One of the many highlights of the Aspen Ideas Festival is its uniquely curated roster of special performances, and this year’s fest — despite being completely digital — is no exception. Four of the country’s premier artists in classical music, jazz, and ballet take to solo stages to bring virtual audiences works of art designed to entertain, enliven discussion, and deepen thought during nightly Festival programming. Here’s the lineup.
Sunday, June 28
Yefim Bronfman, Chopin Étude Op. 10, No. 3
There’s nothing quite like a piano solo to evoke introspection and emotion. Especially when the pianist is Yefim Bronfman, whose lyrical gifts and command of his craft make him one of today’s most acclaimed pianists. Bronfman, a regular at the Aspen Music Festival and School, performs Chopin’s Étude Op. 10, No. 3, which the composer himself considered his most beautiful melody. Though Chopin never gave the piece a specific name, its poetic character and intriguing tempo contributed to its most common nicknames: Tristesse (sadness) and L’Adieu (the farewell).
The Aspen Music Festival and School is presenting a free virtual festival July 4 - August 23. A performance on July 5 features pianist Yefim Bronfman.
Monday, June 29
Jon Batiste, Music and Musings
Musician, educator, and bandleader Jon Batiste has a long history of appearing at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which includes not only playing his unique form of jazz but also musically commemorating the greats of the genre and sharing wisdom and insight about themes that include jazz history, the healing power of music, and how good music transcends far beyond the notes themselves. This thoughtful young talent, who at age 33 has already received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jazz Museum, performs nightly with his band Stay Human on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and is co-artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. At this year’s Festival, he will reflect on his Aspen appearances and his current work, as well as share his musical talent through a selection of pieces.
Tuesday, June 30
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers Jenelle Figgins and Anthony Tiedeman, Silent Ghost (Alejandro Cerrudo)
Commissioned by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 2015, choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s Silent Ghost has been called “moody and enigmatic,” a work of “solemn beauty,” and meditative. ASFB dancer Jenelle Figgins, who recorded the piece’s pas de deux with fellow dancer Anthony Tiedeman in an empty hall for this virtual performance, confirmed the emotional aspect of her métier. Because of the pandemic she hadn’t danced for three months, and admitted to shedding a tear upon entering the theater, remembering all that’s usually involved with moving on stage and feeling the response of the audience. “In this time I’ve had a lot of opportunities to check in with myself and family and the relationships I have outside of dance, all of those things that contribute to a fully functioning artist,” said Figgins, a former Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer. “And I look forward to putting those things I’ve learned in this solitude back into my dancing so I can share it with audiences and fellow dancers.”
Discover more about the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet on their website.
Wednesday, July 3
Emily Birsan, American soprano
Thursday, July 2
Robert McDuffie, Violin
Fritz Kreisler - Liebesleid (Love's Sorrow)
Robert McDuffie will perform a favorite piece, Kreisler's "Love's Sorrow." McDuffie is a beloved musician in Aspen, where he has appeared as a soloist on the stage of the Aspen Music Festival and School since he was a teenager. Grammy nominated, McDuffie has performed with the world's greatest orchestras. His ambition for the study and promotion of music has prompted him to create the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, a conservatory at Mercer University in his native city of Macon, Georgia. McDuffie also founded the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy, to great notice, acclaim, and pride.
This is not McDuffie's first appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Notably, he performed alongside acclaimed actress Anna Deavere Smith in an original portrayal of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in 2013 — and went on to offer that staging with Deavere Smith in San Francisco, Los Angeles (for two weeks at the Broad Theater), Santa Barbara, and Macon, Georgia at the Beulahland Baptist Church. In 2014, as part of a discussion about words and movement, McDuffie accompanied Jookin' dancer Charles "L'il Buck" Riley (see image above).
Written by Catherine Lutz