Bravo! Vail Music Festival returns for its 34th season
Bravo! Vail will be hosting residencies from The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic through Aug. 4.
World-class orchestral music is in the air, and that’s because the Bravo! Vail Music Festival has returned to the valley for its 34th season this summer. Over the past three decades, Bravo! Vail has earned a reputation as one of the world’s premiere music destinations, and is now the only festival in North America to host four of the world’s finest orchestras in a single season.
The festival runs through Aug. 4, and brings in The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic for multiday residencies.
Bravo! Vail’s artistic director Anne-Marie McDermott is ecstatic to bring the festival back at full capacity before a live audience. During the first two weeks of performances, the energy emanating from the stage after the pandemic is — pun intended — contagious.
“I’ve never experienced something like that, and this is my 11th season,” McDermott said. “It’s always exhilarating and wonderful, but there’s a certain poignancy to this season that I’m experiencing with everybody.”
All orchestral performances begin at 6 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater unless otherwise noted, and tickets can be purchased at BravoVail.org.
A look back at the first two weeks of Bravo! Vail performances
Bravo! Vail is already off to a powerful start following two weeks of distinguished performances.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra made its Vail debut and opened the season with three nights of the world’s most beloved classical music. After the UK-based orchestra Academy of St. Martin in the Fields was denied visas to the United States, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra stepped in to fill their place in the festival on just five weeks’ notice.
“This orchestra did not have a lot of lead time,” McDermott said. “We quickly put our heads together and had artistic discussions about the programs, and they were just a complete joy to work with from beginning to end.”
Starting with an all-Mozart evening on June 25, the orchestra moved into a blend of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Piazzola’s 20th century tango, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, on June 26, before finishing June 27 with a chamber performance of Schubert and Brahms.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra began their residency this past Wednesday, and are performing a diverse array of musical styles including two nights of popular R&B and ragtime music.
“We’re so grateful to Dallas for doing those programs because people love them,” McDermott said. “In my first season with Bravo!, I realized just how important having variety in our programming is. My guiding philosophy is that whether it’s popular or classical, it needs to be at the highest quality, and Dallas can do pop just as convincingly as they would play a Mozart symphony.”
The first two shows exhibited the orchestra’s classical prowess, as Conductor Fabio Luisi led virtuoso violinist James Ehnes through a program of Beethoven and Mendelssohn on Wednesday, followed by pianist Alessio Bax performing Saint-Saens and Schumann on Thursday.
On Friday, things took a modern turn as vocalist Shayna Steele took center stage during a Queens of Soul performance that celebrated the female legends of R&B music with covers of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houstin, Amy Winehouse and more.
“I was sitting in that audience, and I almost burst into tears because of the joy that filled the amphitheater,” McDermott said. “Everyone was dancing in the aisles. It was just on fire and filled with joy and and love and everything that humankind should get to experience everyday.”
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra also put on a Patriotic Concert for July 4th, playing American anthems with pride in celebration of the nation’s independence.
The week ahead
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra concludes their residency tonight with another popular music program titled Ragtime Kings. Trumpeter Byron Stripling will join Grammy-winning conductor Jeff Tyzik to give the audience a mix of early blues; French march music; and classic hits by ragtime legends Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton and W.C. Handy.
The Bravo! Vail Music Box, a mobile stage created last summer to accommodate social distancing protocol, returns Wednesday and Thursday to premiere Bruce Adolphe’s family-friendly original play titled “Robot Piano Teacher.” The play stars McDermott on the piano and The Juilliard School students Oliver Neubauer and Tabitha Rhee on the violin. In the play, McDermott is a robot and the other two can control how she plays the piano through an app on their cellphone.
“It’s hilarious, and it’s something all of the kids will relate to because kids are practically born with a cellphone in their hand these days,” McDermott said.
The Music Box will be located at the Eagle Vail Pavilion at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and the Brush Creek Pavilion in Eagle at the same time Thursday. Tickets are free, but reservations must be made online.
On Friday, The Philadelphia Orchestra moves in for a weeklong residency.
“This orchestra is known for their luxurious sound,” McDermott said. “Their nickname is the ‘Fabulous Philadelphians,’ and for good reason.”
The first two performances will be led by conductor Nathalie Stutzmann, who just began her three-year tenure as the orchestra’s principal guest conductor and is making her Vail debut this year. On Friday, Stutzmann will guide a performance of Dvorak’s Selected Slavonic Dances, highlight violinist Gil Shaham’s talent in a concerto by Bologne, and close with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
Saturday evening, clarinetist Ricardo Morales will play Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet in A major, the last major work that the composer completed in his lifetime. Audience members will also be treated to Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major, a musical postcard of his travels through Italy.
On Sunday, the baton will be passed to former Principal Guest Conductor Stephane Deneve for a program of Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev that is intended to oscillate listeners between profound emotional depths and irrepressible bursts of merriment. This evening will also feature pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, one of the most recorded artists alive today, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major.
Check back in next Monday for a recap of this week’s Bravo! Vail performances and a look at what’s ahead. For ticket purchases and more detailed information about the festival schedule, visit BravoVail.org.