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This article by Elaine Strauss was prepared for the June 27, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Rutgers Summer All Stars
The choice of the Afro-Cuban All Stars to open the
2001 Rutgers SummerFest provides a tolerable X-ray into the artistic
thinking of Sato Moughalian, who initiates her directorship of the
summer festival this season. A thoughtful person, drawn to quality
in musical performance, and immune to artistic barriers, Moughalian
puts a premium on the roots that nourish art music. She favors
by groups that feature multiple generations. She has a bias toward
ethnic music, and a solid background in Latin American musical
Programming her first SummerFest, she has used venues beyond the
scope of the festival, and has included arts other than music.
The Afro-Cuban All Stars appear at New Brunswick’s State Theatre
June 28, at 8 p.m. Two concurrent art exhibitions at the Mason Gross
Galleries, a few steps away from the State Theatre, and at the
Museum, several blocks off, offer free gala receptions from 5 to 7:30
p.m; SummerFest is providing free bus transportation between the two
The backbone of the summer festival continues to be four Saturday
evening performances by the Rutgers Festival Orchestra, Richard Auldon
Clark, conducting. A film performance, Henry Clouzot’s "The
of Picasso," on Friday, July 6, is included, as are an authors’
night on Wednesday, July 18 featuring Samuel G. Freedman, author of
"Jew vs. Jew" and Ari Goldman, author of "Being
and a performance on Tuesday, July 24, by the Jose Limon Dance
which includes two new commissioned works.
The international scope of the festival surfaces, in addition to the
Cuban opening, with an orchestral performance devoted to Hungarian
music; an evening of music and dance from Rajasthan, in western India;
an a cappella evening featuring music of the 15th-century Burgundian
court; and a Brazilian evening.
A severely curtailed number of small-scale classical
performances is a notable departure from previous SummerFests. Only
two classical instrumental recitals are included. Classical chamber
music is absent except for one evening when 20th-century English and
American pieces share the stage with jazz chamber music.
The opening performers at SummerFest, the Afro-Cuban All Stars,
of a 13-member band spanning four generations. Juan de Marcos, Cuban
producer, composer, and arranger, directs. De Marcos initated the
Buena Vista Social Club project, which catapulted authentic Cuban
music of the 1940s and 50s, performed by some of its original
to world prominence. Among those performing at the State Theatre is
pianist Ruben Gonzalez, who at 78 infused his 50-year old career with
new vigor when he appeared with the Buena Vista Social Club.
Speaking during an interview at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the
Arts (MGSA) in New Brunswick, director Moughalian talks
about the ways in which the 14-year-old SummerFest is changing its
stripes. Her eyes sparkle as she talks with animation about this
festival. Hints of partially-formed visions for future seasons make
it clear that she has on-hand an iceberg-sized reservoir of ideas,
with this season’s presentations being merely the tip.
Appointed SummerFest director in November, Moughalian, a New
freelance flutist and music entrepreneur, has had a relatively short
period to shape the festival, which in the past was the province of
MGSA personnel. The decision to put Moughalian in charge was one of
the early acts of Bach scholar George Stauffer, who took over as MGSA
dean in August, 2000. The two met at Columbia University.
Moughalian is reluctant to claim responsibility for the new
"The dean was extremely involved," she says. "He wanted
to broaden the scope of programming, to include early music, and to
showcase people from the Mason Gross music faculty."
"I worked with a 25-member advisory committee," she continues.
"I was coming into the situation new, and I consulted with many
people. The dance faculty was especially helpful."
Still, Moughalian owns up to authorship of several signature events
in SummerFest 2001. Among them is a Brazilian dance demonstration
and dance lesson that takes place Sunday, July 22, at 4 p.m. in the
air-conditioned Arline and Robert Schwartzman Courtyard at New
Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. The six-member Gafieira Band from Brazil
presents a 30-minute dance demonstration followed by two hours of
music and dancing. Gafieira, Moughalian explains, is a Brazilian form
of popular dance. "It’s very syncopated and energetic," she
says. "There’s lots of percussion in a multi-layered African
The steps are simple to learn. No experience is required. Children
are encouraged to attend. I wanted an event where people could
The joint performances of students and seasoned professionals is
matter which Moughalian admits initiating. In preparation for a
by the Rutgers Festival Orchestra, she has arranged for Jonathan
principal cellist at the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, to present
a master class devoted to the art of playing principal cello Thursday,
July 5, at 3 p.m., in Room 104 of the Nicholas Music Center on the
Douglass College campus. Admission for observers is gratis. At the
orchestral concert on Saturday, July 7, Spitz is the guest principal
cellist. "The students will play, not only for him, but with
Moughalian points out. The Saturday evening performance at 8 p.m.
in Nicholas Music Center includes Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.
2 with soloist Susan Starr; Wolf’s "Italian Serenade," with
viola soloist Nardo Poy; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3
Guest first-chair instrumentalists, veteran performers, in addition
to Spitz, appear at the concert.
"I think it’s important for students to play alongside people
who will be their future colleagues," says Moughalian. "The
benefits are that they learn musically, and also that they make
contacts." Marlboro, the incomparable Vermont home of world-class
chamber music, pioneered the practice of mixing veterans and
The practice has since been taken up at major music festivals
Aspen and Tanglewood.
