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Supplement to The Aspen Times

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FESTIVAL FOCUS Monday, June 24, 2013

Vol 24, No. 2

‘Icarus at the Edge of Time’ and Conrad Tao Aspen, will conduct the performance in the Benedict Music Tent. The Greek myth of Icarus has cap“The work Icarus at the Edge of tured the imagination of writers, poets, Time is about human capacity for and musicians for centuries. In the exploration, for experimentation, the age-old story, Icarus is a young boy imperative to confront the unknown,” who explores the skies wearing wings says AMFS President and CEO Alan made of feathers and wax. His father Fletcher. warns him not to fly too close to the Greene wrote Icarus at the Edge of sun, but Icarus disregards this advice, Time first as a children’s story, then melting the wax adapted the work and sending him for live symphonic plummeting to the presentation. The sea below. piece was partialThe Aspen Music ly commissioned Festival and School by the World Sci(AMFS) will open its ence Festival, which 2013 season this Greene co-founded. Thursday, June 27, “The emotional at 7:30 pm with center of the piece is Icarus at the Edge of the transformation Time, a multimedia of a boy who’s going performance piece out in space, who’s and modern intergoing to explore a pretation of the Icablack hole, and I rus story in which could just sort of Brian Greene the boy travels not hear, roughly in my Author of Icarus at the Edge of Time to the sun, but to a mind, Philip Glass’s black hole. music pounding The work, which premiered in New and driving and pushing this forward,” York in June 2010, combines a nar- Greene said in the work’s trailer. rative by theoretical physicist Brian In addition to Icarus, the opening Greene and playwright David Henry concert will include Rachmaninoff’s Hwang, orchestral music by renowned Piano Concerto No. 3, a famously difcomposer and Aspen alumnus, Philip ficult piece, played by AMFS alumnus Glass, and a film by Al and Al. Conrad Tao. Mei-Ann Chen, an alumna of the American Academy of Conducting at See ICARUS, Festival Focus page 3 GRACE LYDEN

Festival Focus writer

The emotional center of the piece is the transformation of a boy who’s going out in space, who’s going to explore a black hole.


Pianist and Aspen alumnus Conrad Tao is pictured at the opening concert of last year’s Music Festival season. He will play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 this Thursday.

Spano Offers Vital New Works LAURA SMITH

Festival Focus writer

All music was once new music. Beethoven’s symphonies shocked audiences with their radicalism, Stravinsky’s now much-loved The Rite of Spring famously caused a riot at its premiere 100 years ago, and even Tchaikovsky’s score to The Nutcracker received a lukewarm reception at its début in St. Petersburg in 1892. But over decades, tastes expand, ears change, and these works are all now central to the Western classical music canon. Another now-standard Tchaikovsky work, Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” will be performed at the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) opening Sunday concert alongside a contemporary violin concerto by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Finnish composer and former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This deliberate pairing of old and new was conceived by AMFS Music Director

Robert Spano, who will be conducting the concert at 4 pm June 30 in the Benedict Music Tent. Spano is known for championing living classical music, but he is deliberately not academic or esoteric in his approach. Says AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher, “In just about every concert he’s conducting this summer, there is an important new work. What Robert is after are substantial new works that he believes have a chance to enter the repertoire, and his advocacy will assist in doing that.” Spano also leads the Aspen Chamber Symphony on Friday, July 12, with a program that combines Mozart’s popular “Jupiter” Symphony with Christopher Rouse’s Prospero’s Rooms. On Wednesday, July 17, he conducts the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto along with the world premiere of See SPANO, Festival Focus page 3


AMFS Music Director and champion of new music Robert Spano conducts the Aspen Chamber Symphony during the 2012 season.

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Page 2 | Monday, June 24, 2013

FESTIVAL FOCUS: Your Weekly Classical Music Guide

Supplement to The Aspen Times

AOTC Presents Diverse Season of Bernstein, Puccini GRACE LYDEN

Festival Focus writer

From comedy to corruption, extreme optimism to desperate ambition, and American show music to British modern opera, the 2013 season of the Aspen Opera Theater Center (AOTC) might be the most diverse in the history of the program. “I like that the pieces are so very, very different,” says longtime AOTC director Edward Berkeley. “I mean musically different, stylistically different, and I think that will be good for our audiences.” The productions at the Wheeler Opera House for the 2013 season are Bernstein’s Candide (July 11 benefit performance, July 13 and 15), Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (August 1, 3, and 5), and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (August 15 and 17). Aspen’s opera season typically includes three operas, as well as weekly opera scenes master classes with Berkeley. This year, though, the Festival offers more. In addition to three fully staged operas, the 2013 Festival will present a semi-staged production of Britten’s Peter Grimes in the Benedict Music Tent, conducted by AMFS Music Director Robert Spano and featuring major opera stars such as soprano Susanna Phillips and tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, who performed the opera’s title role to critical acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera. Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) President and CEO Alan Fletcher calls Peter Grimes an “iconic twentieth-century opera masterpiece.” Fletcher agrees with Berkeley that this year’s pro-

