Aspen Music Festival And School


February 4th 19

Press Contacts:
Laura E. Smith, VP for Marketing and Communications, 970 205 5070

Kristin Cleveland, Publications and PR Coordinator, 970 205 5073






Music Director Robert Spano leads a season themed “Being American,” with works by Gershwin, Ives, Barber, Bernstein, and Copland, including Appalachian Spring; works by contemporary American and immigrant composers; as well as settings of the poetry of Whitman, Melville, Dickinson and Poe.

Star soprano and alumna Renée Fleming returns for a special event performance with the Emerson String Quartet of Penelope, the recently premiered work by André Previn and Tom Stoppard (Aug. 1). Ms. Fleming also teaches a master class on July 30.

The season marks the 70th anniversary of the AMFS and 20th season of concerts in the Benedict Music Tent.

Aspen alumnus Leonard Slatkin celebrates his own 75th birth year along with the institution’s 70th birthday (July 21).

A hand-picked cadre of brilliant young AMFS debutants will showcase their talents during performances of the Complete Brandenburg Concertos conducted by Nicholas McGegan over two nights (July 10 and 11).

The Aspen Opera Center—a training ground for singers on the cusps of their careers—presents two fully staged productions: Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (July 11, 13 and 15) and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (Aug. 13, 15 and 17). The AOC also will present a concert performance of Missy Mazzoli’s recently premiered and highly acclaimed chamber opera Proving Up, set on the 1860s frontier where families struggle for survival in pursuit of their American Dream. Drenched in passion, hope, and heartbreak, it achingly explores the “sincere values…and extraordinary costs” of this hardscrabble life (July 30).

Beethoven cycle: James Ehnes continues in the second year of his three-year Aspen journey through the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas (July 27).

Premieres presented in the 2019 season include a new work for orchestra by Edgar Meyer (June 28); Donald Crockett’s new work, And the River, (June 29); Da pacem, a new cello concerto by Stephen Hartke (July 17); Andrew Norman’s new string quartet premiered by the Escher String Quartet (Aug. 3); Drum Circles, a new concerto for percussion and orchestra by Christopher Theofanidis (Aug. 11); Conrad Tao’s new work for the JCT Trio (Aug. 13); and the world premiere of a new work by Korean composer and alumna Nicky Sohn, winner of the AMFS’s 2018 Jacob Druckman Prize (Aug. 14).

Daniil Trifonov returns to Aspen for a presentation of his “Decades” program, a recital exploring seminal works from each decade of the 20th century, including Aaron Copland’s Piano Variations, John Adams’ China Gates and John Corigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato (July 31).

The AMFS and Jazz Aspen Snowmass continue their long-standing relationship, co-presenting a Tribute to Nat “King” Cole featuring two-time Grammy Award-winner Gregory Porter, backed by his own band with orchestral accompaniment by AMFS students, and joined by special guest jazz vocalists Roberta Gambarini and Charanee Wade (June 29). The evening features iconic songs from the great American songbook long associated with Cole.

Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin performs a recital with Aspen alumna and Metropolitan Opera regular, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (Aug. 10).

Vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire returns to Aspen to perform a Bach cantata and Mahler’s Second Symphony on Aug. 18; the AMFS’s Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute presents a post-season recital on Aug. 21.

Popular works performed include, among many others, GERSHWIN’s Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess (June 28), DVOŘÁK’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 95, “From the New World,” (July 10), TCHAIKOVSKY’s Violin Concerto in D major (July 14), COPLAND’s Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo and Appalachian Spring (July 14 and Aug. 15), BERNSTEIN’s West Side Story Symphonic Dances (July 26), MAHLER’s Symphony No. 7 and No. 2 (July 28 and Aug. 18), and STRAVINSKY’s The Rite of Spring (Aug. 4).

The 70th season closes Aug. 18 with Music Director Spano conducting Mahler’s Symphony, No, 2, “Resurrection,” which in 2000 opened the new Benedict Music Tent. Seraphic Fire and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus join forces for this powerful work with soloists Mané Galoyan, soprano, and Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano. Also on the program is Seraphic Fire’s performance of Bach’s early cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, “Actus tragicus.”

