National Repertory Orchestra presents opening night concert tonight

Aaron Bible
Summit Daily News

The National Repertory Orchestra (NRO) presents its 53rd season opening concert at the Breckenrige Riverwalk Center tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The opening concert kicks off the season with a 17-minute Edward Elgar Variations encompassing 14 musical character sketches.

“The execution is wonderful and the concept ingenious and clever: 12 friends, his wife and Elgar himself are in 14 variations on a simple theme in G minor,” said NRO executive director Douglas Adams.

The opening performance also includes John Williams’ “The Olympic Spirit,” Paul Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphasis,” and Richard Strauss’ “Don Jaun Op. 20.”

With Don Juan, Richard Strauss made history with the first modern tone poem. Everything in the piece is driven by the dramatic phrases of the poem. It is difficult to play and on this first night of the season is both a test and a showcase for the 18- to 28-year-olds comprising the NRO.

For more than 30 years, Carl Topilow has dedicated his summers to the NRO and will once again serve as this season’s music director. Topilow is an internationally recognized educator, conductor and performer. While working for the NRO, he has refined a unique program that has earned a national reputation for providing young musicians with unprecedented quality and variety of music performance experience.

“Although this is my 35th year, I’m always excited about a new season,” Topilow said. “The opportunity to work with talented and motivated young musicians is always inspiring to me, and I look forward to another great summer. Assembling a group of musicians who have never performed together on a Monday and presenting our first concert on the Friday of the same week is an occasion and challenge that I always enjoy.”

The NRO is dedicated to nurturing the future of music by giving young musicians the opportunity to perform at a professional level. “The National Repertory Orchestra attracts the very best collection of young musicians from around the world to be a part of an exclusive professional orchestral experience in beautiful Summit County each summer,” said Adams. “Their professional skills are developed, their musical talents are refined and their performances are treasured as a cultural gem in the Rockies.”

While in Breckenridge, the musicians face challenging repertoires and a rigorous rehearsal schedule. They have the opportunity to make important relationships through master classes with guest conductors. They also develop important life skills on subjects such as financing for musicians, audition preparation, and contract negotiations.

Additionally, because most orchestras are non-profit organizations, the musicians participate in community outreach programs and learn the importance of developing strong, positive relationships with the community. Musicians leave with a career-preparatory experience that often leads to future jobs in orchestras throughout the country.

“The quality of musicianship displayed by the talented young musicians” is what makes the NRO particularly special, said Julie Chandler, director of marketing and development. Before they can get here the musicians face a rigorous audition process and only the most talented from the around the country become a part of the 89-member orchestra. “While here in Breckenridge, they take on challenging repertoire and a demanding schedule. In essence, they play an entire orchestral season with small chamber events compressed into a short eight weeks. It’s amazing,” said Chandler.

This first concert of the NRO is sponsored by Fatty’s Pizzeria, Bob and Nancy Follett and High Country Healthcare.

Tickets for the concert are $25/$30/$35 based on seating location, and $7 for people 18 and under. They may be purchased at the Riverwalk Center Box Office, 150 W. Adams St., Breckenridge, or by calling (970) 547-3100. For more information about the National Repertory Orchestra visit

NRO musicians also have the opportunity to give back to the community by doing special events. This season includes events including the “Free Porch Series” and the “Free Brown Bag Lunch Series.”

Some of the most popular events of the season are the “Patriotic Celebration,” the “Broadway and Beyond” concert featuring the music of John Williams and the “Topilow Pops” concert. Other exciting and varied pieces in their repertoire include works by Copland, Beethoven, Mozart, Hindemith, Stravinsky and more.

“The diplomatic answer as to my favorite piece of music is as follows – it’s the piece that I’m conducting at the moment! However, the Copland Symphony #3 is such a thrilling work that I would have to say that this piece would be the one that I look forward to the most,” Topilow said. “It’s very difficult, and all the string players were sent their parts well before their arrival, since they aren’t available except by rental. But really all of the repertoire is great, and it should be a terrific season.”

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