Cellist Mark Kosower performing at the Beethoven Festival Park City in Park City, Utah. The Beethoven Festival Park City is Utah's oldest classical chamber music festival.

A Brief History of Utah's Longest Running Classical Music Festival

Join us for upcoming concerts March through May

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Among the musicians who gathered together in Park City that first year of the Beethoven Festival were violist Paul Neubauer, violinists Glenn Dicterow, Paul Rosenthal, Manuel Ramos, Andres Cardenes and William Preucil, cellists Jeffrey Solow, Ellen Bridger and Steve Balderston, violist and founder Leslie Blackburn Harlow and pianists Michael Gurt, Doris Stevenson, Julie Bees and Frank Weinstock.

The intimate settings were Deer Valley Resort's SnowPark Lodge and the gallery at the Kimball Art Center. Artists stayed at least a week, rehearsing together in residence to prepare each concert program and several concerts, each with different programs, were presented each week.

The Beethoven Festival Park City was originally called the Deer Valley International Chamber Music Festival and continues with the same format today as in the beginning. Planning for the Festival began in 1983 with the first concerts presented in 1984.The Festival was co-produced by Leslie Blackburn Harlow and the late Carole Cordray under the nonprofit umbrella of the Kimball Art Center. As of 2021 the Festival has presented over 850 concerts.

From the Director  Thank you from all of us here at the Beethoven Festival.
The first summer festival in 1984, and every festival since, has been a leap of inspiration and a labor of love for me and for Russell. Working together with Russell for these many years has only increased my appreciation and respect for his exquisite playing, his vast musical knowledge and incredible dedication. Sharing the beautiful music we love with you our intimate audience, is the most gratifying thing a classical musician can ever experience.




A longer look at the history of the Beethoven Festival.

As a young violist growing up in West Texas, chamber music was my obsession. It began in my teens with joining a string quartet, attending summer chamber music camps and later to performing in chamber music festivals. The festival players were from all over and most had studied at all the major conservatories. Playing with these fantastic and fearless performers was always wonderfully challenging, so I applied to attend the Juilliard School. There the network of chamber-music-loving friends expanded. 

I credit my parents with creating my love of classical music at a very young age, but that is a longer story. M
y favorite violist was William Primrose. Until college, I collected and studied only the viola recordings by Primrose. My father took me to hear my first live chamber concert and to symphony concerts. We also attended a thrilling recital by the young violin soloist Stephanie Chase. My father also drove with me from Texas to Indiana so I could attend the Primrose masterclass sessions there. 

 

I had my first-ever chance to ski during a spring break trip to Utah. I decided then that Park City would be the most fantastic place to present intimate chamber music concerts. That summer I ended up in Utah performing with the Utah Symphony, giving me a chance to explore the possibilities.
 
Back in 1983 summers were much quieter in Park City. There were few events and the beautiful new lodge at Deer Valley was sitting empty. I wandered the town and explored. My experience performing at festivals made it easy to visualize a new chamber music festival here. I met two wonderful music lovers that summer in Park City who loved the idea: Carole Cordray, Assistant Director at Kimball Art Center and Larry Jackstien, at that time the Vice President of Marketing at Deer Valley Resort. They joined in the work creating the new Deer Valley Chamber Music Festival. Tragically, Carole Cordray died before the
 second summer of the Festival.



A talented and prodigious young clarinet player studying in Los Angeles also fell in love with performing chamber music. Russell Harlow was only 21 when he came to Utah, having won his position with the Utah Symphony. He continued his connections with his chamber music colleagues who formed the Mirecourt Trio in residence in Grinnell, Iowa, traveling to perform and record with them there. He also participated in the Claremont Festival in California where he met and studied with violinist Charles Libove. There was no chamber music component with the Symphony, so, seven years later, he founded the Nova Chamber Music Series in Salt Lake City. For the Nova concerts, he brought the Mirecourt Trio to perform on concerts with musicians here in Utah. He also produced a concert as a tribute to the world-beloved violist William Primrose who was living in Utah at that time. Russell invited composer Ramiro Cortes to help with the series, and Cortes wrote a masterpiece - a trio for Russell to perform on the series. Russell presented the New York premiere of the Trio at Weill Hall in 1996.

Russell had been running the Nova Series for nearly a decade when I arrived in Utah. After the first summer of the festival, I was still performing on occasion with the Symphony, so Russell and I met there. We performed together on one concert with Nova and discovered we loved performing chamber music together.

Russell left Utah for a year on sabbatical from the Symphony, so I ran the Festival myself. My dear friend and co-founder Carole Cordray had died before the summer. When Russell returned, he joined me in running the Deer Valley International Chamber Music Festival as co-director and we launched the third summer. He turned Nova over to a new director and we moved to Park City where built the home that still serves as the headquarters for the Festival.

Now, 38 years later, the town of Park City has grown and there are many summer events and the Beethoven Festival is still the most consistent source of live classical music concerts here in our community. Over the years over two hundred artists have joined us here to share great classical music with intimate audiences in this beautiful setting. 

On behalf of all who help make this Festival possible, I want to invite you to join us at the Beethoven Festival concerts where you will welcomed as a part of every performance you attend. All the Festival artists love sharing performing this great music for you. 

I look forward to seeing and meeting you at the upcoming concerts.

Leslie Harlow

 




 

The Park City Main Street banners promote the Park City Beethoven Festival and feature the image of a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven, the composer for whom this classical music and chamber music festival is named.

Park City Chamber Music Society
Board of Directors

Annette (Annie) Amendola
Donna Pauley Fairbanks
Louise Fox
Leslie Harlow, Artistic Director/Founder
Russell Harlow, Artistic Director
Margaret (Peggy) Lewis