Composition faculty Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis are joined by visiting composers Kati Agócs, Conor Brown, Gabriela Lena Frank, John Harbison, Vijay Iyer,
Missy Mazzoli, Andrew Norman, Nicky Sohn
and Conrad Tao, as well as composer and AMFS president and CEO Alan Fletcher and artist-faculty composers Donald Crockett and Edgar Meyer.

Musicians making their guest artist debuts as concert soloists in Aspen this summer include Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, who recently was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the designation CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), as well as violinists Kristóf Baráti, Chad Hoopes, Paul Huang, Esther Yoo (who performed in Aspen last year with the Z.E.N. Trio) and Angelo Xiang Yu; violists Matthew Lipman and Tim Ridout; cellist Andrei Ioniţă; pianist George Li; trumpeter Tamás Pálfalvi; and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour.

Making their debuts at the podium this summer are Alondra de la Parra, music director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra; leading Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn; Cristian Măcelaru, chief conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester and music director and conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music; and Erik Nielsen, conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra.


ASPEN, COLORADO — In a 1926 article for Theatre Magazine, composer George Gershwin wrote that true music “must repeat the thoughts and aspirations of the people and the time.” He went on to emphasize, “My people are Americans. My time is today.”

When we ask ourselves what it is to be American, we often look to our artists for inspiration, for answers and for truth. As the Aspen Music Festival and School celebrates its 70th anniversary season, it felt like the right time—as one of America’s flagship arts institutions—to ask, through the lens of great music, what it means to be American.

“Being American” is the major strand woven through Aspen’s anniversary season, led by Music Director Robert Spano. It will include music by Gershwin, Ives, Copland, Barber and Bernstein; and by Wynton Marsalis, Stephen Sondheim and Philip Glass. It will feature new and recent works by American composers from the Aspen Music Festival and School’s own artist-faculty such as Stephen Hartke, Christopher Theofanidis, Edgar Meyer, Donald Crockett and Alan Fletcher; by composers from immigrant backgrounds such as Kati Agócs, Gabriela Lena Frank and Vijay Iyer; and by émigrés such as Bartók, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, all of whom made America their home later in life.

It will include works that reflect the sweeping diversity of American landscape and culture and works inspired by the words of canonical American literati Walt Whitman (whose bicentenary falls this year), Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe.

Like the composers featured this 70th anniversary season, the musicians performing their works represent a wide swath of the American experience, whether visiting artists, members of the AMFS artist-faculty who come from the preeminent classical music teaching and performing institutions in the United States and worldwide or AMFS students, who come to Aspen from 40 U.S. states and 34 other countries.

“From the founding of America’s great orchestras to the ‘Italian Opera’ so beloved by Walt Whitman, from Eastern European Jews fleeing the pogroms and bringing us the Coplands and Gershwins to brilliant emigres fleeing Fascism and transforming American composition, all the way to the great Asian-born stars of today, first-generation immigrant families have always been at the center of classical music in America,” says AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher.

Each of these artists would have a different answer to the question, “What is it to be American?” Perhaps answers are not the point; maybe the point is to continue to provoke questions. Those questions will have changed during the past 70 years in Aspen, and in America; and they will change yet again in the next 70. This season the Aspen Music Festival and School will provide moments of reflection, of celebration to be sure, but above all, of questioning and truth telling—all qualities that themselves are essential to “Being American.”

Seminal American classical works will be played, such as George Gershwin’s Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess (June 28); the James Sinclair arrangement of Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England (July 19); Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, op. 38, performed by Inon Barnatan and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story Symphonic Dances in a concert conducted by Alondra del la Parra in her Aspen debut (July 26); and Aaron Copland’s quintessential Appalachian Spring (Aug. 15).

New American music will be featured as well, with premieres including American composer and bassist Edgar Meyer’s new work for orchestra premiering on June 28, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The world premiere of Stephen Hartke’s cello concerto Da Pacem takes place July 17, conducted by Johannes Zahn; and The Percussion Collective, conducted by Michael Stern, premieres Drum Circles—a new work for percussion and orchestra by Christopher Theofanidis—on August 11.

