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Bravo is getting adventurous

Special to the DailyVail Daily Sports Editor Chris Freud.
ALL |

Bold.

That is our theme of the week from the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival, and we’re quite happy about that. Good for the festival on that count.

Newness, or relative newness in the case of the last week, is a very scary thing in the world of classical music. Scheduling Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony (written in 1944) as well as Bruckner’s Eighth (1884-1890) was, dare we say, a bit adventurous for the festival and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

I mentioned it in the write-up of Wednesday’s concert that Prokofiev’s Fifth is not the usual fare for an opener. Over the years, assorted orchestras have performed Beethoven’s Fifth, Seventh or Ninth. I remember Olga Kern here for Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.

They were all memorable concerts. I will never forget Kern’s performance or Jaap van Zweden last year looking around for a moment during Beethoven’s Seventh with a look that said “What the heck is going with the rain?”

But different selections are a good thing. Prokofiev (and his 20th Century contemporary Shostakovich – his Fifth is July 13) should be played more. (The exception to this rule is assorted selections from “Romeo and Juliet,” which is done to death.)

For one, music lets us travel to different times and places with a work like Prokofiev’s Fifth, written in the U.S.S.R. during what that country called the Great Patriotic War, in the bucolic setting of the Ford Amphitheater. The Soviet Union is gone and World War II is all-too distant in our minds. It’s powerful stuff.

New can also introduce even the well-versed music aficionado to composers and their work. For Bravo’s 15th season, in 2002, for which there was great pomp and circumstance (but no Elgar), Mahler’s Fifth was on the slate. I bought the CD (yes I’m dating myself) and thus, my love affair with the composer began.

Bruckner’s Eighth on Sunday was the premiere of the work at the festival. While not Mahler-like in tone, the challenge of the piece from the spectator’s point of view was length – 80 minutes and change. As concert-goers discovered, Bruckner’s Eighth goes by quickly with its Romantic melodies, as opposed to, say, Mahler’s Sixth, which premiered here last year. (Again, I love Mailer and thought that performance was a seminal moment for the festival, but Bruckner is easier on the untrained ear.)

Bruckner’s Fourth, “The Romantic,” would have been the easy choice for the festival. Instead, Bravo’s going out on a bit of a limb, but the result is exciting. As a side note, Bravo will also debut Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto July 21 and Nielsen’s Third Symphony July 26.

Other news and notes from our musical wonderland:

• It is always amusing to be loading up one’s cheeseburger at intermission and hear another guy humming the theme of the previous piano contort, while putting mustard on his hot dog.

• The guy was humming Mozart, so we pivot to Anne-Marie McDermott, the festival’s artistic director, who performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 on Wednesday. First, how cool is it to have McDermott as the resident pianist for Bravo? Second, she selected the 25th for Bravo’s anniversary. The problem here is what happens in 2015? Mozart only wrote 27 piano concerti. The festival could transition to Hadyn’s symphonies as he wrote 104.

• In the interest of dull disclosure, Bravo shamelessly plies me with tickets and I shamelessly accept. I’m always in reserved seating. Yet, Friday with Brahms’ “Double” Concerto and Schubert’s “Great” Symphony, I was up on the lawn with friends. Wow, that was cool. I really forget how lovely it is up there, too – not that it’s really up. We had a rainbow during the Schubert. Just incredible.

• I also love how the lawn attendees prepare. They’ve got gear for weather. More importantly, these people come stocked with food, like the orchestra’s going to play Mahler’s entire symphonic cycle, instead of 80-90 minutes of music. Good work, people.

• Looking ahead: Happy Fourth to all, and get to the Ford Amphitheater early because it fills up quickly for the annual Patriotic Concert. And we welcome The Philadelphia Orchestra, which starts its residency with an all-Brahms slate Friday night.

Daily staff writer Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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