Aspen Music Festival to host eight weeks of virtual concerts and events |

Aspen Music Festival to host eight weeks of virtual concerts and events

Cellist Lynn Harrell performs Augusta Read Thomas’s Cello Concerto No. 3 “Legend of the Phoenix” with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, led by conductor Christian Arming, on July 25, 2014, inside the Benedict Music Tent in Aspen.
Alex Irvin/Aspen Music Festival and School

The Aspen Music Festival and School will host a free virtual summer festival online, opening July 4 and including live recitals, panel discussions and seminars through Aug. 23.

The festival canceled its summer-long in-person session in early May due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual season will carry on the Aspen tradition of Sunday afternoon concerts, with virtual recitals by festival favorites including pianist Daniil Trifonov (July 19), cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan (July 26), violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Jeremy Denk (Aug. 9) and violinist Augustin Hadelich (Aug. 25). Other familiar elements include the festival weekly High Notes panel discussions, at which festival president and CEO Alan Fletcher interviews guest artists and faculty.

The festival also will host a Faculty-Student Showcase on Wednesdays, offering a look inside the teaching process with private virtual lessons by faculty including soprano Renée Fleming (Aug. 19).

In two interactive seminars, the Music Fest will tackle the history and current realities of women composers (“Uncommon Women of Note,” July 15) and Beethoven’s legacy (“Beethoven at 250,” Aug. 12).

“We posed ourselves the question, ‘Can we do anything that is really lasting? Not just a fill-in, but something really fresh?’” Fletcher said Wednesday of the planning process for the free virtual lineup. “That is here in the interactivity that will be available and the fact that we can present our core work of education to the whole world. People in Hanoi and Mumbai and Capetown can really see what we do in a fresh and interesting way.”

All of the season’s content is new, other than the opening July 4 event, which is a video recording of the 2019 Aspen Festival Band’s Independence Day concert, showcasing traditional patriotic music conducted by Lawrence Isaacson.

The festival will host a live “Tribute to Music Director Robert Spano” on July 5, honoring Spano’s 10 years in Aspen. Standing in for the festival’s annual summer gala, the free online event will include live musical tributes from stars including pianist Yefim Bronfman, soprano Renée Fleming, violinist Robert McDuffie, soprano Michelle DeYoung, bassoonist Nancy Goeres, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, and clarinetist Michael Rusinek.

The canceled in-person season’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth will continue virtually, with performances of Beethoven violin sonatas by James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong (July 12), cello sonatas by Weilerstein and Barnatan (July 26), a “Moonlight Sonata” performance by Behzod Abduraimov (Aug. 2) and piano sonatas by Andreas Haefliger (Aug. 16).

Several artists within driving distance are expected to broadcast their performances from an empty Harris Concert Hall, others from home studios and venues across the country.

Before summer’s end, Fletcher said, the Music Fest is also hoping to be able to host some live in-person events at the Benedict Music Tent. If public health officials clear gatherings of up to 250 people, he said, the Music Fest will attempt to host socially distanced performances there and open it to other local arts organizations.

“We think once we can have gatherings of 250 we can get 250 people in and out of the tent safely,” Fletcher said, noting the 2,000-seat venue’s size, its many entrances and the open space surrounding it.

Links to virtual events will be posted at, where the full calendar of events will be live Thursday.

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