grams cover broad territory, from Leonard Bernstein’s trying to persist in a loving attitude when you’re being delightfully singable Candide, which was originally opposed by society.” sketched as a musical but is now primarily regarded The works will be performed by talented young singas an opera; to the quintessential operatic repertoire ers, some of whom have already begun professional of Puccini; to a work by one of the earliest major opera careers. Past AOTC productions have received critical composers, Monteverdi. acclaim from publications such as “Monteverdi was in at the bethe New York Times and the opera ginning of the creation of what we world’s go-to publication, Opera now see as opera,” Fletcher says. News. The four productions have noPerformers in the AOTC have untably different storylines, but all dergone a rigorous process to join of them strongly represent the the program. Berkeley travels to theme of the AMFS 2013 season: major cities to hear live auditions, “Conscience and Beauty.” and applicants send in recordings, “In fact, once we had the theme resumes, and headshots. for this season,” says Fletcher, Once they get to Aspen, stu“we realized that opera was going dents’ schedules are packed not to be the richest source of works only with rehearsals, but also an Alan Fletcher involved with ‘Conscience and intense curriculum of classes in President and CEO of the AMFS Beauty.’” music, acting, song repertory, and The story of Candide ties to the movement; weekly voice lessons theme through its characters’ exploration of moral- with the artist-faculty; and various other workshops and ity and how they all ask the question, “How should we coaching sessions. live?” Conversely, L’incoronazione di Poppea explores the Berkeley says people sometimes assume the AOTC theme through its characters’ lack of morality and con- has hired singers for the major roles in its operas, but science in their quests for power. “the truth is that all of the players are students,” from Fletcher says, “Suor Angelica tells a story about beau- the lead roles to the members of the ensemble. tiful actions motivated by conscience and what hapMany of the singers are just embarking on their propens to you if you live that way.” But, he says, Peter fessional careers, and performing for the audiences in Grimes is the best example of the theme, for it is “about Aspen is their first step in that direction.

Once we had the theme for this season, we realized that opera was going to be the richest source of works involved with ‘Conscience and Beauty.’

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FESTIVAL FOCUS: Your Weekly Classical Music Guide

Monday, June 24, 2013 | Page 3

ICARUS: Opening Concert Features Tao Continued from Festival Focus page 1

Tao, 19, made his concerto début at age 8 and attended the AMFS every year from 2004 to 2009, in piano, violin, and composition. This will be his fourth time returning as a guest artist. “It’s a bit like going back to a second home,” Tao says. “Just being part of that great community that was fostered there is really special.” Tao is in the midst of a blooming professional career, having recently performed for audiences throughout Europe and the United States to rave reviews. A New York Times article published in May 2013 bore the headline, “So What Will He Do When 20?” “Conrad is clearly emerging as one of the great talents,” Fletcher says. In 2011, Tao was named a Gilmore Young Artist and the next year, he was awarded the highly prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. All the while, he is currently attending

the Columbia University-Juilliard School joint degree program in New York. Tao will also perform chamber music

Volunteer Sunday!

at 8 pm Saturday, June 29, in Harris Hall. The program includes Mahler’s exquisite Piano Quartet in A minor.

Sunday, June 30, the Aspen Music Festival and School invites all Valley nonprofit volunteers to attend a free Sunday dress rehearsal.


AACA alumna Mei-Ann Chen will conduct the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist and alumnus Conrad Tao on June 27 to open the Aspen Music Festival 2013 season.

Aspen Music Festival and School Box Office Hours

Please sign in at the Benedict Music Tent at 9:15 am to receive a complimentary voucher for admission and intermission cookies and lemonade.

