Wrapping up week three of its 2021 60th anniversary season, the Grand Teton Music Festival welcomes back guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya to lead the Festival Orchestra in an international program evoking Brazil, Italy and old Hungary, with a characteristically charming work by Mozart, his Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major, with solos by members of our home orchestra, Angela Jones-Reus and Elisabeth Remy Johnson.
Tickets for both weekend concerts are sold out — the festival continues to operate under health department-prescribed capacity limits — but orchestra-starved music lovers can sign up for the wait list for Friday or Saturday at GTMF.org.
The orchestral program opens with Clarice Assad’s “Bonecos de Olinda,” a 2019 overture commissioned by the Boston Youth Philharmonic Symphony that evokes carnival festivities.
“Though not in Rio,” said Harth-Bedoya, which is where most imaginations go when they think of the Brazilian pre-Lenten bacchanal. In Olinda, Brazil, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, parades and celebrations feature life-size or bigger puppets. “You’ll see them wiggle along, kind of like drunk people.”
The short, “deftly lighthearted” work is full of the kinds of complex rhythms Brazilian music is known for — rhythms from the unwritten folk tradition that were not always easy to translate into Western notation.
“I’m from Peru,” the conductor said, “the neighboring country to Brazil. … But that doesn’t make me an expert, I have to study [Assad’s music] equally as hard as Beethoven or Tchaikovsky or Ligeti.”
Speaking of Tchaikovsky, the great Russian romantic “Capriccio italien” closes the weekend programs with the composer’s musical impressions of a visit to the Mediterranean country.
“This the best he could do remembering the sounds,” Harth-Bedoya said.
Kodaly’s “Dances of Galanta,” on the other hand, evoke characteristics of the composer’s childhood home in what used to be part of Hungary, but is now part of Slovenia.
“I love Kodaly very, very much,” Harth-Bedoya said. “I just find his music says something to me,” and, he added, it went will with the other geographically inspired pieces.
Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp, composed in 1778 in Paris, evokes not a specific place but has a strong sense of its time, the early classical period. The piece was commissioned by a French duke, a flutist, to play with his daughter, a harpist and a composition student of Mozart’s (though not a very good one, the teacher once said).
Mozart tailored his concerto to the pair’s skills, which were not inconsiderable, though by today’s standards may be considered mostly adequate. Of course the instruments they played on were quite different from what modern flutists and harpists use.
“The harp Mozart would have been composing for would have looked similar” to today’s instrument, “but it would have been smaller,” said harpist Johnson, principal harpist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra who is in Jackson Hole for her sixth Grand Teton Music Festival. “It had the same pedals, but they wouldn’t have moved into as many positions … which is why he wrote in C major.”
The flute, too, was somewhat simpler, transitioning at the time from an instrument capable of playing in four keys to six keys.
“So it was very limited in a lot of things you could do,” said Jones-Reus, a 15-year Music Festival veteran who is professor of flute at the University of Georgia.
Nevertheless, both soloists said, the master composers delivered a typically masterful work, full of melody and plenty of fun for the two featured instruments.
Some of the challenges of the piece, Jones-Reus said, including getting the two distinct solo voices to work together.
“We are playing with instruments that speaks differently,” said Jones-Reus, who like Johnson has performed this concerto plenty of times, but never together. “The harp is a plucked instrument, with its own acoustic properties,” while the flute expresses itself in a different way, with slurs and legato. “So having these two properties meet, playing these brilliant passages together, takes matching the colors and styles of articulation.”
Go to GTMF.org to get on the wait list for tickets for this weekend’s “Mozart and Tchaikovsky” program, and check out upcoming weekend orchestral nights and grab tickets while you can. ￼