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Sun Valley Music Festival Unveils Summer Season Lineup
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Derek Dean, the executive director of the Sun Valley Music Festival, told patrons that he’s excited about the upcoming summer season.
   
Thursday, January 19, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Pops Concert will feature the music of John Williams. The Sun Valley Music Festival orchestra will perform Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. And pianist Yefim Bronfman will pay homage to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and his patriotic “Finlandia” during the 2023 symphony season.

The season will feature 14 free concerts and one gala benefit—all beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun Valley Pavilion.

It will kick off with guest star pianist Orli Shaham on July 30 as the festival orchestra performs Rossini’s “Overture to The Barber of Seville” and Ravel’s “Concerto in G Major for Piano.”

And it will conclude with Mahler’s larger-than-life “Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor” on Aug. 24.

Guest stars will include mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, violinist Augustin Hadelich, composer Mason Bates and Conductor Stephane Deneve. And other artistic highlights will include Stravinsky’s groundbreaking “Rite of Spring” and Debussy’s “La Mer,”

“I’ve had a great deal of fun planning everything over the course of the last 18 months. And, of course, I can’t wait to put it all into action with my friends and colleagues of the Festival Orchestra,” said the Sun Valley Music Festival’s music director Alasdair Neale.

 

2023 SUMMER SEASON

Sunday, July 30
Festival Chamber Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Orli Shaham, Piano

Smith-Sousa: The Star-Spangled Banner
Rossini: Overture to The Barber of Seville
Michael Abels: Delights and Dances
Ravel: Concerto in G Major for Piano

For opening night, “brilliant pianist” Orli Shaham (The New York Times) returns to Sun Valley to perform Ravel’s beautiful and jazz-influenced Piano Concerto in G Major. Continuing the jazzy theme, the program also includes Delights and Dances, a rhythmic and soulful composition by Academy Award-nominated American composer Michael Abels. The Season opens with The Star-Spangled Banner, of course, followed by Rossini’s Overture to the Barber of Seville.

Beethoven’s Second Symphony

Tuesday, August 1
Festival Chamber Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 stands out for its upbeat enthusiasm, a quality it offers in abundance despite the composer’s advancing deafness when he wrote it. Brimming with extremes and surprises, the piece exhibits an exuberance and cheerfulness not heard again until — perhaps — his Ode to Joy in the ninth symphony. The concert opens with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, a piece he wrote for his wife, Cosima. Wagner hired a small group of musicians to play the piece in the front hallway of his house to awaken her on her birthday morning.

Thursday, August 3
Chamber Concert

Orli Shaham, Piano
Festival Orchestra Musicians TBA

Pianist Orli Shaham joins Festival Orchestra musicians for an evening of chamber music. This program will be announced soon.

Friday, August 4
Festival Chamber Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Erik Behr, Oboe

Mozart: Concerto in C Major for Oboe, K. 314
Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones Concertantes

Mozart fans may realize that the Festival has been slowly working its way through the great composer’s concertos for winds. This evening features his Concerto for Oboe, performed by the Festival’s Principal Oboe, Erik Behr. One of the most famous pieces ever written for the oboe, it offers a melodic showcase for the instrument’s range of expression. Wind instruments are also featured prominently in Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes. Each variation gives the melodic lead to a different instrument, including the flute, clarinet, and with an oboe and bassoon duet. And the final variation brings everything home with an exuberant, Latin-American flair.

Sunday, August 6
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Mason Bates: Soundcheck in C Major
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

Antonín Dvořák’s eighth symphony is often described as cheery, genial, and upbeat. It offers one delightful melody after another, whether evoking themes from Bohemian folk music the composer adored or scenes of local pastoral beauty. As one conductor instructed the orchestra before the fanfare that opens the fourth movement: “Gentleman, in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle — they always call to the dance!” Speaking of fanfare, this concert opens with Mason Bates’s Soundcheck in C Major, which is, in his words, “a fanfare animated by sonic effects” that might remind some of Wagner, and others of Pink Floyd.

Tuesday, August 8
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Gala sales support the Sun Valley Music Festival and help keep the rest of the concerts and education programs admission-free. Gala guest artists and programming will be announced in mid-February.

Wednesday, August 9
Chamber Concert

Sasha Cooke, Mezzo-soprano
Festival Orchestra Musicians TBA

Two-time Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke joins Festival Orchestra musicians for an evening of chamber music.

