The Colorado Classical Music Fan’s 2015 Guide To Summer Festivals

Photo: Bravo Vail audience concert wide
A Bravo! Vail performance.

The Centennial State is home to more than a dozen classical music festivals that draw listeners to the mountains each summer.

Stellar musicians flock to the Roaring Fork Valley to give intimate recitals and perform with the Aspen Music Festival orchestra. Top symphonies like the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra set up shop in the Vail Valley. And the next generation of classical musicians learn their craft in Breckenridge, Aspen, Estes Park and Durango.

Here's a rundown of the state’s classical festivals this summer. Hear live concerts on CPR Classical as part of the SummerFest live broadcast series and plan your next musical getaway using our summer classical festival map:

Aspen Music Festival and School

July 2-Aug. 23

Photo: Aspen Music Festival outside tent
Outside the tent at an Apsen Music Festival and School concert.

Since 1949, the festival has been a destination for some of the world’s top classical musicians. They come to the Roaring Fork Valley to play more than 300 concerts and events staged by the festival, but also to hike and relax with their families. The festival also runs a school that allows young musicians to study key classical pieces and work under Music Director Robert Spano and other major classical performers.

Highlights: Performances by Emerson String Quartet, violinist Joshua Bell, bassist Edgar Meyer, violinist Sarah Chang and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Featured on CPR Classical’s SummerFest live broadcast series: Six concerts from Aspen will air, beginning with cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han opening the festival on July 2 and ending with the season’s final concert on Aug. 23. More

Bravo! Vail

July 1-Aug. 6

Photo: Bravo Vail audience watches Dallas Symphony
The Dallas Symphony performs at Bravo! Vail.

Founded in 1987, Bravo! Vail bills itself as the summer home of three major U.S. orchestras: The New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony. Artistic Director and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott also curates concerts by impressive chamber music groups and soloists.

Highlights: Pianist Garrick Ohlsson, vocal group Roomful of Teeth, violinist Midori, and a concert featuring siblings Joshua Weilerstein, conductor, and Alisa Weilerstein, cellist.

Featured on CPR Classical’s SummerFest live broadcast series: Philadelphia Orchestra performs July 12; New York Philharmonic plays July 26. More

Central City Opera

July 11-Aug. 9

Photo: Central City Opera House exterior
The Central City Opera House

One of the oldest opera festivals in America, the organization stages productions in a rustic theatre located in a historic mining town less than an hour from Denver. Central City Opera seasons typically include standard opera fare as well as contemporary musicals.

Highlights: Verdi’s “La Traviata;” Benjamin Britten’s “The Prodigal Son,” Dale Wasserman’s Tony-winning “Man of La Mancha;” and “Don Quixote and the Duchess” by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.

Featured on CPR Classical’s SummerFest live broadcast series: Opening night of “La Traviata” airs July 11. More

Colorado Music Festival

June 26-Aug. 9

Photo: Colorado Music Festival Chautauqua Auditorium
Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder

Based at Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium at the foot of the Flatirons, the festival welcomes new Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni this year. He's only the third music director since the festival started in 1976. Concert programs feature a mix of festival orchestra concerts, chamber music nights and recitals.

Highlights: A recital by pianist Olga Kern on July 3; a musical mashup of music by composer Bela Bartok and Icelandic singer Bjork on July 7; and cellists Bjorn Ranheim and Guy Fishman tackling the complete Bach cello suites on July 14 as part of a “Cellobration.”

Featured on CPR Classical’s SummerFest live broadcast series: A recording of the festival’s opening night, featuring Debussy’s “La Mer” and Ravel’s “Sheherazade” will air July 15. More

Colorado College Summer Music Festival

June 7-27

Led by Music Director Susan Grace and conductor Scott Yoo, the festival presents orchestra and chamber music performances at the Colorado College campus in Colorado Springs.

Highlights: Pianist Orion Weiss; several festival orchestra performances

Featured on CPR Classical’s SummerFest live broadcast series: A festival orchestra concert airs live June 16. More

Breckenridge Music Festival

June 1-Aug. 15

Founded in 1980, the festival presents classical and jazz performers each summer at the ski town. The schedule includes festival orchestra concerts, intimate home recitals and chamber music nights at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center. The festival also hosts a school for elementary-through-high school students as well as adult musicians.

