Aspen Music Festival And School

AMFS ANNOUNCES 2017 SEASON Back To Press Releases

February 1st 17

Press Contact:
Jessica Cabe
PR and Publications Associate, 970-205-5072

Feb. 2, 2017

Music Director Robert Spano leads a season themed “Enchantment,” exploring the ideas of magic and transformation in music; theme works include Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite and “Petrushka,” Zemlinsky’s “The Mermaid” and a concert version of Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges.”

The season includes “The Year of the Concerto,” a major exploration of the concerto form in today’s musical landscape, showcasing four brand new or modern concertos — Anna Clyne’s “The Seamstress” (July 19), a violin concerto written for and performed by Jennifer Koh; Jonathan Leshnoff’s Violin Concerto (July 21); Alan Fletcher’s Piano Concerto written for and performed by Inon Barnatan (world premiere, July 30) and Matthew Ricketts’ Piano Concerto (world premiere, Aug. 9) — as well as every facet of the concerto explored by many of the world’s leading artists.

World and U.S. premieres presented include Luke Bedford’s opera “Seven Angels” (Aug. 5), Mohammed Fairouz’s song cycle for the American String Quartet (Aug. 10) and the Fletcher and Ricketts concertos detailed above.
Jonathan Biss returns to Aspen for the second year of his three-year Beethoven Complete Piano Sonata odyssey (Aug. 1 and 8).

The Aspen Opera Center — a training ground for singers on the cusp of their careers — presents two fully staged productions: Verdi’s “La traviata” (July 15, 17 and 18) and Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito” (Aug. 15, 17 and 19). The AOC will also present the U.S. premiere of Bedford’s opera “Seven Angels” in concert version with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (Aug. 5).

One of the winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition will perform a recital at Harris Concert Hall, fresh from the competition (Aug. 15).

Emerging star baritone Andrè Schuen and pianist Andreas Haefliger reimagine Schubert’s Schwanengesang (Swan Song) (July 29).

The inimitable Rufus Wainwright returns for an intimate concert featuring his music in new arrangements for string orchestra (July 24).

AMFS alumna and legendary soprano Renée Fleming returns to the festival for a performance with the Aspen Festival Orchestra under Spano (July 30).

Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin performs Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, a new concerto by Chris Brubeck and music from Howard Shore's score for “The Departed” (Aug. 5).

The season closes with Spano conducting Berlioz’s eternal and infernal “The Damnation of Faust” (Aug. 20) with soloists Bryan Hymel, tenor, an AMFS alumnus; mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, an AMFS alumna; and bass-baritone John Relyea.

Composition faculty Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis are joined by visiting composers Anders Hilborg, Christopher Rouse, Yuko Uebayashi, Judith Shatin, Jonathan Leshnoff, Augusta Read Thomas, Timothy Collins and Matthew Ricketts.

Artists performing at the AMFS this summer include: conductors Christian Arming, Ingmar Beck, Andrey Boreyko, Johannes Debus, Jane Glover, Hans Graf, George Manahan, Nicholas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot, John Nelson, Rafael Payare, Larry Rachleff, Robert Spano, Markus Stenz, Michael Stern, Patrick Summers, Joshua Weilerstein and Hugh Wolff; violinists Zeynep Alpan, Adele Anthony, Sarah Chang, Veronika Eberle, Augustin Hadelich, Stefan Jackiw, Sergey Khachatryan, Jennifer Koh, Robert McDuffie, Simone Porter, Gil Shaham and Arnaud Sussmann; pianists Inon Barnatan, Jonathan Biss, Yefim Bronfman, Hung-Kuan Chen, Vladimir Feltsman, Kirill Gerstein, Andreas Haefliger, Marc-André Hamelin, Wu Han, Martin Helmchen, Tengku Irfan, Denis Kozhukhin, Robert Levin, Paul Lewis, Nikolai Lugansky, Garrick Ohlsson, Anna Polonsky, Conrad Tao, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Orion Weiss and Joyce Yang; cellists David Finckel, Marie-Elisabeth Hecker and Alisa Weilerstein; singers Sasha Cooke, Michelle DeYoung, Renée Fleming, Bryan Hymel, John Relyea and Andrè Schuen; flutist Marina Piccinini; guitarist Sharon Isbin; the Pacifica, Takács and American string quartets; and more.

