We did five concerts a season when we started says Caroline Stoessinger, director of the Music at Hillwood series since its founding at Tilles Center in 1988. But when the audience began to diminish a bit, we went to four. She hopes classical music on Long Island doesn’t continue to diminish. In her 28 years with the Hillwood series, Stoessinger has brought world-renowned musicians to Tilles’ 490-seat recital hall. Perhaps the most historic event was the final concert by Mieczysław Horszowski, who at 99 had enjoyed one of the longest careers in performing arts history. He was expected only to play a couple of Chopin nocturnes Stoessinger recalls, to be followed by soprano Deborah Voigt before she was famous. But he went on to play a ballade and then a scherzo. Deborah never got on. Horszowski died in 1993.
The next Hillwood recital, a Sunday matinee, features a trio of young musicians including a cellist who last month won first prize in Detroit’s Sphinx Music Competition for which Yo-Yo Ma serves as artistic adviser. Thomas Mesa, the Sphinx winner is joined by violinist Bela Horvath and pianist Drew Peterson in a program featuring excerpts from Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style for Cello and Piano, Brahms’ Sonata for Violin in D Minor and Mendelssohn’s Trio in D Minor. As usual in the Hillwood series, music is annotated by commentary from Stoessinger, a concert pianist formerly of the CUNY John Jay College music faculty. I try in my remarks to tie the notes together, so to speak a hint of hors d’oeuvres to go with the meat-and-potatoes main course. She describes her commentary for Sunday’s concert as love notes, double entendres about their love lives the composers’ not the musicians she quickly adds with a laugh.
But for Stoessinger, the recent setback in classical music for Long Island is no laughing matter. For as long as she’s played host to Music at Hillwood she also selects the program and the musicians and occasionally accompanies on piano as well the Long Island Philharmonic was the resident orchestra of the 2,000-seat concert hall next door. It’s an absolute tragedy Stoessinger says of the philharmonic disbanding after 36 years in February. It was Long Island’s crown jewel a world-class orchestra. Noting that the violinist in Sunday’s recital plays for Brazil’s San Paulo Symphony, led by former Philharmonic music director Marin Alsop, she notes that the world’s foremost woman conductor got her start right here. But Stoessinger says the Philharmonic will be missed most for its educational role, with its musicians playing side by side with students from participating schools. It can be a life-changing experience for these kids Stoessinger says.
My hope is that Tilles Center will continue as a gathering place for the soul of the arts especially serious music not just classical but music played with commitment and dedication. A sold-out Carnegie Hall audience joined a children’s chorus in a singalong to David Bowie’s Space Oddity Thursday, a sweet end to a tribute concert that turned into a memorial through some bizarre timing. Jakob Dylan, Michael Stipe, the Flaming Lips and Heart’s Ann Wilson were among the artists who joined Bowie’s former collaborator Tony Visconti and other musicians who had performed with the late rock star. God bless David Bowie, Dylan said after performing the 1970s anthem Heroes. Organizers of an annual benefit for music education that focuses on the work of a particular artist had decided last fall that Bowie would be featured for its 13th year.