Summer Fun 2012
Jazz and Classical Music

A music junkie's paradise: Texas Music Festival to offer 50 concerts this summer with some bold twists

A music junkie's paradise: Texas Music Festival to offer 50 concerts this summer with some bold twists

Texas Music Festival
Conductor Franz Anton Krager will lead the 95-piece Festival Orchestra in the 23rd Annual Texas Music Festival opening concert. Courtesy of Texas Music Festival
Daniel Hege
Daniel Hege's program features national sounds from Russian, English, American, Finnish and French origins with the music of Prokofiev, Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Sibelius and Barber. Photo by Christian Steiner
Lavard Skou-Larsen
Lavard Skou-Larsen leads a playbill of "German Masters" with Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F Major and the concerto of choice of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition winner. Melanie Stegemann
Josep Caballé-Domenech
The orchestra concert series closes with Sir Colin Davis' protégé, Spanish conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech. The program includes Dukas' The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. Courtesy of Schmidt Artists
Texas Music Festival
Daniel Hege
Lavard Skou-Larsen
Josep Caballé-Domenech

While the arrival of summer sounds the finale of many art organizations' performance seasons, one hot Houston musical tradition is just beginning.

The Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival (TMF), which runs June 4 to July 1 at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music — with run out concerts at Texas A&M University and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands — is gearing up to welcome a throng of talented students, world renowned faculty and music junkies to its 50 concerts, workshops and master classes — something it's done for more than two decades.

At the helm of the four-week summer program is a 95-piece symphony composed of orchestra fellows, all of whom receive 100-percent tuition scholarships plus room and board. In addition, four tuneful institutes expand TMF's operations: Le Chiavi: The Keys to Bel Canto for opera singers; the Classical Minds Guitar Festival and Competition; and for high schoolers, an intensive jazz and piano academy.

General director Alan Austin, who was a violin trainee at the inaugural festival in 1990, remembers what it feels like to be an emerging artist. During his 15-year tenure as a TMF administrator he has adjusted the curriculum to appeal to today's generation of rising music stars. As a result, TMF received this year a record number of applications with many coming from students at top national training institutions like the Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, as well as 13 foreign countries.

 "Students will also get a chance to talk to symphony musicians who have recently won auditions. The idea here is that students get a reality check of what it takes to get a job today — not yesterday."

"We are taking a multi-pronged approach to education," Austin tells CultureMap. "We provide high quality instruction and offer opportunities for interaction with teachers in high-demand and conductors who you would see at major orchestras, like the Houston Symphony."

Austin also supplements the musical portion of the festival with a career development component which includes entrepreneurship seminars, business skills, wellness classes and yoga for musicians.

"Students will also get a chance to talk to symphony musicians who have recently won auditions," he continues. "The idea here is that students get a reality check of what it takes to get a job today — not yesterday."

Creative concert programming begins by balancing new music and standard repertoire, Austin says. The sooner young players master the core orchestral works, the pieces that they will perform most often and those that tend to be requested in auditions, the better.

As such, TMF's schedule is filled with gigs, Texas big and small, that both students and audiences will love.

Festival Orchestra: Big, bold and beautiful

Festival Orchestra performances vow to be bolder this year. An outdoor bash at UH's Jane Blaffer Owen Plaza before each of the ensemble's four concerts will rally audiences with al fresco chamber music and jazz, with a side of nibbles from local food trucks.

The opening performance on June 9 bursts with Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. Soloists soprano Cynthia Clayton, mezzo-soprano Heather Scanio, tenor Vale Rideout and baritone Hector Vasquez with be backed by the voices of the Houston Symphony Chorus, directed by Charles Hausmann.

UH maestro Franz Anton Krager leads this robust program that showcases extremes within the Germanic classical tradition — also marking the first performance of the joyful choral magnum opus.

 ​Orchestra concerts vow to be bigger this year. An outdoor bash before each of the ensemble's four concerts will rally audiences with al fresco chamber music and jazz, with a side of nibbles from local food trucks.

Daniel Hege, who's also slated to conduct the finals of Houston Symphony's Ima Hogg Young Artists Competition in June, will have his hands full on June 16 with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Classical,” Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto in F Minor with Houston Symphony tuba virtuoso David Kirk, Barber's Overture to The School for Scandal, Sibelius' Pohjola's Daughter and Debussy's La mer. 

Titled "International Tour" — the concert explores sounds from Russian, English, American, Finnish and French origins — the program is by no means a walk in the park. In fact, expect this rep to test the technical fitness of the wind section and strings in the Prokofiev and Barber.

When Lavard Skou-Larsen steps up to the podium on June 23, it will be for a "German Masters" playbill with Strauss' poetic Death and Transfiguration, Brahms' rich Symphony No. 3 in F Major and the concerto of choice of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition winner. On June 22, the ensemble will travel to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands with the same repertoire.

The orchestra series closes on June 30 with Sir Colin Davis' protégé, Spanish conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech. On the program are Dukas' The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Korngold's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major with soloist Dan Zhu and Bartók's massive Concerto for Orchestra.

Faculty on stage: Perspective concerts

Visiting and Houston-based faculty will showcase their goods in four concerts: June 5, June 12, June 19 and June 26 at UH, and on June 4, June 11, June 18 and June 25 at Texas A&M University.

The series presents the Texas Music Festival Jazz Project led by director/trumpeter Noe Marmolejo, chamber music with the Webster Trio, pianists Timothy Hester and Brian Suits, violinists Kyung Sun Lee and Lucie Robe, percussionist Blake Wilkins and others performing contemporary works by Shepherd School of Music composition faculty Pierre Jalbert and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Colgrass, and timeless compositions by Brahms, Faure and Copland.

There's more: Opera, piano, guitar, jazz and master classes

A solid schedule of master classes, seminars and workshops round up the festival's activities. Check the website for specific dates, times and locations.

An opera scenes showcase directed by Joseph Evans and Melanie Sonnenberg promises to "unlock the secrets of opera's greatest composers" on June 8.

As part of the Classical Minds Guitar Festival there are artist recitals by guitar faculty Lynn McGrath and Frank Wallace on June 12, Michael Edel Munoz and Les Freres Meduse on June 15, and Nicolella and Duo46 on June 16 set in motion a high school guitar ensemble musicale and competition finals on June 17.

Piano mavens Nancy Weems and Tali Morgulis will preside over the keyboard portion of the fete, curating recitals on June 30 and July 1. A jazz institute jam sessions directed by Marmolejo is set for June 15.

A solid schedule of master classes, seminars and workshops round up the festival's activities. Check the website for specific dates, times and locations.

Admission to the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival range from $15 ($10 for students and seniors) to $75 for an all-access season pass. Some events are free. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 713-743-3133 for UH concerts and 979-845-1234 for the Texas A&M University Summer Performing Arts Series.