Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Samuel Barber: Three names that loom large in the canon of American symphonic music. All three greats feature prominently in the Colorado Symphony’s “American Festival,” Part I and II, which showcases masters who have created, perfected, and expanded the American idiom in symphonic music. So do Stephen Albert and Kevin Puts, two lesser-known modern composers whose works inform the evolving definition of American music.
“The American Festival” concerts will occupy the stage of Boettcher Concert Hall three weeks throughout the month of March; Music Director Andrew Litton conducts.
Opening the festival February 28, “The American Festival: Part I” features former Colorado Symphony principal clarinetist Bil Jackson, who returns to perform Kevin Puts’ Clarinet Concerto, originally premiered by the Colorado Symphony during the 2008/09 season, conducted by then Music Director Jeffrey Kahane. Puts, who currently serves as Composer in Residence with the Fort Worth Symphony, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music, for Silent Night. The Colorado Symphony will perform his Two Mountain Scenes, which was jointly commissioned by the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the New York Philharmonic and inspired by the lush mountainscapes of Colorado.
The program concludes with Bernstein’s iconic The Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2, titled after W.H. Auden’s poem of the same name.
“The American Festival: Part II” runs March 13-15 with Gershwin’s Cuban Overture: “Rhumba.” The transcendent Anne Akiko Meyers returns to perform Barber’s Violin Concerto, one of the most frequently performed concertos of the 20th century. RiverRun, a Pulitzer Prize-winning symphony by the late Stephen Albert, rounds out the eclectic program.
A former Composer in Residence with the Seattle Symphony, Albert’s star was on the ascent when in 1992, he was killed in an automobile accident, at age 51. His influence transcended his short career: In 1995, he posthumously won a Grammy® for “Cello Concerto” as performed by Yo-Yo Ma.
Additional Concerts part of The American Festival:
- Symphony at the Movies: West Side Story, March 7-8
- So Percussion, March 20-21
- World Premiere: William Hill’s The Raven, March 27-28