Pasión in the mountains
Music in the Mountains kicks off its 23rd season

SideStory: Of festivals and finances

Music in the Mountains Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa tunes his violin before taking the stage to perform Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence during last year’s Music in the Mountains. This year’s festival begins July 10 and runs through Aug. 2./File photo by David Halterman

by Stew Mosberg

Now entering its 23rd season, Music in the Mountains returns this week. Even after presenting a range of world-class compositions for more than two decades, the festival is putting “Pasión” into this year’s installment and presenting exciting new programs for both music aficionados and students.

Beginning July 10, Music Director/Conductor Guillermo Figueroa will again be at the podium, and Gregory Hustis returns as the festival’s artistic director.

The annual right of passage steps off this Friday with a benefit performance by Sir Angel Romero, the highly acclaimed classical guitarist. Romero, a member of the famed Spanish family of guitar masters, is renowned globally as a soloist and conductor. In 2000, he was presented the Grand Cross of Isabel la Catolica and was knighted Sir Angel Romero for his musical accomplishments. Romero’s opening benefit concert at Moomaw Ranch in Pagosa Springs will be repeated at the Durango Mountain Club at the new Purgatory Lodge on July 12.

The master classical guitarist is not the only world-class performer bringing extraordinary talent into our midst. The highly acclaimed violinists, Phillipe Quint and Vadim Gluzman, will be joined this season by conductor and clarinetist Carl Topilow, plus pianists David Korevaar and Ivonne Figueroa, the sister of Maestro Guillermo Figueroa. In addition, guest conductor Arthur Post, the American Brass Quintet, mezzo-soprano Gemma Coma-Alabert, the Texas singer-songwriter duo of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, and the renowned Eileen Ivers – Celtic queen of the Irish fiddle – will each take to the stage over the next three weeks.

With such an eclectic array of artists, almost every musical taste and predilection will be accommodated. It is Music in the Mountains’ annual gift to the community and “it is the people’s festival,” according to Susan Lander, executive director.

By spreading out the venues between Durango and Pagosa Springs, from private homes and clubs to concert and recital halls, the festival is available to most everyone in the region. And while Durango Mountain Resort is only one of the many venues, the tent at the base area will be the site for 12 of the 40-plus performances. Despite its size, the 550-person tent provides an intimacy that gives listeners the sense of witnessing a private concert.

Arkady Fomin, left, and Jesus Castro-Balbi (along with David Korevaar, not pictured), perform Rachmaninov’s Trio Elegiaque for Violin, Cello and Piano during last year’s festival./File photo by David Halterman

Although it was difficult to uphold, ticket prices have remained the same as last year with donors continuing to have first dibs on tickets and seating. It should be noted that ticket sales account for only a quarter of funding, and the balance of money needed to produce the festival comes from other sources (see sidebar). For the unfortunate few who are unable to score tickets, the festival’s more than 40 generous sponsors are providing 12 free concerts.

Returning for the 13th year, under the direction of Arkady Fomin, is the “Conservatory Music in the Mountains.” The program gives nearly 100 young aspirants the opportunity to study with top-tier musicians. Counting guest soloists and full orchestra instrumentalists the roster this year boasts more than 100 artists.

Director Fomin, a violinist with the Dallas Symphony and a member of the Clavier Trio, a Carnegie Hall regular, has expanded the Conservatory program this season to include a first-rate competition – the “Conservatory for Young Artists Competition.” The winner will be awarded a seat in the orchestra for the “Fiery Finale” on Aug. 2. The season-ending performance will be conducted by Maestro Guillermo Figueroa with accompaniment by pianist David Korevaar. An estimated 100 of the youngsters, from all over the world, include about 20 locals who were given the chance to participate through donations of over $12,000 dollars in scholarship money. In fact, Cloë Trevor, a former graduate of the Conservatory, will be playing violin as a member of the Music in the Mountains orchestra this year.

The season’s program has been titled “Pasión” and reflects the energy and emotionalism conveyed by the paintings of the late Stanton Englehart. One of his paintings was chosen as the image for this season’s programs. It, along with many other quality works of art, will be auctioned at the gala “Pops Night” benefit dinner and concert July 22. That evening’s event will be conducted under the baton of Carl Topilow, the founder and conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, as well as director of the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge. Topilow is known by the cognoscenti as an entertaining and superlative clarinetist.

The “Pasión” line up features a wide variety of music styles, ranging from traditional symphonic classics and chamber ensembles to “Texas Twang” and pop tunes to motion picture scores. Chamber music devotees can enjoy ensembles as well as a full orchestra playing the music of Dvorak, Correlli, Handel and Grieg, among others. It is also worth noting that seven evening programs at DMR, which begin at 7 p.m., have shuttle bus service. Intriguing to all ages will be “Family Festivo,” a program scheduled for July 21 in Durango which has been created to engage children in the musical experience. It will have games, food and performances of “The Little Engine That Could” and “Peter and the Wolf.” On July 23, a Pagosa Springs version of “Family Festivo” will feature “Peter and the Wolf” and “Clifford the Dog.” •

For more information on the July 10-Aug. 2 festival, log onto or call 385-6820. Tickets can also be purchased at the Community Concert Hall box office at 7th St. & Main Avenue or at the festival office at 1063 Main Ave.



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