ASPEN, COLORADO — The Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) today announced its 69th season, running from June 29 through Aug. 20 with more than 400 events and featuring its signature wide variety of musical works, periods and performers. At the 2017 festival, audiences will be offered an intelligently curated mix of concerts exploring the season theme of “Enchantment” through the lenses of myth, fairy tales, magic spells, forbidden love, transformation and the transcendent delights of nature.

“This summer we look deeply at the magical, transformative power of music,” says Alan Fletcher, now in his 11th year as president and CEO of the AMFS. “The festival in Aspen offers an unusual opportunity to experience a myriad of works — some new, some favorites, some rediscovered, some revisited — in a way that makes each fresh again. It’s deeply enriching not only for the hundreds of musicians who come together to perform and study, but as much or more for the attending audiences and the international musical community. Musical experiences can transform and expand us, individually and collectively, and we programmed this season, as every season, with that in mind.”

The idea of enchantment-as-transformation has fascinated storytellers since the days of Aesop. Music is full of this kind of enchantment, whether it be the objects-come-to-life of Ravel’s opera “L’enfant et les sortilèges,” (“The Child and the Enchantment”), which sees fairy tale characters, furniture, crockery, plants and stuffed animals chastise a peevish child who has been tormenting them (conducted by AMFS Music Director Robert Spano in a concert presentation, July 21); the mythical creature-turned-human of Zemlinsky’s “The Mermaid” (conducted by Andrey Boreyko, July 23) or the more subtle musical transformations, like Strauss’ orchestral transpositions of Couperin’s harpsicord dance works (conducted by Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot, June 30).

Other works illustrating “Enchantment” in the 2017 program include Zemlinsky’s “The Mermaid,” Symphonic Fantasy (July 23), a musical telling of the classic tale of a mermaid who wishes to become human to be with her true love; Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” (July 26), about the spellbinding power of storytelling; Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” (Aug. 16), about three puppets come to life; Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite (Aug. 6), based on this compelling figure popular in Russian fairy tales; Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute” (July 7) ; Prokofiev’s Symphonic Suite from “The Love for Three Oranges” (July 14), a setting of an almost absurdist Italian fairy tale; Christopher Theofanidis’ “Dreamtime Ancestors” (July 30), based on an Australian aboriginal myth; and Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” (July 15), a gossamer work portraying the shifting moods of a faun through an afternoon.

The 2017 AMFS season will also comprise “The Year of the Concerto,” a major exploration of the concerto form, pivoting around no fewer than four brand new or modern concertos. Why a concerto? Why, more than 250 years after the form was invented by Bach and his contemporaries, are our finest composers still setting instruments against orchestras in that age-old dramatic collaboration, and occasional battle, that has roused audiences for centuries? Why, when other forms have gone through so many stylistic and even philosophical changes, is the concerto form largely the same — and still a favorite of the genre? The AMFS will ask precisely these questions and more with an exploration of the concerto form. Some of the world's leading composers, instrumentalists and conductors will join Aspen's resident orchestras to probe concertos old, new and newly revised — and, as always with this form, to thrill.

Nearly 1,000 musicians gather in Aspen each summer, as 600 of the world’s best music students from all over the world will join to make music with more than 200 of the top professional performing and teaching classical artists of our time. Joining the roster of faculty this year are Choong-Jin Chang, principal viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra; Aralee Dorough, principal flute of The Philadelphia Orchestra; Frank Epstein, percussionist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and chair of the percussion and brass departments of the New England Conservatory; Thomas Hooten, principal trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Jeff Khaner, principal flute of The Philadelphia Orchestra; Alex Klein, principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony; and Christina Smith, principal flute of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

The AMFS season will come to a close on Aug. 20 with Berlioz’s dramatic masterpiece, “The Damnation of Faust,” conducted by Spano, but the music doesn’t end there.

