I come to Aspen every summer to enjoy the music festival, but being
here in Colorado is as much of an attraction. The Rocky Mountains offer
some of the greatest scenery in the world, and the restaurants around
here can give most big American cities a run for their money.
A typical day for us starts with an early morning walk,
while the mountain air still has a 12-degree (C.) nip in it, on one
of the main walking and biking trials that snake through Aspen and the
surrounding upper Roaring Fork Valley. From our apartment itís about
2.5 miles to the point where the Rio Grande Trail, following the Roaring
Fork River, crosses under Cemetary Lane, where one can catch a free
bus back into town. Past Cemetary Lane the trail goes through a secluded
canyon and all the way to Basalt, some 15 miles northwest. Sometimes
we walk a mile or two into it.
We're back in time for breakfast and, often, a nap.
Sometimes there is a morning master class at Harris Hall featuring the
likes of mezzo soprano Susanne Mentzer or pianist Leon Fleisher working
with outstanding student musicians. Or maybe an open rehearsal. There
are always several smaller master classes at the Music School. I always
enjoy cellist Yehuda Hananiís because of his articulate and passionate
insights into the art of music making.
Wednesdays a program called High Notes, held at Paepcke
Auditorium in the Aspen Institute, features musicians talking about
music. A few weeks ago, the Emerson Quartet engaged in a rousing conversation
with UCLA musicologist Robert Winter. This week, the creative team behind
the American premier of H.K. Gruber's opera Gloria: A Pigtale
talks about the piece, which opens Saturday.
The major concerts are held at the 2,000-seat Benedict
Music Tent, which opened in 2000 having replaced a creaky concrete-and-canvas
structure that was acoustically dry. The new tent is actually a permanent
building in the shape of a tent, acoustically live and big enough to
accommodate the 142-piece orchestra that played Varese's Ameriques recently
with room to spare. Immediately adjacent is Harris Hall, sunken into
the ground, which seats 500 in an acoustically perfect auditorium (the
New York Times called it "the Carnegie Hall of the Rockies").
In a typical week, Monday evenings offer a grab-bag
of chamber music at the Music Tent by faculty players, with occasional
gems such as this past Monday's loving performance of the Ravel piano
trio played by violinist Ayako Yonetani, cellist Anthony Elliott and
pianist Jean-David Coen.
Tuesdays often feature free concerts in the tent by
the American Academy of Conducting, a project started in 2000 by Zinman
that gives young conductors in the 20s and 30s a chance to work with
a live orchestra in rehearsal and in performance. All the conductors
play in the orchestra, which is filled out with other students.
Wednesday evenings itís the all-student Aspen Concert
Orchestra, and Thursdays itís "An Evening With..." featuring
international solo artists in programs they choose with other musician
friends. This yearís concerts feature the likes of Joshua Bell, Leon
Fleisher, Lynn Harrell and the American String Quartet.
Friday evening the weekend whirl starts and thereís
hardly time to stop for a meal. The Aspen Chamber Orchestra, which mixes
faculty and students, plays Friday evenings under such conductors as
Zinman, Alan Gilbert and James Conlon. Saturday morning is the opera
scenes master class in which student singers prepare scenes from operas
famous and not-so-famous, and director Edward Berkeley, head of the
Julliard opera program, works with the students to improve the scenes.
At most of the sessions they are accompanied only by piano, but for
two Saturdays the Academy of Conducting orchestra is in the pit, giving
young conductors a chance to show what they can do. Conlon, conductor
of the Paris Opera, does one morning working on arias. Saturday afternoon
is a chamber music concert in intimate Harris Hall, and Saturday nights
are special concerts such as recitals by guitarist Sharon Isbin or the
International Sejong Soloists.
Sundays are always busy. I always like to attend the
voice master class at the Music School, in which faculty (including
tenor Vinson Cole and Mentzer) work with very promising young singers
on their technique and interpretation of arias and art songs. There
is a lot of talent this year. At 4, itís the major concert of the week,
featuring the Festival Orchestra, with prime faculty and student players
under such conductors as Zinman, Conlon, David Robertson and Peter Oundjian,
and thereís often a recital or a special event at Harris Hall Sunday
This goes on for nine weeks, more than 200 concerts
in all, the United Statesí biggest and busiest summer music program.
Some 800 young musicians in their teens and 20s rub shoulders with great
musicians in orchestras, in lessons and on the streets of Aspen. (So
do we. The next person in line at City Market might be Joshua Bell or
Robert McDuffie, and in the relaxed atmosphere of this festival, theyíre
happy to chat. You will also see them in the audience at each otherís
And Iíve left out a few things. To see more complete
information on the festival and school, including the impressive bios
of the faculty, check out the excellent web site -- http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com-/