The parade, at once joyful, emotional and thoughtful, that is this season’s “Being American” theme continues this weekend with one of the most quintessentially American of all our programs. Johannes Zahn joins pianist Inon Barnatan in leading Samuel Barber’s gorgeous Piano Concerto, preceded by recognition of the Americas more generally with Arturo Márquez’s rousing Danzón No. 2, from Mexico.
The program concludes with one of the most treasured and beloved American compositions, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” (tonight at 6 p.m., Benedict Music Tent).
Dedicated festival-goers who have studied their calendars will want to know that Jeremy Denk has changed his Saturday recital program. He will open with a series of variations, including John Adams, an unusual and wonderful set by Georges Bizet and Mendelssohn’s magisterial Variations serieuses.
Also on this half is a look ahead to next year’s Beethoven celebration, with variations on “Rule Britannia” and Liszt’s delicate solo version of Beethoven’s song cycle “To the Distant Beloved.” The second half is taken up by one of Schumann’s greatest examples of sweeping, poignant Romanticism, the Fantasy in C Major (tomorrow at 8 p.m., Harris Hall). At some concerts, one walks away wondering what it was all about. This is never the case with Jeremy Denk, whose music-making is a combination of exuberant and very closely observed, dazzling and intensely thoughtful.
Sunday brings something I personally have wished for for 14 seasons: Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. This massive work presents the extremes of Mahler’s emotional obsessions and achievements: An intimate approach to the instruments of the orchestra that is like the best chamber music juxtaposed with a triumphant colossalism; a dark night of the soul as profound as his Ninth Symphony and a blazing, even rollicking, burst of light at the finale.
Mahler’s great work often seem to be about the entirety of human experience, and here he is indeed saying, as he himself put it, “The world is mine!” By itself, Mahler 7 would make a deeply satisfying program, but we add to it Alisa Weilerstein and Samuel Barber’s darkly beautiful Cello Concerto (Sunday at 4 p.m., Benedict Music Tent).
Since everything else Renée Fleming is doing with us this summer is sold out, Tuesday brings a precious chance to see her in action at her voice master class. Anyone who has seen her teach knows that she is every bit as radiant a master in this as in her performances. It’s especially meaningful to us to present her teaching, as it is the core of our own mission (July 30, 1 p.m., Harris Hall).
On Tuesday, our Aspen Opera Center presents a powerful, lyrical new work by Missy Mazzoli, an alumna of our composition program. “Proving Up” explores the drama and dedication of pioneers in the great Westward Expansion into Nebraska. It’s a key element in our American season (July 30, 7:30 p.m., Harris Hall).
Alan Fletcher is president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.