Sun Valley Music Festival

Sun Valley Music Festival Announces 2020 Summer Season

Nation’s largest admission-free, privately supported festival of classical music presents 36th Summer Season from July 27 to August 19 in Sun Valley, Idaho


Sun Valley, ID -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/24/2020 --Highlights include:

- Performances by guest artists Leila Josefowicz, Daniil Trifonov, Orion Weiss, and string trio Time for Three
- Triple concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, a Festival co-commission with Florida Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony
- Series celebrating 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO — Festival Music Director Alasdair Neale and Executive Director Derek Dean today announced the summer programming for the 36th annual Sun Valley Music Festival, which takes place from July 27 to August 19 in the scenic, Rocky Mountain resort city of Sun Valley, Idaho. Since 1985, the Festival has brought together world-class musicians from distinguished orchestras across North America to perform three weeks of free chamber and orchestral concerts each summer. This season's lineup includes a special "Beethoven @ 250" series; concerts featuring guest artists Leila Josefowicz, Daniil Trifonov, Orion Weiss, and string trio Time for Three; and—performed by the latter—a triple concerto by Kevin Puts, a Festival co-commission with the Florida Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. All Festival performances take place at the state-of-the-art Sun Valley Pavilion amphitheater at 6:30 p.m., except where specified otherwise.

Music Director Alasdair Neale said:

"I'm looking forward to this summer's Festival for so many reasons: the celebration of Beethoven's 250th birthday, for one; the return of Time for Three, for another. Then there's Daniil Trifonov, the sensational pianist who's electrified the world's great concert halls whilst still in his twenties. But most of all I'm looking forward to making music again in the unmatched setting of the Sun Valley Pavilion with my dear friends and colleagues from top orchestras around the country. So many of them—like me—cannot resist the siren song of Sun Valley and the pleasure of performing for our devoted and appreciative audiences each summer!"

Executive Director Derek Dean said:
"After celebrating our 35th anniversary last year—as well as our wonderful Music Director's 25th season with the Festival—we are thrilled to be embarking this summer on our next chapter as the nation's premier festival of free classical music. It is a joy to come together each year with the Sun Valley community, as well as old friends and new faces from all over the country, and share in our mutual love of music amidst the backdrop of quaking aspens and staggering views of the surrounding peaks."

The Sun Valley Music Festival is the largest admission-free, privately supported festival of classical music in the United States. The Festival Orchestra comprises more than 100 musicians from leading ensembles in North America, with more than ten each from the San Francisco and St. Louis Symphonies. Orchestra members hail from more than 45 different ensembles and institutions, including the Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Toronto Symphonies; the Cleveland, Louisville, and Minnesota Orchestras; and the Chicago Lyric, Dallas, Houston Grand, and Washington National Opera Orchestras; among many other ensembles. Most musicians stay with host families for the duration of the festival, often forming strong bonds with the Sun Valley community and returning to perform at the festival each year. Orchestra members and guest artists are also active in the educational work of the Festival's Music Institute, which offers a wide range of free music education programs to students of all skill levels and age ranges—from beginners in elementary school to advanced college undergraduates.

A complete list of 2020 Summer Season performances and events can be found at the end of this announcement.

The 2020 Sun Valley Music Festival opens with a series of events commemorating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Titled "Beethoven @ 250," this special celebration encompasses orchestral performances, chamber music recitals, and guest lectures by author, composer, and noted Beethoven scholar Jan Swafford, whose 2014 book "Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph" was selected as Editor's Choice in The "New York Times'" Book Review. Beethoven-themed events and performances take place throughout the Festival's opening week, both in the morning (10:30 a.m.) at The Community Library and in the evening (6:30 p.m.) at the Sun Valley Pavilion.

Conducted by Alasdair Neale, the opening night performance includes Beethoven's Overture to "The Creatures of Prometheus" and Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"), featuring Orion Weiss. Early in his career, Mr. Weiss won the Gilmore Young Artist Award and an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and he has gone on to perform with such leading orchestras as the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics and the Boston and Chicago Symphonies. He has also earned acclaim as a solo recitalist and chamber music performer, and appears as both later in the week.

