2012 Aspen Music Festival Highlights: Water Music, Great Gatsby Opera

A Rocky Mountain Tanglewood with three operas on the program for 2012.

The Aspen Music Festival and School has announced its eight-week summer program for 2012, the first to be led by incoming music director Robert Spano. The 53-day festival will comprise more than 300 events and present more than 800 student and professional musicians from June 28 to August 19.

A review of the key concert programs demonstrates the depth of synchronicity between Aspen and its new artistic leader and reveals that Mr. Spano’s energies in Aspen will be focused on the intersections of his passions with the traditions of Aspen: 1) programming a sophisticated combination of standard works and those of lesser-known and living composers; 2) investing in living composers; and 3) championing emerging performers, especially young Aspen alumni. Plans for an Aspen School of Composers, a parallel to his celebrated Atlanta School of Composers, are being developed.

“This summer’s season, reflecting the theme ‘Made in America,’ has been a joy to construct,” says Mr. Spano. “Such an idea leads to myriad possibilities, and with it we could have continued to create programs for many seasons. What the 2012 programs contain is a distillation that we hope listeners will find as revealing and exhilarating as the process was in creating it. As usual, the summer features a dazzling array of soloists, conductors, singers, composers and chamber music groups. But, it is brought to life by the devoted and attended Aspen audiences we love playing for.”

AMFS president and CEO Alan Fletcher says, “For more than 60 years Aspen has presented a rich and diverse line-up of performers and repertoire. Since its earliest days, Aspen has embraced living composers. In the 1950s, Aspen had Darius Milhaud on faculty and there were visits from Stravinsky, Copland, Messiaen and others. Today we have here Chris Rouse, John Harbison, John Corigliano, Matthias Pintscher, Andrew Norman and Adam Schoenberg, to name a few. Aspen is not just about music, it is about the future of music. This is Robert’s world. This is what he stands for. It is what makes this partnership so exciting.”

Music Made in America

The 2012 summer programming theme “Made in America” features music of three groups of composers: American composers working today; American composers from the canon who studied in Europe and then returned to do most of their work in America and finally European composers who emigrated from Europe to America such as Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Hindemith.

Works “Made in America” include Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (July 1), Elliott Carter’s Holiday Overture (July 25), Copland’s Symphony No. 3 (July 22), Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle (June 30), Michael Gandolfi’s Selections from The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (August 8), Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral (July 1), Hindemith’s Violin Concerto (July 11), MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor (performed by Anton Nel on July 5), Edgar Meyer’s Concerto for Violin and Double Bass (an AMFS co-commission performed by Mr. Meyer and Joshua Bell on July 13), Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (performed by Garrick Ohlsson on July 1), Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto (July 18), Stravinsky’s Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss (July 25), Augusta Read Thomas’s Violin Concerto No. 3, “Juggler in Paradise” (August 8) and selections of music by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and the Great American Songbook.

Music from Five Centuries

The season offers music from five different centuries, ranging from Baroque works led by period-performance expert Nicholas McGegan; to Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral (in a concert led by Mr. Spano on July 1); piano concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Tchaikovsky as well as the AMFS debut of Schoenberg’s masterful piano concerto (played by Jeremy Denk in a concert led by Mr. Spano on August 3); Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars (conducted by Mr. Spano on August 9); Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue played with big band (conducted by Mr. Spano on June 28); and a fully staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (conducted by Mr. Spano on July 26, 28, 30). The season ends on Sunday, August 19, with Mr. Spano leading Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 8, also known as “Symphony of a Thousand,” with expanded orchestra, eight soloists and three choruses.

Works by living composers include those by Elliott Carter, Sydney Hodkinson, John Harbison, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, Andrew Norman, Christopher Rouse, Augusta Read Thomas, George Tsontakis, and Yehudi Wyner. Mr. Spano will also oversee the creation of a distinct “Aspen School of Composers,” modeled on his highly celebrated Atlanta School of Composers. The “Atlanta School,” as it is also called, evolved from a commitment by Mr. Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, of which Mr. Spano is also music director, to nurture, commission and record contemporary music through multi-year partnerships with a new generation of American composers. Members include Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gandolfi and AMFS composition program alumnus Adam Schoenberg. The Aspen School of Composers, which will be developed over the next several years, is planned to have its own identity, and like the Atlanta School, it will comprise living composers. It will also have an educational component.

Tradition

Aspen has always welcomed back its illustrious alumni. This summer sees a shift to increase presentation of alumni performers who are emerging into their professional careers. Seventeen-year-old pianist Conrad Tao joins Mr. Spano for the season-opening Gershwin Celebration on June 28. Tao is an Aspen alumnus and a current student of AMFS faculty member Yoheved Kaplinsky at The Juilliard School. He has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra and the Baltimore, Dallas and San Francisco symphonies, among others.

