Bravo! Vail’s artistic director: New program gives voice to living composers
Next week Bravo! Vail kicks off its 35th Festival season, and I am thrilled by what we have in store.
After two seasons of creatively adapting our programming using smaller numbers of musicians on stage, we are thrilled to welcome back our four resident orchestras at full force with Mahler symphonies (New York Philharmonic); a Beethoven Ninth (Dallas Symphony Orchestra); Strauss’s epic tone poem “A Hero’s Life” (The Philadelphia Orchestra); and of course, the family favorite “Warner Bros. Presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.” What is more, this summer sees the return of our delightful “Classically Uncorked” series at the Donovan Pavilion.
Perhaps most exciting for me is the inauguration of our New Works Symphonic Commissioning Project. Since 1990, Bravo! Vail has commissioned and premiered dozens of works by living composers, most of it chamber music. This new initiative makes a bold commitment to commissioning three new symphonic works every season for the next five years.
There is nothing more exciting for a musician than to work directly with a living composer. Can you imagine what it would have been like to ask Beethoven or Mozart what they were thinking when they composed one of their masterpieces? This summer we will have that very opportunity when composers Chris Rogerson, Katherine Balch, and Carlos Simon join me on stage for a post-concert interview after the world-premiere performance of their Bravo! Vail commission.
This project means a great deal on very many levels. Like all art, the creation of music is a reflection of life, and given the dynamic and changing times in which we live, providing a forum for new works provides all of us with an unequaled opportunity to hear a multiplicity of compositional voices and experiences. I am so proud of our continued commitment to new music. I cannot think of anything more joyous than hearing a piece of music by a living composer for the very first time.
Please join me for the following:
June 25 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and I will give the world premiere of Chris Rogerson’s one-movement piano concerto, “Samaa’,” for solo piano, gongs, and strings. I adore the work of this composer, so you can imagine how incredibly touched I was when Bravo! Vail gave me the gift of this commission in honor of my 10th anniversary as artistic director. Chris is a faculty member at the Curtis Institute of Music and an incredibly gifted composer. For “Samaa’,” he was inspired by Bach’s “Goldberg” variations, also on the program, and especially by that work’s connection to work to the idea of sleep—a theme Chris has used in a number of his pieces.
June 30 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The Dallas Symphony Orchestra led by Fabio Luisi will give the world premiere of Katherine Balch’s “music for young water that danced beneath my feet.” Recipient of the esteemed Rome Prize, this amazing composer drew inspiration for her work from a summer she spent in Keystone, Colorado. She noticed that there was always ice melting along the trails at a certain altitude and was fascinated by the sound of water flowing beneath the ice. Katherine paired these sounds with Ann Carson’s translation of poems by the Greek poet Sappho and instrumentation reflecting Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. I am excited to hear how all of these thematic elements come together.
July 22 at 6 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater): The New York Philharmonic led by Jaap van Zweden will give the world premiere of Carlos Simon’s “Profiles.” Carlos has received many honors for his work inspired by African-American history and culture. For “Profiles,” he drew on three artworks of Romare Bearden (1911-88), who lived most of his life in New York City. The first movement is based on Bearden’s “Block,” depicting one block in Harlem in the ’70s. The second is inspired by “Empress of the Blues,” a work based on blues singer Bessie Smith. His last movement reflects Bearden’s “City of Light,” a stained-glass work he created for a subway station in the Bronx. It will be fascinating to hear Carlos’s musical depictions of the work of such an important American visual artist.
To purchase tickets or to learn more about any of these concerts, please visit BravoVail.org. I hope to see you there.