MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Week at the 2022 Bravo! Vail Music Festival

Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic at Bravo! Vail. (Photo by Tom Cohen for Bravo! Vail Music Festival)

This summer I was able to visit the Bravo! Vail Music Festival in the heart of Colorado during the New York Philharmonic’s residency. Here’s my report for Classical Voice North America:

VAIL, Colo. — More than one-and-a-half miles above sea level, there’s a special tang to the music. Or perhaps it’s a side-effect of the serene backdrop of wooded slopes, alpine flowers, and spectacular cloud formations. Whatever the reason, the fading A minor chord that closes the lid on Mahler’s Sixth Symphony reverberated with a peculiar blend of shell-shocked dread and exuberant release.


Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Mahler, music festivals, New York Philharmonic

The New York Phil Pays Heartfelt Tribute to Stephen Sondheim at Bravo! Vail

Emmett O’Hanlon, Isabel Leonard, Leonard Slatkin; photo (c)Carly Finke

Here’s my report on the New York Philharmonic’s closing orchestral concert of the 2022 Bravo Vail Music Festival:

One of four orchestras appearing at Bravo! Vail this summer, the New York Philharmonic brought along six different programmes, the first four of which were led by music director Jaap van Zweden – including a cathartic Mahler Sixth. Leonard Slatkin took over the reins for the remaining two programmes in the open-air main venue: an all-Tchaikovsky evening and this concluding concert, “A Sondheim Celebration”….


Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, New York Philharmonic, review, Stephen Sondheim

All-Tchaikovsky Night, and a Tribute to the Late Bramwell Tovey

The New York Philharmonic with cellist Zlatomir Fung and Leonard Slatkin; photo (c) Jorge Gustavo Elias

The conductor for last night’s Bravo Vail concert with the New York Philharmonic was to have been the much-loved Bramwell Tovey, who passed away on July 12. Leonard Slatkin, who took his place on the podium, paid tribute with a deeply felt interpretation of “Nimrod” from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” as the encore. Slatkin was completely in his element for this sold-out, all-Tchaikovsky concert — and not just for the blockbuster works (the “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” and Fifth Symphony) but the “Rococo Variations” they framed. You could feel him drawing on his vast experience with and love for this music to shape a dramatic arc that overwhelmed with its intensity in both R&J and the Fifth. But he was also brought out Tchaikovsky’s neoclassical finesse in the Variations, which showcased the refined, poetic musicianship of cello soloist Zlatomir Fung.

Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, conductors, Tchaikovsky

Chamber Music at Bravo! Vail

Verona Quartet with Anne-Marie McDermott, photo (c) Jorge Gustavo Elias

Last night I got my first sample of the chamber side of Bravo! Vail Music Festival with a smart program featuring the Verona Quartet and Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott at the keyboard. Puccini’s early “Crisantemi” and the first of Beethoven’s Op. 18 string quartets revealed a flair for finely calibrated ensemble balance and color, with a cross-connection of moods traced between Beethoven’s Adagio and the elegiac Puccini miniature.

For me the highlight was an impassioned performance of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 1 — also a youthful work, in fact written when he was only 18 — for which McDermott joined the Veronese to play the taxing, ever-present piano part with power and poise. Together they made a brilliant case for this shamefully long ignored gem, obviously enjoying the fecundity of Coleridge-Taylor’s imagination. Captivating from start to finish, this is the kind of performance that thankfully is reclaiming his work the repertoire.

Filed under: Beethoven, Bravo! Vail Music Festival, chamber music, Puccini, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Starting the Week at Bravo! Vail Music Festival

Photo (c) Jorge Gustavo Elias

Just some quick first impressions on my first trip to the Bravo!Vail Music Festival. It began Saturday with the second of four concerts of the New York Philharmonic‘s 2022 residency here. I admired Conrad Tao’s deeply personal and inventive account of Mozart’s G major Concerto K. 453 (including his own cadenzas) and a stirring Dvořák Seventh, all prefaced by Nina Shenkhar’s new “Lumina,” an exquisite study of light and shade.

The program was led by Jaap van Zweden, who returned last night with a knockout interpretation of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. Sunday’s moody weather provided a fitting backdrop and also made me wonder whether we would have thunder underlining the hammer strokes — or even adding an extra one. But the skies behaved, and in any case all ears were intent on every gesture coming from the crowded Ford Amphitheater stage. Van Zweden’s laser focus drew remarkably tight, driven playing from the musicians but also left plenty of room for expressive and impactful solos. Mahler’s uncompromising symphonic juggernaut had its devastating effect but paradoxically left the audience exuberant, even overjoyed — an aftereffect of catharsis?

Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Mahler, music festivals

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