2016 In Review: 5 Classical Music Stories We’re Still Talking About

December 22, 2016
Photo: Opera Colorado Scarlet Letter
A scene from Opera Colorado's "The Scarlet Letter."

A new conductor got set to lead the state’s biggest orchestra. A world-famous orchestra signed on for summer residencies in the Rocky Mountains. A bold, long-awaited new production took the stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

As 2016 draws to a close, we’re looking back at the year's most notable classical albums, some Colorado classical releases that deserved extra attention and some standout moments from the CPR Performances Studio

And then there were the headlines. Here’s a rundown of five stories that got classical music fans talking in Colorado and elsewhere.

The Colorado Symphony Finds Its Next Maestro 

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Photo: Brett Mitchell conducting Cleveland Orchestra
Brett Mitchell, who will become music director of the Colorado Symphony in 2017, leading the Cleveland Orchestra in concert.

The next music director of the Colorado Symphony is in his mid-30s, comes from the Cleveland Orchestra and fell in love with orchestral music partly because of John Williams’ film scores. Brett Mitchell will lead the symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall for five years beginning in September 2017. He replaces Andrew Litton, who left the symphony to take the helm of the New York City Ballet.

Get to know Mitchell through our in-depth interview, and hear the story behind a new Aaron Copland disc that marks one of Litton’s final triumphs with the orchestra.

Opera Colorado Adapts An American Classic  

Audio: 2016 Retrospective: Jean Inaba on ‘The Scarlet Letter’

It was a production years in the making. Opera Colorado unveiled “The Scarlet Letter,” an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel. It was a lyrical and sorrowful opera, with music from composer Lori Laitman and a libretto by Colorado poet David Mason.

Hear our feature on the making of “The Scarlet Letter” and an interview with Mason.

A Famous Orchestra Joins The Bravo! Vail Roster 

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Image: Joshua Bell with ASMF
Violinist Joshua Bell is music director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.

One of the most recorded orchestras on the planet picked the Vail Valley as its new summer home. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields played the first of three annual, weeklong residencies at Bravo! Vail Music Festival.

Listen to our interview with violinist Joshua Bell, the orchestra’s music director.

A Farewell To Neville Marriner  

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Speaking of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, classical fans around the world said goodbye this year to the orchestra’s founder. Conductor and violinist Sir Neville Marriner launched the Academy in 1958 and went on to make hundreds of records with the group. Their output includes the music for the critically acclaimed 1984 film “Amadeus.” He died in October at age 92.

Read more on Marriner’s legacy.

A Beloved CPR Classical Voice Retires  

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Photo: Charley Samson CPR staff photo
CPR Classical host Charley Samson

Charley Samson began work as a classical radio host in the late 1960s. He stayed in the job for decades, becoming one of the most instantly recognizable voices on the air in Colorado. He’d been with Colorado Public Radio for 22 years when he announced his retirement this summer. Longtime listeners shared their fondest memories of Charley and several local musicians used their talents to honor him during his final broadcast.

Read listeners' memories of Charley, hear his farewell interview and watch footage of two performances from his send-off.