This Week At The Music Academy

We’ve passed the halfway point in the Music Academy of the West’s Summer Festival, and one fears it will all be over for another season much too soon. But now is also when the institute gets down to the nitty-gritty: the students have been here long enough to have practiced plenty of repertoire for the picnic concerts; master classes have fallen into a smooth rhythm; two of the summer’s most distinguished visiting artists show up the same week, and the biggest day of the summer for both vocalist and select instrumentalists takes place this weekend.

Here are the highlights.

Thursday, July 19: Takács@8 – One Tuesday@8 concert is not enough this week, as the 32-year-old Takács returns to the Lobero for a special Thursday edition of the faculty chamber music series that kicks off the foursome’s two-week residence at the Music Academy. Two of the founding members – violinist Károly Schranz and cellist András Fejér – remain from the original quartet that formed when all the musicians were students at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. The Takács, recently hailed by the London Guardian as “the greatest string quartet in the world, is also in residency at University of Colorado and the Aspen Music Festival (which is why we only get them for two weeks).

Tonight’s repertoire is somewhat standard fare, but also represents TSQ’s specialty: Dvorak’s “American” in F Major, Shostakovich’s No. 11 in F Minor and Beethoven’s 14 in C-sharp Minor. Next Tuesday, the Takács also joins pianist Jerome Lowenthal for Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major in the regular Tuesday@8 slot. (Both 8 pm, Thursday $40, Tuesday $38).

The Takács will also helm the string chamber master classes at Lehmann Hall tomorrow and next Friday, July 27, with either Peter Salaff or Kathleen Winkler also on hand. The joint sessions were one of the highlights of last year’s summer. (1pm, $12).

Friday, July 20: Baritone Thomas Hampson begins his weeklong residency with a vocal master class at 3:15 pm in Abravanel Hall. An academy alumnus (1978-79) and recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994, Hampson is a passionate devotee of the songs of American composers and poets, having championed the repertoire in recordings and on tour. It will also form the focus on today’s master class, a rare chance to hear the Academy singers perform in English, guided by a true master of the genre (3:15 pm, $16).

Saturday, July 21: You’ve heard of Superbowl Sunday, and the day of presidential primaries known as Super Tuesday? Well, today is Super Saturday at the Music Academy. The Marilyn Horne Foundation Vocal Competition takes place 10 am-4 pm today at Abravanel Hall, sandwiched in between the dress rehearsal and final concert of Concerto Night with the Academy Festival Orchestra at the Lobero.

The competition is a showcase for Academy vocalists and vocal pianists to strut their stuff with a truly valuable prize in the balance. Joining opera singers Marilyn Horne and Hampson as jurors this year are Michael Benchetrit, vice president at Columbia Artists Management; Barbara Hocher, executive director of the foundation; Gianna Rolandi, director of the Lyric Opera Center Chicago, and Ken Noda, assistant Music Director at the Metropolitan Opera. Each contestant performs three selections, including at least one song in English, and the winners (one singer and one pianist) will be presented by the foundation in recital during the following concert season in New York and other selected U.S. cities. ($15 all day; $8 for 10 am-noon, $10 for 1-4 pm).

Meanwhile, the five winning soloists take their turns fronting the Academy Festival Orchestra, conducted by MAW veteran Edwin Outwater, in dress rehearsal at 9:30 am ($23) and in concert at 8pm at the Lobero ($51). (See “Classical Corner” for a feature on the event.)

Sunday, July 22: After teaching singers on Friday and judging them on Saturday, Thomas Hampson steps onto the stage at the Lobero for a recital featuring a program of both American song and European lieder of Schubert, Mahler and Hugo Wolf, another passion of the master baritone, who has won awards and accolades around the world. (7 pm, $40). Also, the Academy Brass Ensemble – which consists of 19 student brass players and percussionists led by Mark Lawrence, principal trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony – play a free concert featuring works by Brahms, Bruce Broughton, Shostakovich and John Williams at 2 pm at First Presbyterian Church, 21 East Constance Avenue.

Tuesday, July 24: Heinz Blankenburg, the Academy’s German coach for nine years, conducts his one and only vocal master class of the summer at Abravanel (3:15 pm, $15). Also, in addition to the Takács /Lowenthal piece, the Tuesday@8 concert at the Lobero features David Liptak’s “Shadower,” with violinist Winkler and percussionist Michael Werner, and Hindesmith’s Septet for Wind Instruments.