|English: montage of great classical music composers - from left to right: first row - Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven; second row - Gioachino Rossini, Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi; third row - Johann Strauss II, Johannes Brahms, Georges Bizet, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Antonín Dvořák; forth row - Edvard Grieg, Edward Elgar, Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Aram Khachaturian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Aspen Music Festival concerts that I have attended this summer have been wonderful.
And while I really enjoyed the regular events featuring the musical talents of such artists as Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer, and Chi Yuen Cheng and the works of such composers as Samuel Barber, Robert Schumann, Igor Stravinsky, Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, I have been especially fascinated by the dress rehearsals I have attended as well.
Among other things, these rehearsals have allowed me a greater understanding of just how much effort goes into perfecting these events.
Brahms: “Piano Concerto No. 2 inB-flat major, op. 83” and Strauss: “Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), op. 40”
At my first rehearsal, I was surprised at how few times the conductor actually stopped the proceedings to make corrections. Others forewarned me that sometimes this is not the case.
During the Brahms portion, they worked on only one or two sections, seemingly to make them more dynamic. Featured soloist, Grammy Award-winning pianist, Yefim Bronfman, patiently repeated his parts with the same virtuosity and energy one would expect during the actual show, while the adjustments to his accompaniment were made,.
Surely benefiting the actual event, Bronfman, a Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist, along with conductor, Manfred Honeck, brilliantly set the tone for a productive dress rehearsal and the rest of the orchestra followed suit.
I don’t recall any stoppages during the Strauss work, but Honeck and the orchestra worked just as fervently as they did on the Brahms piece, and while the Brahms work was very relaxing, “Ein Heldenleben” was very energetic, requiring perhaps even more concentration from the conductor and musicians.
Overall, I was amazed at how hard the musicians played during this practice, and for how long – it was fortunate that they had 5 hours to rest in between the rehearsal and the show. Brahms and Strauss would be proud!
Dvořák: “Cello Concerto in B minor, B. 191, op. 104”
During this dress rehearsal, the conductor, Joshua Weilerstein, stopped the action for last-minute adjustments several times. It all sounded pretty good to my untrained ear and I was not sure what all they were trying to iron out, but the solo cello volume did sound a little low compared to the rest of the orchestra in a couple of places. In fact, Weilerstein periodically glanced back toward a couple of gentlemen in first few rows of the tent who appeared to be giving feedback on that very issue.
These distractions aside, the featured cellist, Alisa Weilerstein, sister of Joshua and recipient of the 2011 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant", passionately treated the rehearsal audience to very dynamic and fluid solo runs throughout the Concerto.
Overall, this rehearsal, like the previous one I attended, left me feeling very much like I was experiencing one of the live events.
Why the Aspen Music Festival dress rehearsals are so great for me
Besides providing a musical experience very much like attending the actual events, another great feature of the rehearsals for me is that since they take place first thing in the morning, it allows me time to partake in the other Aspen activities I so much enjoy – like enjoying the outdoors.
Where else, but Aspen can one easily hear, live, a world-renowned cellist or pianist rehearsing in the morning and then go for a great hike or bike ride right afterwards?