Evening performances continue with Beethoven's two Romances for Violin and Orchestra, featuring Assistant Concertmaster Juliana Athayde (Concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra) and led by Associate Conductor Sameer Patel, and Symphony No. 2, conducted by Mr. Neale, on Tuesday, July 28; Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57 ("Appassionata"), performed by Orion Weiss, and Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, performed by Mr. Weiss, Festival Orchestra violinist Kristin Ahlstrom (Associate Principal Second Violin at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra), and Principal Cellist Amos Yang (Assistant Principal Cello at the San Francisco Symphony), on Thursday, July 30; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"), conducted by Mr. Neale, on Friday, July 31.

The morning events comprise a recital of Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 4, performed by Amos Yang and orchestra pianist Peter Henderson (Associate Professor of Music and Artist-in-Residence at Maryville University), and Piano Sonata No. 4 ("Grand Sonata"), performed by Mr. Henderson, on Tuesday, July 28; Cello Sonata No. 3, performed by the same duo on Wednesday, July 29, following a Beethoven lecture by Jan Swafford; a solo recital of Piano Sonatas No. 21, Op. 53 ("Waldstein") and No. 30, Op. 109, performed by Mr. Henderson on Thursday, July 30; and—in anticipation of the evening performance on Friday, July 31—a lecture that morning by Mr. Swafford on the "Eroica" Symphony.

Following the initial week of Beethoven, there is an additional "Beethoven @ 250" concert at Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood on Monday, August 10. The recital is a performance of Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 97 ("Archduke"), performed by concertmaster Jeremy Constant (Assistant Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony), Amos Yang, and Peter Henderson.

The 2020 Summer Season showcases Festival guest artists in a selection of concertos that tracks the development of the genre from Beethoven to the present day.

On Tuesday, August 4, the week after Orion Weiss's performance of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto, Alasdair Neale and the orchestra are joined by Daniil Trifonov in Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1. Mr. Trifonov has been described by the London "Times" as "without question the most astounding pianist of our age," and his many awards and honors include a Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo and both First Prize and Grand Prix at the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

From the Romanticism of Brahms, the festival turns to the Modernism of Stravinsky, when Leila Josefowicz performs the Russian composer's Violin Concerto on Sunday, August 9. An Avery Fisher Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow who has emerged as one of today's leading champions of contemporary works for the violin, Ms. Josefowicz has performed Stravinsky's Violin Concerto with top orchestras around the world, including most recently with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last month. Her performance of the work at the 2017 BBC Proms was broadcast by and praised by Strings magazine as "forward-moving and exhilarating." The Festival program also includes Stravinsky's "Scherzo à la Russe," conducted by Sameer Patel, and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Fantasy-Overture, conducted by Alasdair Neale.

The centerpiece of the program on Saturday, August 15 is a concerto from our own time, newly composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Kevin Puts. A co-commission of the Sun Valley Music Festival, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Florida Orchestra, the work is a triple concerto for the genre-defying string trio Time for Three, which was in residence at the festival from 2015 to 2017. The group has appeared solo and with orchestras across the United States and Europe, including in premieres of new concertos by American William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, and Jennifer Higdon. Mr. Puts's concerto is conducted by Alasdair Neale, who also leads a performance of the "Armed Forces Medley" in honor of local servicemembers—an annual Festival tradition. Further reflecting the American theme, Sameer Patel conducts Copland's Suite from "Billy the Kid."

The 2020 Summer Season offers orchestral programs encompassing a wide repertoire. Some programs juxtapose the old and the new, as on Thursday, August 6, when Alasdair Neale and the orchestra pair Jennifer Higdon's "blue cathedral" with Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances." On Tuesday, August 11, they pair Missy Mazzoli's "These Worlds in Us" with Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3.

