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Pianist Lang Lang to perform Friday in Vail

Ruth Moon
Vail CO, Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” The bold sound of the New York Philharmonic is the kind of transformative music that can soften a rogue nation across the world and inspire a Vail local to cough up $30,000 for a conductor’s baton.

After a winter season that included an historic performance in Pyongyang, North Korea, the New York Philharmonic will kick back this summer with a few weeks in Vail. The Philharmonic plays its first concert in Vail tonight, ushering in its sixth season at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and its third-ever layman guest conductor.

Part-time Vail resident Argie Tang will conduct the Philharmonic in a performance of Beethoven’s Turkish March from “The Ruins of Athens” July 23. Tang paid $30,000 in an auction at last year’s Bravo! Gala to lead the orchestra in the two-minute piece.



Tang, 54, said she played piano for a few years when she was 10, but hasn’t played since.

“I can read music, more or less, but I had never really seen a score for that many instruments,” Tang said. “I thought it would be simple but Daniel (her conducting instructor provided by the Philharmonic) said ‘Oh, it sounds simple, but this is Beethoven ” and Beethoven is never that simple.”

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Indeed, Beethoven is never that simple. In the two-minute “Ruins of Athens” piece, Tang said there is a tempo change and a repeat … if she remembers it.

“It’s just two minutes, unless I forget to repeat, which might make it 45 seconds,” she said with a laugh. “I think it will be thrilling. … I’m looking forward to spending an unforgettable two minutes with them.”

Tang, a retired yoga instructor, said even two unforgettable minutes of excitement aren’t worth $30,000, but she was glad she could make the contribution to Bravo!



Even in her excitement over conducting, though, she isn’t forgetting other important matters.

“No one asks me what piece I’m playing ” everyone asks me, what are you wearing?,” she said. “I have a fun dress with a big bow in the back, and that should be pretty fun, too.”

Tang also hopes that her performance will remind concertgoers that they can have the same experience next year. A guest conductor position for the 2009 season will be auctioned off at the Bravo! Gala, set for 8:30 p.m.

If two minutes of conducting by a local resident isn’t enough to draw Vail Valley concertgoers to a New York Philharmonic performance, there are other (slightly more famous) musical attractions afoot, one of which is tonight’s soloist.

The New York Philharmonic, the oldest orchestra in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the world, will perform with young music star Lang Lang.

Pianist Lang Lang is already considered the most famous pianist in China at age 25, according to Conde Nast Traveler. Lang Lang began his public career at age 5, and made it big in the world of performing arts at age 17, when a last-minute program substitution with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave him less than 24 hours notice before he performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat minor, the piece he will be performing tonight with the New York Philharmonic.

The New York Philharmonic has been contracted for three more years with the Bravo! festival. Bravo! Executive Director John Giovando said he hopes to bring the orchestra back after their contract expires in 2011.

“It’s like you’re bringing the best of the best with New York. … It’s a very different sound than a luxurious Philadelphia sound or the sound of Rochester ” the big, bold, powerful sound of the New York Philharmonic with a brass section any orchestra would want,” Giovando said. “The whole thing is really terrific for us.”

Based on Bravo! polls, New York metropolitan residents make up the third largest constituency in Bravo! Attendance, Giovando said. New York concert attendees comprise 7 percent of the Bravo! audience, behind Colorado and the Rocky Mountain states.

The New York Philharmonic was no cheap date for Bravo! The festival spent $1.07 million to bring the New York Philharmonic to Vail this summer, Giovando said. The operating budget of the festival is $7.6 million for 2008.

Bramwell Tovey, who is the summer programs director and a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, said performing in Vail is unique, even compared to outdoor concerts in Central Park in New York City.

“The great lawn in Central Park is a very special place ” from the stage it’s just awe-inspiring ” but you can’t see the crowd. You can’t see the whites of their eyes,” he said. “You can hear people listen in Vail. They’re listening intently and they react in a very direct way to what they’re hearing.”

Vail Daily staff writer Ruth Moon can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rmoon@vaildaily.com.


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