By Tammy Scileppi
He was once dubbed “a six-and-a-half-foot tall scowl,” appearing somewhat cold and aloof.
Few people know that he had a passion for fast cars and speedboats – which didn’t really go with his personality. That he married his first cousin in Russia, had two daughters, and lived in sunny Los Angeles, where he built a house that was an exact replica of his home in Moscow. Surprisingly, he owned the first automobile in his neighborhood.
Some thought it was rather prophetic that his final recital in February 1943 included Chopin’s famous funeral march. A heavy smoker, he died from lung cancer a month later in Beverly Hills, four days before his 70th birthday.
Brilliant Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Sergei Rachmaninov (or Rachmaninoff), born 1873, may have been blessed with the largest hands in classical music, which is why some of his pieces have been described as fiendishly difficult for less well-endowed performers. He could span 12 piano keys from the tip of his little finger to the tip of his thumb.
But rumor had it the musical genius could do nothing right by most of his contemporary critics’ and composers’ standards, even though he had composed an impressive number of awesome pieces, including the Cello Sonata and the Second Suite for Two Pianos, both in 1901.
In 1931, his music was officially banned back in the USSR as ‘decadent,’ with the chilling warning: “This music [The Bells] is by a violent enemy of Soviet Russia: Rachmaninov.” Apparently, great works weren’t appreciated in his homeland as they were everywhere else.
The serious-looking composer would probably crack a smile if he knew his music was being performed at a new classical music festival in trendy Long Island City. He’ll probably be there in spirit.
If you need a break from your same old Spotify playlist, and crave your culture fix, mark your calendars and reserve your tickets for the CreArt Music Festival, where you’re bound to discover something unique and unexpected. Three evening concerts — from Friday, Aug. 31, through Sunday, Sept. 2 — will present classical music with a cool, modern twist by incorporating other disciplines into each concert.
The result? Musical fusion, Queens-style.
Classical chamber music by Brahms, Rachmaninov, and Beethoven fused with contemporary dance, theater, and immersive sound, light and projection design, utilizing video mapping projection along with stunning visual installations.
The festival lineup will feature violinist Mélanie Clapiès, cellist Julia Yang, flutist Guillermo Laporta, clarinetist Jonathan Cohen, pianist Josefina Urraca, and dancer/choreographer Marissa Maislen, and will take place at the Plaxall Gallery (5-25 46th Ave., LIC).
In collaboration with Long Island City Artists (LiC-A) @ The Plaxall Gallery and supported by the Queens Council on the Arts, the CreArtBox Music Ensemble’s very first CreArt Music Festival — directed by Sunnyside musicians Guillermo Laporta and Josefina Urraca — will be celebrating the wonderful world of classical music with Queens audiences.
Broadway World hailed the event as “A wholly authentic, visually and aurally compelling experience…”
“For me, this is a very special performance because I am going to premiere a collection of new pieces written by me for flute, piano and electronic, and also the set design that I am working on will be kept as a temporary multimedia installation at The Plaxall Gallery,” Laporta explained.
He and Urraca founded the music group when they moved to NYC in 2012, so diverse audiences could enjoy the beauty of classical music. CreArtBox’s mission is an important one because more people — especially young adults and even teens – throughout local communities and beyond, will now have the opportunity to enjoy high-quality, dynamic performances of innovative music written by emerging and established living composers, as well as classical music from the 17th century onwards that uses innovative visuals and set designs.
“Long Island City is always looking forward to creating a sense of community. We believe that music has the power of bringing people together and the CreArt Music Festival can be a great way to support that desire in this neighborhood,” Urraca said, adding, “And it will not be just classical music, we will join forces with new composers and present every concert with an exciting stage and projection design.”
Friday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m.: “Folk Culture” (Piano trio, violin, cello and piano)
Reserve your tickets for opening night and before you know it you’ll be zoning the world out. This work explores music written for violin, cello and piano, and popular tunes in classical music. Repertoire will include: Beethoven’s Kakadu variations op. 121a, Rachmaninoff’s Trio Elegiaque number 1, Franck Martin’s Trio on Irish Folk Tunes, and Dvorak’s Dumky Trio.
Saturday, Sept. 1, 8 p.m.: “Awave” (Flute, piano and electronics)
You should check out this amazing presentation of Guillermo Laporta’s “Awave,” which blends years of opera, symphonic and chamber music performances with multimedia sound design and sound track composition. The performance will present a collection of pieces written for VR experiences, theatrical sound design and video games. It will also feature the world premiere of 10 new pieces for flute, piano and electronics.
Sunday, Sept. 2, 8 p.m.: “Just as They Are” (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and dancer)
Don’t miss the exciting third concert, which will present the full core ensemble of CreArtBox with a full-scale set design and a unique visual approach. This will be the grand finale of the festival.
So, why should folks experience this festival? What makes it special?
“People should come because we perform some of the best music ever written and everyone should experience the magic of this music first hand,” Laporta said, adding, “On the other hand, we create an experience around these composers that goes beyond the music.”
Why did you choose Plaxall as your venue?
“We decided to partner with Long Island City Artists (LiC-A) at The Plaxall Gallery because we loved the location and the space. We also like to present classical music on nontraditional spaces and bring our music to this new and trendy neighborhood,” Laporta said.
“Also, the open layout of the Gallery offers us the ability to create the visual installation that we imagined for these kind of performances.”
A multimedia opera titled “Two Roads” and a new album are in the works, along with the next season of the CreArt Music Series, according to Laporta.
All performances are open to the public with a $5 suggested donation. To reserve tickets, visit crear