More about Notable Events

Highlights of “The Year of the Concerto” will include:

  • Opening Friday Night: Concertos have always been a form that helps make stars, and on the festival's opening night, Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto is performed by fast-rising AMFS alumna Simone Porter under Morlot (June 30).
  • New and modern: Anna Clyne’s “The Seamstress,” written for and performed by violinist Jennifer Koh under George Manahan (July 19); Jonathan Leshnoff’s Violin Concerto performed by Gil Shaham under Spano (July 21); Fletcher’s Piano Concerto written for and performed by Inon Barnatan under Spano (world premiere, July 30); Matthew Ricketts’ Piano Concerto performed by brilliant AMFS student Tengku Irfan under Spano (world premiere, Aug. 9); Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra” performed by Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin (Aug. 5); and more.
  • Rarities: Two concertos that draw their soloists from the tapestry of the orchestra itself, each by one of the most admired of 20th-century composers, each hailed as a masterpiece, yet rarely performed in concert: Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra performed under Larry Rachleff (July 16) and Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments performed under Canadian Opera Company Music Director Johannes Debus (Aug. 4).
  • Revisions: Admired pianist and scholar Robert Levin will perform his reconstructed version of Mozart’s Concerto for Violin and Piano under Nicholas McGegan (July 7). Mozart started this work in 1778 for a planned premiere in Mannheim, only completing a fragment of the first movement. However, Mozart did complete a version of it as a violin sonata, giving Levin material from which to work to bring it back to the composer’s originally intended form, the concerto.
  • Discussion: Fletcher, himself one of this year's featured concerto composers, chairs a fascinating public discussion about the concerto's history, performance and psychology (date TBA).

Aspen Opera Center
The AOC presents two fully staged operas at the Wheeler Opera House. The season kicks off with one of the canon’s most tragic love stories, Verdi’s “La traviata” (July 15, 17 and 18), conducted by Manahan and directed by AOC Director Edward Berkeley; followed by Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito,” a sophisticated drama featuring political intrigue and divided loyalties, completed just before the composer’s death (Aug. 15, 17 and 19), conducted by Jane Glover and directed by Berkeley. The opera season also offers a concert presentation of Luke Bedford’s opera “Seven Angels” (U.S. premiere, Aug. 5), played with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. Bedford takes inspiration from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and examines the urgency of climate change through a tale of a group of angels who fall from the heavens onto a mysteriously deserted and destroyed landscape.

The AOC features singers who are just embarking on their professional careers. Established stars like Renée Fleming and Dawn Upshaw credit their time in Aspen as important to their careers. Rising opera stars who studied in Aspen include Jamie Barton, Ying Fang, Bryan Hymel, Isabel Leonard, Ryan McKinny, Brian Mulligan and Tamara Wilson. The AMFS’s talent was on display at the 2016 Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala where the prestigious annual award was presented to Wilson, while Barton and Guerrero were also honored.

Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges”
Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges,” with a libretto by the French novelist Colette, is both a whimsical “lyric fantasy” and a morality play wrapped in a colorful and yet serious score. Inanimate objects and stuffed animals chastise a cruel child, but all ends happily and with a message of compassion. The score is reminiscent of Ravel’s contemporary, George Gershwin, and it carries an eclectic blend of influences ranging from Bach and Monteverdi through Massenet, Wagner and Puccini (concert presentation, July 21).

Schuen and Haefliger reimagine Schubert’s Schwanengesang (Swan Song)
Emerging star baritone Andrè Schuen and pianist Andreas Haefliger will present Schubert’s Schwanengesang (Swan Song) in a fresh way. Since Schubert set poems by various poets and it is unclear whether he intended this to be a continuous cycle at all, Schuen and Haefliger will perform the songs as distinct sets, separated by solo piano works (Beethoven Piano Sonata, op. 101, Berg Piano Sonata) in their Harris Concert Hall recital (July 29). Says Haefliger of the bold reimagining, “The first set of songs seemingly connects melodically to the first movement of Beethoven's sonata, before going on their own journey, while the surrealism of the second set of songs is extended into the harmonic colors of the Berg Sonata; until the final song, ‘Die Taubenpost,’ rises out of the tumult as a phoenix out of the ashes.”

