Academy, Bell and Meyer dazzle in opening
VAIL — Surprisingly, composer Edgar Meyer was not nervous.
His new work, “Overture for Violin and Orchestra,” was being played for the first time by Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Thursday as a part of Bravo! Vail’s opening night at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.
“Well, I’ve been hearing it all week in rehearsal, so I just tried to enjoy it,” Meyer said during intermission after his piece premiered. “It’s been a joy getting to know the Academy. I’ve known Josh for three decades, and it’s been a joy.”
And so the first of five premieres this summer along with Bruch’s First Violin Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony went off to the delight of a nearly packed house to start Bravo! Vail’s 30th season.
As is custom, the Academy started with “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “God Save the Queen” — every season and residency begins with the anthems of the host country and that of the orchestra, if necessary — accompanied by an audience in good voice.
Then it was premiere time.
While titled as an overture, Meyer’s piece was more of mini-concerto in the way Bell and the ensemble musically processed the theme.
Likely unbeknownst to the crowd, Meyer was sitting in the pavilion, hearing the first official rendition of his work.
“It’s not really hard compared to playing,” said Meyer, who also performs as a double-bassist. “The hard work comes well before the event when you’re writing. I’ve had a lot of time to focus on it during the rehearsal. I’ve been able to help when my help has been needed. But it’s out of my control.”
After the Academy competed the premiere, Bell looked for Meyer in the audience and waved him on to the stage. Once on the stage, Meyer applauded the orchestra and Bell. The two hugged and Meyer bowed to the audience in thanks.
The “Overture for Violin and Orchestra” is a part of Bravo! Vail’s New Works Project. The Festival has commissioned five new works. Each new piece will debut with one of the four resident orchestras this summer as well as a chamber piece.
Bell, Bruch and Mendelssohn
The original Bravo! Vail schedule had Bell performing Mozart’s First Violin Concerto, but the program change to Bruch’s First Violin Concerto was perhaps a more virtuoso showcasing of his skills.
While the assembled at the Ford Amphitheater enjoyed it, perhaps others were doing so as well. Bravo! Vail streamed the Bruch on Facebook, a festival first.
As for those actually present, particularly those on the lawn, it was not only a show, but an event.
“We don’t come as often as we should,” said Eileen Kleiman, of Eagle-Vail, who was there with her husband, Mark. “The setting’s incredible. We’ve very excited.”
“We’re here with friends,” Mark said. “They’re bringing in the wine.”
And, as if on cue, those friends arrived with a bottle of white.
After the intermission, the Academy took to Mendelssohn’s Third, and, appropriately enough sprinkles began to fall, as the work is also known as the “Scottish.”
Year No. 30
Vail’s Sheika Gramshammer is no stranger to this area’s history, yet she is still astounded by how far Bravo! Vail has come in three decades.
“Amazing. I never expected it,” she said. “It was nothing. It’s like a dream.”
Before the concert, the festival’s artistic director Anne-Marie McDermott and executive director Jennifer Teisinger took a moment to acknowledge Bravo! Vail’s growth. What became Bravo! was actually a visit from Music from Angel Fire (New Mexico) Festival in 1987.
The first year of Bravo! in 1988 was all chamber music before the National Repertory Orchestra played here twice in 1989, followed by the Rochester Philharmonic in 1989.
Bravo! Vail is now the only music festival in the United States to have four resident orchestras — the Academy, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.
The Academy continues its residency on Saturday with Bell & Isserlis: For the Love of Brahms. Cellist Steven Isserlis joins Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Field for evening of Dvorak, Beethoven, Britten and Brahms with the last’s Concerto for Violin and Cello, highlighting the program.
Learn about bootleggers and alcohol in Eagle County at the event on Sunday from 4:30-6 p.m.