Summer and music go together like … mountains and snow. Mammoth, like many mountain towns throughout the West, is a summer music festival haven.
When we caught up with the two founders of the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival, violinist Rebecca Hang and her cellist husband Brian Schuldt, they had just overseen the installation of six pianos at their summer home, Cerro Coso College, and were anticipating the imminent arrival of faculty musicians.
For the next two and a half weeks (July 17-Aug. 2) they will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Festival with nonstop performances of chamber music. Simultaneously, Festival musicians provide intensive instruction for instrumentalists aged 8-24 in the Sierra Academy of Music.
With the erecting this summer of the Edison Pavilion across from Cerro Coso, the Festival takes advantage of the larger space to offer two Friday concerts there. Those involved will no doubt enjoy the larger stage, which will hold music students and faculty musicians when they perform together on July 19 and 26. It’s one thing for a young artist to study with performing musicians, but their experience is heightened even further when they get the chance to play with their teachers.
“It’s a great opportunity for young players,” Hang said. “These are two concerts that we found attractive for young players as well as young listeners.” A special ticket price has been established for these two events: Kids who bring two paying adults will get free admission.
The first of the Edison Pavilion concerts, titled “Enchanted,” presents students and their musical mentors in a conductorless chamber orchestra performance of Haydn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The music of Humperdinck and Mendelssohn also evoke the atmosphere of fairytales. Favorite Mammoth violinist Corey Cerovsek will be the soloist. (Corey’s fans will be pleased to note that he will be in residence for the entire festival this summer.)
The July 26 “Summer Serenade” concert introduces young people to classic repertoire with works by Mozart and Borodin. It also features Cerovsek soloing with the student orchestra in a Wieniawski Fantasy, a work rarely performed in this orchestral version, according to Hang.
The landscape of music over the span of the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival will be populated with musical adventures. For instance, on July 22 hiker-cellist Mark Votapek will trade his hiking boots—he’s trekking the Pacific Crest Trail for the second time—for his cello to play in a concert that stars the music of Chopin, Piazzolla and Reynaldo Hahn. Hang described Hahn’s piano quintet as a mix of juicy romanticism and Debussy impressionism.”
July 24 pays homage to “Americana,” with music by three Americans and one Bohemian who lived in and was inspired by this country. Composer Bruce Broughton will be here to introduce his work, “Gold Rush Songs” for violin and piano. The piece will be played by violinist Lorenz Gamma and pianist Ming Tsu. Also on the bill, Dvorák’s American String Quintet, Opus 97, which the composer wrote during a summer vacation in Spillville, Iowa.
When we think of the Brandenburg Concertos, most conjure the sound of violins. But Brandenburg No. 6 has no violins in it at all. The violas have it on July 29. Bach wrote this last Brandenburg to showcase solo violas, so often the genre’s unsung heroes, with their voicings pitched between violin and cello.
In addition, Cerovsek, with his charming style and blazing virtuosity, will play the Grieg violin sonata that night.
Another adventurous highlight will surely be “Cello Submarine” on July 30. Festival cellist Emilio Colón will debut arrangements of works for three cellos—played by himself, his wife Cara Elise Colón, and Brian Schuldt.
“We know there will be some Beatles tunes and a Piazzolla tango,” Schuldt said, “but the remainder of the pieces will be a surprise.”
This town hit the jackpot when, 22 years ago, Rebecca Hang and Brian Schuldt rode into town on an NEA grant for a summer rural residency. It didn’t take them long to appreciate the beauty of the natural surroundings and the responsiveness of the community, and realize they had walked into a dream come true.
Well prepared for a life of performance and teaching, they brought their Felici Trio here from Indiana University in Bloomington, and started playing and teaching. They found a hugely appreciative community and people knocking on their door looking for lessons. Today, Mammoth schools and mountains ring with the sounds of classical music, thanks to these folks. Their umbrella Chamber Music Unbound produces winter and summer music, not to mention a crackerjack Fourth of July concert in Mammoth Creek Park, and music education.
Except for the July 19 and July 26 concerts, which take place in the Edison Pavilion, all festival chamber music concerts happen at Cerro Coso College across the street. Concerts start at 7:30 p.m. Get there early; concerts often sell out. Buy tickets online at ChamberMusicUnbound.org or at the Booky Joint.