The air conditioning is roaring; the mosquitoes are feasting on my flesh; and those annoying explosion-happy neighbors are already gearing up for the Fourth of July. I have a feeling that Sommerfest is right around the corner.
The musicians recently wrote on their Facebook page:
Here’s the deal: buy an Easy Pass Package with 6 flexible vouchers redeemable now for Sommerfest performances as well for all of our Fall concerts beginning July 25. Select your seats from our best available locations and beat the rush before tickets go on sale to the public August 7.
So with that offer in mind, if you want to simultaneously get a jump start on the new season and also sample the joys of Sommerfest…
May I make some suggestions?
*Emily swoops in with a massive sampler platter of delicious Sommerfest-y morsels*
Salute to America, 5 July at 8pm
Come to Orchestra Hall for your Fifth of July festivities and listen to music performed by the best orchestra in America. USA! USA! USA! Gershwin’s An American In Paris. Bernstein’s Mambo (MAM-BO!). Copland’s Hoedown, which will mysteriously trigger hundreds of simultaneous beef cravings. You’ll even catch Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. “But Emily,” dweeby sticklers for “historical accuracy” will protest. “The 1812 Overture has nothing to do with American independence. Why is it appearing on a Salute to America concert?” Because it’s super loud and bangy and revolutionary, that’s why. Checkmate. So if you want a smorgasbord of Fourth Favorites, July Fifth at Orchestra Hall will be your best bet.
Rachmaninoff and Brahms, 10 July at 11am, 11 July at 8pm
A note, a half-step down, and a half step back up: out of this absurdly simple musical gesture comes a massive, ravishing monument to beauty. I can personally guarantee that this symphony will set your spirit soaring; last time I was blessed enough to hear the Minnesota Orchestra play it, tears immediately sprang to my lashes. It’s just So Beautiful! And as if that wasn’t enough, enjoy Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto, the perfect program companion to the Brahms, and just as warm, luscious, and sincere. This is an island in a sea of foamy light repertoire. Take advantage of it.
A Night in Vienna, 12 July at 8pm
Have a mid-summer craving for some light Strauss before you overdose on the heavy Strauss this fall? Then try your best to snag a ticket to A Night in Vienna. Enjoy the Lagoon Waltz, the Forwards Polka, the Voices of Spring waltz, and (of course) On The Beautiful Blue Danube. For extra enjoyment, watch the viola section savoring its endless pages of “[rest] note note [rest] note note” patterns! Also on the docket: glamorous 26-year-old pianist Natasha Paremski taking on a piano concerto by a 20-year-old Frédéric Chopin. It’s a night of vivacious youth and sparkle, so celebrate with some champagne: Sommerfest is in full-swing! Woot!
Chamber Music with Andrew Litton I, 13 July at 7pm
You and I need to chat. Pull up a chair. Sit down. Okay. So. Hey.
Look. Obviously you love the Minnesota Orchestra. Presumably you love watching musicians and seeing how they communicate with one another. Do you know where you can get a really good view of musicians doing just that? At chamber music concerts. Most people who love orchestra concerts should REALLY love chamber music concerts. And yet when audiences hear the phrase “chamber music”, they usually zone out, tune out, and de-prioritize. And I…I mean, I *guess* I get it? At first glance maybe chamber music doesn’t seem as exciting, as dramatic, as glamorous. Can four people create magic akin to what ninety people can? Seems doubtful. But the short answer is yes. And the long answer is yyyyyyyyyyes. I promise you, chamber music is exciting; it is dramatic; it is glamorous. Watching well-played chamber music is one of the most thrilling experiences a listener can have.
So do yourself a favor and pick up a ticket, especially if you’ve never been to a Sommerfest chamber music concert. Be there at Orchestra Hall, July 13 at 7pm, for Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Rossini. You will not be disappointed.
