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New tent pumps up the volume

Stewart Oksenhorn

First came the blare of trumpets, then the boom and rat-tat-tat of the drums. And the Aspen Music Festival and School’s 35-year problem of low volume and poor acoustics was put to rest.

The Music Festival’s new Benedict Music Tent opened Friday with the world premiere of the fanfare “Cathedral,” composed by longtime Music School faculty member George Tsontakis. The piece featured some 30 trumpeters and 10 percussionists, spread across the expanse of the new stage and the chorale stand.

“Cathedral’s” three-and-a-half minutes of dissonance seemed well-designed to both celebrate the new venue and take advantage of its promised improved acoustics. The notes from a single trumpet could be easily heard throughout the tent. From the far corner of the chorale stand, each tone of the drum came across clear, bright and resonant, a virtual impossibility in the old Bayer-Benedict Music Tent.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the “Resurrection” Symphony, performed by the full Aspen Festival Orchestra and the several hundred members of the Colorado Symphony Chorus, filled the tent completely with sound.

When Music Festival music director David Zinman first took the stage to conduct “Cathedral,” the applause began quietly and built in acknowledgement of the new structure, the improved sound and the launching of a new era for the Music Festival.

The invitation-only crowd was also in part applauding itself; much of the crowd was made up of donors whose contributions made the tent possible. The tent cost some $15 million.

Few in the crowd on Friday, or in Saturday’s free public concert, which repeated Friday’s program, would say that the Music Festival hasn’t gotten plenty of sound for its money.


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