Corrections or additions?
Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 21, 2000. All rights reserved.
A Feast for the Senses
The interests of Peggy Schecter, artistic director
of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, go beyond chamber music.
She cares about art, and especially about outdoor sculpture. Reading
last year about the addition of a French restaurant to Grounds for
Sculpture, she was struck by a singular idea. "I thought, outdoor
sculpture and good food, fine! But there’s one thing missing: chamber
Now chamber music is coming to Grounds for Sculpture, in a "Concert
in the Park," performed by the Chamber Music Society on Saturday,
In an interview from her home in Montclair, Schecter relates how she
was perusing the real estate section of the New York Times last year
when she read about the construction of an office complex and restaurant
on acreage adjoining the 22-acre Grounds for Sculpture, the former
New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton where J. Seward Johnson Jr.
has created an outdoor sculpture display and museum. The restaurant
was to be Rat’s (U.S. 1, January 26, 2000). The office center would
house Johnson’s International Sculpture Center, as well as the Atlantic
Foundation, a fund-granting organization for arts and oceanographic
research. The $4.5 million project was designed to re-create elements
of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s water-garden at Giverny,
with its now-iconic lily ponds and Japanese bridge.
Sculptor Seward Johnson has created a colorful niche for himself by
using paintings by Impressionists Monet, Edouard Manet, and others,
as blueprints for three-dimensional works on view at Grounds for Sculpture.
His piece "Dejeuner Deja Vu" (1994) is a transcription of
Manet’s notorious "Dejeuner sur l’herbe" (1863), the painting
that shocked academic artists by showing two fully-clothed gentlemen
picnicking with a nude woman. Johnson’s "The Eye of the Beholder"
(1997), a transcription of Manet’s painting "At Pere Lathuille’s"
(1879), shows a loving couple intently absorbed with each other as
a Parisian waiter looks on. In all, seven Johnson sculptures derived
from Impressionist paintings are displayed at Grounds for Sculpture.
The term Impressionism dates from 1874, derived from Monet’s 1872
painting, "Impressionism: Sunrise." Impressionist exhibits
today draw spill-over crowds in art museums around the world. Even
when Impressionism was in its infancy, its appeal went beyond the
ranks of its practitioners.
French musicians, who were the younger contemporaries of the Impressionist
painters, found themselves drawn to the new approach. What bound artists
and musicians together was a readiness to overturn the old rules,
a love for incorporating space and color in their works, and a taste
for mood and atmosphere, rather than epics and sharp-edged constructions.
While, in the 1890s Impressionist art began to influence musicians,
a century later Impressionist music seems to find an echo in Seward
Johnson’s sculptures. When Johnson translates two-dimensional painting
into three-dimensions, he follows the path of Impressionist Maurice
Ravel, who transcribed Moussorgsky’s piano piece "Pictures at
an Exhibition" for orchestra. Both Johnson and Ravel have fleshed
out smaller works, recreating them on a larger, more voluptuous scale.
Chamber Music’s Schecter, reading about the expansion at Ground for
Sculpture, was intrigued by its French aspects. Schecter’s ticket
to France was a Fulbright grant that enabled her to study flute at
the Paris Conservatoire and to enjoy French art treasures of the 19th
and 20th centuries. A fan of Rodin’s sculpture and Monet’s water lilies,
she was intrigued by the francophile elements at Grounds for Sculpture.
She wrote Johnson proposing a Grounds for Sculpture performance of
French chamber music that could recreate pieces that Monet might actually
have heard, and sent him the Chamber Music Society’s CD "Twentieth
Century French Classics." Johnson listened, and particularly liked
the Vincent D’Indy, Suite, Op. 91. He invited Schecter to visit Hamilton
and discuss details. The result is "A Feast for the Senses,"
on Saturday, June 24, a concert of French music by the New Jersey
Chamber Music Society. The concert will use as its stage the site
of "The Nine Muses," a large-scale granite sculpture by Carlos
Dorrien; in case of inclement weather, the concert moves indoors to
the museum. An optional, French-inflected meal at Rat’s restaurant
There are places for 200 at the concert, and for 100 at the dinner.
