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Arts and Entertainment Friday, Jun. 1, 2018 2 years ago

Sarasota Music Festival electrifies

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The power of classical music whips up a feast for audiences at this year's festival.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

The Sarasota Music Festival has been ambitious since its beginning. But the 2018 festival takes it to a new level.

Sarasota Orchestra’s annual, three-week festival boasts performances of 50 classical compositions by 40 faculty artists and 60 young classical musicians. For area audiences, it’s a musical feast. For the up-and-coming performers, it’s musical boot camp. (And as hard to get into as the Navy SEALs.) Out of 500 musicians who auditioned from around the world, only 60 were accepted.

Jeffrey Kahane is a classical concert pianist, conductor and the former music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In 2017, he stepped up to the plate as the festival’s director. This year marks Kahane’s second time at bat. The pressure is on, but he’s feeling great.

This is Jeffrey Kahane’s second year as music director for the festival. Courtesy photo

“Last year’s festival was an artistic and box-office success beyond anything we’d anticipated,” he says. “We’re starting this year’s edition with a sense of real momentum and excitement.”

As Kahane sees it, the festival’s power flows from its purpose.

“It’s all about sharing the gift of great music,” he says. “Veteran musicians and teachers share their wisdom with exceptionally gifted young players. Our concerts and open rehearsals showcase the gifts of young players and faculty artists. Audiences can actually observe how chamber music is created.”

Instead of keeping rehearsals behind closed doors, the festival keeps its musicmakers in plain sight. It’s a refreshing thought, in the era of auto tune and streaming music.

“Young musicians have always been at the heart of the festival,” he adds. “The six pianists playing this year are absolutely exceptional. That level of astonishing talent extends through all the other instrumentalists as well.”

The festival’s emerging artists will be joined by prominent classical musicians, who will perform and teach. Kahane says they’re a blend of familiar and new faces. “You’ll see violinist Angelo Yu, the great Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker and violinist Zachary DePue,” he says. “Hearing them play will be even better.”

The festival’s seasoned performers and neophytes share a common goal: Doing justice to great composers and their work. This year, one of those composers is living.

The concluding concert is a world premiere of Robert Sirota’s “Luminous Bodies.” The festival commissioned Sirota to create the work. They also had specific musicians in mind to play it — Kahane on piano and yMusic, an ensemble of young New York City instrumentalists who blur the boundaries of pop and classical music.

“It’s always a thrill to introduce a new work by an important composer,” Kahane says. “It’s even more thrilling when the work was written especially for my friends, yMusic, and me, and commissioned by the festival.”

The festival’s myriad concerts, rehearsals and master classes defy summary. For the big picture, visit sarasotaorchestra.org/festival. But here some highlights, accompanied by Kahane’s insights.

 

‘Brilliantly Baroque’

“Brilliantly Baroque” features pieces by Bach and Vivaldi on June 8. Courtesy photo

The compositions for this concert include Vivaldi’s “Summer” from “The Four Seasons” and Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F Major, featuring Kahane as piano soloist. Although Bach and Vivaldi may seem like the fire and ice of Baroque composers, Kahane stresses their shared musical DNA. “Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi, and made arrangements of some of Vivaldi’s concertos,” he says. “Bach drew on Vivaldi’s wonderful sense of rhythm and melded it with his own supreme gifts for contrapuntal development. It’s always a treat to hear them side-by-side, since they each represent different expressions of the Baroque aesthetic.”

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. June 8

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $27

 

‘Afternoon of a Faun’

Violinist Angelo Xiang Yu will make his Sarasota debut June 9 in “Afternoon of a Faun.” Courtesy photo

Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is a dreamy, impressionist reverie. Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is a different animal — fiery, unpredictable and untamed. (Angelo Xiang Yu, the fiery, unpredictable young violinist, will perform in his Sarasota debut.) Larry Rachleff will conduct Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. It’s bursting with life, although Mozart wrote it when his life was nearly over.

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. June 9

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $35

 

‘Musical Treasures’

Zachary DePue is one of several musicians performing June 14  in “Musical Treasures.” Courtesy photo

Less is more. This concert proves it with intimate chamber music translations of Mozart’s sparkling Piano Quartet No. 2, Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet, and Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2, a composition based on the themes of Jewish folk songs. Shostakovich wrote the piece in memory of a lost friend and the victims of the Holocaust. Kahane describes it as “one of the 20th century’s most important chamber works.”

IF YOU GO

When: 4:30 p.m. June 14

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $28

 

‘Appalachian Spring’

“Appalachian Spring” shares the spirit of America through joint performances June 15 by festival students and faculty. Courtesy photo

This concert showcases Darius Milhaud’s “La Creation du monde,” Antonin Dvorak’s  American Quintet, and Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Kahane says all three compositions share a common inspiration. “They all celebrate America and its music,” he says. “Milhaud’s ballet was inspired by his visit to Harlem, and his exhilarating encounter with the incarnations of jazz. Dvorak wrote his piece during his stay in Spillville, Iowa. His evocation of American folk music is one of his supreme chamber works; it’s an enchanting mixture of vernacular and classical tradition. Copland’s iconic masterpiece “Appalachian Spring” also celebrates the American vernacular. It’s especially beloved for Copland’s ingenious treatment of ‘Simple Gifts,’ the famous Shaker hymn.”

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. June 15

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $27

 

‘Influence and Individuality’

Vijay Venkatesh will perform June 16  in “Influence and Individuality.” Courtesy photo

Kahane and pianist Vijay Venkatesh celebrate rugged individualists who stay grounded in heritage and tradition in this concert. Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew” draws from a notebook of Jewish folksongs for inspiration. Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 nods to previous Romantic composers, before defiantly taking its own path. Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” bears the composer’s unmistakable stamp. But it lights a candle to the memory of Mozart.

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. June 16

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $35

 

‘Life’s Passions’

"Life's Passions" takes place at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21 at Holley Hall. Courtesy photo

The dynamic piano duo of Kahane and Robert Levin team up to perform two Schubert’s tempestuous “Lebensstürme” and rhapsodic Rondo in A Major for this performance. The program also includes Beethoven’s haunting Piano Trio in D Major, (aka “Ghost” — a possible sketch for an opera based on “Macbeth”) and Walter Gieseking’s delicate “Sonatine” for flute and piano.

IF YOU GO

When: 4:30 p.m. June 21

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $28

 

‘Luminous Bodies’

The live premiere of Robert Sirota’s “Luminous Bodies” with yMusic takes place June 23. Courtesy photo

Pianist Kahane and the yMusic chamber ensemble will bring Sirota’s piece to life for the first time. What’s Kahane’s take on this luminous composition? “It’s ... Sirota’s tribute to five great musical geniuses who inspired him: George Gershwin, Lili Boulanger, Aaron Copland, Mendelssohn’s sister Fanny Hensel, and Leonard Bernstein,” he says. “Audiences who hear this work will feel the inspiration as well.”

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. June 23

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $35

 

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