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Aston Magna’s Time Traveling Season

Aston Magna Dan StepnerAston Magna Artistic Director Daniel Stepner has a few season preview thoughts to share with our friends and followers. 

Forty-five years ago, Albert Fuller’s vision and Lee Elman’s enthusiasm gave birth to a unique festival in a very special place: Elman’s Great Barrington estate, “Aston Magna.” It was named by Albert Spalding, its previous owner, who himself was an important professional violinist and composer in his day. The Festival grew quickly and moved to St. James Church in downtown Great Barrington. We are all excited to be returning there – now Saint James Place — with its excellent acoustics and atmosphere, following an extensive renovation as a performance space.

The Aston Magna Music Festival’s mission has always been to illuminate and enliven music of the past with period instruments, vocal styles, recordings and intimate venues, as well as talks, program notes, and publications dealing with the broad historical background of the music we perform. Thus our concerts are windows into our collective past – its surprising sophistication, its kaleidoscopic variety of social and political worlds, and even our past’s grappling with its own past (think of Monteverdi’s take on Nero’s Rome; Handel’s treatments of Julius Caesar, Judas Maccabeus, and Jesus; or Bach’s delightful allegory of Apollo and Pan).

This season, in addition to a wide variety of baroque and early classic era music – our core repertoire — we explore 16th century polyphony from the Mantuan court of Isabella d’Este with voices and viols, and tango music from the early 20thcentury, with a master performer on the bandoneon – that essential instrument of tango. Some may say we are crossing over (in both directions!) into foreign territory, but I would respectfully counter that our intent is consistent: to bring to life worthy music of the past in the light of its composers’ intent as they worked within the constraints of their particular worlds.

We hope you enjoy the time-travel with us!

Daniel Stepner