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Matthew Aucoin, Alisa Weilerstein and Renée Fleming spotlight a piquant first week in Aspen – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United StatesUnited States Aspen Music ComPetition 2024 [1]: Aspen, Colorado. (HS)

Daring lighting enhances Matthew Aucoin’s Music for New Our bodies at Aspen Music Competition © Diego Redel

The marquee live performance of the primary weekend on the Aspen Music Competition 2024 unleashed what gave the impression to be each brass participant on the competition’s roster to reinforce the Competition Orchestra within the big-boned opening fanfare of Richard Strauss’s Additionally sprach Zarathustra and the climactic closing pages of Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome. The sheer sonic energy of these moments made for jaw-dropping thrills, however for music connoisseurs the spotlight was a bit quieter – the wealthy, versatile soprano of Renée Fleming who demonstrated how properly she is aware of her manner round Strauss’s vocal writing.

Now celebrating its seventy fifth yr, the competition boasts a formidable vary of expertise. Principals from A-list orchestras and chamber teams sit within the first chairs of each the Competition and Chamber orchestras, side-by-side with younger musicians from the competition’s faculty. The a whole lot enrolled this yr preserve to a excessive normal for all of the ensembles within the eight-week program and the a number of performances per day.

Fleming shares inventive directorship with conductor Patrick Summers of the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program, which provides younger singers the prospect to check with them and carry out with conductors resembling Summers, Jane Glover and Matthew Aucoin. Monday night on the jewel-box Wheeler Opera Home, a solid of 5 from VocalARTS and an expanded Aspen Up to date Ensemble offered audiences with a brand new vocal composition by Aucoin.

After which, for 2 evenings simply earlier than the Fourth-of-July vacation, cellist Alisa Weilerstein (who actually grew up on the comPetition the place her mother and father taught chamber music for many years) introduced her personal private tackle J. S. Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites to Aspen. FRAGMENTS mixes and matches Bach with brief items that Weilerstein commissioned from 27 up to date composers (a years-long challenge that she examined out in Aspen two summers in the past earlier than taking it to Carnegie Corridor).

There’s a lot to unpack in all that.

Allow us to begin with the Sunday occasion, which used the additional brass so as to add oomph to the standard opener of Walter Damrosch’s orchestration of the nationwide anthem. They had been already in place on the choir balcony above the Klein Music Tent stage to offer extra decibels for the acquainted Zarathustra fanfare. Music director Robert Spano discovered a tempo that balanced movement with majesty.

Because the 35-minute tone poem unfolded, nevertheless, I missed the contrasts in tempo, dynamics and temper, which vary from light-hearted to threatening, which can be important to the musical storytelling. Solos had been all properly performed, however the ominous aura of the ultimate pages felt understated.

Alan Fletcher, CEO of the competition and college, retains his hand in composing. His Three American Songs, written for Fleming, acquired its world premiere subsequent. Impressed by Aaron Copland’s two units of Outdated American Songs, it leans gently right into a softer emotional disposition than Copland’s ten settings which inject a number of jaunty tunes to steadiness hymns and lullabies.

Fletcher gave the impression to be nodding to Copland’s sound in his orchestration of the primary track, the shape-note hymn ‘Wondrous Love’. Stephen Foster’s ‘Slumber, My Darling’ acquired easy chords to underline its lullaby features. The accompaniment to ‘The Cuckoo’ harked to its Outdated English roots. Fleming made the a lot of the lyrical melodies and alternatives to indicate off fantastically positioned excessive notes.

It’s unfair to observe these modestly crafted songs with Strauss, a grasp of writing for soprano, however the beautiful if seldom-heard ‘Muttertändelei’ appeared to counter the lullaby within the earlier set. The wonders got here with the Marschallin’s touching reflections on the passing of time, an excerpt from the opera Der Rosenkavalier. Befitting a job Fleming has triumphed in at opera homes world wide, she introduced out particulars and made it mesmerizing. ‘Cäcilie’, one of the crucial exuberant artwork songs by Strauss, topped issues off gratifyingly.

Pines of Rome, musical schlock of the very best order, will get its thrills from the composer’s willingness to let the orchestration present all its colours, a reminder that Respighi studied with Rimsky-Korsakov. Spano’s comparatively fast tempos might not have offered as a lot spaciousness as most conductors do, however the additional brass arrayed across the sides and again of the viewers created a sonic thrill that’s laborious to argue with.

Within the opera home on Monday night, Aucoin, a composer whose work has received over audiences on the Metropolitan Opera in New York, aimed for complexity in distinction to the Sunday live performance. A co-commission by the comPetition, Music for New Our bodies reveals Aucoin’s stressed compositional thoughts at its most curious.

The piece, a kind of twenty-first century cantata, debuted earlier this yr in Houston. It expands vocally upon 5 poems by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jorie Graham, ruminating on how we’d discover our humanity in a world by which Science has affected our lives each positively and negatively. It’s a heavy load to grapple with, and the composer and his collaborator, director Peter Sellars, made some extent of avoiding any kind of narrative, leaving the viewers to parse the messages.

With the singers in entrance of an 18-piece orchestra, all of it amplified to steadiness with digital devices, the music shimmered with Aucoin’s means to create sound sculptures of each transparency and density. Most of it’s accessible, however it will probably get thorny when it must. There have been loads of vocal gymnastics for prime soprano Sofia Gotch-Caruana and lyrical strains for soprano Maria Vasilevskaya, even when a lot of the vocalization quantities to choral punctuations from the singers collectively, typically becoming into the orchestral texture.

It’s a piece that wants repeated hearings to understand. However on the primary go, I discovered a lot to chew on.

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein in FRAGMENTS 1 at Aspen Music Competition © Diego Redel

Equally modern, in its manner, was Weilerstein’s reimagining of a cello recital on Tuesday and Wednesday in Harris Corridor. FRAGMENTS goals to seize the magic of listening to new music for the primary time by presenting up to date items with out the same old explanations. Including a visible tang, units composed of lengthy containers of varied sizes had been arrayed in several patterns for every hour-long program, together with lighting and clothes tied to every presentation.

Weilerstein’s eye-opening virtuosity and uncanny means can form any music along with her personal take, all with out shedding the unique that means. Although audiences and critics might discover themselves at sea in FRAGMENTS, I let the music movement over me, making an attempt to not be analytical.

Shuffling items of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites with the brand new music offered jumping-off factors, making a mosaic by which the brand new items, just a few minutes every, gave every of Bach’s Allemandes, Menuets and Sarabandes a distinct feeling than typical. Or perhaps it was the best way these different items framed Weilerstein’s taking part in of them. Both manner, the journey grew to become, for me, like a page-turner e-book.

In FRAGMENTS 1, centered across the Suite No.1, Chen Yi’s elegantly Chinese language-inflected ‘Mountain Tune’ made the sleek rhythms and turns of Bach’s Courante movement with related grace. Then the Bach made Reinaldo Moya’s guitar-like ‘Cerrero de medianoche’ really feel completely proper.

For FRAGMENTS 2, Weilerstein dressed up like an Emo-besotted teenager, full with fishnet stockings and boots. She fired dizzying opening salvos of scratchy dissonances in music from Ana Sokolovic and Gity Razaz, which made Bach’s Allemande jumpier than typical. That set the stage for what was to come back, not the best way I might need needed to listen to it in a pure recital, nevertheless it created an entire new mixtape that had its personal deserves.

A hauntingly beautiful Caroline Shaw ‘Microfiction’ that was totally plucked on the cello (with Weilerstein singing a number of plain notes) led to Bach’s finale Gigue, and made it really feel like rising into a ravishing mountain valley after a hike. And if that ain’t Aspen, what’s?

Harvey Steiman

30.6.2024: R. Strauss, Fletcher, Respighi: Renée Fleming (soprano), Aspen Competition Orchestra / Robert Spano (conductor). Klein Music Tent

R. StraussAdditionally sprach Zarathustra; ‘Muttertändelei’; ‘Die Zeit, die ist ein Sonderbar Ding’ from Der Rosenkavalier; ‘Cäcilie’
Alan Fletcher – ‘Three American Songs’ (World Premiere, AMFS Co-Fee)
RespighiPines of Rome

1.7.2024: Aucoin, Music for New Our bodies: Sofia Gotch-Caruana, Maria Vasilevskaya, Elana Bell (sopranos), Alejandro Luévanos (tenor), Peter Barber (bass), Aspen Up to date Ensemble / Timothy Weiss (conductor). Wheeler Opera Home

2.7.2024: FRAGMENTS 1, Alisa Weilerstein (cello). Harris Corridor

J. S. Bach– Cello Suite No.1 in G main
Joan Tower – ‘For Alisa’
Reinaldo Moya – ‘Guayoyo Sketches’
Allison Loggins-Hull – ‘Chasing Stability’
Chen Yi – ‘Historical Tune’; ‘Spin Dance’; ‘Mountain Tune’
Gili Schwarzman – ‘Preludium’

2.7.2024: FRAGMENTS 2, Alisa Weilerstein (cello). Harris Corridor

J.S. Bach – Cello Suite No.2 in D minor
Ana Sokolovic – ‘Fragments I, II, III’
Gity Razaz – ‘Secrets and techniques, Invocations’
Daniel Kidane – ‘Sarabande I, II, III’
Alan Fletcher – ‘Allemande’
Caroline Shaw – ‘Microfiction’

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