That is the milestone year, or anniversary, however, that the Manchester Music Festival will be observing with its annual summer concert series that launches on July 3. And to mark both an illustrious past with a nod to the future, the eight-concert series has been titled "Generations," to recognize where it's come from and where it is hopefully going.
"The idea was simple," said Ari Rudiakov, the artistic director of the music festival for the past 14 years. "We are standing at least on the shoulders of of two generations -- donors, musicians, volunteers, the business community. How do you interpret that in musical terms?"
You start by bringing in the best possible talent that's available and affordable, develop a line up of concerts that offers variety with a healthy dose of traditional chamber music favorites, and wheel in a group of "Young Artists" who will have their own parallel concert series.
That fits, because the music festival which began its life in 1974 and was founded by pianist Eugene List and his wife, violinist Carroll Glenn, stressed teaching up-and-coming musicians and instruction along with its performances. Rudiakov's father, Michael Rudiakov, a cellist, joined the teaching faculty in 1983 and assumed the leadership of the festival in the mid-1980s following the deaths of List and Carroll. Ari Rudiakov in turn, took over the reins in 2000, following his father's passing.
To mark the 40th anniversary season, the festival is pulling out all the stops, Ari Rudiakov said.
A total of 28 guest artists will be performing over the course of the summer at the Arkell Pavillion on the campus of the Southern Vermont Arts Center, where the festival stages its performances. They will be held each Thursday from July 3 through Aug. 14. Most of the performances will start at 7:30 p.m., although the one slated for July 10 will start at 8 p.m. and a special family concert set for Aug. 2 will see the baton drop at 3 p.m.
"What we're doing this summer is steeped in a lot of tradition by design," Rudiakov said, "with some points of reference that will appeal to a broad audience, and some that won't."
First up on July 3 will be a piano-heavy night featuring Christopher O'Riley (a last minute replacement for pianist Peter Serkin) and David Deveau. They will be performing with the Manchester Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Rudiakov. The program includes two of J.S. Bach's double piano concertos along with "Alla Burletta" from Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson's "Generations: Second Sinfonietta for Strings."
Fans of classical piano virtuosity may want to take note of the second concert, on July 10, which will feature pianist Vassily Primakov, performing solo works by Chopin. The concert will also feature pieces with Calvin Weirsma and Joana Genova on violins, Amadi Azikiwe and Ariel Rudiakov on violas, along with cellists Benjamin Capps, Yehuda Hanani and Caroline Stinson.
Guest artists who will be appearing later on through the summer include the Shanghai Quartet on July 17, and pianist Michael Brown on July 31 and Aug. 7. Other concerts will highlight music inspired by German Romanticism (July 24), an all-Beethoven program (July 31), an evening of music by Mendelssohn and Giannini (Aug. 7), before concluding with "A Night at the Opera," on Aug. 14. This concluding concert will feature vocalists from New York's Metropolitan Opera.
The family concert set for Saturday, Aug. 2 will feature a tap dancer, Devin Johnson, who acted in several theater productions at nearby Burr and Burton Academy while a student there not so long ago, and will be dedicated to the memory of a local artist, Brian Sweetland, who died tragically last year. A sweeping retrospective of his art work will be opening that same day at the Southern Vermont Arts Center.
"Across the board, the quality will be as good or better than it's ever been," Rudiakov said.
Meanwhile, the Young Artists will also be setting up shop and performing at the Riley Center for the Arts on the campus of Burr and Burton Academy. Their concerts will be held each Monday from July 7 though Aug. 12, and will start at 7 p.m.
The Young Artist program is a full scholarship, six week intensive chamber music study session for string players and pianists between the ages of 19 to 30, according to the music festival's Web site. It's a deep dive into chamber music with an emphasis on performance, and that's what sets it apart from many other comparable programs said Christian Schrock, a cellist and doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, who will be attending the program for a third straight year.
Most schools only ask their students to gear up for one or two performances over a comparable stretch, but here, there's a show to prepare for each week, he said.
"As a performer, everybody deals with nerves," he said. "The only way to get better at that is to perform more. You have to bring your 'A' game each week."
The students -- around 15 or so in number -- are taught by the music festival's resident faculty, and they practice for 6-7 hours a day, in addition to the rehearsals for their concerts, he said.
Admission is by audition, and the skill level is uniformly high, said Schrock, who plans to teach music as well as perform when he finishes his doctorate. "You get to know everybody, and you really get to build friendships," he said. "You're living with each other for six weeks and have fun together, and do what we all love -- music."
The cost of the Young Artists concerts are $10. Those under 18 years may attend free of charge. Ticket prices for the "Generations" Thursday night music festival concerts are $38, although the Beethoven concert on July 31 will be $48 per person and the family concert on Aug. 2 will be $20 per person.
Tickets may be purchased online by visiting mmfvt.org, or by calling the music festival at 802-362-1956.