June 24, 2012

Vail Music Festival celebrates 25 years with 50 big names

Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival takes place at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, above, and other Vail Valley venues. (Brian Brainerd, The Denver Post)

The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival turns 25 this year and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott's enthusiasm about the music is palpable — and contagious.

"We're doing a lot to bring people closer to the music, the musicians and composers," McDermott said. "To demystify the creative process and allow people to experience how much fun musicians are."

Opening Monday with a free concert that features McDermott, founding artistic director Ida Kavafian on violin and previous artistic director Eugenia Zukerman on flute, the festival runs six weeks, through Aug. 4, at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and other Vail Valley venues.

Among her 10 appearances at the festival this summer, McDermott also joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 on Wednesday. "Not only does it fit with our anniversary year, but it's so majestic and perfectly suited to be performed in an amphitheater. We're so lucky, too, that maestro Van Zweden will be with us."

Indeed, Jaap Van Zweden — music director of the DSO — is Musical America's 2012 conductor of the year, and will lead the Vail premiere of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 on Sunday, part of that ochestra's residency at Vail.

Dallas is followed by the Philadelphia Orchestra starting July 7 and the New York Philharmonic beginning July 20.

On top of that, Vail will get visits from more than 50 classical-music names, including conductors Alan Gilbert, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Bramwell Tovey; pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Kirill Gerstein, violinists Gil Shaham, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Joshua Bell (in his festival debut) and mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile.

Of note, one of Bravo! Vail's ensembles of young-professionals-in-residence, the Calder Quartet, performs two Beethoven quartets — Op. 95 ("Serioso") and the C-sharp minor, Op. 131 — in the first installment of the festival's "Free & Easy" series at Gypsum Town Hall on July 12.

In addition to Beethoven, this year's programming includes a focus on Gustav Mahler, including the DSO's rendition of the Sixth Symphony on July 2.

There's more: New York's Gabriel Kahane — who draws on a musical landscape of classical, indie, rock, pop, folk and musical theater — is this season's composer-in-residence, presenting one of the festival's four so-called soirées on July 19 and the world premiere of a new Bravo! Vail commission on July 20.

"We've become a very important festival in the country," McDermott said. "And this is a season of celebration, for our silver anniversary and for our founder, John Giovando."

For more info — including details about the festival's jazz and pops concerts — call 877.812.5700 or visit vailmusicfestival.org.

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