Since notices were sent out to the Grounds’ mailing list of 5,000,
both events are close to selling out.
The program typifies French music near the turn of the century. It
consists of Jacques Ibert’s, "Two Interludes;" transcriptions
of Claude Debussy’s "Bruyeres" ("Heaths") from Preludes,
Book Two, and "Prelude and Menuet" from his "Suite Bergamasque,"
both originally for piano; a transcription of Ravel’s "Pavane
for a Dead Princess," originally for piano; Camille Saint-Saens’
"Fantasy for Violin and Harp;" D’Indy Suite for flute, violin,
viola, cello, and harp; and Louis Moyse’s "Suite in C."
Moyse is the son of the legendary flutist Marcel Moyse, one of Schechter’s
mentors. The suite was written originally for two flutists, the father-and-son,
and Louis’ wife, a violist. The Chamber Music Society performs it
using flute, violin, and viola.
New Jersey Chamber Music Society performers are Peggy Schecter, flute;
Nicolas Danielson, violin; Ryo Sasaki, viola; Wendy Sutter, cello;
and Susan Jolles, harp. Founded in 1974, the Montclair-based organization
consists of a 16-member classical music core and a jazz component.
Co-founder of the ensemble, Schecter grew up in Brooklyn
in the 1950s and was a classmate of Barbra Streisand at Erasmus Hall
High School. Her father was an English teacher father, her mother
was a high school administrator. Although the parents played no instruments
they encouraged their daughters. Older sister Philippa played piano
and cello. Peggy started piano at six and tried violin before settling
on flute. The two sisters played duets as girls.
"I always wanted a second instrument that would enable me to play
with others and socialize," says Schecter. At 10, she had her
first chamber music experience at a music camp in New York state.
At the Juilliard School, Schecter studied with Julius Baker for four
years. She considers Baker and Marcel Moyse, with whom she studied
in the 1960s, to be her main mentors. "Baker," she says "is
known for his fantastically beautiful free, open sound. Sound and
technique are his specialties. He’s typically American."
Moyse was born in France in 1889 and knew Debussy and Ravel. Along
with pianist Rudolf Serkin, violinist Adolf Busch and cellist Hermann
Busch he helped found Marlboro, the Vermont chamber music mecca, in
1949. Schecter attended Marlboro for two summers in the 1960s. "From
Moyse," says Schecter "I learned about depth in musical phrasing,
in emotions, and in timbre. Moyse would make people play better than
they ever could." He also impressed her with his energy; driving
regularly to New York City from Brattleboro, Vermont, at age 72.
Now active as a freelance flutist, Schecter is principal flute of
the Queens Symphony. Her husband, Ron, is a lawyer and a cellist.
Their daughter teaches art in Atlanta.
Schecter has a penchant for founding musical organizations. She is
also the founder of the flute choir at Montclair State College, where
she has taught since 1981. "Flutists love to play together,"
she says. The ensemble comprises the entire flute family from the
petite piccolo to the contrabass flute, a candy-cane shaped instrument
about eight feet long capable of playing as low as a cello. There
are only three contrabass flutes in the United States, Schecter says.
"You need strong arms, hands and lungs to play it."
Furthermore, Schecter is the co-founder, with Drew University’s Virginia
Schulze Johnson, of New Jersey Flute Choir Day. She describes the
ensemble, which attracts more than 100 participants ranging in age
from 9 to 70, as "nurturing and non-competitive."
Now Schecter can add to the list of projects she has initiated the
Grounds for Sculpture concert. In this she bridges the gap between
art and music, employing a program with guaranteed appeal. "Whenever
we do a French program from the late 19th and early 20th century,
it’s well attended," she says. "Everybody loves the music
— it’s the colors."
— Elaine Strauss
Road, Hamilton, 609-689-1089. By reservation. Concert only is $25;
concert followed by dinner at Rat’s restaurant is $95. Saturday,
June 24, 4:30 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.