Bravo! continues in Vail with big weekend |

Bravo! continues in Vail with big weekend

Special to the Daily/Katherine Blodgett

The fireworks went off. The parades marched and bands blared.

Big weekend over?

Nope, its actually just on the horizon.

The Philadelphia Orchestra begins its residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival with a trio significant and fun – they are not mutually exclusive, people – concerts, ranging from the Russian Friday night at 6 to an all-American program Sunday, just in case you’re still flying high from the Fourth of July.

Joining Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra will be Gil Shaham for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a seminal work in classical music. It is fun to note, though, that music critic Eduard Hanslick said after the work’s debut, that it “brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear.”

Ouch. History has vindicated Tchaikovsky here. Hanslick, though not being complimentary to the author, did have a point when he wrote, “the violin was not played, but beaten black and blue.”

While an exaggeration, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is excruciating difficult for the soloist. Shaham will be more than capable. Ironically, he has some Colorado ties. He attended the Aspen Music School, and played at that town’s music festival earlier this week.

Shaham, then 18, got his big break when he stepped in for Itzhak Perlman, who was ill at the time, performing with the London Symphony Orchestra. Just imagine Michael Jordan goes down with a sprained ankle and now you’re in. Good luck.

Shaham won acclaim and his career took off. Under the category of a small world, Shaham performed Barber’s Violin Concerto, which Bravo! audiences heard last week, with the New York Philharmonic earlier this year.

If some critics didn’t receive Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto well at first Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” was even a more momentous debut in 1913. The audience in Paris rioted. For those who think that classical music concert goers are a bit staid, there were actual fist fights between those who liked the new work and those who didn’t. We trust tonight’s Bravo! audience will restrain themselves.

The work itself with varying rhythms and dissonance broke ground for 20th Century music, and was even incorporated into the movie, “Fantasia.”

Saturday’s concert starts in Europe with Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture.” The Philadelphia Orchestra will cross the Atlantic with Debussy’s “La Mer,” a three-movement work. There is some debate whether the work is three sketches or an actual symphony. There is no doubt that the work is perfect example of text painting, the use of music to illustrate a scene, in this case bringing the ocean to 8,000 feet above sea level.

Dvorak’s best known work, Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” caps the evening. The Czech composer derived some form of inspiration for the work from his trip to the United States from 1892-1895, and the work premiered in New York.

Again arguments abound. Did Dvorak take from African-American spirituals and music of Native Americans? The second movement, the largo, has links to the spiritual “Goin’ Home.” Others think the folk music adapted into the symphony is Bohemian in nature and represents Dvorak’s longing for his homeland.

Either way it’s an international kaleidoscope of music.

The final concert of the weekend is unquestionably American. Highlighting the program is Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story.'”

In a nutshell, in Gershwin’s work, the formal concept of a piano concerto meets American jazz. As with all new forms, there was mixed reaction to its debut in 1925. Stravinsky thought it was great, keeping with his ground-breaking style of presenting works like “Rite of Spring. Meanwhile, Prokofiev indicated thumbs-down, even though ironically his piano works also display influences of jazz.

“West Side Story” is a modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet with the Montagues and Capulets being recast by the gangs, the Jets (the whites) and the Sharks (the Puerto Ricans) with Tony and Maria caught in between in 1950s New York. The musical produced some of the best-known numbers from the stage and screen. Don’t be surprised to hear some concert-goers singing along, including this mother of the author of this article.

Staff writer Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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