To hear something new and different in concert music, maybe the best idea is to go far back in time. The Aspen Music Festival’s final minifestival of the season, A Grand Tour of the Baroque, whisks listeners to a period before violins and pianos, to the sounds of harpsichords and lutes. Derived largely from church music, the music of the Baroque period, from 1600-1750, is noticeably different from the Classical and Romantic periods that followed. Highlights of the Grand Tour include the Cavalli opera “Giasone” (Monday, Aug. 15, Thursday, Aug. 18, and Saturday, Aug. 20), to be performed on period instruments like the theorbo, a long-necked member of the lute family, and the viola da gamba, a distant relative of the cello; two recitals by the Canadian ensemble Tafelmusik (Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 16-17); and a performance by the six-member a cappella, male vocal group Lionheart (Saturday, Aug. 20). Expect to hear plenty of pieces by the ultimate Baroque composer, J.S. Bach.
“The March of the Penguins” should erase any doubts about how animals are hard-wired for survival of the species. French director Luc Jacquet’s documentary shows the remarkable lengths the emperor penguin of Antarctica goes to perpetuate its lineage. Single file, by the thousands, the penguins waddle from their ocean home to a field of ice that is otherwise empty of all life. There they pair off and mate, each female lays her single egg, and the males tend the eggs, keeping them on the top of their feet at all times for weeks – a stretch in which the dads eat nothing. Meanwhile, the females head back to the sea to gather fish for the newborns. The family then heads back to the sea. Jacquet’s documenting of this ritual has made 2005 the year of the emperor; “The March of the Penguins” has become one of the most acclaimed films of the year and one of the highest-grossing documentaries ever. It closes the SummerFilms series at Paepcke Auditorium with screenings Sunday and Monday, Aug. 14-15.
Maybe it was the scenery that knocked the charisma out of Lucinda Williams at her Labor Day Festival appearance last summer. In the current issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine, Williams says of Snowmass Village that “It’s almost too beautiful. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful. I almost can’t stand it.” Quite a few listeners were underwhelmed by the singer-songwriter’s performance, which sounded fine but featured little personality – not even Williams’ notorious prickliness. But a talent like Williams deserves a second chance. The 52-year-old broke through with 1998’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” the Grammy-winner for best contemporary folk album, and her work since then – 2001’s “Essence” and 2003’s “World Without Tears” – has shown no artistic drop-off. Her most recent CD, “Live at the Fillmore,” proves Williams’ merits as a live performer. So maybe it was the breathtaking Snowmass views. She returns with her band to play the Belly Up Tuesday, Aug. 16.
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