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Aspen Winter Music tunes in

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Published: Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – The thought of an Aspen summer without classical music is practically inconceivable, and thanks to the 60-year-old Aspen Music Festival and School, the notion doesn’t cause much lost sleep even among the most diehard concertgoers.

But the culture of classical music has become so strong here that even the prospect of a winter without at least a few concerts is intolerable. So when the Music Festival announced that financial considerations had forced the cancellation of this year’s Winter Music series, which has been an institution since the opening of Harris Hall in 1993, a group of music lovers got busy working their contacts in the classical world.

The result is Aspen Winter Music, a concert series which, at least in quantity, improves on the plans of the Music Festival for this winter. While the Music Festival had scheduled two recitals – by violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Joyce Yang, and the Jupiter String Quartet – Aspen Winter Music will present three concerts. But the series also represents a reduction in venue size: Instead of 500-seat Harris Hall, the concerts will be held at the smaller Aspen Chapel, which holds 175.

The series opens Feb. 3 with the flutist Nadine Asin, violist Lawrence Dutton, violinist Elizabeth Lim-Dutton and cellist Darrett Adkins, performing duet, trio and quartet works by Mozart, Villa-Lobos and Dohnanyi.

Pianists Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson Fleisher will perform piano works for four hands on Feb. 22. The series concludes March 6 with mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer singing works inspired by the beauty of nature.

Organizers of Aspen Winter Music noted that they have kept the Aspen Music Festival informed about their plans, and that Music Festival president Alan Fletcher was “encouraging.” Asin, Adkins, and Dutton, a member of the Emerson String Quartet, are all longtime faculty members with the Aspen Music School; the Fleishers and Mentzer have made occasional appearances at the Music Festival.

The group behind Aspen Winter Music brings a lot of passion to the initiative.

“The idea that there would be a winter without quality music – we didn’t like that,” Stephanie Naidoff, a leader of the group, said. Most of the 17 people behind the series are regular attendees of the Aspen Music Festival; several are on the Music Festival board or national council. Asin, a member of the group, is on the Aspen Music School faculty.

But the group has relatively little experience in producing concerts. Naidoff, a part-time Aspenite, was founding president of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. Decades ago, Aspenite Judith Barnard helped put on the Community Concert Series in Illinois, which brought concerts to suburban areas.

“But none of us are experts,” Naidoff said. “We’re amateurs, volunteers, who just cared about bringing this music to the valley in winter-time.”

The Aspen Winter Music organizers hope to use that lack of expertise to their advantage. It was left largely to the musicians to select their own programs, meaning they were free to pick works that were meaningful to them. In the opening concert, for instance, the program includes the Aspen premiere of a duet written for Dutton and Lim-Dutton by John Patitucci, a jazz bassist who records under his own name and has collaborated with Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker.

“There’s nothing slick about this. It’s like early Aspen, when things were very simple and done with the spirit of community,” Barnard, who has had a home in Aspen for 30 years, said. There won’t be actual tickets; instead, a list will be kept of people who have paid admission. (Admission is $35 per concert, or $50 for the concert and a reception for the artist. To reserve a place, call Naidoff at 544-4871 or Barnard at 925-5740.)

Simple as the series may be, the organizers are encountering complications. Barnard recently spent some time lining up necessities for the concerts.

“Coat racks – who thinks about coat racks?” she asked.

stewart@aspentimes.com


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