The Park City Beethoven Festival starts July 7
The Park City Chamber Music Society, now known as the Beethoven Festival, which will open its summer season on July 7 with a free concert in City Park, was established in 1984 with the idea of preserving and promoting the art of live classical music by bringing major classical soloists to perform chamber music concerts together in Park City.
Thirty years later, the festival, which is Utah’s oldest classical-music festival, has made little adjustments but continues with its original goal.
One of those changes was the introduction of salon concerts that are held in private homes during the festival.
These performances are intimate presentations that are open to the public, but those who want to attend are required to contact Leslie Harlow, executive director of the Beethoven Festival, to purchase tickets and obtain addresses for the venues. This can be done online by visiting http://www.beethovenfestivalparkcity.org or calling 435-649-5309. (See accompanying schedule titled "The Park City Beethoven Festival schedule")
Harlow, a violist, said the festival has been offering salon concerts for the past 15 years and she enjoys performing in smaller venues.
"We do them partly because chamber music is designed for intimate audiences," she said. "Of course, back in history, chamber concerts were performed in palaces, and places like that, but I’ve seen some of the music rooms in Vienna and other places and they are very small. They seat maybe 20 people at the most and the musicians are five feet away from the audience."
One of the benefits is that the musicians can freely interact with their audiences.
"They are fun," Harlow said of the performances. "It’s very rewarding as a player to have a close relationship with your audience. You can feel, as an artist, that you’re playing for the audience when you can see individual faces."
On the flipside, the audience can hear and sometimes feel the sound of every note.
"People can really enjoy the sound of an instrument in these concerts, especially the piano," Harlow said. "A piano is really designed as an indoor instrument. The early pianos were much smaller and the string instruments back then were much more quiet."
Originally, chamber settings were a necessity because of the nature of the early versions of the instruments.
"The musicians didn’t play on steel strings," Harlow explained. "They played gut strings, so, except for brass or percussion instruments, the string instruments were not designed for big spaces.
"As the ensembles grew and orchestras began to form, there were more instruments and the steel string was developed, concerts got louder," she said. "So the chamber performances are a way for us to get back to the real classical roots."
There will be five salon concerts during the summer season of the Beethoven Festival, and the first will be on July 11.
Selecting the different homes for the concerts is done in different ways.
"Some of the hosts have attended a previous salon concert and they offer their homes," she explained. "Sometimes we think about different homes that we have visited.
For example, if there is a home we know about that has a grand piano, we schedule a performance that features a pianist. We make an offer to the people who are interested in hosting these performances."
The concerts usually have an intermission where the audience and musicians can mingle and enjoy some light food and drink from a buffet.
"We’re all together in a party-like situation, which is nice," Harlow said. "Everybody visits with each other."
One catch of the salon concerts is that seating is limited. So making reservations early is important, she said.
In addition to the salon concerts, the Beethoven Festival will offer larger performances in the Park City Community Church and at Temple Har Shalom.
"The heart of the Beethoven Festival’s success is its roster of amazing artists from around the world, along with the variety in programming concerts that newcomers and classical fans can enjoy," Harlow explained.
This season, the festival will feature Armenian cellist Armen Ksajikian and the Dali String Quartet — featuring cellist Jesus Morales, violinists Simon Gollo and Carlos Rubio and violist Adriana Linares — which is based in Philadelphia and originally from South America.
Other international artists include Manuel Ramos, who holds the honor of being the State of Mexico’s Artist in Residence at Belles Artes, cellist Cheung Chau who is originally from Hong Kong and violinist Blanka Bednarz, who originally studied in her native Poland.
"They will join some of our closest friends — violinists Monte Belknap and Alexander Woods from Brigham Young University, harpsichordist Pamela Jones, Utah Symphony Principal oboist Robert Stephenson and flutist Lisa rnes and mezzo Soprano Kirsten Gunlogson," Harlow said. "Kirsten will also perform with clarinetist Lee Livengood and pianist Melissa Livengood."
The lineup rounds out with classical guitarist Jon Yerby, pianist Bryan Stanley and Harlow’s husband, clarinetist Russell Harlow.
"These are outstanding classical soloists who come from all over to perform for the Festival and enjoy performing for the wonderfully attentive audiences in the beautiful surroundings," Harlow said.
The Park City Beethoven Festival will present its first concert of the summer at the City Park Pavilion on Monday, July 7, 6:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. The Beethoven Festival will run through Monday, Aug. 11. For more information, visit http://www.beethovenfestivalparkcity.org .
Summit County gardeners can purchase local-climate friendly plants and seeds to grow this season