New music has been a central part of the Aspen Music Festival from the start; Stravinsky was an honored guest in the early 1950s, the first composer to conduct his own works at the Festival. That 70-year legacy of introducing new works to America will continue in this anniversary year. Other new and modern works will include a world premiere by the Korean composer and AMFS alumna Nicky Sohn (Aug. 14), Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aereality (Aug. 4, conducted by James Gaffigan), David Sampson’s New Work for Trumpet and Piano (July 1) and Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto played (and commissioned) by Nicola Benedetti in her Aspen debut (Aug. 7, conducted by Robert Spano). There will also be a return of Alan Fletcher’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, a musical work inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel, performed with filmmaker Bill Morrison’s visual work inspired by Calvino’s narrative structure (Aug. 16).

The season also features music by American composers whose work reflects their unique American experience. Returning composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s Three Latin American Dances (conducted by Patrick Summers on July 3) allude to Frank’s Peruvian heritage as well as the work of Leonard Bernstein, Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera. On July 21, Leonard Slatkin conducts How to Relax with Origami by Colorado native Conor Brown, whose work is informed by the landscapes of the American West. Earlier in the afternoon on July 21, composer John Luther Adams, who draws on the great outdoors for inspiration, brings Sila: The Breath of the World—an outdoor sonic performance piece inspired by the Inuit worldview—to the Aspen Meadows. Vijay Iyer’s Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (July 27) draws on his Indian and Tamil heritage in this chamber work that was inspired by India’s colorful celebration of spring and was originally commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Not that the season is short of works from the core repertoire, and of its fringes—July 5 offers a rare opportunity to catch Gustav Holst’s brilliant Walt Whitman Overture, conducted by Nicholas McGegan. On July 10 the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra performs Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” inspired by the Czech composer’s fascination with African-American spirituals and Native American melodies. Several of Rachmaninoff’s best-loved Romantic works are featured in the Aspen Festival Orchestra’s repertoire—South Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho joins conductor Leonard Slatkin July 21 for a performance of the turbulent and sweeping Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, while pianist Nikolai Lugansky joins conductor James Gaffigan on Aug. 4 to play the composer’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Robert Spano conducts a Mahler double—the Seventh Symphony (July 28, a program that also includes Alisa Weilerstein playing the Barber Cello Concerto), and in a dramatic season closer, the epic Second Symphony (Aug. 18).

Music inspired by American literary works is sprinkled throughout this season’s orchestral and chamber music repertoire, including Kurt Weill’s Four Walt Whitman Songs (July 6); André Caplet’s Conte Fantastique, based on Poe’s Mask of the Red Death (July 8); Jake Heggie’s Suite from Moby-Dick (July 14); Aaron Copland’s 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson (July 27); John Adams’ The Wound Dresser, based on Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name (July 29). Also featured will be Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, Diamond’s Chamber Symphony, and works by Judith Shatin, Phillip Glass and John Harbison.

The Aspen Opera Center’s popular Saturday Opera Scenes Master Classes will feature a scene from Jake Heggie’s American opera Moby-Dick, based on Herman Melville’s classic novel of the same name, along with Samuel Barber’s one-act opera, A Hand of Bridge, and Ned Rorem’s Fables.

Nearly 1,000 musicians gather in Aspen each summer, as 690 of the world’s best music students from all over the world join to make music with more than 200 of the top professional performing and teaching classical artists. Joining the roster of artist-faculty this year are Timothy Adams, Jr., Mildred Goodrum Heyward Professor in Music and chair of the Percussion Department at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia; Jean Barr, professor of accompanying and chamber music at the Eastman School of Music; Stefan Dohr, principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic; Allyson Goodman, principal viola of the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra; Robert Morrison, opera coach from the Metropolitan Opera; Jacob Nissy, principal percussionist of the San Francisco Symphony; Wolfgang Schmidt, cello, who comes to Aspen from a busy solo and chamber music performance career; and the Escher String Quartet.



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.

Nearly 700 music students from 40 U.S. states and 34 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 young 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, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Trevino and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw and Tamara Wilson; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele; and bassist Edgar Meyer.


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, 9-5)

Harris Concert Hall box office opens for walk-up business on May 20.
Wheeler Opera House box office opens for walk-up business on June 25.


Aspen Music Festival and School
225 Music School Road
Aspen, CO 81611
970-925-3254 (administrative offices)

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO