Music Fest readies for memorable season |

Music Fest readies for memorable season

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform the world premiere of Kevin Puts' Cello Concerto, commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival to honor David Zinman's 70th birthday, in a Music Festival 2006 summer highlight. (Stephen Danel)

The Aspen Music Festival and School’s new president, Alan Fletcher, said he knew the organization was in fine shape when he surveyed the 2006 summer program. It may be that Fletcher’s arrival is merely well-timed: He comes to Aspen in the year of Mozart’s 250th and Shostakovich’s 100th birthdays, both of which will be marked repeatedly through the summer. More locally notable is Music Festival music director David Zinman’s 70th birthday in July, an occasion to be marked by a pair of grand events.But the recently released preview calendar reveals a summer generously packed with treats, including a new opera, the Aspen debuts of several notable musicians and the appearance of several rarely performed works. The 2006 season is thus in tune with the festival theme, Celebrations! Here Music Festival artistic advisor and administrator Asadour Santourian picks the best of the June 21-Aug. 20 season, and Aspen Times arts editor Stewart Oksenhorn chips in with additional highlights.

• June 25: The Aspen Festival Orchestra kicks off its season with the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Cello Concerto, with soloist Yo-Yo Ma. The connections are thick: The piece was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival to honor the birthday of Zinman, a good friend of Ma’s. Puts is a former student of Christopher Rouse, a longtime composer-in-residence in Aspen.”For David’s 65th, we commissioned a series of solo piano pieces,’ said Santourian. “This time we went whole-hog.”• July 8: Music for the Maestro benefit. Zinman’s birthday is celebrated with a predictably star-studded lineup, including violinist Gil Shaham, pianists Leon Fleisher and Yefim Bronfman and members of the Emerson String Quartet. On the unpredictable side are the nonmusical skits commissioned for the occasion: “Funny, anecdotal skits. That’s all I’m going to say,” said Santourian.

• July 29 and 31, Aug. 2: The Western states premiere of “Our Town,” conducted by Zinman. Ned Rorem’s opera version of Thornton Wilder’s classic small-town play was co-commissioned by six entities, including the Aspen Music Festival. Santourian saw the world premiere last month in Bloomington, Ind., and came away impressed: “It’s like watching the play,” he said. “It’s beautifully produced, a two-hankie show.” But he expects Aspen to take “Our Town” up another notch. “Ned Rorem said, knowing the Wheeler Opera House, it’s the perfect place. And David is the starriest conductor to take on this piece.”• Aug. 3-15: Shostakovich and Britten: A Musical Friendship. This mini-festival explores the kinship between the two composers – a Soviet dissident and an antiwar Brit – who influenced and admired each other through the Iron Curtain. “There will be quite a few rarely heard works by both of them,” said Santourian.Other highlights• Pianist Joyce Yang, a 2004 student in Aspen, earned the silver medal at the prestigious Van Cliburn competition. She joins David Robertson, acclaimed director of the St. Louis Symphony, in a July 2 program with the Aspen Festival Orchestra.

• The super trio of pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Gil Shaham and, in his Aspen debut, cellist Truls Mørk, perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, on July 9 with Zinman and the Aspen Festival Orchestra. As a warm-up, the threesome also plays a chamber music concert July 5.• Cellist Lynn Harrell has been a presence in Aspen since the festival’s earliest years; his father, baritone Mack Harrell, was a founding faculty member. But Harrell has been absent from Aspen for four years, which he corrects with a July 23 appearance with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, playing Shostakovich’s cello Concerto No. 2.• Mozart is unavoidable in this anniversary year. The Music Festival has Mozart programmed every week of the season, peaking with a July 24-30 mini-festival titled Mozart: Prodigy or Prophet? featuring orchestral works, chamber music and talks.• At 25, violinist Hilary Hahn has made nine recordings and earned a Grammy. She makes her Aspen debut Aug. 4, performing Goldmark’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Aspen Chamber Symphony.• Lang Lang, the 22-year-old Chinese piano powerhouse, makes a pair of appearances: In an Aug. 9 special event, he plays sonatas by Mozart, Chopin, Liszt and more. Two days later, with conductor James Conlon and the Aspen Chamber Symphony, it’s Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17.

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