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Grand Teton Music Festival 2010

Located in Jackson Hole, at the gateway to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, the Grand Teton Music Festival was voted one of the nation’s top ten music festivals in February 2010*.  For its 49th season, Donald Runnicles – also General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – returns for his fifth as the festival’s Music Director, to conduct the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra.  Comprising first-rate musicians from orchestras all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the orchestra is in residence throughout the festival.  Against a backdrop of matchless scenery, Maestro Runnicles leads the GTMF Orchestra in four of the festival’s seven weekend programs, all of which receive both Friday and Saturday night performances in the intimacy and superior acoustics of the recently-renovated Walk Festival Hall.  This year’s impressive guest-star roster includes mezzo-soprano Susan Graham; composer Jennifer Higdon; soloists Paolo Bordignon (harpsichord), Sarah Chang (violin), Colin Currie (percussion), Stephen Hough (piano), Michael Rusinek (clarinet), and Akiko Suwanai (violin); and conductors Mei-Ann Chen, Reinhard Goebel, and Mark Wigglesworth.  Besides the weekend programs, the seven-week festival (June 30 – Aug 14) also boasts week-night chamber concerts, lighter fare on Wednesdays, and “Music in the Hole”, the 14th annual free outdoor Independence Day concert, which rounds off the opening weekend.

Many of the musicians who make up the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra return year after year.  “So many of them tell me they spend the other ten months of the year looking forward to returning to the Tetons,” explains Music Director Donald Runnicles.  “The Grand Teton Music Festival is Jackson’s best-kept secret.”  Not least because of the region’s stunning beauty, the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra attracts musicians from leading orchestras, where many hold principal positions.  The ensembles represented include the National, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras; the Bergen (Norway), Los Angeles, and New York Philharmonics; the Metropolitan, New York City, and San Francisco Opera Orchestras; the Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras; the Minnesota and Philadelphia Orchestras; the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra; Lyric Opera of Chicago; the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra; and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

In the first of his five weekend programs, Maestro Runnicles presents Beethoven’s incomparable Fifth Symphony, coupled with the Tragic Overture by Brahms and Berg’s Violin Concerto, for which Akiko Suwanai – the youngest person ever to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition – joins the Festival Orchestra (July 2 & 3).  The following weekend, Susan Graham, “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone), favors audiences with a taste of her signature repertoire, performing Berlioz’s Nuits d’été under Runnicles in a program of French orchestral classics (July 9 & 10).  For his third consecutive weekend program, the Music Director leads the orchestra in Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 (“Jupiter”) and in the Bruch Violin Concerto, for which internationally-acclaimed virtuoso Sarah Chang returns to the festival (July 16 & 17).

Early music specialist Reinhard Goebel, the first of the season’s guest conductors, presents a selection of works by the Bach family, supported by harpsichord soloist Paolo Bordignon (July 23 & 24).  The next weekend features Alan Fletcher’s Clarinet Concerto, which premiered in 2008 with soloist Michael Rusinek, who performs it again for the festival.  Also on the program are Dvorák’s Carnival Overture and Rimsky-Korsakov’s beloved Scheherazade, all led by guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, the first woman to win the Malko International Conductors’ Competition (July 30 & 31).  The penultimate weekend of the festival is guest-conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, best known for his work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales.  He leads the Festival Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, whose soloist is Wigglesworth’s compatriot Stephen Hough, “a virtuoso who begins where others leave off” (Washington Post) (Aug 6 & 7).

For the 49th season’s grand finale, Maestro Runnicles returns to conduct Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto with soloist Colin Currie, for whom the work was written.  It was Currie who not only premiered but recorded the concerto, winning Higdon a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.  The composer herself will be in residence all week to oversee the performances, in anticipation of next year’s festival, for which she has been commissioned to create a new work.  Also on the final weekend program is another contemporary work – Slonimsky’s Earbox by John Adams – plus two orchestral favorites: Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings and Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, with which the festival closes (Aug 13 & 14).  The combination of Slonimsky’s Earbox with the music of Strauss has already proved a winning one for Runnicles, prompting this from the UK’s Guardian:

“Runnicles’s powerful beat helped give real shape to the manic energy of John Adams’s Slonimsky’s Earbox. … Where others tend to allow Adams’s firecracker to go where it may, Runnicles rode the whirlwind and actually made sense of it. … Runnicles knows his Strauss and understands that his most truthful effects are made with lightness rather than the trowel.  There was no false portentousness in his interpretation, and his new orchestra played the one-movement symphony brilliantly… . It is rare to hear a more persuasive account of this problematic but important Strauss score.”

On weekday evenings, members of the Festival Orchestra form smaller groups for innovative and traditional Chamber Concerts, and Wednesday-night Spotlight Concerts offer a wide variety of lighter fare, from husband-and-wife piano duo Pam and Keith Phillips, who open the festival on June 30, to the DePue Brothers, Marvin Hamlisch, Sharon Isbin, Project Trio, Tiempo Libre, and returning GTMF favorites The Gypsies.

Tickets are available for purchase through the Grand Teton Music Festival Ticket Office by phone at (307) 733-1128 or online at

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Grand Teton Music Festival 2010 – principal concerts:
Friday, July 2 & Saturday, July 3 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Donald Runnicles, conductor
Akiko Suwanai, violin
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Berg: Violin Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Sunday, July 4 from 3pm – 7:30pm
Alpine Field: FREE, no tickets required
6pm: Festival Orchestra / Donald Runnicles, conductor
Patriotic songs by audience choice
Friday, July 9 & Saturday, July 10 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Donald Runnicles, conductor
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
Messiaen: Les offrandes oubliées
Debussy: La mer
Berlioz: Nuits d’été
Ravel: La Valse
Friday, July 16 & Saturday, July 17 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Donald Runnicles, conductor
Sarah Chang, violin
Mozart: Symphony No. 40
Bruch: Violin Concerto
Mozart: Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”
Friday, July 23 & Saturday, July 24 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Reinhard Goebel, conductor
Paolo Bordignon, harpsichord
J.S. Bach: Overture (Suite) No. 3 in D major
C.P.E. Bach: Symphony in F major
W.F. Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in E minor
J.C.F. Bach: Symphony in B-flat major
J.C. Bach: Overture and Suite from Amadis de Gaule
Friday, July 30 & Saturday, July 31 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Mei-Ann Chen, conductor
Michael Rusinek, clarinet
Dvorák: Carnival Overture
Fletcher: Clarinet Concerto
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Friday, August 6 & Saturday, August 7 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Mark Wigglesworth, conductor
Stephen Hough, piano
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3
Friday, August 13 & Saturday, August 14 at 8pm
Walk Festival Hall
Festival Orchestra / Donald Runnicles, conductor
Colin Currie, percussion
Adams: Slonimsky’s Earbox
Higdon: Percussion Concerto
Elgar: Introduction and Allegro for Strings
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks

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© 21C Media Group, March 2010

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