Bravo! music festival's 25th year bring together the old and new, past and present.
By Melanie Wong
To launch its 25th anniversary year, perhaps it’s fitting that the opening performance of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival season will be a celebration of the past and present.
The June 25 performance at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail will feature the festival’s current artistic director, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, and her two predecessors, flutist Eugenia Zukerman and Bravo! cofounder and violinist Ida Kavafian, on stage for a free night of music.
The opening recital will include music from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C minor, and Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano on A major, among others. The performance is merely a teaser for the world-class music that is coming to the Vail Valley over the next six weeks, including performances from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, as well as a myriad of guest performers.
For McDermott, Zukerman and Kavafian, the recital will be a reunion of sorts, and the audience can expect some lively dialogue along with the music.
“What’s interesting about all three is that they’re not only accomplished soloists, but each is also completely devoted to chamber music, such as for small ensembles and string quartets,” says Jacqueline Taylor, the festival’s artistic administrator. “They’ve put together a program that is full of music and fun. We’ll have three bright, bubbly, wonderful human beings on stage, so that’s really the spirit of the opening.”
June 25 is one of McDermott’s numerous festival appearances, which include a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto during an all-Tchaikovsky program with the New York Philharmonic, guest conducted by Grammy Award-winner Bramwell Tovey on July 21, and a performance with three other world-class pianists for the “4 x 4: A Two-Piano Extravaganza Redux,” which closes out the Bravo! season on Aug. 4.
Still to come
Festival organizers have a number of special events planned for the “silver anniversary” season, including a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s opening night on Wednesday, June 27.
The celebration of a historical season also includes many firsts for the festival. Upcoming artistic debuts include conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, just prior to his inaugural season as music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
“He’s the new hot thing right now,” Taylor says. “This will be an introduction to Vail audiences of him, and we’re pretty thrilled about that.”
Other performers new to the Vail stage include acclaimed violinist Jennifer Koh and cellist Alisa Weilerstein, playing with McDermott in a June 28 performance and again on June 29 with the Dallas Symphony.
Bravo! also debuts a new program, the “Silver Nights” series held at Donovan Pavilion. The events feature one-hour sets of chamber music written over the past 500 years, juxtaposing music from composers like Schubert and Debussy with experimentalists like Charles Ives and modern composers such as Thomas Adès and Osvaldo Golijov.
The concerts are sponsored by Silver Oak Winery, which will serve beverages at each of the performances. The theme of the nights will be exploring how “old” music is alive in the present, and how different musicians relate the classics with the new. Between hour-long sets, audience members can enjoy a glass of wine as they chat with players and composers, hearing from the artists themselves about the music.
“It’s such an opportunity to have an intimate setting with music from across five different centuries,” Taylor says.
Musicians at the festival will also be recognizing another anniversary: In honor of George Gershwin, who died 75 years ago this July and penned much of America’s most recognizable music, a July 30 performance features the concert version of Gershwin’s folk opera, “Porgy and Bess,” with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Also, a July 22 show includes Gershwin favorites performed by renowned Canadian coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl, backed by the New York Philharmonic.
Off the beaten path
While featuring the best performers and orchestras playing the classics has given the Bravo! festival its prestigious reputation, organizers will also be infusing the summer with a breath of fresh air by bringing in some “off-the-beaten-path” performances, Taylor says.
On July 2, jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers will perform at Ford Amphitheater backed by the Dallas Symphony.
“He has a very direct, honest, passionate style,” Taylor says. “The audience will be able to really sit back and just be blown away by this great singer and trio backed by the symphony. We’ve never done anything quite like it.”
Don’t forget “Cirque de la Symphonie” on July 8, a marriage of a concert and circus acrobatics. As the Philadelphia Orchestra plays, acrobats, jugglers and aerialists will soar above the crowd in synch with the music.
For McDermott, who begins her second season as artistic director, forays into the new and different are part of the innovation she hopes will continue at the Bravo! music festival in the years to come.
“She hopes that the best musicians today will look at the festival and know that if they have a particular musical dream, that we can help make that open,” Taylor says. “We hope the festival will be alive with great music, old and new. We’ll be commissioning more music in the future, and we won’t be afraid of things that are new.”
For more info on individual performances or to purchase tickets, see www.vailmusicfestival.org.