Programs also include Mr. Neale conducting Debussy's "La Mer" alongside Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, featuring Principal Clarinet Jason Shafer (Principal Clarinet at the Colorado Symphony), on Friday, August 14; Amarillo Symphony Music Director Jacomo Bairos conducting a pops concert with contemporary Mexican ensemble The Villalobos Brothers on Sunday, August 16 (followed by a post-concert lawn party); a chamber performance by orchestra brass musicians on Tuesday, August 18; and—to close the season—Mr. Neale conducting Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" on Wednesday, August 19.

In addition to its lineup of all admission-free concerts, the Sun Valley Music Festival offers year-round and summer music education programs through the Festival's Music Institute. In furtherance of its mission to provide the widest possible access to music education, all of the Music Institute's education programs are provided tuition-free.

The year-round programs provide string, piano, and voice students of all skill levels—from elementary through high school—with training that goes beyond the fundamentals and embraces the totality of what it means to be a successful musician. Students from within Blaine County School District, as well as those from area independent schools, are eligible to benefit from these unique programs.

Participants in the Institute's summer programs range from second graders to advanced college undergraduates, who travel from across the country to hone their skills, develop their artistic sensibilities, and make music (and new friends) in the Festival's unique environment.

This year, programs for students in grades 2–12 are offered from Monday, August 3 to Friday, August 7, and include instruction for most orchestral instruments as well as piano and voice. Students are placed in ensembles based on their age, instrument, and ability, with solo and ensemble performances taking place throughout the week. Culminating concerts take place on Friday at the Sun Valley Pavilion.

The Advanced Chamber Program takes place from Monday, July 27 to Saturday, August 8, and is geared towards experienced students who are committed to serious study in their discipline. Students work directly with Festival musicians, conductors, and guest artists and attend orchestra rehearsals.

On Saturday, August 8, students of the Music Institute's Advanced Chamber Program are featured in a special family concert titled "The American West," in which the students perform selections from Copland's "Rodeo." The program also includes the Festival Orchestra performing Rossini's Overture to "William Tell," selections from Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite," Elmer Bernstein's Suite from "The Magnificent Seven," an arrangement of "Home on the Range," and Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me" from "Toy Story." Alasdair Neale and Sameer Patel both conduct.

Registration for the Music Institute's summer programs is now open on the Festival web site:

About the Sun Valley Music Festival
The Sun Valley Music Festival was founded by Carl and Julianne Eberl in 1985 on a mission to inspire the Sun Valley, Idaho community and instill a lifelong love of classical music through admission-free concerts and tuition-free educational programming. The Festival Orchestra has grown from 20 members at its founding, to now more than 100 musicians from North America's most distinguished ensembles, making it the largest, privately funded orchestra devoted exclusively to free performances. The Festival presents its three-week Summer Season every July and August and has hosted a variety of internationally renowned guest artists, including Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Gautier Capuçon, Midori, Frederica von Stade, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Since 2008, the Festival's summer performances have taken place at the R.E. Holding Sun Valley Pavilion. Each February, the Festival also presents a Winter Season at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum, Idaho.

Through the Music Institute, the Festival strives to introduce every Wood River Valley student to the joys of classical music, to inspire the next generation of music lovers. Its year-round and summer programs provide tuition-free instruction for string, piano, and voice students of all skill levels—from elementary through high school—that goes beyond the fundamentals and embraces the entire musician.

For more information, visit

About Music Director Alasdair Neale
Alasdair Neale is now in his 26th year as Music Director of the Sun Valley Music Festival. Through his artistry, vision, and commitment to the Sun Valley community, he has taken the Festival to new artistic heights and brought in such acclaimed guest artists as Emanuel Ax, Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Yuja Wang, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Mr. Neale has also served as the Music Director of the Marin Symphony since 2001, and is the 11th Music Director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, beginning with the 2019–20 season. He has guest-conducted numerous orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic; the Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Sydney, and Toronto Symphonies; the Royal Scottish National and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras; and the Orchestre Métropolitain, among many others. In March 2002, he collaborated with director Peter Sellars and composer John Adams to open the Adelaide Festival with a production of the oratorio "El Niño."

Mr. Neale holds a Bachelor's degree from Cambridge University and a Master's from Yale University, where his principal teacher was Otto-Werner Mueller. He lives in San Francisco.

