Our picks for Bravo! Vail’s top concerts
It’s the best-kept secret and the worst-kept secret in Vail.
The summers are the reason we live here (best-kept) and Bravo! Vail kicks off (a wonderful worst-kept secret) for another season. Not to be the chamber of commerce, but this is the only classical-music festival that has three orchestras of renown.
Take that Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood Music Center and, yes, Aspen.
One really wants to attend every Bravo! Vail concert, but summer slides by quickly so here are the top-five (or so) concerts you can’t miss this season. All concerts begin at 6 p.m. at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater unless otherwise noted.
1 Bravo! Begins: Pinchas Plays Beethoven
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Wednesday
The festival has had many fantastic opening acts — Yo-Yo Ma, Olga Kern and so on — and Pinchas Zukerman is no exception. He joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for an all-Beethoven program on opening night.
Zukerman will take the stage for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Zukerman started as a child prodigy, gaining notice in his native Israel in 1962 when he was 14, and he is one of the leading lights in the violin world.
And, oh, yes, the triumphant Beethoven’s Seventh, led by Dallas Symphony Orchestra conductor Jaap Van Zweden, rounds out the program.
2Ohlsson Plays Rachmaninoff
The Philadelphia Orchestra, July 10
Beethoven’s Sixth, the Pastorale, opens as The Philadelphia Orchestra comes to town. The Sixth is a fantastic match for Vail with its descriptions of life in the countryside and accompanying changes of weather.
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has a long history at Bravo! as a soloist, including a recent performance of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. Olhlsson switches gears and performs Rachmaninoff’s Third.
3Bramwell Unravels Elgar’s Enigma
New York Philharmonic, July 24
First off, it’s opening night for the New York Philharmonic, which is always an event. And the program itself matches the hype. John Kimura Parker has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and also jammed with The Bare Naked Ladies. And somewhere in between is the Grieg Piano Concerto, which leads off the program.
Elgar’s Enigma Variations follow. Doubtless, Bramwell Tovel, who will be conducting the Philharmonic, will have some commentary on the Elgar as well as other topics.
4Tovey and McDermott
One of many fun things about Bravo! Vail is that its artistic director, Anne-Marie McDermott, takes to the stage often as the featured pianist. McDermott plays Rachmanioff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. (It’s a season of big piano works, if you haven’t noticed.)
This is also a night of Romantic classics with Berlioz, Strauss and Strauss Jr. on tap.
5Midori with the New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic, July 29
She’s coming and we mean it this time. Midori was scheduled to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto but had to cancel because of health reasons last year. This year, she will play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. And then, there’s Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The author of this story is a sucker for Mahler.
BONUS: Music for Two Pianos | Donovan Pavilion, July 7
Yes, for the math and science majors in the audience, this would be concert No. 6, but John Giovando, during his first tenure as the festival’s executive director, always wanted a chamber concert on this list. First off, welcome back. Second, we encourage you to attend chamber concerts.
The setting is stunning at Donovan Pavilion. One of my favorite memories of last year’s festival was David Kim, the concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra, leading Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Every Tuesday in July, Bravo! Vail will have its chamber series, starting with Music for Two Pianos, featuring Glass, Schumann, Smetana, Saint-Saens and Liszt. The kicker is that there will be as many as four pianists on two pianos, which should be glorious to watch and hear.
Sports Editor Chris Freud is the resident classical-music fan at the Vail Daily and can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.