Music fest to focus on earthly themes |

Music fest to focus on earthly themes

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Music Festival and School has announced the theme and program highlights of its 2004 summer festival.

The 55th annual Aspen Music Festival will run June 22 through Aug. 22, with daily events including concerts, operas, master classes, discussions and more. The entire festival will be dedicated to past festival President Robert Harth, who died in New York in late January.

The theme of the festival is The Four Elements, with several performances connected to the idea of earth, air, fire and water. Among the events tied to the theme are Haydn’s Fire Symphony No. 59, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner; Handel’s “Water Music” excerpts; Holst’s “The Planets”; Stravinsky’s “Firebird”; and Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth).”

Aspen Music Festival music director David Zinman, who will conduct the Mahler piece, said in a press release: “I’m always looking for global themes, ones that will encompass an array of music. This year, we have a great opportunity to explore all styles of music that echo and embrace the idea.”

The 2004 season will inaugurate a new feature, the mini-festival. The mini-festivals are themed, multi-day collections of concerts, talks and related events that add context to the music. This season will include three mini-festivals: Beethoven: From Rebel to Icon (June 23-July 2); Schumann: Musical Supernova? (Aug. 10-14); and Forbidden Music: Silenced Voices (Aug. 17-21).

The Aspen Opera Theater Center will present three fully staged operas: Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (July 15, 18 and 21); Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” (July 31 and Aug. 2); and Verdi’s “Rigoletto” (Aug. 16-17, 19 and 21).

Composers-in-residence for the season are Christopher Rouse, returning for his ninth season; and Scottish composer James MacMillan, whose recent works include an organ concerto co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the unveiling of the organ at the new Disney Hall.

Notable events for the 2004 festival include a July 17 benefit featuring the Aspen Chamber Symphony, conducted by Zinman; the first appearance in a decade by violinist Pinchas Zukerman, who will perform with the Zukerman Chamber Players string quintet; John Williams conducting the Aspen Chamber Symphony and violinist Gil Shaham, performing Williams’ own works on July 18.

Other special events include Great Minds, Great Melodies, a co-presentation with The Aspen Institute featuring New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman in conversation with Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson; the XX Factor, focusing on women composers and conceived by mezzo-soprano Suzanne Mentzer and pianist Craig Rutenberg; A Day of Music, a free, daylong open house on July 20 featuring numerous events; and Shostakovich vs. Stalin, a merger of music and drama on Aug. 8.

A tribute to Robert Harth will be held at a date to be determined.

For a full 2004 festival schedule, go to

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is]