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

Plaque to Honor Longtime Artist-Faculty SPANO: New Works The longest tenure is that of double bassist Stuart Sankey, who served fifty-one years and taught the current artist-faculty member and bass star Edgar Those close to the Aspen Music Festival and Meyer, among countless others. Sankey passed School (AMFS) know that one of its greatest away in 2000. Also on the list are Per Brevig, a trombonist who strengths is its deeply talented and devoted artistcurrently is the longest-serving artist-faculty member faculty members. These 130 individuals, who represent the top tier at forty-four years this summer; the late Gordon of classical music instruction in America, play in the Hardy, who led the AMFS as chief administrator Festival’s orchestral and chamber concerts as well for twenty-eight years as well as serving on its as privately teach the 630 students who come to faculty; and numerous current artist-faculty who first came to the Festival as students, including study each summer. This summer the Festival unveils a plaque in the Nadine Asin (flute, thirty-five years), Jonathan Haas (percussion, twenty-nine years), Benedict Music Tent to honor the contributions of the outstanding Aspen has meant so very Robert McDuffie (violin, thirtytwo years), Sylvia Rosenberg artist-faculty who have served the institution for twenty-five much to me all these years. (violin, thirty years), and George years or more. The plaque is a The Festival has changed Tsontakis (composition, thirtyeight years). natural extension of the internal Cello artist-faculty member recognition of this group that the so much, yet, in its heart, it Alan Harris, who has served Festival started seven years ago. remains the same. thirty-nine years, is touched Explains AMFS President by the recognition. “Aspen has and CEO Alan Fletcher, “Every Alan Harris meant so very much to me for year, since I started in 2006, we Cellist and AMFS artist-faculty all these years,” he comments. have honored faculty who have “The Festival has changed been with us more than twentyfive years at the summer’s opening convocation so much, yet, in its heart, it remains the same … ceremony. It is very striking how many there are dedicated to the aspiring music students and to ultimate excellence in making music. I have been and what continuity there is in Aspen’s faculty.” Last fall, a group of donors stepped forward who constantly nourished and inspired … and am were willing to support the creation of a plaque in intensely grateful.” Former faculty member Paul Sperry (voice, the Tent to make that recognition public and share twenty-seven years) remembers that, “I started it with audience members. The Festival’s records revealed there are seventy- going to Aspen as a student in 1953, and it was six artist-faculty who have served for twenty-five the only music school I ever attended. It was years or more since the Festival began in 1949. tremendously important to me and my family.” The plaque will be located on the west side of Together the honorees represent a colossal 2,460 years of service to the AMFS. About half of those the Tent’s inside perimeter and will be in place in listed are still on the faculty today. “The loyalty this time for the June 30 opening Sunday Aspen Festival Orchestra concert. list represents is astounding,” comments Fletcher. LAURA SMITH

Continued from Festival Focus page 1

Festival Focus writer

Adam Schoenberg’s Bounce. “It is certainly a hallmark of Robert’s career that he is not a new music specialist in the way of keeping contemporary works apart; he’s a mainstreamer,” Fletcher says. The Salonen Violin Concerto was written for and will be performed by dynamic Canadian-American violinist Leila Josefowicz. “She’s an artist who plays all of the standard repertoire but has been actively commissioning major new works,” Fletcher says. Josefowicz premiered Salonen’s Violin Concerto in 2009 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This year, incidentally, she will perform the piece on Salonen’s birthday. Josefowicz last appeared with the AMFS in the summer of 2010 when she performed Thomas Adès’s 2005 work, Concentric Paths. In a 2010 Festival Focus interview, Josefowicz noted that her interest in new works goes back to her teenage years, when she began thinking about her traditional violin education and where she would fit into the professional musical landscape. She realized that countless other violinists were performing the same standard pieces she was. So, to help set herself apart, Josefowicz began exploring contemporary works. She quickly fell in love. “When you look back two hundred years to when the pieces we’re familiar with were just written, they were new to people back then,” she said. “I want to make sure I contribute to great music that’s being written today that’s as great as music from 200 years ago. I love Beethoven. I love Shostakovich and Prokofiev. But my real passion lies in what you will hear me play in Aspen.” Leading off the opening Aspen Festival Orchestra concert is Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten, whose centenary is being celebrated by Aspen this year with more than twenty works performed throughout the summer. Upcoming Britten works include the Piano Concerto, op. 13 with pianist and artist-faculty member Wu Han (July 12), the Violin Concerto performed by guest artist Daniel Hope (July 14), and a semi-staged production of Peter Grimes (July 27).


The Week 1 issue of the Festival Focus for the Aspen Music Festival and School

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