Highlights: Contemporary classical trio Time for Three, pianist William Wolfram and several festival orchestra concerts conducted by new Artistic Advisor David Danzmayr.

National Repertory Orchestra

June 5-July 31

Photo: Inside Breckenridge Riverwalk Center
A National Repertory Orchestra concert at Breckenridge Riverwalk Center.

Founded in 1960, the NRO helps expose young musicians to a large range of classical music as they prepare for their careers. Music Director Carl Topilow leads eight weeks of concerts at Breckenridge’s Riverwalk Center along the Blue River.

Highlights: Classical guitarist Jason Vieaux; conductor Michael Stern leading the festival orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Off the Hook Chamber Music Festival

June 15-29

The series of small-ensemble performances in Fort Collins features pianist Bruce Adolphe and other talented chamber performers. The festival also gathers several prominent neuroscientists for discussions about music's positive effects on the brain.

Highlights: The lineup includes several performances by Adolphe and the Miami String Quartet.

Colorado Symphony's Summer Season

June 17-Aug. 15

Photo: DeVotchKa at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony, 2012
DeVotchKa at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony in 2012.

Photo: DeVotchKa at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony, 2012It's not exactly a summer music festival, but the Colorado Symphony's musicians stay busy during the off season with some fun and unusual concerts in the Denver metro area. The schedule includes several collaborations with pop groups and a family-friendly Fourth of July concert at Fiddler's Green.

Highlights: Indie pop favorites Belle and Sebastian play at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with symphony musicians on June 17; the Arvada Center hosts a "Mozart Under Moonlight" concert July 10; and an "Inspired by Nature" family concert is set for July 26 at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver.

Salida Aspen Concerts

July 11-Aug. 13

Salida sits about three hours southwest of Denver along the Arkansas River. The festival presents concerts by selected performers also appearing at the Aspen Music Festival. Performances take place at Salida High School’s auditorium.

Highlights: Piano duo Orion Weiss and Shai Wosner, pianist Anton Nel and bassist Edgar Meyer.

Strings Music Festival

June 20-Aug. 12

Photo: Wynton Marsalis Strings Music Festival Steamboat
Wynton Marsalis performs at the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs.

Held in Steamboat Springs, Strings Music Festival presents classical music as well as jazz and country performers. New Music Director Michael Sachs, principal trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra for 26 years, takes the reins this summer.

Highlights: The Ariel String Quartet, pianist Olga Kern and performances by the Strings Festival Orchestra.

Music in the Mountains

July 12-Aug. 2

The Durango-based festival offers classical concerts and instruction for younger musicians in the southwest corner of Colorado. Conductor and Music Director Guillermo Figueroa leads the festival’s orchestra.

Highlights: Los Angeles Cello Quartet, pianist David Korevaar and world music act Todo Mundo

Crested Butte Music Festival

June 25-Aug. 9

Photo: Crested Butte at night

The festival presents more than 50 concerts and related events with Mt. Crested Butte as a backdrop. The focus is on chamber music and opera, with a handful of jazz, world and folk concerts on the schedule.

Highlights: JACK Quartet, Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and the American String Quartet

Emerald City Opera

AUG. 6-16

Based in Steamboat Springs, ECO presents concerts featuring favorite opera arias as well as fully staged productions. The festival also offers training for up-and-coming opera singers.

Highlights: Productions of "Candide" by Leonard Bernstein, "The Child and the Spells" by Maurice Ravel and "Bon Appetit" by Lee Hoiby.

Telluride Chamber Music Festival

Aug. 6-16

Founded in 1973, the 11-day festival brings small-ensemble classical performances to this Western Colorado ski town.

Highlights: The six scheduled concerts feature intimate performances at Telluride’s opera house, a park and a local church.

Rocky Ridge Music Center

June 7-Sept. 6

Founded in 1942, Rocky Ridge Music Center offers music instruction to students in Estes Park. There's also a series of faculty recitals featuring solo and chamber music performances.

Highlights: Violinist William Terwilliger and and pianist Andrew Cooperstock perform together as Opus Two on June 28; string-quartet-in-residence Euclid Quartet performs several concerts from June 28 to July 19.

Did we miss your favorite classical festival in Colorado? Let us know in the comments section below.