It has been an exciting summer for the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, which so far has played under the talented hands of two guest conductors — Francesco Lecce-Chong and David Danzmayr — both finalists for the position of conductor after maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann stepped down last summer. In August, the festival welcomes its third and final candidate, the acclaimed conductor Rossen Milanov, who will lead the free family concert on Friday, Aug. 8, and an evening of works by American composers on Saturday, Aug. 9.
Milanov is the music director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra and Symphony in C, formerly the Haddonfield Symphony. He is also the principal conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias in Spain. Born in Bulgaria, the 49-year-old conductor has lived in the United States for 24 years. He speaks five languages and travels abroad regularly to collaborate with orchestras, opera companies and ballets worldwide.
“Some of the best works in the repertoire have been created for the stage, not for the concert hall,” Milanov said of his choice to pursue ballet and opera in addition to symphony. “I cherish every opportunity to experience the original symbiosis of music, dance, voice, theater.”
‘The Composer Is Dead’
This interest will serve him well on Friday, Aug. 8, when he conducts the Breckenridge Music Festival’s free family concert, which this year features “The Composer Is Dead,” a murder mystery with music by Nathaniel Stookey, story by Lemony Snicket and narration by Christopher Willard, of the Backstage Theatre. The story takes place in an orchestra and helps introduce children to instruments.
“We always do a family concert, and it fell in his week,” BMF marketing director Olivia Grover said of Milanov’s choice to fill a need for the festival by conducting the family concert. “He loves community service, and he loved the idea, so he jumped on it.”
“Family concerts are those important entry points that open new doors into the world of the music,” Milanov said. “For every person, there is an important event that changes their perception, their point of view, sometimes even their lives. BMF has a true commitment in finding a meaningful role in its quite diverse community, and certainly this type of initiative could bring the core mission of the festival to many diverse audiences. This is one aspect that I admire about the festival’s tradition.”
In addition to the Lemony Snicket piece, Milanov programmed Glinka’s “Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla” and Beethoven’s Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 73 for the family concert. There will also be a performance by the young pianist Elise Solberg, a Schmitt Music Piano Competition winner.
Evening of Americana
For the Saturday, Aug. 9, concert, Milanov presents an evening of classic Americana featuring “the groundbreaking ballet ‘Appalachian Spring,’ by Aaron Copland,” whom he called “one of the most original American composers.” The piece is inspired by the modern dance style of ballerina Martha Graham and closes with the Shaker hymn “’Tis a Gift to be Simple.”
“U.S.A. is certainly a major contributor to the artistic tapestry, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries,” Milanov said of his choice to feature music by American composers. “Having some of the best orchestras in the world right here, some of the most innovative ballet and opera companies and open and accepting audiences have acted as a catalyst for creating many important works that have reflected deeper the American values and sensibilities.”
Joining Milanov for the Saturday, Aug. 9, concert is Iceland-based soprano Dissela Larusdottir, an internationally acclaimed artist who regularly performs at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Larusdottir will sing Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” a piece inspired by a James Agee poem and dedicated to Barber’s ailing father, along with Bernstein’s take on a bel canto aria in “Glitter and be Gay” from “Candide.” Her appearance will be a very special occasion for Breckenridge audiences, Grover said.
Milanov has collaborated with Larusdottir on numerous occasions over the past decade.
“We have premiered new works, explored rarely performed repertoire or tackled the classics,” he said. “She is an exceptional and always probing artist with a rare voice and magnetic stage presence.”
The evening concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, also known as the “Jupiter Symphony.”
“It is exciting to have a music director candidate who places value on the music of our time and of our nation” said Grover, applauding Milanov’s programming choices. “This is music that resonates with all of our audiences, from the sophisticated regular concert attender to kids and families.”
This will be Milanov’s second visit to Breckenridge after performing with the National Repertory Orchestra in 2010. He looks forward to engaging the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra in a spirit of “mutual trust, inspiration, openness and honesty” in order to bring out the best in the musicians.
“After all, we are all on stage for the same reason,” he said, “to give the best possible performance of the composer’s work.”
Erica Marciniec is a paid writer with the Breckenridge Music Festival.
Rossen Milanov is one of the finalists for the position of conductor after maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann steps down.