Classical and jazz meet in Aspen |

Classical and jazz meet in Aspen

Soprano Kathleen Battle sings Gershwin songs in the Aspen Music Festival and School's season benefit event, July 14. (Douglas Foulke)

Violinist Eugene Drucker – like Gottfried Keller, the protagonist of Drucker’s forthcoming novel, “The Savior” – has suppressed his desire to improvise toward the greater goal of making formal music. But the idea of meshing improvisation and structure will not seem so discordant at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Blue Notes,” inspired by music director David Zinman’s interest in exploring the links between classical and jazz styles. The theme prompted a partnership with Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and the two organizations are co-presenting a series of concerts that place the genres side by side.The theme is highlighted Tuesday, June 26, when jazz icon Wynton Marsalis conducts the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and the Ghanaian percussion ensemble Odadaa! in a performance of “Congo Square.” The hour-long piece, co-composed Marsalis and Odadaa! director Yacub Addy, juxtaposes structured and open segments, African and American styles. (Addy was scheduled to perform, but has canceled due to illness.)On July 19, two of the world’s greatest bassists – one affiliated with the Aspen Music Festival, the other with Jazz Aspen – meet up for a night of “dueling basses.” The bass recital pairs Edgar Meyer – a former student in Aspen, and now one of the most popular Music Festival figures – with Christian McBride, artistic director of Jazz Aspen’s JAS Academy. Each musician is multitalented on his own: Meyer, a composer as well as instrumentalist, is as popular in bluegrass as he is in the classical realm; McBride balances straight-ahead acoustic jazz with electric music informed by funk and hip-hop.

The two organizations also collaborate on the new series Aspen Late, which pairs classical players with jazz and pop acts. Violinist Hilary Hahn and singer-songwriter Josh Ritter are featured on July 27; a pair of quartets – the classical Ying and the jazzy Turtle Island – meet up Aug. 3. Also in the series, on July 20, is the Pablo Ziegler Trio for New Tango, led by Argentinean pianist Ziegler.The Music Festival devotes its season benefit July 14 to the music of George Gershwin. The concert, conducted by Zinman and featuring soprano Kathleen Battle and pianist Simon Trpceski, includes Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Cuban Overture, as well as a selection of songs. The mini-festival Made in America: Jazz, July 30-Aug. 5, will include performances of Ellington, Piazzolla and Chris Brubeck, as well as a High Notes lecture on the ties between jazz and classical.Season highlights on the more traditionally classical side include the Aspen debut of Russian-born pianist Boris Berezofsky, playing a recital, Thursday, June 28, and appearing with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, Sunday, July 1; the North American premiere of Cavalli’s 17th-century opera “Eliogabalo,” performed on period instruments, Aug. 14, 16 and 18; mini-festivals focusing on Beethoven (July 21-28) and Stravinsky (Aug. 6-12); and a free simulcast from the Wheeler Opera House of Bizet’s opera, “Carmen,” in Wagner Park, on July 29.

Artists scheduled to appear this summer include violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, Julia Fischer and Sarah Chang; pianists Joseph Kalichstein, Vladimir Feltsman, Peter Serkin, Andreas Haefliger, Jonathan Gilad and Orli Shaham; and cellist Ralph Kirshbaum. Conductors for the season include James Conlon, David Robertson, Osmo Vänskä, Hugh Wolff, Leonard Slatkin and Mikko Franck.For a complete season schedule, go to Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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