Classical music fans in Colorado get the best of all worlds in the summertime. Gorgeous music and breathtaking scenery come together at summer music festivals around the state. The breadth of locations and music is enough to please anyone who wants to hear great music indoors or out.
In-demand ensembles and performers like Sharon Isbin and Joshua Bell perform at Colorado venues each summer. This year, many festivals around the state honor the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with performances of his signature compositions.
Several festivals across Colorado emphasize education. The next generation of classical musicians work with some of the world’s best professionals and give impressive performances of their own in Aspen, Breckenridge and at other small festivals.
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Check out upcoming festival highlights and where to find them. You can get additional concert details on CPR Classical's events calendar and use our classical summer festival map to help plan your music adventure around Colorado:
AMFS is one of the oldest and most well-renowned festivals in Colorado. Its international reputation brings in stellar performers and alumni. This year, the festival presents more than 400 performances -- including orchestra concerts, chamber music to intimate recitals, fully-staged operas and more. The festival’s school trains hundreds of aspiring professional musicians with the help of prestigious professionals. In 2018 the festival focuses on works by major French composers like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
Highlights: Too many to list. For starters, the 2018 schedule includes the opening night concert with Jupiter String Quartet on June 28, pianist Daniil Trifonov on July 10 and 15, violinist Robert McDuffie on July 28, vocal group Seraphic Fire performing Mozart’s Requiem on Aug. 17, and a number of world premiere performances.
Each summer Bravo! Vail hosts three of the best orchestras in the U.S. -- the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony -- for open-air residencies at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The festival also brings in the London-based Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble, led by world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell. This year the Vail Valley will hear music from stellar performers including pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and violinist Augustin Hadelich as well as small ensembles like the Dover Quartet and vocal group Roomful of Teeth.
Highlights: The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields opens the season with Ludwig van Beethoven’s intimate “Pastoral” Symphony No. 6 on June 21; The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Daniil Trifonov on July 14; and the New York Philharmonic celebrates the Bernstein centenary with a performance of his “Chichester Psalms” with the Colorado Symphony Chorus, and works from George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, on July 21.
The opera house in this small mining town about an hour outside of Denver is a part of the community’s rich history. Central City Opera marks its 86th season in 2018. The four productions scheduled for this summer include works by some of classical music’s and opera’s greatest composers. This year also sees the 40th anniversary run of a work Central City Opera commissioned in 1978: Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor.”
Other highlights: Productions of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” and George Frideric Handel’s one-act “Acis and Galatea.”
With performances at Chautauqua Auditorium and other nearby Boulder venues, Colorado Music Festival presents music from orchestral and chamber ensembles and impressive featured soloists. This year’s schedule includes pianist Yefim Bronfman, Colorado mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung and violinist Augustin Hadelich. The 2018 season, led by Toronto Symphony’s Peter Oundjian, will also see the premiere of new pieces by Timothy Collins and Joan Tower.
Other highlights: An “All-American” concert featuring the works of Copland, Samuel Barber and Philip Glass on July 15; Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 on July 22; and the finale concert with pianist Olga Kern Aug. 4.
This festival gives audiences the opportunity to hear impressive performances, and gives 54 students the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals. Advanced music students in the Colorado College music program work under the direction of Susan Grace, Scott Yoo and Virginia Barron. Audiences can find three weeks of orchestra and chamber concerts from the young musicians in Colorado Springs on the Colorado College campus.
Highlights: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 on June 12, a contemporary music concert featuring the works of Jennifer Higdon and Lou Harrison on June 19 and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 on June 23.
The Breckenridge Music Festival offers eclectic musical offerings every summer on the banks of the Blue River at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center. The schedule includes orchestral and chamber concerts, jazz and live film accompaniment.
Highlights: A concert dedicated to music of the Baroque on July 17; a joint performance of Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” featuring the National Repertory Orchestra, also based in Breckenridge, on July 21; and a concert with music by John Luther Adams, Tan Dun and Beethoven on Aug. 4.
The NRO shares the Riverwalk Center with the Breckenridge Music Festival each summer and immerses aspiring professional musicians in eight weeks of festival performances. Music Director Carl Topilow and festival musicians present masterworks as well as pops concerts. This year the NRO also hosts pianist Orion Weiss and percussionist She-e Wu as featured performers.