Mozart and Rachmaninoff, 18 July at 8pm
Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture: It’s More Than The Hackneyed Love Theme People Sing Ironically. In its entirety, this piece is a completely over-the-top boiling vat of passion, especially when played by a band that specializes in edge-of-the-seat performances. (And by that, I mean the Minnesota Orchestra.) A more restrained, better-mannered, but no less affecting passion will mark the performance of Mozart’s ethereal 23rd piano concerto. Then after intermission comes Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, which somehow manage to be simultaneously lush and angular, romantic and modern. Rachmaninoff wrote in a musical battle toward the end of the piece between the ancient Dies Irae theme (representing death) and a snippet from his All-night Vigil (representing resurrection). And happily, resurrection wins out, at which point Rachmaninoff actually wrote “Hallelujah” in the score. After this past season, I can get behind that sentiment.
Bravo Broadway, 19 July at 8pm
Broadway! *jazz hands* I’ve got nothing to say about this because the Sommerfest website doesn’t yet feature a full program, and I could never pass as a Broadway expert. But Broadway music is a thing. And it’s a thing that some people like. So if you’re one of those people…this is a concert you might enjoy. *more jazz hands*
Peter and the Wolf, 20 July at 1pm and 3pm
I remember being in grade school music class, listening to a recording of Peter and the Wolf, and being pretty dang impressed by the story of a duck being eaten by a wolf. I guess there was more to the story, too, but the whole duck-in-the-wolf-stomach bit definitely stuck out.
Prokofiev was so inspired by this commission to write a piece for young audiences that he finished Peter and the Wolf in just four days. Hopefully you’ll be just as inspired to share orchestra music with the young people in your life. Tickets are $15 for adults, and you get up to two free kids’ tickets with each, courtesy of Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra (FOMO).
Chamber Music with Andrew Litton II, 20 July at 7pm
Hey. We recently had a chat about chamber music concerts and how you need to go to them. If you ignored me then, you’ll have a chance to redeem yourself on July 20th. The program begins with cellist Tony Ross – Tony Ross – in the Prokofiev (Prokofiev) C-major cello sonata. If you’re not one for the uncomplicated fizz of Sommerfest, Tony’s intensity will cut straight through all that happy summery Viennese crap and deliver you straight into Stalinist Russia. You’re welcome. Plus, hear one of the great musical masterpieces of all time, the Gran Partita by Mozart, which will see our peerless horn and woodwind stars taking the spotlight. You’d be crazy to miss this one.
Gershwin and Bernstein, 25 July at 8pm
Here’s a collection of two blockbuster American orchestral showpieces (Rhapsody in Blue and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story) (MAM-BO!), sandwiched between a few lesser-known razzle-dazzlers. The Bernstein Divertimento is based on the notes B and C…because it was written for the Boston Symphony’s Centennial. (Aww! That’s so SWEET, Leonard!) Walter Piston’s Suite from the ballet The Incredible Flutist tells the story of…well, an incredible flutist (we’re talking Adam Kuenzel level abilities here) who charms both snakes and women. And there’s even a live narration of the famous Casey At The Bat poem with musical background. In other words, don’t be surprised if the musicians come onstage eating homemade apple pie.
Die Fledermaus, 26 July at 7:30pm
Die Fledermaus: how can you not want to see this opera? The story goes something like this: Adele has a terribly sick aunt in dire need of aid, except her aunt isn’t really sick at all and needs no aid whatsoever – Gabriel is postponing his jail sentence to go party hearty at the prince’s ball – Rosalinde has an ex-boyfriend who is pretending to be Gabriel – plus, the prince was drunk and wearing a bat costume in the town square. And that’s before the cast finds itself in the jail after the second intermission. The…I hesitate to say “plot”…is crazier than a season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and the music’s wayyyy better. So finish your Sommerfest in style with a semi-staged performance of the intoxicatingly Viennese Die Fledermaus. Augment it with the pre-concert Fledermaus Fling, which includes strolling musicians and appetizers from Vincent’s, and maybe…just maybe…your gala cravings will be sated until the next big celebration at Orchestra Hall, which occurs when the brand-new season starts in September 2014.
If Easy Pass vouchers aren’t in your budget, single tickets are available here! (But don’t wait too long to make your plans; Sommerfest seats are filling up fast.)
What Sommerfest concerts are you going to and why? Which ones do you wish you could go to? If I was geographically closer, my top three picks would probably be Rach and Brahms, Tony Ross in Prokofiev, and Die Fledermaus, but I highly doubt anyone will go wrong, whatever they choose!