Bravo! turns 20 |

Bravo! turns 20

Audience at the concert, 7:30pm, 7/21/06.

It started as Bravo! Beaver Creek. Yes, Beaver Creek.

John Giovando, now the president and executive director of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, recalled that the debut of the summer series had more performers than concert-goers.

A lot has changed since 1988, and as Bravo! celebrates its 20th season, we give you 20 reasons why we love classical music in the mountains:

1. Yo, Adrian ” Sorry, had to do that once. It’s doubtful that the Philadelphia Orchestra will do the theme from “Rocky.” Actually, we hope not. Christopher Eschenbach and company begin their first residency at Bravo! July 7 with an evening highlighted by Berlioz’s “Symphony Fantastique.”

2. Olga Kern ” We absolutely love Olga. The Van Cliburn winner helps open the classical slate at Bravo! on June 27 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Christopher Seaman, with Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. This is going to be stunning. Run to the Ford Amphitheater immediately.

3. Saint-Saens ” Thank you to the New York Philharmonic for bringing Saint-Saens to Bravo!. We’ll be hearing “Carnival of the Animals” on July 25, and Symphony No. 3 “Organ” on July 21. We’re looking forward to seeing how an organ plays at the Ford Amphitheater. Also, on July 21, we welcome back Garrick Ohlsson for Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.

4. Lawn seats ” When the weather’s right, there is no better place to be than on the lawn. It’s the equivalent of dress circle seats at a regular symphony hall, and you get to take in the whole view ” the music, the mountain, the sun setting and the hang-gliders. Good stuff.

5. Mozart lives ” Last year was the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, prompting an outpouring of Wolfgang Amadeus’ music. Happily, he’s not being shoved back into the closet for his 251st. Soprano Marisol Montalvoa will perform assorted Mozart arias on July 7 with Philadelphia and Gil Shaham takes center stage for the “Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra” with New York on July 22.

6. All-Tchaikovsky on July 8 ” It’s played often, but I really don’t think it can be played enough ” the “Violin Concerto.” Nadja Salerno-Sonneberg will light up the stage ” guaranteed. That’s followed by the Fourth Symphony. The New York Philharmonic also plays No. 6 “Pathetique” on July 22. I’m sure we’ll hear the “1812 Overture” on the Fourth of July, but I don’t know why.

7. Christopher Seaman ” The Rochester Philharmonic has come every summer since 1991, and is loved by Bravo! crowds. This is in no small part due to Seaman who has held the baton for nine years now. Seaman brings a panache to the stage and he and the RPO have provided some of the most memorable performances at Bravo! recently. We can’t wait to see what Seaman and company will deliver with Dvorak’s Ninth (June 30) and Rachmaninov’s Second (July 1).

8. Jonathan Biss ” Bravo’s 20 and Biss is 26. Bravo! regulars have a hard time remembering this young man is only 26 since he’s appeared here for years. If you haven’t heard him, catch Biss on July 12 performing Schumann’s “Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Orchestra” with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

9. Ring in the new ” This year’s composer-in-residence is Kevin Puts. The New York Philharmonic debuts his “Two Mountain Scenes for Orchestra,” on July 25. You can say you were there when it was first played.

10. Pictures at an Exhibition ” I’ve worn out several CDs of this. I’ve heard it live numerous times. Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” never disappoints. It is spectacular in person, combining the worlds of visual art and music, and it’s on July 20.

11. Conducting ” Yes, I’ve mentioned Seaman and Eschenbach and there’s Loren Maazel and many others. But I’m talking about the conductors in the audience. It is so fun to see certain classical music fans in the crowd conducting various orchestras during performances. You know who you are, and I’m proud to be one of them.

12. The Ninth ” We’ve got two very big No. 9s this year. Philadelphia will be performing Schubert’s “The Great” on July 12 and Beethoven’s “Choral” on July 14. As for the latter, it’s always interesting to see how they fit everyone up on the stage ” including the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra Chorus and soloists.

13. Up close ” While the Ford Amphitheater is an intimate setting, Bravo! performances at the Vilar Center are a tremendous opportunity to hear chamber music. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Bravo! regular or a classical newcomer, Tuesdays, starting July 10, at the Vilar are an experience not to be missed.

14. No Mahler ” OK, Gustav Mahler is an acquired taste, one which has not set upon me in my first 35 years. I figure Bravo!’s got another 30 or so years to convert me. In the meantime, the festival has Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” on July 13. This festival has turned me on to Shostakovich. Why not Stravinsky?

15. Opera, please ” There are nights which includes opera arias (July 7 and 20), but I’d like to see Bravo! dive deeper. The festival has done Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Bizet’s “Carmen,” in years past. It can work. Go for it, Bravo!.

16. Brandenburg outside ” Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 makes a rare trip from the Vilar Center to the Ford Amphitheater on July 1. Eugenia Zukerman is on the flute and Anne-Marie McDermott will be on the piano. It is very cool to see chamber music making its way to the masses.

17. Jon Kimura Parker ” He’s played Elton John and he’s played for Queen Elizabeth II. The Canadian pianist is that versatile and equally skilled. He plays Ravel’s “Concerto in G Major for Piano and Orchestra” on July 9.

18. Happy summer ” In addition to the music, Bravo! serves as a wonderful summer mixer. You’d be hard-pressed to go to a concert and not see someone you don’t know. Pre-concert and intermissions are great times to mingle and people-watch.

19. Free concerts ” Bravo! goes to the Brush Creek Pavilion in Eagle July 16, Cordillera July 23 and the Gypsum Town Hall on July 30. All three performances are complimentary.

20. Brahms ” The Ford Amphitheater closes this year with Brahms’ Fourth, performed by the Maazel-led New York Philharmonic. Also on hand will be Alisa Weilerstein for Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

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