Highlights: The opening night concert celebrates Leonard Bernstein with a performance of the music of “West Side Story” on June 9; Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” on July 11; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 on July 18.
This Fort Collins festival highlights the intersection of art and science through music performances, workshops and art exhibitions. This year, festival events focus on the theme of climate change, including a world premiere from Artistic Director Bruce Adolphe.
Highlights: An American-themed program with an extra piece by Edvard Grieg on July 14; and a program from the Miami String Quartet featuring the works of Joseph Haydn, Max Bruch and Johannes Brahms on July 16.
Image Courtesy of Colorado Symphony
OK, this is technically not a festival. But Colorado’s biggest professional orchestra has a busy schedule worth paying attention to each summer. The lineup this year includes big performances at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. There are classical concerts -- like the exciting solo appearance from Yo-Yo Ma the orchestra is presenting-- as well as shows where the orchestra supports musicians like Seal, Corrine Bailey Rae and Sarah McLachlan.
Highlights: A performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with recent CPR Performance Studio visitor Natasha Paremski at Red Rocks May 31; and a "Mozart Under Moonlight" concert at the Arvada Center on July 6.
Steamboat Springs plays host to this festival, which presents a variety of performances. The classical lineup incorporates orchestral and chamber music as well as small recitals. Strings also hosts big names like David Crosby and indie performers like Andrew Bird and Amos Lee.
Highlights: Pianist Alpin Hong performs music by Frederic Chopin on July 14; a concert focuses on Joseph Haydn and his students on July 21; and Colorado Symphony Music Director Brett Mitchell conducts the festival finale of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony on Aug. 4.
There’s a wide breadth of family-friendly concerts as well as orchestral and chamber performances for attendees of this Durango-based festival. Young musicians in southwestern Colorado also have the opportunity to study music through the festival conservatory.
Highlights: Performances by pianist Aviram Reichert, the Julius Quartet and violinist Sirena Huang.
The Crested Butte Music Festival offers a diverse lineup of performances, both indoors and out. From chamber and symphonic music to opera, jazz, world and folk concerts, this festival offers great music in gorgeous surroundings.
Highlights: The Altius String Quartet performs Franz Schubert on July 27; Verdi’s final opera “Falstaff” runs July 19-21; and a concert dedicated to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western film scores on Aug. 8.
The Flatirons Chamber Music Festival returns to Boulder for its second season this summer. The festival expands this year to include a Young Artists Program and continues to focus on interactive experiences with audiences.
Highlights: Chamber music programs include music by Ravel, Schumann, Arnold Schoenberg and composer-in-residence Benjamin Park.
Based in Steamboat Springs, Opera Steamboat presents a diverse collection of opera performances, from contemporary works to the classics. Up-and-coming opera singers can also attend their Opera Artist Institute for master classes and training.
Highlights: Productions of "Don Giovanni" by Mozart, "The Cunning Little Vixen" by Leoš Janáček and "The Proposal" by Milton Granger.
This intimate three-day weekend festival celebrates its 45th season this summer. The event brings small-ensemble classical performances to the mountain town.
Highlights: Chamber music programs include music by Johannes Brahms, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and Mozart.
Celebrating 35 years, this week-long festival hosts concerts along the Western Slope in Montrose, Ridgway and Ouray. The relaxed, intimate concerts include chamber music and a free children’s concert.
Highlights: An opening concert at the Ouray County 4-H Event Center in Ridgway on Aug. 16; a 35th anniversary celebration concert at the Wright Opera House in Ouray on Aug. 18; a children’s concert August 20.
There’s an intimate feel to this small festival in Chaffee County. It hosts musicians from the Aspen Music Festival and School for six weeks of performances in Salida through July and August.
Highlights: Pianist Orli Shaham performs July 7; a performance from Aspen regulars the American Brass Quintet on July 14; Leonard Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti” on Aug. 4.
Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park offers music instruction to students along the Front Range. Their summer “Music in the Mountains” series features solo and chamber music performances by students and faculty.
This summer marks the 20th season for this chamber music festival that hosts performances in Dillon, Silverthorne and Keystone each July and August. Festival goers can expect small-ensemble music and beautiful mountain scenery.
Did we miss your favorite classical festival in Colorado? Let us know in the comments section below.