The Final Week of Bravo! Vail 2021 Performances
The Bravo! Vail festival puts on its last full week of performances and says goodbye to the New York Philharmonic until next summer
Bravo! Vail is concluding the festival’s triumphant post-pandemic return to the valley with two final performances from the New York Philharmonic, a number of community concerts and a series of Immersive Experience concerts that take the audience on a deep dive into the work of a single composer.
The Week Behind
The New York Philharmonic packed the stands of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater at their opening performance on Wednesday night, filling both the amphitheater and lawn seating areas with people eager to hear the music of America’s oldest and most renowned symphony orchestra.
They did not disappoint. Music Director and conductor Jaap van Zweden took the stage to loud applause, and opened the night with soloist Daniil Trifonov playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.
To watch Trifonov perform was like watching a man possessed by a higher power. Hitting the keys with unwavering precision and passion, Trifonov had the audience staring with wide eyes as he moved through each complex movement, his body racking with the changing tempo of the music and his gaze constantly reaching to the sky.
“It was breathtaking,” said Bravo! Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another performer in that state of intensity.”
Jaap van Zweden demonstrated his conducting prowess in a serious yet joyful performance of Mozart’s beloved Symphony No. 40. Both van Zweden and Trifonov were summoned back to the stage for encore performances, and brought the crowd’s enthusiasm to new heights with two of the most well-known songs in classical music, Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
Over the course of the week, van Zweden conducted four nights of concerts at the amphitheater, the most of any conductor at the festival.
This was also an eventful week for Bravo! Vail’s chamber musicians in residence, the Viano String Quartet. Formed in 2015 at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, the quartet recently won the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition, and although they are a very young group of 24 and 25-year-old musicians, the sound that they produce together is world-class.
“When we played our first concert together, sparks were flying and it was kind of life-changing,” said cellist Tate Zawadiuk, 24.
The quartet performed in a variety of community spaces, including chapels, libraries, Ford park and a senior center, where the power of their performance had residents in their late nineties saying, “I have never heard music like this before.”
“The greatest thing about Vail is how buzzed and enthusiastic the audience is,” said violinist Hao Zhou, 24. “We didn’t have live concerts for quite awhile, and being able to perform for people who really love music and love quartet has been very special.”
The Week Ahead
This is the final full week of the 2021 Bravo! Vail festival, which will officially conclude on Aug. 4 with cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
The Verona Quartet are the Chamber Musicians in residence this week, and will follow in the Viano String Quartet’s footsteps, playing community concerts on Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Vail Interfaith Chapel, Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Vail Health Center, and Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Bravo! Vail Music Box stationed at the Gypsum Town Park.
The New York Philharmonic concludes their residency with two very different nights of performances. On Tuesday night, conductor Bramwell Tovey leads soloist Augustin Hadelich in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Other works on Tuesday include Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.
“Bramwell Tovey is effervescent, he is utterly charming, he talks to the audience quite a bit and always has some funny jokes to tell,” McDermott said. “The audience will just fall in love with him.”
The orchestra caps off their 2021 residency on Wednesday night with a popular music performance featuring Broadway star and Tony Award-winning vocalist Kelli O’Hara. O’Hara will sing three pieces from the 1944 musical On the Town, including the beloved American classic, “New York, New York”.
Following O’Hara’s performance, the orchestra will perform selections from the 1942 ballet Rodeo, a folksong-infused score that makes use of several traditional fiddle tunes.
The week draws to a close with a series of Immersive Experiences concerts. This new addition to the festival provides an opportunity for the audience to immerse themselves in the music of a single composer over the course of three performances. This year’s series features the Escher String Quartet performing all six Bartók string quartets, three nights in a row, from Thursday through Saturday at the Edwards Interfaith Chapel.
“When you have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the body of work of one composer, you come out the other side feeling like you understand that composer so much more,” McDermott said.
McDermott will join the quartet on Saturday, the final evening, to perform Bartók’s piano quintet. The Immersive Experiences series is intended to be experienced as a sequence of three concerts, but people can also choose to attend individual shows. Tickets are $45 per night, and the show will begin at 7 p.m. each evening.
As the 2021 Bravo! Vail festival draws to a close, McDermott and the festival staff are reflecting with gratitude on having had the opportunity to return to the stage before a live audience, and look forward to bringing more magic to the valley in 2022.
“The biggest revelation this season was how much we all realized how essential live music is in our lives,” McDermott said. “We always have great audiences, but this was over the top. As a pianist, I have never felt better in my life playing music, and the joy and exhilaration – I just want to bottle up that feeling and carry it forth into future seasons.”
For a full schedule of events, and to purchase tickets, visit BravoVail.org.