Our “Being American” theme has sparked wonderful conversations about the many inspirations composers have had about an American identity. Friday’s Aspen Chamber Symphony program offers a counterpoint, with explorations of other national identities.
Khatchaturian offers a picture of Armenia in his dazzling Violin Concerto. Bartók’s groundbreaking personal research into Hungarian folk song — he was tireless in tracking down the actual people who sang these songs, writing them down by hand during an era in which there were no iPhones to make recordings — led to his sparkling Dance Suite. Chabrier and Bizet create their own personal visions of Spain in the colorful, wonderfully melodic “España” and “Carmen” Suite (today, 6 p.m. at the Benedict Music Tent).
Saturday’s Opera Scenes class with Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers is sold out, but you can hear Renée Monday night at our gala Feast of Music (expensive but worth it). A chamber music recital features music by Judith Shatin and Dvořák (4:30 p.m. in Harris Hall). In the evening, the Escher Quartet presents magical classic works by Mozart and Schubert around the brio and brashness of Charles Ives’s String Quartet No. 2 (Saturday, 8 p.m. at Harris Hall).
Sunday afternoon we present another counterpoise to the American theme of the summer: Rachmaninoff’s glorious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Stravinsky’s epic Rite of Spring. James Gaffigan leads the Aspen Festival Orchestra, with the extraordinary Russian virtuoso Nikolai Lugansky (Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. in the tent).
Lugansky also gives a recital of fantasy and coloristic brilliance, including works by Debussy, Skryabin and Franck (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Harris Hall).
If you are not attending our gala benefit on Monday, there is also the ever-popular Percussion Ensemble, with major works by Julia Wolfe, Kati Agocs, and a performance of the uniquely impressive “Ballet Mécanique” by George Antheil.
My own teacher, Roger Sessions, joined Aaron Copland and 10 other pianists for a memorable American premiere of this work at Carnegie Hall in 1927. Sessions attended a Juilliard performance 54 years later, in which I was one of the pianists! You will not forget it. (Monday, 6 p.m. at Harris Hall).
Alan Fletcher is president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.