15th Festival Amadeus to Bring a Blend of Classical, Contemporary Music to Whitefish

Called “Mozart and the Modern,” this year’s weeklong classical music festival begins the night of Aug. 9 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center

By Mike Kordenbrock
On Aug. 8 – 14, the Glacier Symphony and Chorale hosted Festival Amadeus at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. The event is a celebration of classical music inspired by the work of Mozart. Among the highlights was a performance by renowned pianist Misuzu Tanaka. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Festival Amadeus, a weeklong classical music festival in Whitefish is rapidly approaching its 15th anniversary, and festival organizer and Glacier Symphony music director and conductor John Zoltek is hoping this year will offer audiences an interesting juxtaposition of modern and classical sounds.

Festival Amadeus hasn’t abandoned the classical music that has served as its inspiration and foundation, but Zoltek hopes that this year’s series, called “Mozart and the Modern,” will allow the festival to remain true to its classical roots, while also offering audiences a taste of more modern concert music by pairing performances of classical and contemporary music.

“What we want to do is we want to offer some new experiences to people, as well as some traditional experiences,” Zoltek said. “There’s basically a lot for everybody’s taste during the festival.”

The festival will also include a mixture of chamber music concerts involving smaller groups of musicians, as well as orchestral concerts with a larger array of players.

Featured in this year’s festival will be the work of Canadian visiting composers Mark Armanini and Rita Ueda. Among those helping to perform their work are Yun Sung, a master player of the stringed erhu or “Chinese fiddle,” as well as harpist Albertina Chang, narrator Jenny Lu and Kalispell flutist Beth Pirrie.

One of the new additions to this year’s festival are a series of preconcert talks, which will give audiences a chance to hear from the composers themselves when possible, Zoltek, and in some cases soloists, about the works they will be performing. Pre-concert talks for ticketholders begin at 6:30 p.m., and performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Festival performances this year will take place almost entirely at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

The first two nights of the festival are, according to organizers, intended to function as a kind of “West meets East,” lineup that will pair the music of Mozart with contemporary musical compositions with Asian musical influences.

The festival kicks off the night of Tuesday, Aug. 9 with a pairing of performances dubbed “Night Bird and Prague.” Among the pieces being performed is a work by guest composer Rita Ueda called “Let us not be the reason someone out there is praying for peace.”

 “This is a very beautiful work, it commemorates the tragic events of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Zoltek said.

A work by Armanini called “Night Bird Singing for solo erhu and string orchestra,” will also be performed, before the evening is capped off with Mozart’s “Symphony No. 38 in D ‘Prague.’”

The following evening on Aug. 10, a chamber music event called “Cultural Crossings” will include new music by Armanini and Ueda. The featured piece is “Water Dragon Tune,” which the festival describes as “an evocative setting of ancient Chinese nature poems with projections and narrator,” with erhu, flute and harp.

Thursday night’s performance, called “Flute, Harp and the Clock,” will include Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major,” contemporary Polish composer Twardoski’s “Serenade for Strings,” and Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 101 in D.” Also being performed that night is Ueda’s “ice melting … trickling gently,” which Zoltek described as a kind of meditation on the melting of glaciers. 

Also on the night of Thursday, Aug. 11, St. John Paul II Catholic Church in Bigfork will host a chamber night called “Duo Virtuosi,” that will include music composed for the cello and piano by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy and Schumann. The performers that night are Robert deMaine and Peter Takács. Takács is an internationally celebrated pianist who is a piano professor for the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and deMaine is the principal cellist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Duo Virtuosi performance will take place again Friday Aug. 12 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

 The night of Saturday, Aug 13, called “Beethoven’s Piano and Schumann,” will include performances by Takács of Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata Op. 11/10 in D Major” and “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major.” The night will also include a performance of Schumann’s “Symphony No. 4 in d minor.”

The concert will wrap up the night of Sunday, Aug. 14, with a finale event that will include a performance of Zoltek’s concerto for cello and orchestra “Through Tamarack and Pine,” in which the cellist deMaine will be the feature soloist. Concluding the festival will be a performance of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 in c minor.”

More information can be found at glaciersymphony.org.

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