Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra and National Repertory Orchestra join forces |

Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra and National Repertory Orchestra join forces

Amy Skjerseth
Special to the Daily
The brass section of the National Repertory Orchestra stands after a brass feature at the "Topilow Pops" concert on Friday, July 19. The NRO will join forces with the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra for a concert on Friday, July 26, at the Riverwalk Center.
Photo: John O Connor / National Repertory Orchestra |

If you go

What: The National Repertory Orchestra and Breckenridge Music Festival present a joint concert led by Carl Topilow, NRO music director, and Gerhardt Zimmermann, BMF music director, and featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (Finale only), Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” and Kodaly’s “Hary Janos: Suite”

Where: Breckenridge Riverwalk Center

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $25 to $40, depending on seating

More information: For ticket information and purchase, call the Riverwalk Center Box Office at (970) 547-3100 or visit

The National Repertory Orchestra will present its annual joint concert with the Breckenridge Music Festival on Saturday, July 27, at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center.

Carl Topilow, music director of the National Repertory Orchestra, and Gerhardt Zimmermann, Breckenridge Music Festival music director, will jointly conduct the performance. Works to be performed at this concert include Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in A Minor (IV. Finale), Richard Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” and Zoltan Kodaly’s “Hary Janos: Suite.”

The National Repertory Orchestra is considered one of the country’s finest summer festival programs, and its alumni perform with virtually every major and regional orchestra in the United States and in orchestras worldwide. The Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, a chamber orchestra of 45 to 50 players, presents a five-week Summer Festival program at the Riverwalk Center for five weeks in July and August.

Orchestras unite

The joint concert between the National Repertory Orchestra and Breckenridge Music Festival came about because of longtime supporter Jack Thomas, who, with his wife, Pat Thomas, has season tickets to both orchestras. They have lived in Breckenridge for nearly 11 years. Since moving here, Jack Thomas has been involved with both orchestras and felt it would be a great opportunity to have the orchestras play together.

“I was on the board of Breckenridge Music Festival and approached them and said, ‘Would it be possible to do a joint concert?’ and they said, ‘Great idea!’” Jack Thomas said. “So I went to the National Repertory Orchestra and said that I would help financially to support the project. It’s a great opportunity — when you have two orchestras in town, I think it’s nice to have them play together. And, they usually get to play great repertoire.

“The Breckenridge Music Festival, as a chamber orchestra, can’t do some of the things that the National Repertory Orchestra, a larger orchestra, can do. When you put the two together, there is a broader selection of music with both, and we always end up with a great program and fill the house. It’s something my wife and I really like to support.”

The music

Zimmerman will open the joint concert with the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. This symphony is often referred to as the “tragic” symphony and is also well known for the three “hammer blows” that occur near the end of the fourth movement. Alma Schindler, Mahler’s wife, quotes her husband as saying that these were three mighty blows of fate befallen by the hero, “the third of which fells him like a tree.” Though the symphony lives up to its nickname as being extremely tragic, the last movement also contains glorious and soaring moments in the music that attest to the bittersweet nature of life.

After a brief intermission, Topilow will lead both orchestras in the wild ride that is Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.” The 15-minute tone poem introduces the audience to Till, a German peasant folk hero and prankster. Both the horn and the D (normally played on E-flat) clarinet play themes that represent Till. The horn plays a difficult ascending theme, high in its range, until it ends in three long, low notes. Crafty and wheedling, the clarinet theme depicts Till’s trickster side.

The concert closes with Kodaly’s “Hary Janos: Suite,” which is from a “Hungarian Folk Opera.” The suite tells the story of a veteran horseman in the Austrian army in the first half of the 19th century. Kodaly wrote in his preface to the score: “Hary is a peasant, a veteran soldier who day after day sits at the tavern spinning yarns about his heroic exploits. … The stories released by his imagination are an inextricable mixture of realism and naivety, of comic humor and pathos.”

Amy Skjerseth is the marketing and public relations intern with the National Repertory Orchestra.

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