One of the highlights of every summer surely is the annual residency of the New York Philharmonic. Now in its 12th consecutive summer of concerts in Vail, we see things really come alive when the New Yorkers roll into town. From its first appearance in the Rocky Mountains back in 2003, the legendary New York Philharmonic was an instant hit. Audiences always swell in size, performances sell out and the social ambiance at concerts is so friendly, it’s almost like a week-long party.
One of the greatest pianists alive, Yefim Bronfman, graciously agreed to step in for violinist Midori, who had to cancel her opening night performance due to complications with her pregnancy. Bronfman joined the New Yorkers last night to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a beloved staple in the piano concerto repertory.
Tonight, Music Director Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic again welcome Bronfman, this time in performances of Beethoven’s piano concertos Nos. 1 and 5, the latter nicknamed “Emperor.”
On Sunday, we celebrate the 150th birthday of one of the greatest orchestral composers ever, Richard Strauss, with his two best-known tone poems, “Don Juan” and “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.” The Philharmonic’s musicians are uniquely qualified to bring these works to life with their power, command and technical precision. Principal Oboe Liang Wang offers Christopher Rouse’s “Oboe Concerto” before the program ends with more Tchaikovsky, this time his Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture. The love theme from this work will be instantly recognizable to many.
After a few days rest, the Philharmonic returns for three more glorious programs, two led by the incomparable Bramwell Tovey. We all know Tovey as a delightful raconteur, someone who can bring the great classics to life with such an approachable manner. Because of his wit, charm and elegance, Tovey has developed a special rapport with Vail audiences throughout the years.
His “American Favorites” program on Wednesday features music from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Copland’s heroic “Fanfare for the Common Man,” featuring the Philharmonic’s all-star brass section, and Ferde Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” Grofe’s “On the Trail” movement will be familiar to many of you, with its simulation of horses clopping downhill. Special guest conductor Doe Browning also offers a short musical surprise that same evening.
On Thursday, we have one of the most highly anticipated programs of the entire summer, the Philharmonic’s Broadway Night, this year dedicated to the music of Frank Loesser. Loesser composed my absolute favorite musical, “Guys and Dolls” — and we’re proud to present selections from this long running show. Also on the docket are great tunes from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “The Most Happy Fella,” “Where’s Charley” and “Hans Christian Andersen.” A real kick for the younger members of the audience is that Santino Fontana, voice of Prince Hans in the Oscar-winning animated feature “Frozen,” will star in this concert. It’s a great family-friendly program, especially for those who want to lounge on the lawn and enjoy a relaxing picnic.
We’ll say goodbye to the Philharmonic on Friday with an all-Russian program that should lift our spirits. Russian romantic music is popular for a reason: It’s evocative, colorful, full of modal melodies and conjures up so many fantastical associations. Case in point is Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”
INSPIRED BY FOLKLORE
Like so much Russian music, “Night on Bald Mountain” is inspired by folklore. It’s a single movement orchestral work that takes place on the witches’ Sabbath, occurring on St. John’s Eve. It’s not only colorful, but grotesque and just plain spooky. “Night on Bald Mountain” garnered great fame through Walt Disney’s animated classic “Fantasia” (1940), in an arrangement by The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Music Director Leopold Stokowski. Tovey also leads the orchestra with Bravo! Vail favorite Joyce Yang, who tackles Rachmaninoff’s thrilling Piano Concerto No. 1. Rounding out the program is the delightful “Waltz of the Flowers” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Jim Palermo is Bravo! Vail’s president and executive director. For more information, visit www.bravovail.org or call 970-827-5700.