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Park City's Beethoven Festival has been preserving and promoting the art of live classical music performances for 29 seasons. The festival's summer season will begin on Saturday, July 13.
The Park City Chamber Music Society has presented its chamber music festival for 29 seasons.

Founder Leslie Harlow, a violist who played with the Utah Symphony, originally called her month-long event the Deer Valley Music Festival, before handing the name over to the Utah Symphony in 2004.

Two years ago, Harlow and her husband, clarinetist Russell Harlow, renamed the fete the Beethoven Festival, but made sure the original goal — preserving and promoting the art of live classical music performances — was intact.

"So that makes us the oldest classical-music festival in Utah," Leslie Harlow said during an interview with The Park Record. "That makes it so we can never quit. As long as we keep going, we'll be able to continue to say that."

This season's celebration will take place in various venues in Park City from Saturday, July 13, through Thursday, Aug. 15. (See story titled "The 2013 Summer Beethoven Festival Schedule" for full itinerary.)

Earlier this year, the Beethoven Festival received the prestigious Special Accomplishment Recognition by the Utah chapter of the American String Teachers Association.

"That was very surprising and fun," Leslie said. "It's a yearly award that they give out to a person or organization. We were nominated and chosen. We were very honored to receive that."

The idea of changing the festival's name to the late, great composer's name came from the need to get the word out.

"I wanted some iconic things we could do for marketing, including photos for posters and banners," Leslie said. "Russ had this Beethoven bust he's had for more than 50 years and I used it. I carried it around all over the place in a backpack, and Russ was having heart failure because he didn't want me to break it. So, I found another one like it and ordered a bunch."

Russell Harlow said he noticed something interesting while his wife toted the statue all around town.

"Even little children recognized who it was, which was a wonderful thing to us," he said. "Then around that same time, we had one of our patrons ask us to do more Beethoven."

So, the Harlows decided to put together a concert program where they and their guest musicians would be able to play all of Beethoven's chamber music over the next few years.

"There are very few people who have heard all of Beethoven's chamber compositions," Leslie said. "That's really fascinating to me."

Plus, there is nothing like hearing these works live.

"The live setting gives these compositions a depth that people don't expect, even when they have great sound systems for recorded music in their houses or cars," she said.

To capitalize on that idea, Russell, who programs the concerts, makes sure there is something for everyone.

"We want to appeal to people who have never listened to chamber music before, and we also want to appeal to our patrons who have supported us for years and years," he said.

Part of the secret is to present a lot of variations including mixing the combinations of players.

"We have a core group of musicians who perform with us, but we don't play a whole concert with the same combination of musicians," Leslie said. "We put together strings and clarinet, which gives us a lot of variety. We also can put together other players with each other and their playing styles will make the piece sound different.

"That way people can hear the complexities of the pieces that we choose," she said.

Although the festival is named after Ludwig van Beethoven, who some consider the master of the Romantic age, the performances will feature music by various chamber composers including Strauss, Chopin, Mozart, Piston, Bernstein, Shostakovich and others.

"We want people to discover music that they might not have known about," Leslie said. "It's not a case of trying to find the most obscure contemporary works. No, we try to find pieces that aren't played that much in a chamber setting."

Luckily, the Harlows know many renowned players who are working on great solo and chamber works.

"So, we just have to call them and ask, because they are all into developing new stuff," Leslie said.

This season's guest musicians will include violinists Paul Rosenthal, Margaret Baldridge, Manuel Ramos, Philippe Djokic, Monte Belknap and Alexander Woods, who will also play viola with Leslie Harlow.

The cellists will include Jefferey Solow, Mark Kosower, Denise Djokic and Julie Bevan, and the festival will also feature pianists Jee-Won Oh, Doris Stevenson, Michael Gurt, John Novacek and John Jensen.

In addition, Russell Harlow will play clarinet and the classical guitar will be performed by Jon Yerby. Select performances will feature two vocalists, soprano Serena Kanig Benish and tenor Tyler Nelson.

"It will be like walking through a musical art gallery," Leslie said.

One of the new festival offerings this year is the Beethoven Brunch program.

"We wanted to offer an event where people could dine and relax while hearing live chamber performances," she said. "Much like our salon performances, the Beethoven Brunches are intimate concerts, but will be held in various restaurants in Park City."

Russell Harlow promised that the musicians will add their own flare to the music to make the concerts more exciting.

"We like having the artists perform flashy solos," he said. "We want to give some new color to the performances and pieces, so people will not get bogged down with the same-old sound."

Park City's Summer Beethoven Festival will run from Saturday, July 13, through Thursday, Aug. 15, at various venues in town. (See accompanying schedule). Concert tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and senior citizens. Beethoven Brunch tickets are $45. Email chmusic@pcmusicfestival.com for more information and location. For more information about the Beethoven Festival, visit www.pcmusicfestival.com/2013summer.html.