Month-long music fest
Ready, set, play: Five highlights of the 22nd annual Texas Music Festival
Now in its 22nd season, the Texas Music Festival (TMF) brings the creme de la creme of music students from all over the world— some as far away as Poland, Korea and Hong Kong — to study and perform alongside rock stars of the music world, both classical and jazz.
Only 95 students were accepted out of 450 student applicants. The one-in-four odds of being admitted ensures only high caliber young musicians on their way to becoming professionals grace the stage. Some are pupils at prestigious institutions like the Eastman School of Music, Cleveland Institute, Peabody Institute, Moores School of Music and the Shepherd School of Music.
Expect energetic, vigorous and ballsy performances, with a vitality that only a combination of impassioned faculty and ambitious students can generate.
The month-long fest presents nearly 50 public events, which include performances, master classes and seminars, primarily at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, with a couple of concerts at Texas A&M University in College Station and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands as well.
Navigating through TMF's calendar, featuring the theme "Made in America," and choosing when and where to go can be daunting. Leave it up to us to make it a little easier to chose what to hear.
Here are several suggestions (all performances are at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, unless otherwise noted. Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and students.):
Perspective 1: Texas Music Festival Jazz Project “Distinctly American," Tonight
TMF kicks off the month-long festival with a jazz bacchanal courtesy of the 19-person Jazz Project ensemble. Director and trumpeter Noe Marmolejo has assembled a star-spangled cast of who's who in the Texas jazz idiom, programming a concert featuring the compositions of Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Chuck Owens, Aaron Lington, Rich DeRosa, Sammy Nestico and John Mahoney with notable Houston musicians like Warren Sneed (head of jazz studies at HSPVA), drummer Joel Fulgham (UH Moores faculty), Woody Witt and Mike Wheeler.
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert mingling begins at 6:30 p.m. with free goodies from Camarena Tequila Taco.
Opening Festival Orchestra Concert, Saturday
Featuring the music of Mahler, the Third Symphony in D Minor is of massive proportions. The longest symphony of the standard orchestral repertoire, when performed at its peak, the experience is emotional, introspective, yet powerful.
Franz Anton Krager will step up to the podium and be joined by mezzo Melanie Sonnenberg, the Festival Women's Chorus and the Houston Treble Choir. All those forces are needed for the Mahler. It's grand.
Our suggestion? Pay attention to the French horns and trombones. There are huge epic solos.
Moores School of Music director David Ashley White will have one of his pieces premiered. Spirit, moving over chaos promises to be a treat for the ear.
Perspectives 2: Faculty Artist Chamber Music “New World Visions,” June 14
With an all-star cast of Houston's classical music scene — including the Webster Trio (Leone Buyse, Michael Webster and Robert Moeling), James Dunham, Brinton Smith, Jeffrey Cohen and Timothy Hester — the second Perspectives concert promises a thoughtful musical experience.
The program's theme is inspired by the interpretation of "new worlds" from the perspective of travel, longing and distance, with a hint of exoticism. Concert includes music by Dvorak, Robert Sirota and Coplan's sassy El Salon Mexico.
Festival Orchestra Concert with Mei Ann Chen, conductor, June 17-18
It's an all-American program with Jennifer Higdon's Blue Cathedral and Copland's Symphony No. 3 in C Major. Higdon's work is descriptive, filled with rich large sonorities and soulful wind solos evoking an expansive landscape. Higdon writes, "As I was writing this piece, I found myself imagining a journey through a glass cathedral in the sky."
It's a piece of possibilities. Segueing seamlessly into one of Copland's most performed symphonies, the program is coherent and thoughtfully put together.
On June 17, the Festival Orchestra travels to The Woodlands for a free performance at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion. The June 18 concert is at the University of Houston.
Festival Orchestra Grand Finale Concert, July 2
Both the Dvorak Cello Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade were performed recently by the Houston Symphony. If you missed these concerts, or if you need a second dose of these masterful compositions, the final concert of the festival grants you that opportunity.
Scheherazade allows almost everyone in the orchestra to shine. From evocative solos from the oboe, clarinet, flute and bassoon, to technical passages in the brass, it is the solo violin carries the delicious tune that symbolizes the sexy temptress.
See you at the concerts!
Listen to Jennifer HIgdon's Blue Cathedral: