David and Wu Han’s past appearances as chamber musicians, soloists with orchestra, and as a duo at the Aspen Music Festival outnumber their performances in any other venue. This June and July, the duo took up residence at the famed Colorado mountain festival for a recital, chamber collaborations, teaching and listening to great music.
in David’s words…
The Aspen Music Festival and School is an institution without parallel in a variety of extraordinary ways. Its location in the most beautiful spot in the Colorado Rockies provides a refuge from the oppressive city summers most of us dread: the temperature drops into the 40’s at night, the air is crisp with a hint of wood smoke, the stars twinkle, and bears prowl the alleys for loose garbage can lids!
At the convocation which Wu Han attended (as a piano faculty member this season), president and CEO Alan Fletcher acknowledged long-standing music faculty, revealing that I was returning for my 26th summer. The Emerson Quartet counts Aspen as one of its first summer festivals, and Wu Han as well, when she came here to study with Lilian Kallir in the early 1980’s.
Today, the Aspen Music Festival is nearing its 60th anniversary, presenting over 350 events in nine weeks. The hundreds of students at the School – who study with hundreds of resident and visiting faculty – participate in five orchestras and attend countless performances and master classes free of additional charge.
Arriving on July 9th directly from Buenos Aires, I plunged directly into the festival routine: attending concerts, appearing on Aspen Public Radio interviewed by Nikki Boxer, and meeting up with an astounding array of musicians in residence: violinists Cho-Liang Lin, Gil Shaham, Adele Anthony, Alex Kerr, and pianists Vladimir Feltsman, Anton Nel, Jeffrey Kahane, and Inon Barnatan, and the Takacs Quartet, to name a few.
American Public Media radio personality Fred Child, today’s most widely-heard classical music commentator, interviewed our entire family prior to the recital, for broadcast on APM’s Performance Today.
Our obligations concluded on July 11th with a recital in Harris Concert Hall, which was completely sold out and packed with students, surrounding us on stage seats. After the opening Mendelssohn D major Sonata, we gave the Aspen premiere of George Tsontakis’s “Mirror Images”, composed for us, and concluded with the Rachmaninov.
As a special treat for an audience which knows us so well, Lilian, who had turned pages for her mother, switched places with her at the last moment for the encore, Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne, causing gasps, applause and shrieks of delight from the crowd. It was quite a moment. (performance photos by Charles Abbott)
After the concert, we were inundated with students and colleagues, donors and general public.
Posing for innumerable group photos with cellists…
We concluded our visit on Sunday afternoon by listening to a performance by the Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by Music Director David Zinman, which included John Harbison’s 5th Symphony, and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto played by Gil Shaham, in one of the most astounding performances we have ever heard of anything. Gil absolutely outdid himself, eliciting unanimous amazement and admiration from orchestra and audience alike.