One of the great partnerships between an orchestra and its music director surely has to be that of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Jaap van Zweden. Music director since 2008, he has transformed what was widely considered a leading U.S. orchestra into an extraordinary ensemble that performs at a high international level.
The orchestra’s annual residency in Vail kicks off the Bravo! Vail season, and it is always such a treat to experience the variety of different programs the orchestra presents every summer. If you like variety, color, some jazz and a few musical surprises, the Dallas Symphony will not disappoint.
I’ve really enjoyed watching van Zweden settle even more into the Vail experience since his arrival and become a valued member of the festival’s family. He loves making music here, and audiences intrinsically “get that” because their response to him is equally as warm and cordial. He presents the great classics, his own favored composers and works not well-known to local audiences, all with an intensity and integrity that is so refreshing and captivating.
This summer, you can expect van Zweden and his musicians to present the same sort of schedule that includes interesting, artistically stimulating and just plain fun concerts. The versatility and discipline of this orchestra is remarkable. One night they are playing jazz, the next Beethoven, followed by music of contemporary American composers, a pops concert, and then patriotic music.
There really isn’t anything these players can’t do, and summer 2014 is a testament to their skills. They opened last night, with Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli in a program of jazz standards and tunes from the American songbook. This concert was a collaboration with the Vail Jazz Foundation.
Tonight, van Zweden serves up one of the most treasured works in all of the symphonic repertory: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the Colorado Symphony Chorus and four stunning vocal soloists. As often as I have heard and presented this work in my career, I must say that from the very first note, I still feel transported by this music; it embodies mystery, majesty and a sense of wonderment. Only a genius of Beethoven’s stature could have envisioned such a monumental score.
Then, for something altogether different, van Zweden and his musicians offer a mostly French program of works by Faure, Liszt and Ravel on Sunday. The extraordinary British pianist Stephen Hough makes his Vail debut in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and the mesmerizing Bolero closes the program. If you’ve never heard Bolero live, then you owe yourself the experience of hearing this popular staple build to a thunderous climax.
The next week offers a lot of American music. The first is an all-American program of works by Bernstein, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland on Monday. Copland’s majestic Third Symphony features the awe-inspiring Fanfare for the Common Man, a true work of American genius. Barber’s prodigious melodic gifts are on full display in his Violin Concerto, here performed by James Ehnes, no stranger to Vail audiences.
The penultimate concert on Wednesday is of classic Hollywood film scores. I grew up like other typical American kids with a passion for films and film music. Hearing magnificent scores with lush orchestration in the movie theater takes me to another place, but having a world-class ensemble cherry pick among the best scores and perform them all on one night ... well, that’s pure magic.
Last, but certainly not least, is Bravo! Vail’s revered July Fourth Patriotic Concert. Bring you flags, dress in red, white and blue and get ready to sing along with all your favorite American songs in celebration of Independence Day.
Jim Palermo is Bravo! Vail’s president and executive director. For more information, visit www.bravovail.org or call 970-827-5700.