A conversation with pianists Agnė Radzevičiūtė and Philip Kwoka and John Ovanessian, General Manager at the Peconic Bay Yacht Club. Tickets at RitesMusic.org
Q: How did you get to be a part of Hamptons Piano Fest? And what is Hamptons Piano Fest, really?
Philip: I studied with Paul Schenly at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he invited me to his summer music school, Pianofest in the Hamptons. That was about six years ago. Paolo would come to our weekly concerts. I’ve come back every summer, in part because I work as staff as ‘house manager’ for the festival. This year I’m dean of students at the festival.
Agne: It’s a four week summer program for young musicians to get together and study together and get better. I went there for the first time last summer—I went to the July session.
Q: Piano fest sounds lovely, and reminds me some of the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island. Philip, has it changed much in the six years you’ve been there?
Philip: Pianofest has been around for 28 years or so. It hasn’t changed much in the six years I’ve been connected to it. The mission is still to create a noncompetitive environment where students can learn from world class artists and perform for the Hamptons community.
Q: This Rites of Spring concert brings Hamptons Piano fest to the North Fork. Have you ever been to the North Fork?
Philip: This is an exciting opportunity to me in part because I’ve never been to the North Fork, I’ve only been exploring the south fork. I’m looking forward to getting to know the North Fork classical music scene.
Agne: No, I’ve never been either, but I’m very excited to come. It’s a great honor to be invited to play as part of this, being part of pianofest was so special, and having this continue is very very nice. It’s so wonderful to be part of this group of people.
Q: What music will you play?
Agne: I’ll be playing the Schuman fantasy pieces, opus 12, it’s one of Schuman’s great piano pieces, it was inspired by E T Hoffman’s stories. It’s 8 different pieces, each inspired by a different character, it’s very fun to play and popular with audiences. The emotional journey from one piece to the other that makes it very special, there is a lot of contrast between each, makes it such a powerful cycle.
I always wanted to play the Fantasy pieces, ever since I was a kid. I learned them when I was at Piano Fest last summer, and I brought the pieces to the stage for the first time recently.
Philip: I’ll be performing the Chopin Berceuse and the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in c sharp. These two pieces go well together, they have similar keys–the berceuse is in D flat and the other starts in c sharp minor and ends in c sharp major.
When you only have a short time to perform, you need to get the adreniline out in the first few minutes, and play something you’re very familiar with so to help you settle in quicker. That’s the Berceuse. Then the piece that follows is a kind of grand, virtuoso piece, it would be difficult to start with that one and just perform it.
Q: How long have you been playing piano?
Agne: I started when I was four or five, my mom is a piano teacher. Then I went to a special music school where I’m from –Lithuania—and now I just graduated the Manhattan School of Music with my Masters. Last Friday.
Philip: I’ve been playing piano for 20 years. I’m from NY originally, my family lived there until I was nine, then I went to Florida until 18, then out to the Cleveland Institute of Music, then came back to NY for my masters at Mannes School of music.
Q: The concert is at the Peconic Bay Yacht Club, a venue so new I’ve never been in it. Is it really a Yacht Club?
John: The main building is an exclusive event space for private functions — we are not a traditional yacht club. We do have 48 boat slips that we rent for the season, however they do not have access to the building.
We opened last year and hosted a gala for the Eastern Long Island Hospital fundraiser, some weddings—but this is our first real year.
The event space can hold anywhere from 180 to 300 guests depending on the type of event, whether they’re using the lawn or building.
The most amazing aspect is the view—from both levels you can see Shelter Island, the South Fork and Nassau Point. From the second floor on a good day you can see CT too.
Q: Do you have a connection to the North Fork?
John: Our three partners who created the Peconic Bay Yacht Club all have homes out here, have been here for years. They saw the opportunity to make a masterpiece here. Five years ago they dredged the marina, built up the point/lawn area, and then of course the building.
Personally, I have many years’ experience on the South Fork, I’m now making a connection to the North Fork. It’s much less crowded, less traffic, more farms. It reminds me of the South Fork 25 years ago.
Q: What can people expect at the Rites of Spring event? How did the Peconic Bay Yacht Club get involved?
John: Paolo found us—he saw the venue, thought it was a perfect fit, so did we—the acoustics in the room are beautiful. People can expect a beautiful space, exquisite music, an open bar for the two hour event. Chocolates too.
Tickets at RitesMusic.org