For more information, visit


Monday, July 27 – Wednesday, August 19, 2020
R.E. Holding Sun Valley Pavilion (300 Dollar Road — Sun Valley, Idaho 83353)
(All events take place at the Pavilion unless noted otherwise.)

Alasdair Neale, Music Director
Sameer Patel, Associate Conductor
Sun Valley Music Festival Orchestra

Monday, July 27, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Orion Weiss, Piano

Smith/The Star-Spangled Banner
Beethoven/Overture to Creatures of Prometheus
Beethoven/Piano Concerto No 5, "Emperor"

CHAMBER MUSIC – Beethoven @ 250
Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 10:30 a.m.
The Community Library

Amos Yang, Cello
Peter Henderson, Piano

Beethoven/Piano Sonata No. 4
Beethoven/Cello Sonata No. 4

Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Sameer Patel, Conductor
Juliana Athayde, Violin

Beethoven/Romance No. 1
Beethoven/Romance No. 2
Beethoven/Symphony No. 2

CHAMBER MUSIC & LECTURE – Beethoven @ 250
Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 10:30 a.m.
The Community Library

Amos Yang, Cello
Peter Henderson, Piano
Jan Swafford, Lecturer

Lecture on Beethoven
Beethoven/Cello Sonata No. 3

CHAMBER MUSIC – Beethoven @ 250
Thursday, July 30, 2020, 10:30 a.m.
The Community Library

Peter Henderson, Piano

Beethoven/Piano Sonata No. 30
Beethoven/Piano Sonata No. 21, "Waldstein"

RECITAL – Beethoven @ 250
Thursday, July 30, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Kristin Ahlstrom, Violin
Amos Yang, Cello
Orion Weiss, Piano

Beethoven/Trio, Op. 1, No. 2
Beethoven/Piano Sonata No. 23, "Appassionata"

LECTURE – Beethoven @ 250
Friday, July 31, 2020, 10:30 a.m.
The Community Library

Jan Swafford, Lecturer

On Beethoven/Symphony No. 3, "Eroica"

Friday, July 31, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Beethoven/Symphony No. 3, "Eroica"

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Daniil Trifonov, Piano

Brahms/Piano Concerto No. 1

Thursday, August 6, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale Conductor

Higdon/blue cathedral
Rachmaninoff/Symphonic Dances

FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA – Family Concert: The American West
Saturday, August 8, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Sameer Patel, Conductor
Students of the Summer Music Institute

Rossini/Overture to William Tell
Grofé/From Grand Canyon Suite
E. Bernstein/Suite from Magnificent Seven
Traditional/Home on the Range
Newman/"You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story
Copland/From Rodeo

Sunday, August 9, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Sameer Patel, Conductor
Leila Josefowicz, Violin

Stravinsky/Scherzo à la Russe
Stravinsky/Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky/Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture

CHAMBER MUSIC – Beethoven @ 250
Monday, August 10, 2020, 6:30 p.m.
Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood

Jeremy Constant, Violin
Amos Yang, Cello
Peter Henderson, Piano

Beethoven/Trio, Op. 97, "Archduke"

Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor

Mazzoli/These Worlds in Us
Mendelssohn/Symphony No. 3

Friday, August 14, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Jason Shafer, Clarinet

Mozart/Clarinet Concerto
Debussy/La Mer

Saturday, August 15, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Sameer Patel, Conductor
Time for Three

Arr. Hayman/Armed Forces Medley
Copland/Suite from Billy the Kid
Puts/New Work (Festival co-commission with Florida Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony)

FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA – Pops: The Villalobos Brothers
Sunday, August 16, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

The Villalobos Brothers
Jacomo Bairos, Conductor

LAWN PARTY – ¡Fiesta de baile!
Sunday, August 16, 2020, post-concert

The Villalobos Brothers

CHAMBER CONCERT – Festival Brass
Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

Alasdair Neale, Conductor
Berlioz/Symphonie fantastique

All programs, artists, dates, and times subject to change.

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