An alumna of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, Mei-Ann Chen leads the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra on July 5. Chen recently completed her first season as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and in July 2011 she assumed the music directorship of the Chicago Sinfonietta. Alumnus and violinist Ray Chen performs a recital August 11 with pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. His recent engagements include critically acclaimed debut recitals at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C. and Merkin Hall in New York.

Other returning alumni conductors include Joshua Weilerstein, assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, who will lead an Aspen Festival Orchestra concert on August 5 with his sister, cellist Alisa Weilerstein; James Feddeck, associate conductor with The Cleveland Orchestra, who will conduct the all-student Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra on August 15; and Joshua Gersen, music director of the New York Youth Symphony and Conducting Fellow at the New World Symphony, who will lead the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra on July 18.

 

NOTABLE EVENTS
• OPERAS: THE MAGIC FLUTESWEENEY TODD, AND THE GREAT GATSBY

The acclaimed Aspen Opera Theater Center’s season features Mozart’s The Magic Flute (July 12, 14, 16), Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (July 26, 28, 30) and the chamber orchestra version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby (August 16, 18, chamber orchestra version co-commissioned by the AMFS). The Magic Flute, Mozart’s endlessly popular tale of forest magic, the villainous Queen of the Night and the trials one must go through for love, will be conducted by Richard Bado and directed by James Alexander.

Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim’s musical thriller about Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, “the demon barber of Fleet Street” is macabre theater at its best. The opera will be conducted by Mr. Spano and directed by Edward Berkeley, longtime director of the Aspen Opera Theater Center and director of undergraduate opera studies at The Juilliard School.

John Harbison’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic early twentieth-century novel, The Great Gatsby, recalls the romance and revelry of the Jazz Age. Anne Manson conducts and Mr. Berkeley directs this chamber orchestra version, a co-commission of the AMFS and Ensemble Parallèle.

• A GERSHWIN CELEBRATION LED BY MR. SPANO AND FEATURING A BIG BAND WITH PIANISTS INON BARNATAN, MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN AND ASPEN ALUMNUS CONRAD TAO (JUNE 28)

Mr. Spano leads his first concert as AMFS music director with a celebratory opening night event featuring a trio of star pianists and a big band performing Gershwin’s definitive jazz concertos: Rhapsody in Blue, Second Rhapsody and the Piano Concerto in F major. Mr. Spano leads the tribute to one of the major figures in American music joined by pianists Inon Barnatan, Marc-André Hamelin and 17-year-old Aspen alumnus Conrad Tao.

• OPERA STAR NATHAN GUNN’S PERFORMING A BENEFIT EVENING OF CABARET AND POPULAR SONG (JULY 14)

Nathan Gunn is one of today’s operatic sensations, with a powerful yet supple baritone voice. A versatile artist, he has appeared in renowned opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, as well as in concert performances of Broadway favorites and cabaret music. Gunn will perform with his wife, pianist Julie Gunn and Mr. Spano, also on piano, for the AMFS’s 2012 season benefit performance on July 14. The evening concludes with a dinner with the performers on the Benedict Music Tent stage.

• A BAROQUE EVENING FEATURING HANDEL’S WATER MUSIC SUITE 
LED FROM THE HARPSICHORD BY PERIOD-PERFORMANCE EXPERT NICHOLAS MCGEGAN (JULY 5) 

The 2012 season sees the return of specialist Nicholas McGegan for an evening of Baroque music performed by guest artists and artist-faculty, side-by-side with students. The program is highlighted by Handel’s popular Water Music Suite, accompanied by Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 and Piano Concerto in D minor and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor. Mr. McGegan is a frequent conductor in Aspen and has been music director for 26 years of the respected, San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorale.

• TRUMPETER CHRIS BOTTI RETURNS TO ASPEN WITH AN EVENING OF JAZZ AND POPULAR MUSIC (JULY 7)

Five-time Grammy nominee and trumpeter Chris Botti brings his irresistibly creamy tone and fusion of jazz and popular styles to the Benedict Music Tent with his band on July 7. Performing all over the country, Mr. Botti and his band thrill audiences with enchanting renditions of standards like “When I Fall in Love” and “One for My Baby.” This event is presented in association with Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

• VIOLINIST JOSHUA BELL AND BASSIST EDGAR MEYER PLAY AN ASPEN CO-COMMISSION, MEYER’S CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND DOUBLE BASS (JULY 13) 

Joshua Bell and Edgar Meyer, both Aspen alumni and good friends, give the Colorado premiere of Mr. Meyer’s newest work, Concerto for Violin and Double Bass (an AMFS co-commission). Mr. Meyer has reached equal stardom in the two worlds of classical and bluegrass and has been gaining increasing renown as a classical composer. He premiered his Double Bass Concerto No. 1 in 1993 with Edo de Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra and in 1995, premiered his Quintet for Bass and String Quartet with the Emerson String Quartet, which was later recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon label. Mr. Meyer premiered his Double Concerto for Bass and Cello with Yo-Yo Ma. His violin concerto, written for violinist Hilary Hahn, was premiered and recorded by Ms. Hahn in 1999 with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra led by Hugh Wolff.

