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Got Tchaikovsky?

It may be somewhat sacrilegious to say it, but the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is the essence of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.Yes, the New York Philharmonic is coming for the second year, and it headlines the six-week festival, but the RPO is Bravo!’s tradition.Rochester was the first orchestra to make its way up to Vail and the organization is celebrating its 14th season of residency with Bravo!.

And so, it is only appropriate that Bravo! opens Sunday evening at 6 with the effervescent Christopher Seaman at the baton and the Rochester Philharmonic.”They love our orchestra, and we love to play there,” Seaman said. “We feel a huge connection with the Vail community and with the audiences. A situation like that brings out the best out of musicians. I think a lot of people recognize the quality of the orchestra, which is quite exceptional. The chemistry’s right, and we’re just delighted to come to deliver to an international audience.”Sunday’s audience will be in for a treat because it’s all Tchaikovsky to kick off Bravo!. For Seaman and the Bravo! organizers, an all-Tchaikovsky program seemed to be a natural way to start things.”People say Tchaikovsky is very popular. War horse is used. I don’t see it that way,” Seaman said. “I think Tchaikovsky is popular because it is so very, very good. It has sort of a universal appeal. If you put a gun to my head, I would say, ‘Maybe, Mozart was a fraction greater than Tchaikovsky.’ But, Tchaikovsky has the most wonderfully wide appeal, and the music is from the heart and it goes to the heart.”

Speaking of matters of the heart, the first half of the program is devoted to ill-fated lovers. Leading off is the “Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy Overture,” with its soaring melodies and thundering, tragic end.Next is “Francesca da Rimini, Symphonic Fantasy.” With Tchaikovsky’s penchant for the literature of the day, it’s no surprise that the piece is based on Dante’s “Inferno.” Francesca and Paulo have had an illicit, romantic affair and the piece portrays the results. Francesca enters hell.”Tchaikovsky is not being preachy about it, but he’s getting into the humanity and the tragedy of the situation,” Seaman said. “It’s got the most striking opening. Over the gates of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno’ are written the words we all know, ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ Tchaikovsky’s trying to picture that with the very opening, and it’s slightly spine-chilling. It’s a most exciting piece with wonderful melodies.”After the intermission, the Rochester Philharmonic performs one of Tchaikovsky’s signature works – his First Piano Concerto. Two years ago, Andre Watts performed it with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.



This year, Bravo! is equally graced by Olga Kern, the first woman to win the Van Cliburn Award in 30 years, no small feat. “Olga Kern is a superb pianist,” Seaman said. “She’s got enormous technique on the piano. It’s very expressive playing. It’s very communicative playing. There’s a lot of authority, a lot of stage presence, and I think people will just love her.”One of the big things (with the work) is that there are huge numbers of double octaves, where both hands play in. There’s a lot of that and that is probably the most challenging technical thing for the soloist. But, Olga plays octaves like leaves grow on trees. She’s got the most wonderful octave technique.”


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