Aspen Music Festival and School opens summer season |

Aspen Music Festival and School opens summer season

Aspen Music Festival and School music director Robert Spano, photographed last summer with the Aspen Festival Orchestra. The festival's 2017 season was announced Thursday.
Elie Logan/Courtesy photo |

More than 600 of the most talented young musicians in the world gathered Tuesday morning in the Benedict Music Tent, as the Aspen Music Festival and School celebrated its student convocation and began its 2017 season.

Students are beginning an intense 10-week summer of study and performance across the musical spectrum from strings to brass, composition to conducting, and percussion to singing, and will perform in four orchestras alongside more than 100 guest artists including leading lights like Renee Fleming and Jonathan Biss.

This year’s class ranges in age from 11 to 36. It includes students from 36 states and 39 countries.

“I always love this day,” festival music director Robert Spano told students. “I love the beginning, the initiation of summer, the possibilities that lie before us, the energy it takes to start something.”

The summer season is themed “Enchantment,” which Spano noted has more depth than students may initially think.

“There is s certain surface meaning to that that is appealing,” said Spano. “’Some Enchanted Evening,’ the fact that Aspen is enchanting, we like to be enchanted by the Aspen experience. But then I started thinking about some of the darker themes of enchantment.”

He noted that the season closes with Berlioz’ “The Damnation of Faust,” in which evil is quite enchanting. Young people, he noted, may be enchanted by junk food, television, abusive behaviors. He encouraged his students, instead, to choose to be enchanted by creativity, music and beauty this summer: “I would suggest we all stay close to the flame that drew us herein the first place: this art.”


The first Benedict Music Tent concert of the season, on Friday, features Aspen alumni and rising star violinist Simone Porter performing Mozart’s third concerto with the Aspen Chamber Symphony.

Porter, 20,returns to Aspen as a featured artist for the fourth time. She first came to Aspen 10 years ago, as a violin student.

Her performance opens what the festival has dubbed “The Year of the Concerto,” a summer-long exploration of the form that will include concertos new and old. Among the high points are Jennifer Koh performing Anna Clyne’s “The Seamstress” (July 19), the world premiere of a new piano concerto by Fletcher performed by Inon Barnatan (July 30) and another premiere piano concerto by Matthew Ricketts (Aug. 9).

The Mozart concerto that Porter is performing – one of three he wrote before he was Porter’s age – is her favorite.

“It’s just sublimely operatic,” she said. “And it has all of the narrative arcs and drama and expressive depth and range of an opera, which is why I love it so much.”

The season’s first Aspen Festival Orchestra concert, on Sunday at the Benedict, will feature Mozart’s ninth piano concerto – featuring Garrick Ohlson – and Mahler’s first symphony.

Spano, who will conduct Sunday, said Mahler’s symphony is an ideal, if ambitious, way to start the symphony season.

“The skills that go into being a great orchestra are demanded by that music, but also invited. He knows how to make everything work,” Spano said. “There’s something, in terms of setting up the summer, that is great about starting this way.”

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