The Hills are Alive – with the Sound of Mozart

Festival Amadeus is back and bigger than ever

By Xavier Flory

On Aug. 3, the 2014 Festival Amadeus kicks off a weeklong feast of classical music with a free concert in Kalispell’s Depot Park featuring the Festival Amadeus Orchestra.

This year’s festival will bring an unprecedented variety of music and performers to the Flathead and has expanded to include three concerts in Bigfork as well as the customary performances at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

At the heart of the festival is maestro John Zoltek, who will lead the Festival Amadeus Orchestra in some of the great symphonic works as well as in collaborations with violinist Kinga Augustyn, and pianists Spencer Myer and Tanya Gabrielian. When the orchestra isn’t playing, the Fry Street Quartet will provide a more intimate sound in the works of Bartok, Beethoven and Mozart.

The festival program is heavy on the most renowned luminaries of the Classical and Romantic periods, but will strike the balance between the familiar and the unheard. Gabrielian will perform Mozart’s iconic 21st piano concerto; there will also be room for Mozart’s fifth violin concerto and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” But these works will be interspersed with Beethoven’s relatively obscure 8th symphony and works by lesser-known composers, such as the Belgian Eugene Ysaye.

The guest soloists will also bring their own temperaments and repertoires to the festival.  Augustyn tries to promote her native Poland through her performances and will be playing several pieces by Polish composers, including Shimanovsky’s “Fountain Aretusa.” The piece features many violin pyrotechnics that she is confident will be novel for the audience.

“I like to introduce people to something new, but I think they will also find Shimanovsky beautiful,” she said.

A violinist of great verve, Augustyn counts the “over-heated intensity” of Jascha Heifetz’s playing as one of her earliest inspirations, but today she shies away from listening to recordings of the pieces she’s working on in order to preserve the originality of her interpretations.

The challenge for the visiting musicians is the timing. Gabrielian arrives in Montana on the same day she performs and will only have time for a quick rehearsal with the orchestra before she has to get on stage and play Mozart’s “Elvira Madigan” concerto. Although it’s difficult to come to a common musical vision of the piece in one rehearsal, Gabrielian says she’s excited to play with the Glacier Symphony, because “you feel the connection more with a smaller orchestra.”

Gabrielian has concerts in Louisiana, Connecticut and New Jersey in the week leading up to the Festival, but she says coming to Montana will be unique because instead of staying at a hotel, she will get a “real feel for the place” by staying with a local family. She’s also eager to collaborate with members of the orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Wind Quintet in Eb major, which is one of her favorite pieces.

Despite the international talent on display, the festival will retain its local feel through the talented members of the Glacier Symphony, led my concertmaster Sally Jerde, who also teaches violin and viola at the North Valley Music School.

Maestro Zoltek has been directing the Glacier Symphony and Chorale since 1996 and is the principal architect of the Festival Amadeus, which he helped found in 2008. A distinguished composer as well as a conductor, Zoltek will watch Augustyn perform the U.S. premiere of his work, “Rustic Suite,” during Augustyn and Spencer’s recital on August 7.

With works from the 18th century Austrian composer Mozart to the 21st century Flathead local Zoltek, Festival Amadeus blends the new and the old, the far-flung and the local. For classical music novices and connoisseurs alike, it promises to be a memorable spectacle.

For more information, including dates, and to buy tickets, visit www.gscmusic.org/festival-amadeus.