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The best of the Big Apple

Andy Stonehouse/Special to the Daily
Lorin Maazel making his first performance as the new music director of the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor at Avery Fisher Hall on Sept. 18, 2002.

Three years’ worth of planning – and plenty of crossed fingers – have finally come together as one of the most anticipated musical debuts in Vail Valley history finally takes place this evening.

The venerable New York Philharmonic orchestra, one the world’s best known and honored classical ensembles, makes its first official Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival appearance, with a show including works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

To those outside the orchestral arena, tonight’s performance may sound like just another element in Bravo!’s classical world. But as the New York Philharmonic’s first long-term musical residency in history – not to mention the orchestra’s first appearance in Colorado in more than two decades – the Phil’s six Vail Valley shows are a precedent-setting experience that promises to forever change Bravo!’s reputation. And if advance ticket sales are any indication, the orchestra’s local appearance promises to be a huge success.

John Giovando, Bravo! executive director, says the New York Philharmonic’s Vail appearance is indeed a dream come true for his organization and, he hopes, the broader community as well.

“It’s a vision that we had from the start … something that we always had in our heads, or at least I did,” Giovando says. “I’d always been interested in having an orchestra from New York, Philadelphia or Chicago playing as part of the festival – and now we’ll get to see the results.”

After three years of negotiations, meetings and plenty of networking, Giovando and his Minturn-based staff hope they’ve made all the appropriate preparations for the orchestra’s arrival – Giovando himself even volunteering to head to the Eagle airport to pick up NYP maestro Lorin Maazel.

“Lorin is one of the world’s great conductors and I think his presence will definitely take the community to a whole different level in the musical world. And it’s all going to be a lot of fun – local people have an opportunity to see the New York Philharmonic for $18 a ticket.”

Arranging the logistics for one of the world’s premier musical ensembles has also proved to be a successful community effort. Liana Carlson, Bravo!’s public relations director, says steps have been taken to make sure the orchestra’s arrival – and stay – go as smoothly as possible.

“The New York Philharmonic expects a certain level of quality wherever they stay, so they actually sent out their own staff to tour local properties a year and a half ago,” Carlson says. “And that says something about the nature of the Philharmonic itself – other orchestras, like Colorado’s, are very young and are the kind of places that people start their musical careers. The New York Philharmonic is the pinnacle, the kind of group people stay with for life, so they’re definitely a little more sophisticated.”

To that end, the lodges which will host the Philharmonic’s 100-plus entourage of performers and families – the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and Vail’s Antlers having taken up the bulk of the traffic – are doing their best to offer the best during the orchestra’s nine-day stay.

Jim Steinbach, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt, says his hotel is providing approximately 70 guest rooms and additional rehearsal space.

“We’re hoping we can make them feel as comfortable as possible during their stay,” he says. “To that end, we’re issuing welcome notes and lots of amenities such as non-alcoholic beverages, things that will help them acclimate to the altitude. We know that they have high standards.”

Steinbach says the Hyatt worked out deals with Bravo! to help financially expedite the Philharmonic’s stay, donating a number of rooms and hoping to ensure return business over the orchestra’s three-year commitment to the festival.

“This is a very prestigious opportunity for us and we immediately jumped at it. But we were also interested in playing an important role in hosting a group that will help develop the culture of the community.”

New York Philharmonic members began to arrive in the valley on Thursday, with a huge tractor trailer of instruments and equipment also on its way. Carlson says that the orchestra’s extended stay is a bit of a rarity for an organization which normally plays single shows, literally across the globe.

“This is the first time they’ve ever had a long-term residency, and we’ve already heard them calling Vail their “summer home.’ And we really hope they’ll love it. I think fans will also appreciate it – today’s show has been sold out for almost a month and the premium seating for Saturday and Sunday’s shows are already gone, as well.”

Carlson says the New York Philharmonic’s debut has also given Bravo! significantly increased attention, both from Front Range media and fans across the country.

“I even got a call from a friend over at Steamboat’s music festival saying that (CBS sports host) Vern Lundquist was trying to get tickets for the show. And that’s how it’s been – we’ve had calls from all over the place looking for tickets, even people as far away as Mexico. And we’ve been happy to have some major stories in the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News and the Boulder Camera.”

The New York Philharmonic’s debut show at the Ford Amphitheater is indeed sold out; tickets are still available to performances Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and July 25 and 26. Call 827-5700 for ticket information.

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