Beethoven Festival wraps up 39th summer season 

Artistic director appreciative of musicians and volunteers

Park City Beethoven Festival with pianist Michael Gurt, cellist Lauren Posey and clarinetist Russell Harlow


Park City Beethoven Festival with violinists Monte Belknap and Donna Fairbanks, cellist Lauren Posey, pianists Michael Gurt and Hilllary Demske

Michael Gurt, winner of the 1982 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, will perform this weekend during the Park City Beethoven Festival.
Courtesy of the Park City Beethoven Festival

Sunday’s Park City Beethoven Festival concert at Park City Community Church marks the final performance of the summer, which happened to be the first without Festival Founder Leslie Harlow, who died in February.

The concert will feature pianist Michael Gurt, a Paula Garvey Manship Distinguished Professor of Piano at Louisiana State University, who won first prize at the 1982 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in Salt Lake City.

“Michael comes in this week, and we’ll get together with the others to rehearse for the weekend,” said the festival’s Artistic Director Russell Harlow.

The others include cellist Lauren Posey, faculty and artistic director for the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute and member of the Rosco String Quartet and the Ballet West Orchestra; violinists Monte Belknap, a professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Music, and Donna Fairbanks, a professor at Utah Valley University’s School of Music; and pianist Hilary Demske, also a professor at Utah Valley University’s School of Music.

He’s actually giving the gift of music to the audience, and that’s what this festival is for.” Russell Harlow, Park City Beethoven Festival artistic director

“Michael will do what you can call a recital on Sunday,” Harlow said. “He’s going to play solo piano for the first half, and then we’ll do some other pieces with Lauren that we haven’t quite worked out yet.”

Although there is a program listed on the Beethoven Festival website, Gurt has expressed his concern that the selections may be too long for one afternoon, according to Harlow.

“So, when he gets in, we’ll go over things and decide what we’re going to play,” he said. “We do know that we’ll finish with the Beethoven Piano Trio in B-flat major, op. 11.”

Regardless of which pieces Gurt selects, Harlow said the pianist is one of the most engaging musicians to perform at the Beethoven Festival.

“Michael’s so into the music that he’s not just playing it,” Harlow said. “He’s actually giving the gift of music to the audience, and that’s what this festival is for.”

The Park City Beethoven Festival performances will continue Monday with a free concert at the City Park Bandstand.

“We’ve had such a great time at the park concerts, and I’m so amazed at how much people love that venue,” Harlow said. “Sometimes the weather was absolutely perfect on the sunny side, and sometimes it was perfect on the rainy side.”

These concerts include surveys and opportunity drawings, Harlow said.

“Back when Leslie was around, Summit County wanted us to do surveys to figure out how many people who attended the concerts came from out of town, the stage and out of the country,” he said. “Leslie decided to make it not only a survey, but an opportunity drawing, and we would put the names of people who did the survey into a hat and do drawings for free tickets to our concerts or free CDs. I continued that, and we have some lovely volunteers who have been helping me with that.”

Speaking of volunteers, Harlow wanted to express his thanks for all those who stepped up to make this season a success.

“I want to also thank people who donated their time and funds in Leslie’s honor, and I want to thank the great musicians who came this year, some of them from the old guard, and some new faces,” he said. “In addition, I want to thank our board of directors for their support.”

Harlow started programming the summer season last March.

“I was basically throwing as much together as I possibly could,” he said. “For some reason it all sort of came together.”

Harlow plans to start working on the new season after taking a couple of weeks off following Monday’s concert in the park.

“The festival is a gift from Leslie to the community,” he said. “She spent 40 years doing this thing that she loved and knew that other people would love.”


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