Jonathan Biss continues Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas journey
Jonathan Biss returns to Aspen in the midst of his three-year Beethoven Complete Piano Sonata odyssey, which he kicked off at the AMFS last year. The Beethoven scholar will play two recitals in 2017 and will wrap up his sonatas journey in 2018. On Aug. 1, Biss will perform the “Pastoral” Sonata, Sonata No. 20 in G major, Sonata No. 3 in C major and Sonata No. 27 in E minor. Then, on Aug. 8, he will play Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Sonata No. 16 in G major, Sonata No. 7 in D major, Sonata No. 2 in A major and Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major.

Van Cliburn winner performs recital in Aspen
Every four years, the AMFS presents a performance by one of the winners of the prestigious quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, one of the most important and respected competitions of its kind. This year, the recital will be on Aug. 15 at Harris Concert Hall. The competition takes place May 26 through June 10 in Fort Worth, Texas, after 30 competitors are selected from worldwide, in-person auditions. Winners receive coveted Cliburn medals, cash prizes and awards and three years of commission-free career management valued at more than $1.3 million.

World premiere of Fletcher’s Piano Concerto
As part of “The Year of the Concerto,” Barnatan will give the world premiere of the first piano concerto by Fletcher, to be performed with the Aspen Festival Orchestra under Spano (July 30). The concerto will also be performed later by Barnatan with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The Pittsburgh Symphony and the Nashua Symphony have each recently premiered works they commissioned of Fletcher.

Pacifica Quartet plays Aspen debut of Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2
The acclaimed Pacifica Quartet will present a program that includes Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, a piece never before played at the AMFS (July 26).

Final Sunday: Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust”
The season closes with Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust.” Led by Spano, this rousing masterpiece will be performed by singers Sasha Cooke, Bryan Hymel and John Relyea; the Aspen Festival Orchestra; and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus, led by Duain Wolfe. In his mid-20s, Berlioz became obsessed with a French version of Goethe’s “Faust,” which inspired his first official opus, “Eight Scenes from Faust.” He later rejected the piece as a worthless work of his youth and tried to personally destroy every copy of it. This grander, more mature setting is recognized as a classic of dazzling orchestration, dramatic pacing, harmonic inventiveness and remarkable melodies. Because of the enormous forces required, complete performances are a rarity, making this Final Sunday concert a spectacular event not to be missed (Aug. 20).

Premieres in 2017
World premieres for the 2017 season include Fletcher’s Piano Concerto and Fairouz’s song cycle for the American String Quartet. Fletcher is an acclaimed composer who studied under Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Edward T. Cone and Paul Lansky. Fairouz is the first Arab American to have an opera produced on an American stage and the youngest composer in the 115-year history of Deutsche Grammophon to have an album dedicated to his works (“Follow, Poet,” 2015). He frequently draws inspiration from poetry and philosophy; Gramophone has described him as a “post-millennial Schubert.” Other world premieres include Ricketts’ Piano Concerto (Aug. 9). A U.S. premiere is Bedford’s opera “Seven Angels” (Aug. 5), which will be presented in concert format by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and Aspen Opera Center.

Aspen alumni performing in 2017
Alumni of the AMFS performing on the 2017 season schedule include: conductors Larry Rachleff, Joshua Weilerstein and Hugh Wolff; violinists Adele Anthony, Sarah Chang, William Hagen, Stefan Jackiw, Robert McDuffie, Simone Porter and Gil Shaham; pianists Wu Han, Conrad Tao and Joyce Yang; cellists David Finckel and Alisa Weilerstein; singers Sasha Cooke, Michelle DeYoung, Reneé Fleming, Bryan Hymel and Spencer Lang; guitarist Sharon Isbin; bassist Edgar Meyer; and members of the American Brass Quintet, Pacifica Quartet and American String Quartet.

Artists making Aspen debuts in 2017
Performers making their AMFS summer performance debuts are: pianists Martin Helmchen and Dennis Kozhukhin; violinist Sergey Khachaturyan; cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker; and baritone Andrè Schuen.

