Mostly Modern Festival Returns to Saratoga This June

Mostly Modern Festival (MMF) was born when classical music powerhouses Robert and Victoria Paterson (he’s a composer, she’s a violinist) were looking for a music festival that celebrated living composers with a full orchestra. Not finding any such festival that fit those criteria, the couple decided to create it themselves, and to do it in Saratoga Springs, in part because of its central location between New York City, Boston and Montreal. “Most classical music festivals primarily perform music by dead composers, with a few obligatory pieces by living composers thrown in, maybe,” says Robert. “Mostly Modern Festival flips that model and celebrates modern music, with occasional works from the past.” 

The Patersons, who split their time between New York City and Saratoga, launched their first-ever festival in 2018, and returned the following year for round two. Then—you know the story—the pandemic hit, silencing tubas and piccolos from Lincoln Center to the Sydney Opera House. This summer will mark the long-awaited return of MMF, which will present 12 performances throughout the month of June. 

Kicking things off is, well, a kick-off event featuring world-class opera singers and NYC instrumentalists coming together June 8 at Caffè Lena. The rest of the shows, which include three orchestra concerts and more than 30 world premieres, will take place between June 9 and June 24 at the Arthur Zankel Music Center. Of the 150 world-class musicians who will be featured in the 2022 festival, standouts include Austin Symphony conductor Peter Bay and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta, who will conduct the American Modern Orchestra in its final concert of the festival on June 24. The program for that not-to-be-missed evening is Aaron Copland’s Dance Symphony, Charles Griffes’ Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan, MMF’s own Robert Paterson’s Dark Mountains, and Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto featuring flutist Henrik Heide.

Speaking of all that classical music, are you one of those people who thinks the genre in general just isn’t for them? Think again. “Most people love classical music without even realizing it,” says Robert, who serves as MMF’s artistic director (Victoria is its executive director). “If you watch TV shows such as Succession or Downton Abbey, or movies directed by Steven Spielberg, and you like what you’re hearing, you are essentially listening to classical music.”

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