Beethoven Festival ushers in 2023 with a live stream of a 1996 concert

Premiere scheduled for 6 p.m. Mountain Time Jan. 1 on YouTube

Beethoven Festival Concert Premiere Park City Beethoven Festival Online Concert Program for Jan. 1, 2023
  • Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola, K242 by Antonin Dvorak
  • Musicians: Violinists Philippe Djokic and David Park Violist Leslie Harlow
  • Sonata in B minor for Violin and Piano by Ottorino Respighi
  • Musicians: Violinist Philippe Djokic Pianist Michael Gurt
  • Three Duets for Violin, Viola and Piano by Dimitri Shostakovich Violinist Philippe Djokic
  • Musicians: Violist Lesie Harlow Pianist Michael Gurt
  • Sextet in C Major for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet and Horn, Opus 37 by Ernst von Dohnányi
  • Musicians: Pianist Doris Stevenson Violinist Philippe Djokic Violist Leslie Harlow Cellist Gayle Smith Clarinetist Russell Harlow Hornist Sue Hudson
Violinists Philippe Djokic and Airi Yoshioka performs with the Beethoven Festival at Park City Community Church. Djokic is one of the featured artists on the Beethoven Festival’s upcoming Jan. 1 live stream of a concert that took place in 1996.
Photo by Jon Scarlet

The Park City Beethoven Festival will kick off 2023 on Sunday, Jan. 1, with an online premiere of a unique chamber concert recorded Sunday, Aug. 18, 1996, at the Park City Community Church.

The performance, which will post on the festival’s YouTube channel at 6 p.m., Mountain Time, features works by Antonin Dvorak, Ottorino Respighi, Dimitri Shostakovich and Ernst von Dohnányi, said Beethoven Festival Founder Leslie Harlow.

“This is a cool concert that includes all European composers,” she said. “Dvorak was Czech. Respighi was Italian. Shostokovich was Russian and Dohnanyi was Hungarian.”

While the program spotlights these diverse composers, it also showcases a distinctive lineup of musicians, according to Harlow.

Some of the players on the concerts we recorded are no longer with us…” Leslie Harlow, Park City Beethoven Festival founder

“At this time the Beethoven Festival was hosting our Young Artist Institute, so we had a lot of people here from all over who were on our faculty,” she said. 

The musicians included violinists Philippe Djokic and David Park, pianists Michael Gurt and Doris Stevenson, cellist Gayle Smith, horn player Sue Hudson, and Beethoven Festival resident musicians — Harlow on viola and her husband Russell Harlow on clarinet. (See accompanying box for the concert program).

The concert starts with Dvorak’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola, K242, with Djokic, Park and Leslie Harlow.

The two violins and viola combination is rare, which gives the piece a unique sound, Harlow said.

“Philippe, whose family came from Hungary, played with us for so many years, and David played with the Utah Symphony,” she said.

The next piece on the bill is Respighi’s Sonata in B minor for Violin and Piano, performed by Djokic and Gurt, according to Harlow.

“Michael is the 1982 Gina Bachauer International Competition winner, and he is a festival in and of himself,” she said. “He has played with us for the past 30 years and was actually one of the first artists I had asked to participate in the festival all those years ago.”

Another rare musical combination arises in the next work, Three Duets for Violin, Viola and Piano by Shostakovich, performed by Djokic, Gurt and Leslie Harlow.

“This is an interesting trio, and it’s a rare combination with violin, viola and piano,” she said.

The concert’s final piece is Ernst von Dohnányi’s Sextet in C Major for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet and Horn, Opus 37, which made its premiere in 1935.

The work is performed by Stevenson, Djokic, Smith, Hubbard and the Harlows.

“This is a fascinating piece to me, because not only is it a unique sound combination,” Leslie Harlow said. “It’s also more contemporary, so it has a broad range of dynamics and colors. We’ve played it over the years and really love it.”

Harlow remembers performing the work with Hubbard.

“Sue was a wonderful horn player who was in the Utah Symphony for a number of years,” she said. “She had to stop playing because of some physical problems, but she was wonderful to work with.”

Sunday’s premiere stream on YouTube will be live and includes a chat feature, Harlow said.

“During our premieres, we usually have people from all over the country who drop in and listen with us,” she said. “The fun thing about that is they can check in, say hi and comment about the performance in real time. That gives these premiers an intimate feel like we’re all experiencing an actual  live concert.”

Harlow said some of those who tune in are the musicians who performed during the concerts. 

“We love for them to join us, because this is a way to still connect after all of these years,” she said.

Once the premier stream wraps, the Beethoven Festival keeps the concert online so people can enjoy it at their convenience, according to Harlow.

“We have 107 performances on YouTube so far,” she said. 

Michael Gurt, the 1982 Gina Bachauer International Competition winner, performed a Park City Beethoven Festival concert in the summer of 1996. That concert will make its online streaming debut on Jan. 1 on the festival’s YouTube channel.
Photo by Jon Scarlet

Russell Harlow, who is also the Beethoven Festival’s archivist, is responsible for posting the concerts online.

Before he does that, he listens to each performance in real time to determine if the quality is good enough to post.

“When we started out doing this, I would go through different years, pick out several of the pieces and put them together like I would an hour-long radio program,” he said.

Harlow eventually realized when he chose performances at random, he could not remember which ones he had posted. 

“So, I decided to go through each performance a year at a time and put together the best ones we did,” he said. “The one I’ll post on Jan. 1 was the last concert we performed during the summer of 1996. And it’s been a hoot to go back and hear what we did 25 to 30 years ago.”

The idea to record the concerts, which started back in 1988, was based on an array of reasons, Leslie Harlow said.

“One was for educational purposes,” she said. “We wanted to learn what things we did were effective and how we were playing.”

Sharing the concerts was another reason to record them, according to Harlow.

“We would record a concert for a series of radio programs,” she said. “Some of those recordings we released on a Beethoven Festival CD.”

The recordings would be packaged with narrator Gene Pack, KUER radio’s late classical music host, and sent out to more than 330 public radio stations throughout the country, Harlow said.

“We also wanted to document the performances,” she said, citing another reason for recording. “Some of the players on the concerts we recorded are no longer with us.”

Throughout the years, the Harlows have worked with a handful of engineers — Michael Carnes, Klay Andrson, Joe Siegel and Aaron Hubbard — who knew how to capture the live chamber-music feel in the recordings.

“Sometimes we would record the concerts ourselves,” Leslie Harlow said. “The funny thing was we were so busy running the festival that we didn’t have a chance to listen to all the performances. So, we’d file the recordings in our archives.”

The importance of those archives hit a new level during the coronavirus pandemic, Harlow said.

“We shut live performances down for safety reasons, and we looked into different ways we could perform from our homes,” she said. “After going through many different options, we found it was impossible for us to put together a live performance remotely with all the players we wanted to play with. So, posting past concerts online has turned out to be the best thing.”

Russell Harlow plans to pore through concert recordings from 1997 and post them during the upcoming year.

“I’ll continue to go through and post them until we get to where we are today,” he said. “I think I need to revisit 1988 to 1995 and see what I may have missed.” 

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