KEEPIN’ IT CLASSICAl: Superstars and Spanish guitar

By on July 28, 2015

GTMF sizzles with Renee Fleming, seminal works and Pablo Villegas


Gala Concert with Renee Fleming, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Walk Festival Hall. Sold out.

Renee Fleming is one of the few names in the contemporary classical performance world that holds its weight in household recognition. From her early days singing as a jazz vocalist to pay her way through Julliard School of Music to her current international stardom, this diva enjoys her title as the “Queen of Opera.” Born to music teacher parents, Fleming began performing at an early age. As a teenager she received a Fulbright Scholarship, studying with some of the finest teachers in Europe before completing her studies at Julliard. Her big break came in 1988 when she won the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, a competition designed to promote fledgling operatic talent on the international stage. Since then, Fleming has been moving audiences with her technique, compelling stage presence and relentless drive. This 14-time nominated, four-time Grammy Award-winning artist has built a career on the foundation of her incredible talent, work ethic and progressive vision. She has performed at numerous distinguished occasions from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. Her list of credentials reads like “Ulysses,” with her recent performance of the National Anthem at last year’s Super Bowl. Fleming is a champion of new music and often performs the works of modern composers as often as she does classics. One of the great vocal talents of our time, Fleming will perform selected Mozart arias, selections from “The King and I” and Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs.”

Chamber Music: Bach and Beethoven, 8 p.m. Thursday at Walk Festival Hall. $25, students free, $15 day-of rush

Thursday’s concert is a light-hearted program heavy on the strings. Opening with Beethoven’s “Serenade in D Major, op. 25” (1801) for flute, violin and viola, it then proceeds to one of the Romantic Era’s leading names, Norwegian composer and pianist Edward Grieg, whose “Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Major” (1865) is second on the bill. Grieg is known for both his musical nationalism and cosmopolitanism. He is credited with helping to build Norway’s national identity as it moved toward its independence from Sweden in 1905. Grieg was a well-traveled man, spending much time in and around Europe, and his music reflects both his heritage of Norwegian folk tunes and also the influence of his exposure to many different European cultures. Also on the program, J.S. Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor” (1739), written in French Baroque dance suite style and orchestrated for flute, violins, viola, cello, bass and harpsichord, was in its time the soundtrack of a well-heeled dance and dinner party. Beethoven closes the program with his “Sextet in E-flat major, op. 81” (1795) for horn, violin, viola and cello.

Festival Orchestra: Finishing Touches, 8 p.m., Friday; 6 p.m., Saturday. Open rehearsal 10 a.m., Friday, Walk Festival Hall. $25-55, students free, $15 day-of; $10 open rehearsal

Friday and Saturday’s concerts are led by guest conductor Edo de Waart in his GTMF debut. Waart’s resume boasts podium time in front of a long list of who’s-who in the orchestral world and he opens the weekend’s concerts with contemporary American composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Too Hot Toccata.” A compostion professor at Yale, Kernis is one of the youngest composers to win the Pulitzer Prize. He also is recognized by numerous prestigious organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, which hailed Kernis as a leading composer of his generation. Kernis’ work is a blend between minimalism and post-romanticism, and the “Too Hot Toccata” is a short, hyperactive take on the traditional concerto. Kernis calls on principal chair soloists in all sections of the orchestra throughout the piece, and, through technical difficulty and musical athleticism, shapes a riveting journey for audiences.

Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A major” is second on the lineup and features the talent of guest soloist Gregory Raden, appointed principal clarinet of the Dallas Symphony. Raden is known for his beautiful tone and ease on his instrument and Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto” is considered to be a seminal work within the clarinet repertory and a passing of rites for the clarinet virtuoso. Originally written for one of Mozart’s dear friends, clarinetist Anton Stadler, it was integral in establishing the clarinet as an instrument equal to any other woodwind and was completed only a few months before Mozart’s death. It’s a piece of continuous melodic line and harmonic depth, an expression of the culmination of Mozart’s creative genius.

Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 9 in C major” concludes the weekend. Clocking in at 55 minutes, it’s a beast of time and technicality, demanding on both conductor and orchestra. Schubert was a Viennese composer in the same era of Mozart and Beethoven, but lived a distinctly different life than his fellows. While aforementioned composers enjoyed strategic relationships with some of Europe’s most wealthy and noble families that helped to cement their careers in the public eye, Schubert was of a lower class and never quite rose to prominence during his lifetime. In fact, “Symphony No. 9” (also known as the “Great C Major Symphony”) was likely never performed during Schubert’s lifetime. It was discovered and brought to life by Robert Schumann in 1839, after Schubert’s untimely death in 1828 at the age of 32. The work is characterized by Schubert’s Romantic orchestral tone coloring, intensity of movement, story and melodic theme and is considered some of the composer’s greatest work.

GTMF Presents: Tango, Song and Dance 8 p.m., Tuesday, Walk Festival Hall. $25, students free, $15 day-of

Tuesday’s concert features Pablo Villegas, the festival’s second artist-in-residence for the season. Villegas is heralded as one of today’s leading classical guitarists and was born in La Rioja, Spain, the country that claims the pedigree of the instrument. Villegas is known for his articulate, passionate and Spanish-influenced performances and will be accompanied by fellow guest artists Joyce Yang on piano and Augustin Hadelich on violin. With selections from André Previn to Ysaÿe, this concert is a highlight of the festival’s programming. PJH

About Madelaine German

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