McDermott: A different beat with new sounds for Bravo! 2018 (column) |

McDermott: A different beat with new sounds for Bravo! 2018 (column)

Anne-Marie McDermott
Backstage Access
Bravo! Vail brings brings the sounds of symphony to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail every summer. An all-Rachmaninoff concert with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is scheduled for June 27.
Zach Mahone | Special to the Daily

Bravo! Event Calendar, June 22-28

SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 6 p.m.

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater


Joshua Bell, director and violin

BEETHOVEN: Coriolan Overture

SAINT-SAËNS: Violin Concerto No. 3

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4

SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 6 p.m.

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater


Joshua Bell, director and violin

BACH, J.S.: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

BACH, J.S.: Violin Concerto No. 2

BARBER: Adagio for Strings

TCHAIKOVSKY: Souvenir de Florence

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 6 p.m.

Donovan Pavilion


NIELSEN: Serenata in vano for Winds and Strings

MOZART: Clarinet Quintet K. 581 for Winds and Strings

BEETHOVEN: Septet for Winds and Strings

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 6 p.m.

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater


Cristian Măcelaru, conductor

Behzod Abduraimov, piano

RACHMANINOFF: March from Cinq Études-tableaux

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2

RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances

Nearly every program we present at Bravo! Vail has an interesting backstory.

Our 2018 season opened on Thursday, June 21, with one of my all-time favorite works in the violin concerto repertory: Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy,” written in 1880. Inspired by the music, lore and land of Scotland, in particular the books of Sir Walter Scott, the work’s full title is “Fantasy with Free Use of Scottish Airs for Violin and Orchestra.” The airs you hear are unmistakable. Among them are Auld Rob Morris, Hey, the Dusty Miller, the love ballad I’m a-doun for lack o’ Johnnie and a rousing finale version of the traditional war song Scots wha hae. None are easy to play. It is famously difficult. The concerto was inspired by one of the great 19th-century virtuoso violinists (Pablo de Sarasate), performed more often by another (Joseph Joachim) and was brought back into the public eye in the 20th century by yet another (Jascha Heifetz). I’ve been trying to program it since I became artistic director in 2010 (it’s never been done at Bravo! Vail) but could not find a violinist willing to do it until Joshua Bell. He loves it as much as I do. The evening opened with the ebullient “Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture” by Mendelssohn, inspired by Shakespeare and concluded with one of the best works for the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Beethoven’s nature-infused “Pastoral Symphony.”


After this rousing kick off to the season, we’re proud to present some exciting artist debuts and new sounds throughout the summer. The most important thing to know about debut artists is that they are never chosen because they are making their debut. We are blessed that we can bring new names to the festival every summer and that our audience loves to discover a wide variety of new talent — whether it’s a young person new to the scene, such as 22-year-old Chinese-American pianist George Li, or a more established player whose career was built outside of the U.S., such as Nicholas Angelich, also a pianist. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the time it takes for the dates to work out. French pianist Louis Lortie has been internationally revered for decades, but we are hearing him for the first time in Vail this summer.

Organizations such as Young Concert Artists in New York City help to identify amazing new talents. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would invite a solo accordion player to give two solo recitals and play chamber music at Bravo! Vail, but when I heard Hanzhi Wang audition for YCA, I knew we had to invite her here. Catch her in action as part of our free concert series from July 16-19. Bravo! Vail piano fellows are always new, and we’ve presented many different young string quartets over the past nine years. We keep our eyes and ears open constantly, always looking for the perfect balance of freshness and familiarity.

We are thrilled to bring the Asphalt Orchestra, called “a radical street band,” to the Vail Valley this summer. Be on the lookout for impromptu performances by Asphalt beginning on July 4 at Vail America Days. They’ll be giving pop-up concerts through July 8 at various locations, including the Vail Ale House and Minturn and the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show. I first pitched the idea of bringing Asphalt to Vail about six years ago. At the time, the idea of a funky, new music, outdoor marching band overwhelmed people. We waited until two years ago when we produced our first large-scale outdoor performance in Maloit Park of John Luther Adams’ internationally renowned “Inuksuit” for 70 percussionists. More than 1,000 people attended that event and turned the town of Minturn into a parking lot. After that, we decided we were ready for Asphalt Orchestra. Musically speaking, we are living in a golden age. The amount of new music-making going on around the world is astonishing. We want to be part of that excitement. Groups such as Asphalt Orchestra make it impossible for us to miss out.


Another interesting guest ensemble joining us again this summer is Roomful of Teeth, a Grammy-winning vocal project dedicated to re-imagining the expressive potential of the human voice. Roomful of Teeth first came to Bravo! Vail in 2015. At that time, they shared the Classically Uncorked Series with the Attacca String Quartet. Juxtaposing new music with familiar works of the past is one of my favorite ways to program. New and old speak to each other through music in the most profound, illuminating and sometimes very funny ways. We were so excited by the magic of Roomful of Teeth’s unusual sounds and performance techniques, coupled by an ability to genuinely move audiences, we knew we wanted them back. We offered to commission a new work written for them and a second ensemble. Brad Wells, the vocal ensemble’s artistic director, knew he wanted it to be with a string quartet, and we both picked the Dover Quartet. Then we met via conference call over a six-month period to decide on a composer. It wasn’t an easy process, but it was thrilling and fascinating. We chose an important up-and-coming composer from the San Francisco Bay area, Gabriella Smith, a student of David Ludwig, whose music we premiered here last summer. She has written what I know will be a powerful work, titled “Requiem,” using texts based on the Latin names of all the species that have gone extinct over the last century in approximate chronological order of their disappearance, to be premiered on Aug.2. I can’t wait to hear it.

Finally, I invite you to attend the all-Rachmaninoff concert with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on June 27, featuring international rising stars, the Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov and conductor Cristian Macelaru. This evening features some of the most glorious music ever written by Rachmaninoff, and I hope to see you there.

Support Local Journalism