World-class orchestral music is in the air, and that’s because the Bravo! The Vail Music Festival is back in the valley for its 34th season this summer. Over the past three decades, Bravo! Vail gained a reputation as one of the world’s premier musical destinations and is now the only festival in North America to host four of the world’s best orchestras in a single season.
The festival runs until August 4 and hosts the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic for multi-day residencies.
Well done! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott is excited to bring the festival back to full capacity in front of a live audience. During the first two weeks of performance, the energy emanating from the stage after the pandemic is – pun intended – contagious.
âI’ve never experienced anything like this, and this is my 11th season,â McDermott said. “It’s always exhilarating and wonderful, but there is a certain poignant touch about this season that I experience with everyone.”
All orchestral performances begin at 6 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, unless otherwise specified, and tickets can be purchased on BravoVail.org.
Back on the first two weeks of Bravo! Vail performance
Well done! Vail is already off to a good start after two weeks of distinguished performances.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra debuted in Vail and opened the season with three evenings of the world’s most beloved classical music. After the British Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra was denied visas to the United States, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra stepped in to fill its place in the festival with just five weeks’ notice.
âThis orchestra didn’t have a lot of head start,â McDermott said. “We quickly thought about it and had artistic discussions about the programs, and it was just a total joy to work with from start to finish.”
Beginning with an all-Mozart evening on June 25, the orchestra switched on June 26 to a mix of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Piazzola’s twentieth-century tango, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, before ending on June 27 with a chamber interpretation of Schubert and Brahms.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra began its residency last Wednesday and presents a wide range of musical styles, including two evenings of popular R&B and ragtime music.
âWe’re very grateful to Dallas for making these programs because people love them,â McDermott said. âIn my first season with Bravo !, I realized how important it is to have variety in our lineup. My guiding philosophy is that whether it’s popular or classical it has to be of the highest quality, and Dallas can pop as convincingly as it would play a Mozart symphony.
The first two shows showed the classical prowess of the orchestra, as conductor Fabio Luisi led virtuoso violinist James Ehnes through a program by Beethoven and Mendelssohn on Wednesday, followed by pianist Alessio Bax performing Saint-Saens and Schumann Thursday.
Things took a modern turn on Friday as singer Shayna Steele took center stage in a Queens of Soul performance that celebrated female legends of R&B music with covers of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houstin, Amy Winehouse and more.
âI was sitting in that audience and almost burst into tears from the joy that filled the amphitheater,â McDermott said. âEveryone was dancing in the aisles. It was just on fire and filled with joy and love and everything that humanity should experience every day.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra also hosted a Patriotic Concert on July 4, proudly playing American anthems to celebrate the nation’s independence.
The coming week
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra concludes its residency tonight with another popular music program called Ragtime Kings. Trumpeter Byron Stripling will join Grammy-winning conductor Jeff Tyzik to bring audiences a mix of early blues; French walking music; and classic hits from ragtime legends Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton and WC Handy.
Bravo! Vail Music Box, a mobile stage created last summer to accommodate social distancing protocol, returns Wednesday and Thursday for the premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s original piece titled “Robot Piano Teacher.” The piece features McDermott on piano and Juilliard School students Oliver Neubauer and Tabitha Rhee on violin. In the room, McDermott is a robot and the other two can control the way she plays the piano through an app on their cell phones.
âIt’s hilarious, and it’s something all kids will relate to because kids are pretty much born with cell phones in their hands these days,â McDermott said.
The music box will be located at the Eagle Vail Pavilion at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and at the Brush Creek Pavilion in Eagle at the same time on Thursday. Tickets are free, but reservations must be made online.
On Friday, the Philadelphia Orchestra is moving in for a weeklong residency.
âThis orchestra is known for its luxurious sound,â McDermott said. “Their nickname is the ‘Fabulous Philadelphians’, and for good reason.”
The first two performances will be led by conductor Nathalie Stutzmann, who has just started her three-year term as the principal guest conductor of the orchestra and who is making her debut at Vail this year. On Friday, Stutzmann will conduct a performance of Dvorak’s Selected Slavic Dances, showcase the talent of violinist Gil Shaham in a Bologna concerto, and end with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
On Saturday evening, clarinetist Ricardo Morales will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, the last major work the composer completed during his lifetime. Spectators will also be treated to Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major, a musical postcard from his travels through Italy.
On Sunday, the baton will be passed to former guest principal conductor StÃ©phane Deneve for a program by Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev which aims to make listeners oscillate between deep emotional depths and irrepressible bursts of gaiety. This evening will also feature pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, one of the most recorded artists alive today, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major.
Check back next Monday for a recap of this week’s Bravo! Vail performances and a look at what lies ahead. To purchase tickets and get more detailed information on the festival program, visit BravoVail.org.