Our Storied Past

by alan fletcher, Time Out Music Columnist
Lynn Harrell is Aspen musical royalty. He grew up here in the summers from earliest boyhood as his father, the famed singer Mack Harrell, was one of the performers in the first-ever summer of music in Aspen, 1949. Invited to be part of the Paepcke Goethe Bicentennial, Mack Harrell continued coming each summer as the school took its part alongside the festival, owing much to his commitment to education.
 
Lynn has gone on to a career as a cellist of worldwide importance. His return visits are always great occasions. This summer, he plays a new cello concerto written for him and the Boston Symphony by a member of another great Aspen musical family.
 
Augusta Read Thomas first came when her husband, composer Bernard Rands, was composer-in-residence for a series of brilliant seasons. She, too, has gone on to international fame as a composer, now serving as the University of Chicago’s only university professor in the arts. It’s a nice coincidence, as the University of Chicago’s President John Maynard Hutchins was the Paepckes’ partner in creating the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial.
 
All in all, this Friday’s Aspen Chamber Symphony concert, featuring Harrell in Thomas’s concerto, with beloved music of Gershwin, is a salute to Aspen’s storied past and exciting future.
 
On Sunday, July 27, the Aspen Festival Orchestra presents Mahler’s Third Symphony, a work that sets out to encompass the universe, with movements announcing messages from nature, mankind, the deity, and more. It succeeds. Our Music Director Robert Spano leads this most ambitious of programs with Metropolitan Opera star Sasha Cooke and the Colorado Children’s Chorus, and a women’s chorus from our Aspen Opera Theater Center.
 
In another bow to our own history, on Tuesday, July 29, we present the American String Quartet in its 40th year in Aspen, with a deeply Romantic program of late Beethoven and Dvorak.
 
Our Romantic season is proving immensely popular, with sold-out recitals every week and record-breaking attendance in the tent. Don’t miss this week’s romance!

The 2014 season of the Aspen Music Festival and School runs through Aug. 17. Alan Fletcher is the president and CEO.