Catch Oct. 2 and 23 concerts ahead of special Nov. 10 patron appreciation event
by Charles Cassady
Among the top of the charts from 1983: Olivia Newton-John, Joan Jett, Rick Springfield, Vangelis, Hall & Oates – and the debut of Music from the Western Reserve.
Now, in the fall of 2022, the Hudson-based classical-music concert series and society will set out to prove with its 40th-anniversary season that it continues to pass the test of time.
Music from the Western Reserve began in 1983 as a project to bring regular performances to the “Music Room” of Stan Hywet Hall estate near Akron, where rubber magnate F.A Seiberling’s wife Gertrude, a musician in her own right, held recitals and events up to the early 1950s. From 1982 to 2002, Music from Stan Hywet – as it was called then – offered patrons classical music in elegant setting dating back to the Edwardian era of 100 years ago.
With the success of the series, the concerts outgrew the Stan Hywet Music Room and relocated to Hudson in 2002. For a few years, they happened at chapel on the campus of Western Reserve Academy. Now, Music from the Western Reserve concerts generally take place at Christ Church Episcopal, 21 Aurora St., on Sunday afternoons. But in the milestone 40th year there will be a few note-worthy exceptions.
“On Thursday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m., we will host a special event at Steinway Piano Gallery,” said Zsolt Bognár, Music from the Western Reserve general manager and artistic director.
This special, held at the Steinway retail/performance complex at 334 E. Hines Hill Rd., is in tune with the anniversary.
“Originally we were planning a formal fundraiser gala,” said Bognár. “But now we are presenting it as a free patron/donor appreciation event, featuring my own performances as pianist, a full reception and bubbly. We will toast to our 40th year, and in fact to my own 40th birthday a few days later.”
Bognár, a resident of the Forest Hills neighborhood in Cleveland, won the appointment in charge of Music from the Western Reserve in 2019.
“I have lived in Northeast Ohio for 22 years, for my entire adult life. I came here to study with pianist Sergei Babayan at the Cleveland Institute of Music.”
Most of Bognár’s performances are abroad, so he said it will be a “true delight to play for Music from the Western Reserve and join members of the Cleveland Orchestra in a concert of recital duos.”
Bognár noted other 2022-2023 highlights, including the season opener on Sunday, Oct. 2, that will featuring distinguished pianist Peter Takács, “especially known for his Beethoven performances and having recorded all of the Beethoven sonatas.”
“We are also excited to have the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, a 10-piece complement, on [Sunday] Oct. 23, he said, “and our season continues at the end of February with our incredible Featured Young Artist violinist Minchae Kim, followed by the Callisto String Quartet, the Baldwin Wallace Music Theater Showcase, and then our season closer, in which I collaborate as pianist.”
For typical performances at Christ Church Episcopal, a preliminary talk opens the program at 4:30 p.m., with music at 5 p.m. and a post-concert reception featuring light appetizers and beverages. The cost is $25; students are admitted for free.
Bognár, besides his own engagements and managing Music from the Western Reserve, is an online personality with a widely viewed online program at livingtheclassicallife.com. The show features informal and often highly personal on-camera interviews with professional musicians and conductors around the world.
The web show inspired one of his enhancements to the concert series, the pre-curtain discussion with the visiting artists, “chatting about the program, the composers and also about life and music in general,” he explained.
Bognár’s coming on board with Music from the Western Reserve coincided with coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns – a hardship for all public performances.
“We adapted to the pandemic by filming and streaming virtual performances – some of them live – and we presented these free to our community. The huge upside of this difficult endeavor was reaching listeners as far as Austria and Australia.”
Now, Bognár said, the challenge is to find funding and get audiences away from screens and back into seats. He did not rule out the possibility of more special off-site performances, including a potential return to Stan Hywet (“It is a truly special setting”).
There may also be a return visit by the “Concert Truck,” a new traveling innovation of the Cleveland Piano Festival, which visited Hudson in an al-fresco show featuring pianist Suzanne Zhang this summer.
“The Concert Truck, which we presented at the end of July, was a huge success,” Bognár said. “We presented our first outdoor event, and we presented it for free, thanks to the generous support of Hudson Community Foundation, as well as the Phil and Joan Tobin Family. By show of hands, we found that most of the people there were attending one of our events for the very first time.”
“It is our duty and mission to remind our audiences why attending in person connects us to the magic of great music, to our friends and family, interacting with the artists over food and drink, and experiencing all these collectively and in the moment.”
A full listing of the 2022-2023, 40th anniversary season can be found online at musicwr.org. The society’s phone number is 330-942-5664. ∞
Featured Photo: Music from the Western Reserve General Manager and Artistic Director Zsolt Bognár leads a community conversation with classical guitarist Colin Davin in 2019, when Davin performed as part of the organization’s 2019-2020 season. Photos submitted.