Concert tonight to remember Robert Harth | AspenTimes.com
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Concert tonight to remember Robert Harth

Stewart Oksenhorn

Though there will be plenty of music, sweet and sorrowful, played at tonight’s memorial concert for Robert Harth, though there will be many kind, heartfelt words spoken about the late past president of the Aspen Music Festival and School, not a sound need be made for Harth’s legacy to be complete.Attendees at the concert, Celebrating Robert Harth, should pause before entering the Benedict Music Tent and quietly behold the mark Harth left in Aspen. It will all be there before them.When Harth died at the age of 47 last winter, he had already left Aspen. In 2001, he took over the directorship of Carnegie Hall, leaving behind the town and festival he had called home for 12 years. But Aspen was left with his stamp that will be seen, heard and felt for decades to come. There is the tent itself, a symbol of Harth’s dedication to the students and performers and to music itself. When musician complaints about the old Bayer-Benedict Music Tent, which had served graciously for more than 30 years, reached critical level, Harth mobilized forces to build a new, improved facility, the better to make music. The $11 million price tag reflected Harth’s fund-raising prowess; the way the new tent retained the charm and scale of the replaced facility demonstrated Harth’s respect for the history of the music festival.A few paces east from the tent finds Harris Hall, a testament to Harth’s vision, and his reflexive impulse to aid the cause of music-making first. The venue, built in 1994 and hailed as an exquisite place to play and listen, gave the festival a year-round presence and a much-needed summer rehearsal and performance space.Featured in tonight’s concert is the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. The one-of-a-kind conducting school, which gives aspiring conductors an actual orchestra with which to work, is another of Harth’s legacies whose impact should be felt well into the future.And conducting some of tonight’s concert, and offering words of praise and comfort, will be the festival’s music director, David Zinman. It was Harth’s call to which Zinman responded; Harth persuaded the acclaimed conductor to resettle in Aspen and focus much of his energy on educating the next generation of classical musicians.The question of Harth’s legacy “is answered when you see all the buildings, the new tent and Harris Hall,” said Zinman. “The place exploded under his direction. Everything visible you see here – but also the orchestra structure, the academy, it’s all pretty visible. He accomplished so much here.”Beyond the physical realm, Harth also left close friends, happy memories and a spirit of collegiality. “Emotionally, he was a perfect person to work with,” said Zinman. “People could really relate to him.”I’m here because of Robert. He brought me here, convinced me to come. And that’s why I’m here. And I’m grateful for that.”Tonight’s concert, set for 8 p.m. and free and open to all, will feature a new work, “Sarabande,” commissioned for the occasion from Christopher Rouse, the music festival’s composer in residence. Also on the program are an excerpt from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a favorite of Harth’s, as well as Barber’s Adagio, excerpts from Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite, a Mahler song to be performed by mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer; and a Brahms intermezzo, performed by pianist Joseph Kalichstein. Also on the musical program will be a recording of music by pop singer Dave Matthews, another favorite of Harth’s. In addition, there will be speakers, including Zinman, and a photo exhibit.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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