Aston Magna in July: Paganini, Beethoven, Mozart and Isabella D’Este’s Playlist

What a man! What a violin…What sufferings, what misery, what tortures in those four strings!’ And so much more in July with Aston Magna…

Aston Magna Music Festival moves full force into July and its extended 45th season, with breathtaking Paganini, Beethoven, Mozart, voices and viols in intimate concert settings.

First up this weekend, July 6, 7 and 8 at Brandeis, Bard and in the Berkshires, virtuoso violinist Edson Scheid, presents Paganini’s 24 Caprices, in a signature solo performance he has worked to perfect for years. Scheid, like musicians before him going back centuries, fell under the spell of Paganini at age 10, only to balk at the complexity of the Caprices. Franz Liszt, writing of Paganini, once wrote, “What a man, what a violin, what an artist! Heavens! What sufferings, what misery, what tortures in those four strings!”

Scheid with Aston Magna in 2015

Scheid himself writes in the Program Notes that Liszt’s words “reveal the kind of impact a Paganini concert had on its audience, and what an unparalleled artist he was. By far the most famous violinist of the Romantic Era, Paganini stupefied audiences around Europe with his personal magnetism and virtuosic technique. He contributed to redefine the musical landscape of the time as a touring virtuoso, and influenced many musicians of the time…” Scheid reveals more of his Paganini passion and his own musical life in a Boston Globe interview published 6/29/17.

At Brandeis on July 13 and in the Berkshires at Saint James Place on July 15 Aston Magna’s offers an intimate evening of “Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and its Mozartean Models,” performed by Aston Magna Artistic Director Dan Stepner and David Hyun-Su Kim, a young and rising talent of the fortepiano.

Dan Stepner and David Hyun-su Kim

These sonatas by Beethoven and Mozart reveal the running connections between the two: As Aston Magna’s Joseph Orchard writes, “A few years after the publication of Mozart’s six violin sonatas in 1781, a very young composer in Bonn took three of them as models for three piano quartets he was writing…The composer was Ludwig van Beethoven and the op. 2 piano sonatas were among his first publications.” Read more from the Program Notes.

Aston Magna wraps up its 45th season July 20 and 22 at Brandeis and in the Berkshires with a robust evening of vocals and viols, “Music from the Court of Isabella D’Este.” Mezzo soprano Deborah Rentz-Moore and Tenor Aaron Sheehan join Aston Magna’s string performers for music by Josquin, Agricola, Obrect, Isaac, and Martini.

As the program notes explain, Isabella D’Este lived in a strained period when “Arts patronage was a backdrop to the sordid and often brutal political machinations that buffeted the lives of the rulers of the Italian city-states…Courts vied with each other to attract the best artists of the day as one way to prove their superiority, for Renaissance rulers were judged not only on their prowess in war and in the administration of a state, but also on their magnificence and generosity in courtly life.” Read more from the Program Notes

Deborah Rentz-Moore and David Sheehan

One hour before each concert, Aston Magna’s Artistic Director Dan Stepner hosts a pre-concert talk, in which the context of the evening’s music is placed in context: historical, political, social. The music is richer because of these talks.

Tickets $40/45; student discounts and discounts for patrons under $30. For information and tickets, visit astonmagna.org