After nearly 30 years, the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival (TMF) at the University of Houston continues to deliver musical firsts to audiences. This year’s event is especially momentous as it showcases works never performed in the city and features TMF debuts from a few famous - and familiar - faces.
TMF celebrates its 27th year of performances from classical music’s rising stars and acclaimed veterans. Among this year’s highlights is the first festival appearance by noted conductor and former Houston Symphony music director Hans Graf. Other festival firsts include a concert featuring TMF Orchestra student musicians performing alongside their faculty mentors. Audiences also will experience the TMF debut of three major works by composer Ottorino Respighi and a world premiere from composer and TMF artist Kevin Puts.
TMF concerts and institutes will take place June 7 – July 2 with performances at UH and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas. A complete schedule can be found on the TMF website.
“Each year, we focus on engaging our audiences with something new and different,” said TMF general and artistic director Alan Austin. “This year, we are spotlighting the many festival firsts audiences will experience. From pieces never performed in Houston to welcoming artists like Hans Graf, the 2016 Texas Music Festival will definitely be a memorable musical event.”
Graf will make his festival debut on June 18, conducting the TMF Orchestra during the aptly titled concert “Musical Firsts.” The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in UH’s Moores Opera House and will feature Graf’s first time conducting Anton Webern’s “Passacaglia Op. 1” and Alban Berg’s “Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6” in Houston. The performance also will feature Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 13.” All of these works are the first pieces written by the respective composers.
Another Houston classical music premiere will precede that concert. At 7:30 p.m., June 11, UH Moores School of Music (MSM) conductor Franz Anton Krager will lead the TMF Orchestra’s “Roman Holiday” concert in the Moores Opera House. Featured works include the first city performances of Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome,” “Roman Festivals” and “Pines of Rome.” The concert will feature MSM professor and Houston Symphony principal trumpet player Mark Hughes.
Other highlights during TMF’s Perspectives series include a concert featuring the chamber music of professor and composer David Ashley White on June 16; and the premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Puts’ “In at the Eye” on June 21. Puts’ composition is a co-commission with five major U.S. music festivals.
The Perspectives’ series also will spotlight performances with current and former students with their faculty mentors during the concert “Side by Side” at 7:30 p.m., June 28 in UH’s Dudley Recital Hall.
In addition to performances, the festival offers professional training to future generations of musicians. Students from around the world venture to Houston to work with conductors such as Graf, Krager and others, as well as MSM faculty members. Students perform as part of the TMF Orchestra or are engaged in the festival’s institutes that focus on opera, flute and jazz.
Other aspects of the festival include community outreach initiatives that take musicians into local hospitals and senior living facilities. This year, TMF musicians will entertain audiences at Houston Methodist Hospital and other venues in Houston.
The Texas Music Festival was founded in 1990 through the generosity of the Olshans, who wanted to Houston to have its own classical music event like those hosted in Lennox, Massachusetts or Aspen, Colorado. Likewise, former MSM director David Tomatz’s creative vision helped the festival emerge as one of the state’s most anticipated classical music events.
“This festival has grown beyond what anyone could have envisioned,” said Austin, who attended the festival as a student in its early years. “It’s a major part of Houston’s cultural landscape and one of the big summer arts events. We’re pleased to offer this festival to both student and patrons and keep the Olshans’ and Dr. Tomatz’ vision of a world-class festival in Texas alive and well.”