Convinced of the benefits for students, I press Moughalian to explain
why the mix is good for audiences. "It gives them a chance to
hear members of major musical groups," she says, "and to
what happens when you put gifted students together with professional
colleagues. There’s a special freshness."
Moughalian herself performs with Christine Fish-Moulton,
a MGSA doctoral candidate in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4
July 12, at 8 p.m., in Kirkpatrick Chapel on the Rutgers campus.
soloist in the piece is Erica Kiesewatter, concertmaster of the
Symphony Orchestra. The evening, called "The Joy of Bach"
includes Bach Cantatas No. 51 and No. 202 ("The Wedding").
Additional soloists include Julianne Baird, soprano; Chris Gekker,
trumpet; and Melanie Feld, oboe. The performance is by Perspectives,
a conductorless instrumental group founded by Moughalian in 1993.
With a core membership of 12 strings, winds, and piano, Perspectives
devotes itself to presenting music in context, and crossing the
between visual and musical arts.. The SummerFest program on Tuesday,
July 10 at 8 p.m. in Nicholas Music Center displays Perspectives’
characteristic approach. Called "Under the Influence: Popular
Culture and the Arts in 1920s Europe," it consists of an
talk on the European scene during the period by a member of the
art history faculty, followed by performances of Milhaud’s
du Monde" and cabaret songs by Weill, Satie, and Zemlinsky.
are Amy Burton, soprano; Diane Walsh, piano; and Paul Cohen,
Moughalian explains her motivation for creating the ensemble.
music," she says, "has gotten fragmented and separated from
its roots. Take the elegant minuets of Mozart and Haydn. They listened
to village music. When we perform their music, we rarely have in our
ears the music that the composers heard." A typical Perspectives
program, for example, has presented the most traditional Flamenco
music and dance before intermission, followed by de Falla pieces
from the folk tradition.
Moughalian grew up in Highland Park, the daughter of an engineer
and a librarian-turned-high-school-English-teacher. Her first
was the recorder. She graduated from Columbia’s Barnard College in
the class of ’80, a music major. As an undergraduate, she met MGSA
dean George Stauffer, who was teaching at Columbia. Moughalian also
studied at North Carolina School of the Arts and Manhattan School
After finishing at Barnard she spent eight years touring for Columbia
Artists, playing in up to 75 chamber music concerts a season,
and participating in residencies. After being in transit for about
six months a year for a period, she decided to focus primarily on
her New York activities. Her present travel is primarily
and in order to perform. Much of it displays her interest in
Latin American composers.
Eager to give meaning to concert programs after her itinerant years,
she proposed the creation of Perspectives to Stauffer, who was then
head of chapel music at Columbia. The group held a residency at
from 1993 to 1999. It is currently in residence at New York’s 92nd
Street "Y." It also has appeared at Lincoln Center’s Great
Performers series. "We have a reputation for highly polished
Perspectives’ first CD, devoted to the chamber music of Charles
came out on the Newport label. Its first recording for Sony Classics,
devoted to the music of Richard Danielpour, was released in May.
"Perspectives has a general manager now," says Moughalian,
adding, "I used to do everything myself." When she talks about
the genesis of the general managership, she tells it with no fanfare,
almost unaware of how remarkable the story is. "I received the
only inheritance I’m going to receive," she says. "Six
dollars from my late beloved aunt. And I used it for the first few
months of the general manager’s salary. It was one of the best
I ever made." The legacy contributed to Perspectives’ stability.
The general manager’s salary is now financed by fees from
contributions, and grants. And Moughalian can devote herself to
Perspectives and other enterprises on the map, guided by her strong
inner compass, which seems to treat the box office as an insignificant
magnetic disturbance a great distance away.
— Elaine Strauss
Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. The 2001
edition of the summer music festival opens with the acclaimed
All Stars, 13 musicians strong, with legendary pianist Ruben Gonzalez.
Juan de Marco is the producer, composer, arranger, and musical
$20, & $25. Call for festival brochure or visit
Campus, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. Susan Starr in Rachmaninoff Piano
Concerto No. 2, with Beethoven Symphony No. 3. $15. Saturday, July
7, 8 p.m.
10-member Rajasthani Indian music and dance troupe. $15.
July 8, 4 p.m.
Campus. The 17-member Perspectives Ensemble, led by Sato Moughalian,
performs Milhaud’s "Creation du Monde," on a program that
includes an illustrated cultural history talk, and cabaret songs by
Weill, Satie, and Zemlinsky. $15.
Rutgers. Brandenburg Concert No. 4, Cantatas Nos. 41 and 202. $15.
Campus. "Magyar Masterpieces: Music of Hungarian Composers."
Music of the Court of Philip the Good performed by Alexander Blachly’s
a cappella ensemble. $15.
Gross School of the Arts performance faculty present classical and
jazz chamber music. $15.
33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. Authors’ Night featuring writers
Samuel G. Freeman and Ari Goldman. Free.
Campus. Guest artists David Jolley, horn, and Jesse Levy, cello. $15.
Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, New Brunswick. A 30-minute dance
followed by two hours of music and dancing. $15.
Nicholas Music Center, Douglass Campus. $15.
finale features Tchaikovsky’s Concert for Violin with Elmar Oliveira
on violin, Saint-Saens Symphony, and Richard Danielpour’s, "First
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