to spend an evening, it is the inclusion of Keith Jarrett's sonata for violin and piano that turns this program into a potential powerhouse.
Jarrett is most widely recognized for his solo piano works and his 20-plus-year collaboration with Standards Trio (with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock) and is considered one of the most original pianist/composers to have emerged in jazz over the last several decades. But Jarrett's talents extend far beyond the jazz world. He is also a respected interpreter of classical repertoire, having produced critically acclaimed recordings of Bach's keyboard music and performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world. While most of his jazz work has been stamped by his unique improvisational voice, his chamber and orchestral works are equally worthy of praise. The sonata on this program delves deeply into melancholy, Eastern European folk influences, with the violin winding its way through lamenting phrases as the piano, as is usually the case in Jarrett's improvisational work, constantly coaxes the tunes down unforeseen yet astoundingly beautiful paths. The final movement strays furthest from traditional melodic concepts, opening with persistent double-stop glissandi in the violin part and ominous arpeggios rumbling below in the piano.
This work, penned by one of America's most independent-minded musicians, adds profundity to this sweet program to be presented in one of New York's most intimate concert spaces. Concertgoers are not only treated to great chamber music, but to homemade wine and perhaps one of the best views of lower Manhattan in the city. Plus, if the program happens to inspire your American pride, you will be in a prime spot for fireworks.
Works by Jarrett, Gershwin, and Copland: Mark Peskanov, violin, and Steven Beck, piano, Thurs. & Fri., July 3 & 4 at Bargemusic, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn, 718-624-2083.