• ANNE-MARIE MCDERMOTT, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BRAVO! VAIL VALLEY MUSIC FESTIVAL, PERFORMS AN EVENING OF TWO-PIANO WORKS WITH INON BARNATAN IN PIANOPALOOZA: AN EVENING WITH PIANOS (JULY 19)

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott was appointed artistic director of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in 2011. This summer she joins the Aspen festival for an evening of two-piano works, including Mozart’s Sonata in D major for Two Pianos, Ravel’s La Valse and Shostakovich’s Concertino for Two Pianos, op. 94.

• CELEBRATING 50 YEARS: ASPEN CENTER FOR PHYSICS (JULY 24)

For a half century, the Aspen Physics Center has offered a special environment that brings together physicists from around the world to think, discover and enhance our understanding of the world. The families of these physicists often accompany them in Aspen during their residencies, and some of these children have grown to be extraordinary musicians. In honor of this great anniversary and of this special connection between physics and music, the AMFS and Aspen Center for Physics will jointly present an evening of string chamber music performed by three of these musicians, all Aspen alumni: violinists Stefan Jackiw and Gil Shaham and pianist Orli Shaham.

• NINTH ANNUAL OPERA BENEFIT FEATURES SWEENEY TODD (JULY 26)

The Festival’s ninth annual Opera Benefit will be held July 26, featuring dinner at the exclusive Caribou Club and premier seating at the opening-night performance of Aspen Opera Theater Center’s production of Sweeney Todd.

• WEILERSTEIN FAMILY RECITAL AND ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE (AUGUST 1 AND 5) 

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, an Aspen alumna, has risen to stardom in recent years, culminating in the honor last year of being named a MacArthur Fellow (also known as the “Genius Grant”). Her parents were both on faculty at the AMFS in the 1990s and her brother Joshua Weilerstein attended the acclaimed American Academy of Conducting at Aspen in 2010 and returned in 2011 as Mr. Spano’s assistant conductor. After last summer Joshua headed to New York to begin his engagement as assistant conductor to Alan Gilbert at the New York Philharmonic. All four of these highly talented musicians return this summer for two special “family-affair” concerts. On August 1, the Weilerstein Trio (comprising Donald Weilerstein on violin, Vivian Hornik Weilerstein on piano and Alisa on cello) will be joined by Joshua on violin for a night of chamber music. On August 5, Joshua and Alisa team up for a Sunday Aspen Festival Orchestra concert featuring Dvorák’s iconic Cello Concerto, with Joshua on the podium.

• JAZZ VOCALIST JANE MONHEIT TRIO PERFORM CLASSICS FROM THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK (AUGUST 8)

An emerging force in jazz singing, the 34-year-old Jane Monheit has a smoky alto voice and a sinuous, nuanced style. She has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, whom she reveres as one of her key influences, and in 2012 has engagements at iconic jazz establishments such as Birdland and the Blue Note. Ms. Monheit makes her AMFS debut with a performance of classics from the Great American Songbook. This evening will feature well-loved fare like “Moon River,” “When You Wish Upon a Star” and Monheit’s signature “Over the Rainbow.”

ASPEN ALUMNI

Alumni of the Aspen Music School performing on the 2012 season schedule include: Adele Anthony, violin; Nadine Asin, flute; Joshua Bell, violin; Jeremy Denk, piano; Ingrid Fliter, piano; Sharon Isbin, guitar; Michael Mermagen, cello; Robert McDuffie, violin; Edgar Meyer, bass; Gil Shaham, violin; Orli Shaham, piano; Alisa Weilerstein, cello; Joshua Weilerstein, conductor and violin; Wu Han, piano and Joyce Yang, piano.

This season’s shift toward presenting more alumni who are emerging into their full-time professional careers is demonstrated in the appearance of Ray Chen, violin; Mei-Ann Chen, conductor; James Feddeck, conductor; Joshua Gersen, conductor and Conrad Tao, piano.

DEBUT ARTISTS

Conductors making their Aspen debuts are Manfred Honeck, Ludovic Morlot, Jun Märkl, Anne Manson, Mei-Ann Chen, and Joshua Gersen. Performers making their AMFS summer guest-artist debuts are pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Marouan Benabdallah, Khatia Buniatishvili, Bertrand Chamayou and Julie Gunn; singer Jane Monheit; violinist Ray Chen and the Pro Arte Quartet.

VENUES

The Benedict Music Tent combines the airiness and mood of a tent with the acoustic integrity of a concert hall. The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Concert Hall provides an intimate and acoustically pure 500-seat venue for chamber music concerts, recitals and master classes. The warm, elegant hall—proclaimed the “Carnegie of the Rockies” by the Denver Post when it opened in 1993—was once compared to being inside a cello. The Wheeler Opera House, built in 1889 and restored in 1984, is the venue for each summer’s fully staged operas and opera master classes.

TICKET INFORMATION

Aspen offers the ultimate in flexibility for patrons with passes, the most self-directed and convenient way to attend concerts. The Gold Season Pass ($1,250) offers entrée to all regularly scheduled events and validation by phone on the day of the event. The Kickoff Pass ($190) is good for all regular events through July 12. The Full Season Pass ($925) offers unlimited access to the festival’s regular events throughout the summer. Children 6 to 17 are eligible for the $50 Youth Season Picture Pass. Passes are good for all regularly scheduled events except operas, special events, benefits, house musics and films.

TICKETS MAY BE PURCHASED:
By Internet: www.aspenmusicfestival.com
By Phone: 970-925-9042

ROBERT SPANO BIOGRAPHY

Robert Spano is one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation. As music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, he has enriched and expanded its repertoire and elevated the ensemble to new levels of international prominence. In 2012, Mr. Spano became music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School and was named a Fellow of the Aspen Institute as part of the Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program. Mr. Spano will also lead the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen (AACA).

Under Mr. Spano’s artistic leadership, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its audiences have together explored a creative mix of programming, including Theater of a Concert performances, which explore different formats, settings and enhancements for the musical performance experience, such as the first concert-staged performances of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic in November 2008 and the recent production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in June 2011. The Atlanta School of Composers reflects Mr. Spano’s and the orchestra’s commitment to nurturing and championing music through multi-year partnerships defining a new generation of American composers, including Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Michael Gandolfi and Adam Schoenberg. Since the beginning of his tenure (to date), Mr. Spano and the orchestra have performed more than 100 concerts containing contemporary works (composed since 1950), and by the end of the 2011–12 season will have performed 15 ASO-commissioned world premieres.

Mr. Spano has a discography with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra of 19 recordings, six of which have been honored with Grammy Awards. He has led the orchestra’s performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, as well as the Ravinia, Ojai, and Savannah Music Festivals. Mr. Spano has led the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and Philadelphia symphony orchestras, as well as Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In addition, he has conducted for Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera and the 2005 and 2009 Seattle Opera Ring cycles.

Musical America’s 2008 “Conductor of the Year,” Mr. Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin. Mr. Spano served as director of the prestigious Festival of Contemporary Music at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Center in 2003 and 2004, and from 1996 to 2004 was music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He headed the Conducting Fellowship Program at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1998 to 2002 and was music director of the 2006 Ojai Festival. In May 2009 Mr. Spano was awarded Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for the advancement of American music.

Born in 1961 in Conneaut, Ohio, and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, Mr. Spano grew up in a musical family, composing and playing flute, violin and piano. He is a graduate of Oberlin, where he studied conducting with Robert Baustian, and continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with the late Max Rudolf. In 2004 at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Mr. Spano performed under water, a work for solo piano he composed based on Debussy’s Engulfed Cathedral. He has been featured on CBS’s “Late Night with David Letterman,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” A&E’s “Breakfast with the Arts” and PBS’s “City Arts.” Mr. Spano was named Musical America’s 2008 Conductor of the Year. He makes his home in Atlanta.

ABOUT THE ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL AND SCHOOL

The Aspen Music Festival and School is the United States’ premier classical music festival, presenting more than 300 musical events during its eight-week summer season in Aspen. The institution draws top classical musicians from around the world to this Colorado mountain retreat for an unparalleled combination of performances and music education. Many events are free and seating on the David Karetsky Music Lawn and in the Music Garden is always free.

More than 630 music students from more than 40 U.S. states and more than 36 countries come each summer to play in five orchestras, sing, conduct, compose and study with approximately 130 renowned artist-faculty. Students represent the field’s best talent; many have already begun their professional careers, others are on the cusp.

Renowned alumni include violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Gil Shaham; pianists Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han and Joyce Yang; conductors Marin Alsop, James Conlon, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Danielle de Niese, Sasha Cooke, Renée Fleming, and Dawn Upshaw; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele and bassist Edgar Meyer.

Aspen Music Festival and School
2 Music School Road, Aspen, CO  81611
http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com

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