Bravo! Vail: Not just concerts, but experiences |

Bravo! Vail: Not just concerts, but experiences

Chris Freud calls Academy of St Martin in the Fields' Bravo! Vail performance of Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings" as "Classical Music 101."
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Bravo! Vail Upcoming schedule

June 30: Mendelssohn & Prokofiev, Dallas Symphony Orchestra with Jaap van Zweden as conductor.

July 1: A Music Director’s Farewell: The Rite of Sring; Jaap van Zweden’s final Bravo! Vail performance as conductor of Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

July 2: John Williams: Music from the Movies (sold out).

For more information and tickets, visit

We can talk about how great the concerts have been to start Bravo! Vail 30th season. They have been.

We can talk about the parade of soloists — Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Garrick Ohlsson, an embarrassment of riches.

But what has made the biggest impression on me so far surprises me — the Academy of St Martin in the Fields’ performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.”

The piece is “Classical Music 101”. Mention the piece and the first thing just about everyone will think off are the open chords, basic rousing Tchaikovsky. After all, Tchaikovsky is, by and large, loud and thumping. (For the record, Ohlsson did not thump during the composer’s First Piano Concerto on Wednesday. One of my favorite pianists, Ohlsson never thumps.)

Back to the point, Tchaikovsky is rousing, emphatic, percussive and not subtle — all six of his symphonies, the Violin Concerto (coming to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater on July 7), “The 1812 Overture,” and so on.

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There’s nothing wrong with being hit on the head with a musical 2-by-4. I love Mahler (Symphony No. 7 on July 27 with the New York Philharmonic) and Gustav makes Tchaikovsky seem sedate.

I have had versions of “Serenade for Strings” on a record, tape, CD and now on my out-of-date blocky iPod so I thought I knew the piece.

Sunday’s “Serenade for Strings” was different — forceful, yet subtle. Perhaps, I got past the iconic opening motif. Perhaps, it was nice juxtaposition of programing with Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”

Though “Night Music” and “Seranade” are different in style — Austrian vs. Russian; Classical vs. Romantic — they depict similar scenes.

Whatever it was, I was in a different place musically.

And I wasn’t the only one.

This was one of those moments when the entire audience was rapt in the moment. As incredible as the quality of replication of music has become, nothing surpasses the moment of live music and the communal experience.

While it’s not the best manifestation of that sliver of time — a few audience members applauded prematurely — it was the proof.

Now more than ever, with social media, our phones and computers, which allegedly make our planet smaller, but tend to isolate, this is the one of the many important functions of the performing arts — actually bringing people together.

And now, the notebook:

Bruch for Mozart

Maybe I’m slow on the uptake, but two-or-so hours before Thursday’s Bravo! opener, I thought I was going to be hearing Mozart’s First Violin Concerto. (Apparently, we had a programming change a few weeks ago.) As a Freud, I was trained to think that Amadeus is the apotheosis of music. (Pop, a letter-day royalist, who still mourned the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until his death, instructed me so.)

I rebel in my own generational way. Mom and Pop always argued Bach vs. Mozart, baseball vs. opera and liberal vs. conservative. I came out of this, siding with Mom on Bach in that debate, liking both baseball and opera, leaning slightly left and preferring the Romantic and modern over the Baroque and Classical. (For the record, I love Bach and Mozart. I just love Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Chopin and Mahler, etc., more.)

This is a long way of saying that Bell’s rendition of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto was sublime. I was absolutely emotionally drained at intermission, and that’s a good thing.

Soloist watch

As noted before, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to soloists in this festival. We’ve had Andre Watts and Yo-Yo Ma in the past. We’ve almost become blasé to concept of Bell making annual appearances, whether with the Academy or before said orchestra had a residency here.

It was wonderful to have cellist Isserlis make his Bravo! debut. The chemistry between Bell and Isserlis was evident. And this brings up another point.

So-called classical music is meant to be fun.

As for Ohlsson, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, that was divine. I’m a big fan of the pianist, have a lot of his recordings on my outdated iPod and just love seeing him perform in person.

Coming up

Hats off to Dallas Symphony Orchestra maestro Jaap van Zweden as he finishes up his final concerts with his orchestra. He will replace Alan Gilbert as the head of the New York Philharmonic for the 2018-19 season.

The DSO and van Zweden perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Prokofiev’s Fifth tonight. On Saturday night, it’s Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”

As we head into the Fourth of July, the focus shifts to pops with a night of John Williams on Sunday and the traditional patriotic concert on Tuesday.

Staff writer Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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