A captivating recital by a Barre native who is quickly becoming a star of New York’s contemporary music scene is a surprising but fitting tribute to a beloved Adamant philanthropist.
Adam Tendler performed a particularly rewarding program of 20th and 21st century music on July 16 at the newly opened Frank Suchomel Memorial Arts Center. In fact, Frank Suchomel selected Tendler to curate the center’s first concert series before his death in October 2021.
Suchomel’s influence began when he first attended the legendary Adamant Music School for pianists some 70 years ago. Unlike most students, Suchomel maintained a relationship with the school and founder Edwine Behre when he left the school. As he became successful as head of UPS’s tax department, he became the school’s principal patron and soon became its president. Suchomel bought up a large portion of Adamant’s land, built practice studios and other buildings, and bought new pianos.
Suchomel also founded the Adamant Cultural Foundation and in 1996 funded the construction of the 50-seat Blackbox-Phillips Experimental Theater adjacent to an abandoned quarry, which houses the QuarryWorks Community Theater. Greater support for art and society is hard to imagine.
When Suchomel died, he bequeathed most of his adamant land to the music school. He also sculpted a piece for the Cultural Foundation to create the Frank Suchomel Memorial Arts Center, including the theater and the former Waterside Hall.
Today, the Frank Suchomel Memorial Arts Center is directed by Frank’s longtime partner, Michael Suchomel, who also founded and directs the QuarryWorks Theater. To date, the center’s activities have included the theater, the concert series and two fine art exhibits from Frank Suchomel’s collection, two-dimensional in the concert hall, and Vermont sculptures in the nearby meditation garden. It’s quite an auspicious start and a fitting tribute to a great man.
Tendler was also a student at the Adamant Music School. A protégé of Barre’s famed piano teacher, the late Dick Shadroui, and later recipient of the Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists, Tendler became what the Minneapolis Star Tribune called “the hottest pianist right now on the American contemporary scene,” according to the Washington Post as ” relentlessly adventurous pianist”. By age 23, Tendler was giving solo recitals in all 50 United States, leading to the memoir 88×50. He has also made two recordings with music by Liszt and Robert Palmer respectively.
In 2022, Adam will debut 16 works he has commissioned including Laurie Anderson, Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Christopher Cerrone, Timo Andres and Pamela Z as part of his Inheritances project.
Tendler’s Adamant concerto explained his success in creating compelling performances of contemporary music for many listeners. Aside from being a particularly good pianist, he can sense the romantic elements in otherwise gnarly music.
One of the “Inheritances” works, Mazzoli’s dramatic “Forgiveness Machine” takes a journey from delicate to dark and plump and everything in between. Tendler’s performance invited the audience into this powerful work. Different and similar, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “the plum tree I planted still there,” another track from “Inheritances,” began gently with episodically brief lyrical phrases that thickened and grew in aggressiveness and power.
The crowd favorite may have been Philip Glass’s minimalist “Mad Rush” from 1979. Slight frizz grows and recedes, doubles dramatically, then recedes. Tendler’s approach, which some might find overly romantic, but I didn’t, benefited from Tendler’s warmth, tone and feel.
Two established works showed Tendler’s substantial technique. Aaron Copland’s 1930 Piano Variations aren’t the Copland of “Appalachian Spring,” but much more prickly. Tendler conveyed this work effectively, emphasizing the theme throughout and giving meaning to the percussiveness of this work.
Tendler closed with a great dash of virtuosity, Albert Ginastera’s 1952 Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22. All four movements of the Latin-tinged work make demands on the fingers, not only to create clarity, but to give expression to the dense but very rhythmic passages. Tendler’s performance was delightful and exciting.
A hearty meal needs a sweet dessert, and Muhly’s “Eiris, Sones” fitted it perfectly with its nocturne-like, tender lyricism. Tendler’s audience loved it.
Adam Tendler could not have paid more tribute to Frank Suchomel.