Thursday, August 10
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Sasha Cooke, Mezzo-soprano

Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in D Minor, D. 759, “Unfinished”
Mahler: Rückert Lieder

One of classical music’s great mysteries is why Schubert never finished his eighth symphony — he lived six more years after he stopped working on it. But there’s no mystery in why it has become so popular: it’s gorgeous, and it includes one of the most famous melodies ever written. Like Schubert, Gustav Mahler was a master songwriter, and he set many poems by Friedrich Rückert to music. Sasha Cooke, a “luminous standout” (The New York Times) with “equal parts poise, radiance, and elegant directness” (Opera News), sings Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with the Festival Orchestra.

Saturday, August 12
Festival Orchestra

Stéphane Denève, Conductor

Stéphane Denève is Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony and the recently appointed Artistic Director of the New World Symphony. He’s thrilled to join the Festival Orchestra for an evening of greatest hits from John Williams’s vast catalog of film music.

Monday, August 14
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Yefim Bronfman, Piano

Sibelius: Finlandia, Op. 26
William Grant Still: Threnody (In Memory of Jean Sibelius)
Schumann: Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 54
Post-concert: Lawn Party featuring DJ Masonic (AKA Mason Bates)

Bronfman, a “marvel of digital dexterity, warmly romantic sentiment, and jaw-dropping bravura” (Chicago Tribune) returns to Sun Valley to perform Schumann’s only piano concerto. After a wildly successful premiere by his wife Clara, the piece immediately became known, and loved, for the exquisitely delicate way in which Schumann weaves together equal roles for the pianist and the orchestra. The concert opens with Finlandia, which Jean Sibelius wrote as a patriotic celebration of his homeland in 1900, followed by Threnody (In Memory of Jan Sibelius), which was written in 1965 by U.S. composer William Grant Still in honor of the great composer’s birth 100 years prior. The annual dance party on the lawn will follow this concert.

Thursday, August 17
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Tchaikovsky: Excerpts from Sleeping Beauty
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

It’s hard to imagine a piece of classical music causing a riot, but that’s the word often applied to the audience’s reaction when Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring debuted in Paris in 1913. The music (and dancing) broke with tradition so dramatically that it’s often called the first example of modernism in music. As a young man, Stravinsky’s first inspiration to write music for dance came from seeing Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, so it’s fitting that the Festival Orchestra plays some excerpts from that ballet to open this concert.

Saturday, August 19
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Andrew Cuneo, Bassoon

Michael Tilson Thomas: Agnegram
Mozart: Concerto in B-flat Major for Bassoon, K. 186e
Debussy: La Mer

Debussy loved the sea, especially its unpredictable and ever-changing motion. His most performed work, La Mer, captures — in music, as only Debussy could — the play of light on the water and the sea’s place in the natural world. Also on the program, the Festival’s exploration of Mozart’s wind concertos continues with Principal Bassoon Andrew Cuneo performing Mozart’s concerto for the bassoon, a piece that shows off the instrument’s remarkable agility and range. Opening the program, Maestro Neale leads the orchestra in Agnegram, a short piece composed by his friend and mentor, the great conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

Sunday, August 20
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Augustin Hadelich, Violin

Florence Price: Andante moderato from String Quartet No. 1 in G Major, arranged for String Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Concerto in D Major for Violin, Op. 35

Vivacious and unpretentious — and both emotionally and physically exhausting to play — Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto became so popular that it’s often performed at opening night galas. Grammy-winning violinist Hadelich performs this concerto with the Festival Orchestra on a program with Florence Price’s Andante moderato.

Monday, August 21
Chamber Concert

Augustin Hadelich, Violin
Peter Henderson, Piano
Festival Orchestra Musicians TBA

Brahms: Rhapsody in G Minor for Piano, Op. 79, No. 2
Brahms: Intermezzo in E-flat Major for Piano, Op. 117, No. 1
Brahms: Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major for Strings, Op. 18

Violinist Augustin Hadelich joins Festival Orchestra musicians for an evening of chamber music featuring Brahms's Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major. It's a work of infectious joie de vivre, offering both songs and dances alongside lively musical conversations between the two violins, two violas, and two cellos. The second movement's theme and variations have been featured in settings as diverse as Star Trek: The Next Generation and the 2001 French film, The Piano Teacher.

Thursday, August 24
Festival Orchestra

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor

After hearing Sasha Cooke sing Mahler’s Rückert Lieder on August 10, audiences may recognize some themes in tonight’s symphony. The fourth movement, the Adagietto, draws explicitly from the Lieder, and is recognized as a love letter from Mahler to his wife Alma. Leonard Bernstein famously led the New York Philharmonic in a performance of the heartbreakingly beautiful Adagietto at Robert Kennedy’s funeral service in 1968.

 

 

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