November 19 Concert To Feature Noted Polish-American Violinist

November 19 Concert To Feature
Noted Polish-American Violinist

KINGA AUGUSTYN (Photo by Peter Schaaf)

By IAN KENYON

ONEONTA – Catskill Symphony Orchestra Music Director Maciej Żółtowski could not be more direct: “Czech composers occupy a very special place in my heart.”

Reflecting on his own graduation concert in 1997, Żółtowski elaborates.

“It opened with Smetana’s Overture from “The Bartered Bride.” I love the downright contagious optimism and inexhaustible energy. Since then, my programs frequently feature symphonies by Dvořák, including those lesser known—like the ‘Fifth’ or the ‘Sixth’—which we are going to play with the CSO.”

True to the maestro’s word, the CSO will perform several of Żółtowski’s favorite selections hailing from his native Poland and neighboring Bohemia at the next concert, on the evening of November 19 at Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta. The second concert of the CSO’s season, appropriately titled “Slavic Spirit,” will open with the bustling overture of Czech composer Bedřich Smetana’s operatic comedy, “The Bartered Bride,” followed by one of Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski’s most noted violin concertos, and concluding with the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s radiant “Sixth.”

“This concert promises to leave you in high spirits,” Żółtowski noted.

The November 19 concert will also introduce Kinga Augustyn, a versatile New York City-based virtuoso concert violinist and recording artist. Augustyn, praised as “stylish and vibrant” by UK magazine “The Strad” and “beyond amazing, one hell of a violinist” by “Fanfare,” has performed as a soloist with orchestras throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. This will be Augustyn’s performance with the CSO.

Żółtowski elaborated on the timing of his decision to include Wieniawski in the concert programming.

“Last month was the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, the oldest violin competition in the world, occurring every five years in Polish Poznan. It is not a coincidence that the next CSO concert features a work by Henryk Wieniawski—one of the greatest violin virtuoso’s of all time, whom contemporary critics and music lovers regarded as the reincarnation of Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini.”

Żółtowski added that Wieniawski had first introduced himself to American audiences during a 1872-1874 tour that, within the first eight months, resulted in 215 concerts in 60 cities throughout the eastern half of the country.
Commenting further on the inclusion of Dvořák in the programming, Żółtowski underscored that the choice is personal and draws on memories of times both good and suspenseful.

“I remember how terrified I was to conduct the ‘Sixth’ with the Plzen Radio Orchestra in the Czech Republic, who are naturally considered experts on Czech music, especially the greatest of all—Dvořák! It ultimately proved to be one of the greatest artistic experiences of my life, not to mention the thrill of performing in a concert hall called by the greatest ever jocular Czechs ‘The Hell’ due to its subterranean location.”

While Slavic Spirit is the last concert before the holidays, the CSO’s season will continue with its third concert at SUNY Oneonta on March 25, welcoming back concertgoers to the annual Le Cabaret fundraiser and guest conductor competition. CSO Chair Sarah Patterson added preparations for the fundraiser are already well underway.

“The governing board recently met and a number of new ideas came up in conversation. We always look for ways to think ‘outside of the box’ for this beloved annual event and this year will no doubt accomplish just that,” Patterson said.

Patterson added, “After the overwhelming success and community support we witnessed at last year’s fundraiser, the first Cabaret hosted since pausing our events during the pandemic, the CSO as a whole is more heartened and enthusiastic than ever to continue this musical tradition.”

Le Cabaret will celebrate the CSO’s 69th season and once again host the entertaining Guest Conductor Competition.

The 2022 competition welcomed SUNY Oneonta Dean Dr. Tracy Allen; former Director of Oneonta Public Transportation Paul Patterson Sr. and Cooperstown’s Stagecoach Coffee co-owner Matt Grady. Ultimately, the 2022 competition was won by Paul Patterson, Jr., filling in for his father on request at the last moment. The 2023 competition participants will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition to Augustyn, upcoming guest artists include The Jeremy Pelt Trio, led by preeminent young jazz trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and the Catskill Choral Society, which will join the CSO at SUNY Oneonta on May 13 for a special concert titled “Music from the Silver Screen,” to conclude the 2022-2023 season.


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