Composers at the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies in 2017
This eight-week intensive program is highlighted by individual study with some of today’s most highly regarded and frequently performed living composers. Composers-in-residence are Stephen Hartke, Christopher Theofanidis, Robert Spano and Alan Fletcher, all active composers. Visiting composers include Anders Hilborg, Christopher Rouse, Yuko Uebayashi, Judith Shatin, Jonathan Leshnoff, Augusta Read Thomas, Timothy Collins and Matthew Ricketts.

Community collaborations
The AMFS continues its commitment to community collaborations with a wide variety of lectures and enrichment events with fellow Aspen organizations like Aspen Public Radio, the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Art Museum, the Basalt Regional Library, the Carbondale Branch Library, Aspen Film and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. There will be an early July collaboration with Jazz Aspen Snowmass to be announced Feb. 17.


The AMFS is the United States’ premier classical music festival, presenting more than 400 musical events during its eight-week summer season in Aspen. The organization draws top classical musicians from around the world to this Colorado mountain retreat for an unparalleled combination of performances and music education. Many events are free, and seating on the David Karetsky Music Lawn and in the Music Garden is always free.

About 600 music students from 40 U.S. states and 40 countries come each summer to play in five orchestras, sing, conduct, compose and study with 200 renowned artist-faculty members. Students represent the field’s best talent; many have already begun their professional careers, and others are on the cusp.

Renowned alumni include violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Gil Shaham; pianists Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han and Joyce Yang; conductors Marin Alsop, James Conlon, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Danielle de Niese, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw and Tamara Wilson; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele; and bassist Edgar Meyer.

Robert Spano biography

Full bio at:
As music director at the Aspen Music Festival and School and music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Spano is respected worldwide for his conducting, performance and championing of music of our time. Recent highlights include Britten’s “War Requiem” in Carnegie Hall, Verdi’s “Aida” in Atlanta and the world premiere of Steven Stucky’s “The Classical Style” in Ojai and its stage premiere in Aspen in 2015. Another Aspen highlight was the August 2014 premiere of Spano’s “Hölderlin Songs” with soprano Susanna Phillips. Last season, Maestro Spano conducted two world premieres with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra — Christopher Theofanidis’ “Creation/Creator” and Michael Gandolfi’s “Imaginary Numbers” — and joined both the Houston Grand Opera for Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” and Houston Symphony for a Higdon/Chopin program. Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University and Oberlin. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2012 and is proud to live in Atlanta.

Alan Fletcher biography

Alan Fletcher, one of this country's most accomplished music administrators and respected composers, was born in 1956 in Riverside, New Jersey, and earned his baccalaureate at Princeton University (1978) and his master's degree (1979) and doctorate (1983) at Juilliard. He studied composition with Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Edward T. Cone and Paul Lansky and piano with Jacob Lateiner and Robert Helps. In 1985, Fletcher was appointed to the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, teaching composition and theory and serving successively during his 16-year tenure at the school as dean, provost and senior vice president. From 2001 to 2006, he was professor of music and head of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, after which he assumed his current position as president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Fletcher has lectured nationally and internationally on music and music administration and served on many boards, panels, juries, seminars and committees, including the board of the Aspen Institute and the Pittsburgh Opera. He has also contributed articles and op-ed pieces to Symphony magazine, Gramophone magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Sonus: Journal of Global Music, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, Chronicle of Higher Education and many others. Fletcher has won numerous composing awards and received commissions from the National Dance Institute, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (2008 and 2011), Nashua Symphony, National Gallery of Art, Boston Celebrity Series, Duquesne University, New York Camerata and other noted ensembles, organizations and soloists. He chaired the 1997 Salzburg Seminar Music for a New Millenium: The Classical Genre in Contemporary Society.

Ticket information

The AMFS offers the ultimate in flexibility for patrons with passes, the most convenient way to attend concerts. Passes are available at a variety of levels from maximum access and convenience to the best bargain. Buy tickets and passes through the following:
Phone: 970-925-9042 (M-F, 10-4)  Fax: 970-925-8077
Mail: AMFS Box Office, 225 Music School Road, Aspen, CO 81611
Harris Concert Hall box office opens for walk-up business on May 22.
Wheeler Opera House box office opens for walk-up business on June 27.

Aspen Music Festival and School
225 Music School Road, Aspen, CO 81611
970-925-3254 administration

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO