Aspen Music Festival 2017 Festival Focus Week 4

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FESTIVALFOCUS YOUR WEEKLY CLASSICAL MUSIC GUIDE

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MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

VOL 28, NO. 4

Season centerpiece: L’enfant et les sortilèges

The Concerto: Why is it so Irresistible? FREE seminar: 1-4 pm on Thursday, July 20, in Paepcke Auditorium The 2017 AMFS season celebrates “The Year of the Concerto,” a major exploration of the concerto form, pivoting around no fewer than four brand new or modern concertos. As part of this exploration, AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher chairs this free 1-4 pm seminar with august and accomplished composers on why this form still endures and enchants centuries after its rise. Participating composers include Stephen Hartke, Anders Hillborg, Jonathan Leshnoff, Andrew Norman, Christopher Theofanidis, and AMFS Music Director Robert Spano. Visit www.aspenmusicfestival.com or call the Box Office at 970-925-9042 for more information.

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AMFS Music Director Robert Spano leads the Aspen Chamber Symphony at 6 pm on Friday, July 21, in the Benedict Music Tent. Violinist Gil Shaham will perform Jonathan Leshnoff’s Chamber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and L’enfant et les sortilèges are also on the program. CAITLIN CAUSEY

Festival Focus Writer

Whimsy, magic, and childhood reveries are the stuff of summertime delight. Add a few talking household items, singing animals, and a whirling score of fanciful music, and you’ve got an overthe-top treat worthy of the Aspen

Music Festival and School (AMFS) season theme Enchantment: Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, or The Child and the Enchantment. On July 21, AMFS Music Director Robert Spano and the Aspen Chamber Symphony will take the audience through a program of three fantastical pieces, includ-

ing Jonathan Leshnoff’s Chamber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, performed by Gil Shaham, and L’enfant et les sortilèges, a oneact opera featuring singers from the Aspen Opera Center. Written between 1917 and 1925, its libretto was penned in just over a week by beautiful French

actress and Nobel Prize-nominated writer Colette. Colette desired the highly respected and celebrated Maurice Ravel to write music to accompany her words, as he was at the time considered to be France’s greatest living comSee L’enfant, Festival Focus page 3

Koh performs Clyne’s striking, elegant The Seamstress CAITLIN CAUSEY

Festival Focus Writer

COURTESY PHOTO

Violinist Jennifer Koh will perfom Anna Clyne’s hauntingly beautiful concerto The Seamstress with the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor George Manahan at 6 pm on Wednesday, July 19, at the Benedict Music Tent.

Championing new music has become a part of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s identity, and this Wednesday, July 19, the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Jennifer Koh will perform the violin concerto The Seamstress, a hauntingly beautiful, elegant work by living composer Anna Clyne, as part of this philosophy of celebrating new works. Asadour Santourian, AMFS vice president for artistic administration and artistic advisor, sums up the Festival’s commitment to promoting new music by noting that “at some point, Beethoven’s Third, Brahms’s First, Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto—all these works were world premieres, and they had their contemporary reactions to them. Yet through time, history, and repeat

performances, they have become part of the canon. In order for the canon to widen and to interest us and to include other imaginations, it’s important to program works by living composers.” Koh notes that The Seamstress, which she premiered with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2015 while Clyne was serving as composer-in-residence, is “an elegant piece, striking, with a distinct sensitivity. There is a haunting beauty to it, and it’s not your typical heroicromantic-protagonist form but something very unique.” Koh and Clyne collaborated on the piece, but not quite as intensively as they had with previous work. For Clyne, creating The Seamstress was a personal journey of emotional and musical exploration in the six-year peSee Koh, Festival Focus page 3

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MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

FESTIVALFOCUS | YOUR WEEKLY CLASSICAL MUSIC GUIDE

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Jean-Yves Thibaudet tackles Liszt’s virtuosic Second Piano Concerto CAITLIN CAUSEY Festival Focus Writer

There is a musical alchemy to behold when a worldrenowned musician performs the work of a timeless virtuoso he admires. On July 23, Aspen Liszt lovers can seize this listening opportunity when French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays the legendary composer’s Second Piano Concerto with the Aspen Festival Orchestra. First drafted in 1839 and 1840, the concerto sat untouched for nearly a decade before Liszt revisited the work. It was not completed until 1861, after many revisions. Today it is regarded as a wonderfully inventive piece in which the piano is utilized not so much as a tool of overt peacockery but rather of guidance for the listener through each thematic transition. Says Asadour Santourian, the Aspen Music Festival and School’s (AMFS) vice president for artistic administration and artistic advisor: “Thibaudet is going to give us a brilliant performance of Liszt…[this piece] basically brings the piano concerto virtuosity quotient to the Nth degree of the Romantic period.” And, he adds, “The pianist is definitely working up a sweat.” Thibaudet, considered one of the great living pianists, has spent more than three decades performing internationally to exuberant acclaim. The Lyon native began studying piano at age five and has gone on to record more than fifty albums. He also possesses a treasure box

of coveted awards and honors, including an induction into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame and being named Officier by the French Ministry of Culture. Although Thibaudet has performed everything from jazz to modern film scores, he is known to have a particular specialty with the works of Liszt. He says his affinity for the composer’s work begins with the composer himself. “Before even the music of Franz Liszt, I am fascinated by the man, the character, the person,” he says. “Sometimes people ask me who I would meet if I could meet anybody in the past or present, and I always say Liszt. He was a genius in so many different ways. He is really one of my heroes.” In addition to studying the music of Liszt, Thibaudet has read many of the composer’s collections of letters and books about his musicianship, personal life, and very public superstardom. In regard to the Liszt selection he will perform in Aspen, Thibaudet notes that the piece is unique and surprisingly modern for the time in which it was written. “This piece is all in one giant movement—with sections, of course—but there is no stopping to go to the next movement because it is all one,” he says. “It’s about the life and development of a theme. It asks how much you can make of one theme, presented at the beginning of the piece by the woodwinds and later taken by the orchestra, and the piano, and so on. There is also a discus-

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L’ENFANT: Spano leads Ravel’s enchanting opera Continued from Festival Focus page 1

COURTESY PHOTO

Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by Andrey Boreyko, at 4 pm on Sunday, July 23, at the Benedict Music Tent.

sion between the piano and the orchestra, rather than a piano soloist that is just accompanied by the orchestra. With this one, sometimes the piano actually accompanies the orchestra. There are a lot of very special things to look for here.” The July 23 Aspen Festival Orchestra program also includes Anders Hillborg’s Cold Heat and Zemlinsky’s evocative The Mermaid, part of the season theme, Enchantment.

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poser. The L’enfant et les sortilèges premiere took place in Monte Carlo in March 1925. “It’s the first thing I thought of when [AMFS Vice President for Artistic Administration and Artistic Advisor] Asadour Santourian proposed Enchantment,” says AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher. “It has the words about magic in its very title. And this is another work that one doesn’t hear that often, and the audiences, I’m certain, are going to be grateful to have a chance to hear that the music is just so beguiling and enchanting.” Set in a Normandy country home, the opera opens with a petulant child who receives a bedtime scolding from his mother. He proceeds to throw a spectacular tantrum by wrecking his room, but soon the objects he has damaged—the clock, the Wedgwood teapot, the princess ripped from her storybook—spring to life to teach him a lesson. The child falls further into the world of things he has brutalized when his bedroom then transforms into a garden filled with anthropomorphic animals and plants. Insects, a

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tree frog, a nightingale, a bat, and more sing out against the child encounters in the forest that come to life and at first youngster as he attempts to befriend them, only to fall into frighten the child are also very much something that pera brawl amongst themselves. When one of the creatures is haps reminds one of [Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice] Sendak. But before Seninjured, the child bandages it and is dak, there was L’enfant et les sorredeemed—prompting the animals “The audiences, I’m tilèges. These various episodes or to guide him back home, where he adventures lead to the child’s progcalls out to his mother a changed certain, are going to be ress, and then the child is delivered boy. grateful to have a chance back to his room changed, and we “Enchantment is the prevailing have a nice little forty-five minute theme of the season, and the Ravel, to hear that the music journey.” L’enfant et les sortilèges, fits into is just so beguiling and Also on the night’s program are our theme because it takes an orRavel’s deliciously imaginative dinary, not-so-interesting episode enchanting.” Mother Goose Suite and Jonathan in a day of the life of a spoiled Leshnoff’s lush Chamber Concerto little child and transforms it into a Alan Fletcher for Violin and Orchestra. This conmoralistic lesson,” says Santourian. AMFS President and CEO certo, flanked by Ravel’s pieces, “But the incredible journey—the features AMFS alumnus and Gramtransformative journey—that the little boy undergoes because of his bad behavior is re- my Award-winning violinist Gil Shaham, who has long been ally enchanting for the audience. The wild animals that the a favorite of Aspen audiences.

