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2018 Festival Overview With Steven Schick
A first-time visitor to Breckenridge can barely take it all in. The enormity of the vista, the snow capped peaks (in summer!), the sense of close-knit community. The thinness of the air! But for this first-time visitor, arriving in August of 2016 to conduct at the Breckenridge Music Festival, the most vivid impression was of the light. The canted beams of early morning sparkling off the mirrored surface of the Blue River, the near blinding intensity of the noonday sun at 9600 feet, and suddenly, a dimming as the bilious green of a late afternoon thunderstorm covers the horizon.
No longer a first-time visitor, but now in my inaugural year as music director and conductor of the Breckenridge Music Festival, I am still captivated by the light of Breckenridge, but now I also have the privilege of imagining the musical version of that light. I’ve been asking myself how the light and color of Breckenridge might be translated into sound. What is the musical version of the sudden shifts from light to dark as clouds race overhead? What sound might the sudden splashes of brilliant flowers in a hidden mountain meadow make if they could? Is there a concert equivalent to the long dusks of summer or a star-splashed night sky?
As we look for light, we’ll start by celebrating the guiding light of David Danzmayr and his three-year long stewardship of the Breckenridge Music Festival in our opening set of concerts. Maestro Danmayr will combine the lucidity of Mozart with refractions of light from the Eternal City in Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Osvaldo Golijov’s evocative Three Songs is built around the “Mariel theme,” a melody Golijov composed in memory of a close friend who died suddenly. Here the music is not elegiac but celebratory; we are asked to imagine not death, but the luster of life, with a future spread out before us, as bright and welcoming as a seascape at noon.
I’ll join the festival in its second week. With a new music director you can expect some new perspectives. This year we start an annual composer-in-residence program with pianist, composer, thinker, and social advocate, Vijay Iyer. We’ll hear Vijay with his trio and will feature him as soloist with the BMF orchestra in his Radhe Radhe, the explosion of sound and color that he created with filmmaker Prashant Bhargava to celebrate the rite of Holi. We’ll also initiate a new audience experience, “The View from 9600’,” in which audience members will be invited to our dress rehearsals and then, afterwards, onto the stage to exchange ideas in informal conversations with me and some of the BMF musicians.
But even as we try out a few new ideas, audiences can expect the return of the great orchestral, chamber, and Breck Music Presents programming they have come to love at the Breckenridge Music Festival.
Highlights of our luminous summer will include the light of a genuine star, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, who will join us in Lou Harrison’s delightful Concerto for Pipa. Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony” (#1) and Haydn’s “Miracle” (#96) complete a program of kaleidoscopic color. The miracle in Haydn’s symphony refers to the first performance—in actuality it was Symphony #102 not #96, but who’s counting?—in which a chandelier fell to the ground at the end of the performance. However, because the audience had left its seats and rushed toward the stage in wild acclaim, no one was hurt. Let’s hear it for the mosh pit as lifesaver!
The theme of light and color continues with John Luther Adams’s The Light Within and Tan Dun’s Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra, in which I’ll join the orchestra as percussion soloist, playing percussion instruments by striking and then lowering them into glowing, translucent bowls of water. Beethoven’s Second Symphony celebrated one of the few truly happy phases in Beethoven’s life, the bright, fleeting moment between the time he had achieved fame in Vienna and the onset of his debilitating deafness.
We’ll feature a full slate of our usual great program of chamber music, curated by my colleagues Kate Hatmaker and Michael Linville, both onstage at the River Walk Center and in more intimate Champagne Concerts. (Don’t miss Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s transcendental In the Light of Air in an intimate on-stage performance!) We’ll have children’s and lighter programming from Carolyn Shaw to the Beatles and another dance collaboration with Vail Dance—a VIP experience to be sure! And we’ll conclude the summer with a concert of sheer brilliance featuring our extraordinary concert master, Nathan Olson, as soloist in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, framed by a new arrangement of Claude Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s most lovable work, the suite from Pulcinella.
Whew! That’s a lot of music!!
And it will be thrilling for me to work with the extraordinary musicians and staff of the BMF in putting it all together. It will also be my honor to join the Breckenridge community, a place that is truly full of light. I look forward to the radiance of natural beauty and the grandeur of high mountains and to the warmth of a supportive, dedicated, and intrepid community of listeners. And, I look forward to welcoming everyone to “Luminous,” the 2018 season of the Breckenridge Music Festival. I’ll see you there!