A unique concert experience will take place on Sept. 10, in the historic Castaneda Hotel, featuring the works of famous composers and under the guidance of artistic director Ronald Maltais. The program is underwritten by Allan Affeldt, the Las Vegas Arts Council, Southwest Capital Bank, and other donors. Tickets for this first of a planned three-concert series, are $15 per person.
Maltais, director of music at the United World College USA for 15 years, became involved with the piano at the age of four, and later began formal lessons at age eight. Originally from southern New Hampshire, his studies with Maurice Hoffman led to degrees taken at New England Conservatory (piano performance), and Boston University (music composition). Maltais pursued vocal training and he has devoted significant time to choral directing and artistic direction. His teachers included Jung Ja Kim, Katja Andy, Anthony di Bonavenura, Charles Fussel and Lukas Foss. His Meditation for Viola and Strings was conducted by Foss at Boston University in 1998. Maltais’ travels have led to engagements as a musician and lecturer in several US states and in India, Turkey, South Africa and Peru. Maltais previously composed a work for Jack Glatzer titled Dark Woods. He is currently composing an opera based on the life of Camille Claudel. He premiered his Star Axis Prelude for a select audience at the Light Spectrum Concert in March at the Dwan Light Sanctuary. Maltais recently resigned from his position at the UWC-USA to devote more time to music composition and piano performance.
The performing artists for the Sept. 10 concert include Pleiades String Quartet: Elena Sopoci, violin and viola; Elizabeth Young, violin and viola; Carla Kountoupes, violin and viola; Dana Winograd, cello; Roberto Capocchi, guitar; and Ronald Maltais, piano.
ORP: How did the Concert Series idea come about?
Ron: Several weeks ago I was given a personal tour of the Castaneda Hotel by Allan Alfeldt who is the present owner. Allan plans to restore the hotel and he will hopefully begin this project very soon. I was struck by the acoustics in the large dining room, and immediately imagined the possibilities for concerts in that space. A few days later I called Allan and asked if we could perform a concert in the dining room before the renovation begins. We discussed the logistics and decided that it would be interesting to schedule a concert there in its present condition. This first event will be one of three being planned for this concert season. Hopefully on Sept. 10, we will announce the other program dates. There is tremendous interest and support from the community already, given that the series was only announced in mid August.
ORP: As a musician, why do you want to perform in the Castaneda?
Ron: I often walk into rooms and have visions of what could happen there musically. There is something special about the Castaneda; the sound, feelings about the history of the place and the events which happened there in the past. Surely there must be a few ghosts around? I have also seen historic photographs of musicians holding mainly brass instruments outside of the building.
ORP: You’ve selected works of Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Dvorak and Boccherini. Why this selection for the first concert of the series?
Ron: I checked with a violinist (Elena Sopoci) who is a long time colleague of mine. She has pulled together a standard string quartet and they will give their premiere performance as the newly formed Pleiades String Quartet on Sept. 10. Most of the music reflects romantic (mid to late 19th century) esthetics. The exception is the Vivaldi which is Baroque, but we will perform a newly arranged version of the autumn concerto. In this piece I will join in as a pianist. The Boccherini will feature another wonderful colleague (Roberto Capocchi) who will play classical guitar in an ensemble with the string quartet. Boccherini loved the guitar, and included it in many ensemble pieces. We attempted to include some late 19th century music because of the age of the hotel.
The arrangement of the Autumn Concerto for Vivaldi’s The Seasons is by Max Richter. The String Quartet No. 2 in A minor is a very early work, which already foreshadows Mendelssohn’s genius. The Dvorak Cypresses impressed me greatly when I saw the American Ballet Theater dance to them years ago. The Boccherini Guitar Quintet in D Major Fandango is well known, and demonstrates the wonderful blend of Guitar with strings.
I have asked many ticket holders to wear 19th century dress to the concert if possible. That will be interesting!
ORP: As a concert pianist what do you like most about performance?
Ron: Well, all I can say is that it was my dream (even as a young child) to perform in front of audiences. I was a shy and introspective child and teenager. Music was my way of communicating, and it allowed me to transport myself; I felt at home with composers I admired when I delved into their music.
ORP: What is the most difficult aspect of putting a concert together as artistic director?
Ron: It always seems to evolve quickly from a vision which can be quite powerful. Invariably it begins with an interesting performance space; a musician or group of musicians, which I am impressed with. The program evolves rather quickly once negotiations begin. Artists do want direction, and this is the kind of work which excites me. Sometimes I participate in portions of a program (as a pianist or singer). A critical factor in the success of a concert is to plan a program which is the right length for the audience; a program which offers variety, excitement and a bit of challenge for the listeners.
ORP: Who influenced you as a performing artist?
Ron: There are many musicians I have seen in my lifetime who have influenced me greatly. I saw Arthur Rubinstein in recital when I was a conservatory student in Boston. He played a magnificent all-Chopin recital; that was a life changing experience not only for me but for the entire audience. He played eight encores, and the management began to protest. I went backstage to meet him.
ORP: Talk about your work as a composer and if you plan to perform original works in future concerts.
Ron: I will devote much more time to composition this year. There are literally dozens of works in my mind, and I am presently working on a string quartet and a piano concerto with string orchestra. The piano concerto is really a challenge for myself to keep a touch of tendonitis (right arm) at bay. Playing is the best therapy for sure, but within a proper balance. I composed works for colleagues in the past, and premiered two piano preludes in the Light Spectrum Concert (Dwan Light Sanctuary) in April 2016. The preludes were an experiment in that they were half composed and half improvisations. They continue to evolve, and there will be several preludes in all.
What: Castaneda Concerts
When: 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016
Where: Historic Castaneda Hotel
Cost: $15 per person
Where to purchase tickets: Las Vegas Arts Council and online at lasvegasartscouncil.org