Harris Concert Hall: 9 am through the intermission of the evening concert, daily. Wheeler Opera House: 9 am–5 pm daily.

Hope pays homage to Yehudi Menuhin KOH: Championing

living composers

CAITLIN CAUSEY

Festival Focus Writer

Highly respected British violinist Daniel Hope returns to Aspen on July 22 to present a program of carefully selected works chosen in tribute to his late teacher, the great twentieth century violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Born in South Africa, Hope and his family relocated to London, where his mother began working as an assistant to Menuhin; Hope started violin lessons with the musical master as a child. Their inspiring mentormentee relationship carried on well into Hope’s adulthood, until Menuhin’s death in 1999 at almost eightythree years old. The pair performed together dozens of times, including a final appearance less than one week before Menuhin passed away. The irreplaceable bond he formed with his teacher recently inspired Hope to curate roughly a year of concerts in tribute to Menuhin, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016. Aspen audiences will soon be offered a glimpse inside this world, with four meaningful pieces handpicked by Hope to honor Menuhin and illuminate the impact his mentor had on his life. “I would say that touring with him was the greatest learning curve of my life,” Hope says. “Going out there night after night to perform...was both incredibly tough and inspiring. We did around sixty concerts together, and often he would literally instruct me on the concert platform.” Hope selected works by two of Menuhin’s own great mentors for the first portion of the July 22 program, which include Impromptu concertant by Enescu and Violin Sonata in E Minor by Elgar. For the second half of the evening, he chose two of his teacher’s most beloved pieces to play: Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major and selections from Ravel’s Deux mélodies hébraïques. The Ravel piece, Hope says, possesses an especially poignant significance. “On March 7, 1999, I played Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto in Düsseldorf, conducted by Menuhin. It was to be his final concert,” Hope recalls. “After the Schnittke, Menuhin encouraged me to play an encore. I sponta-

Continued from Festival Focus page 1

COURTESY PHOTO

Violinist Daniel Hope will perform in recital at 8 pm on Saturday, July 22, in Harris Concert Hall.

neously chose Ravel’s Kaddish, Ravel’s musical version of the Jewish prayer for the dead. I had grown up on Menuhin’s interpretation of this work and wanted to dedicate it to him. He pushed me out onto the stage and, different from the other nights, he sat amongst the orchestra listening to it. Perhaps it may have been in some way prophetic. Five days later, he passed away.” Hope’s tribute to Menuhin is typical of the storytelling element he brings to each of his performances. Rarely are his programs designed to feature his dazzling technical prowess alone; rather, the musician pieces them together to construct a larger story. “For me, music is about communication, and there is nothing that delights me more than creating conceptual programming that illustrates a theme and shares that story,” he says. “The audiences are so open and appreciative of diverse programming in Aspen, I almost feel it is my duty to give them something they will find both musically and intellectually stimulating. I can’t wait to return.”

riod after her mother’s death. It began with Clyne’s discovery and purchase of a $9 beat-up nineteenth century violin at a charity shop in Oxford, England, shortly after her mother’s passing. After having it restored, Clyne took it home to New York City, where she promptly began composing the violin pieces that would ultimately become The Seamstress. “The tune that opens The Seamstress—this came about from my experimenting on my fiddle and finding this simple tune,” Clyne says. “In beginning with this simple melody—the violinist alone on the stage—I also came back to an idea I had several years previously, The Seamstress, a one-act ballet that would open with a seamstress alone on the stage. Lost in her thoughts, her mind begins to meander, and her imagination spirals into a series of five tales that range from love to despair, combining memory with fantasy.” Koh has long been a champion of new music and is known for her commanding and searingly intelligent performances of freshly commissioned works. “I think of the future of the artform a lot—how to help keep it alive. I see myself as part of a much larger continuum,” says Koh, who has premiered more than fifty works written specifically for her. “I believe that, in order to keep it alive, I must invest in new works created by composers I believe in; otherwise, the artform would just become these museum pieces of older work.” More importantly, she adds, new music helps audiences tap into the zeitgeist of our own living era. “Art can encapsulate experiences,” she says. “That’s the beauty of being part of the larger continuum and not just focusing on older works; the emotional impact of things that happen in our lifetime can connect us.” Also on the July 19 Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra program are a second ballet suite, Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite, and Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration, a work inspired by the experience of death. The evening will be one of adventurous music, full of bold rhythms and melodies, that both nods to tradition and keeps an eye steady on the future.