The Bellingham Festival Orchestra is comprised of principal players from major American and European orchestras and exceptional musicians from other local, regional and national ensembles. We are fortunate to have this assemblage of talent as our resident Festival orchestra. These talented artists will also present chamber music and perform as soloists with the orchestra during the Festival.
|Stephen Kovacevich, piano / conductor||Romero Guitar Quartet|
|Katie Van Kooten, Soprano||Charles Robert Stephens, Baritone|
|Joshua Roman, Cello|
'when Stephen Kovacevich played the work on Thursday, it felt as if he were whispering a bedtime story, inviting the audience to share memories almost too private to reveal.' New York Times - Schubert's Kinderszenen
'In a period when Beethoven interpretation has become fairly standardized, Kovacevich remains a free spirit, making a profoundly personal response to the music and playing in an improvisatory style, which fits descriptions of how Beethoven performed his own music.' Boston Globe - Beethoven's Emperor Concerto
'Here was a pianist who truly did play Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata as though it were a first performance... the way he kept this fabulously risk-taking music on the edge of playability - my 21st-century ears had never appreciated the full audacity of the fugal finale - and us on the edge of our seats, was an index of his moral rather than his physical courage.' Sunday Times - Beethoven's Hammerklavier
Stephen Kovacevich as conductor
'Beethoven's 'Pastoral Symphony' is always a musical feast for the ears. Under the circumstances, it vividly conjured up springtime on a bitterly cold evening. Brimming with energy and blithe spirits, the symphony effortlessly conveys a sense of brio and great charm however many times one has heard it. It got a polished performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the reading tightly focused, elegant and robust.' Vancouver Review - Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony
|Katie Van Kooten, Soprano|
A recent graduate of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden American soprano Katie Van Kooten, has been noted by The Daily Telegraph as “a major operatic talent. Her singing has something of the same glow radiated by Te Kanawa or Freni, and her endearing charm and bright smile make her a winning stage personality.”
Recently Ms. Van Kooten made her house debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in the acclaimed Nicolas Joël production of La Rondine as Magda and at Houston Grand Opera as Helena in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This season she also returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for performances of Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann opposite Rolando Villazón and led by Antonio Pappano.
Ms. Van Kooten made her debut at the Royal Opera House in 2004 as Magda, and she has since gone on to perform Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Mimi in La Boheme, and Marguerite in Faust there. She recently made her Japanese debut singing Micaëla in Carmen under the direction of Seiji Ozawa and her United States debut performing Marguerite with the Metropolitan Opera in Central Park.
In concert, Katie Van Kooten has sung Mozart’s Requiem with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Vladimir Jurowski and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Halle Orchestra led by Edward Gardner.
A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Ms. Van Kooten studies voice with Rudolf Piernay. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Biola University where she studied with Dr. Jeanne Robison and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute.
|Romero String Quartet|
A veritable institution in the world of classical music, this season The Romeros celebrate their fiftieth anniversary by dazzling countless audiences and winning the raves of reviewers worldwide. The celebration of their 50th anniversary during the 2008/2009 season included sold out performances from Asia (Beijing, Seoul, etc.), to Australia, to Europe(Vienna, Zurich, Munich, Hamburg, etc.) and throughout the US. Known to millions as "The Royal Family of the Guitar," the Romeros were founded by the legendary Celedonio Romero with his sons Celin, Pepe and Angel in 1960. With the introduction of Celin’s son, Celino in 1990 and Angel’s son, Lito in 1995, the Romeros encompass three generations of concert artists. To have so many virtuosi of the same instrument in one family was unique in the world of musical performance, and in the realm of the classical guitar it was absolutely without precedent.
Celedonio Romero was a renowned soloist in Spain. As each of his sons reached the age of two or three, they began learning the guitar from their father, making their debuts in Spain by the time they were seven. In 1957, the family immigrated to the U.S., where three years later, "The Romeros" walked onto the world stage as a guitar quartet for the first time while the boys were still in their teens. On May 8, 1996, Celedonio died in San Diego and his sons and grandsons continue the legacy. As the family says, "the spirit of the quartet is him; all our concerts now pay homage to him."
The sterling reputation of The Romeros has been confirmed by repeated recital performances and orchestral appearances across the U.S., including the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Francisco symphonies, among many others. They have made frequent festival appearances throughout the country, including the Hollywood Bowl, Saratoga, Flagstaff, Garden State, Blossom and Wolf Trap.
The Romeros are particularly popular with college audiences, making regular appearances on university music series throughout the country as well as on fine arts series nationwide. In New York, they have appeared at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, the 92nd Street Y and Rockefeller University.
Touring worldwide, The Romeros have performed on multiple occasions at the White House.
In 1983, they appeared at the Vatican in a special concert for John Paul II, and in 1986, they gave a command performance in for his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. In 2000, His Royal Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Pepe and Celin into the Order of "Isabel la Católica".
Perhaps The Romero’s most lasting legacy is the creation of an entirely new repertoire for guitar quartet, both as a chamber ensemble and as a concerto soloist. For 50 years three generations of Romeros have inspired distinguished composers to either write new works or arrange existing ones, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Morton Gould, Francisco de Madina and Lorenzo Palomo. As Rodrigo has said, "The Romeros have developed the technique of the guitar by making what is difficult to be easy. They are, without a doubt, the grand masters of the guitar."
With a 50-year history, The Romeros have built an enviable discography. Their achievements have not gone unnoticed. In February of 2007, The Romeros were granted The Recording Academy’s President’s Merit Award from the GRAMMYs© in honor of their artistic achievements. In February 2009 Sony produced and released a new recital recording Los Romeros: Celebration which is soon to be released worldwide on the Red Seal Label. Last year, Decca released a two-disc retrospective, Los Romero Golden Jubilee Celebration, featuring recordings made between 1963-85 of works by Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Bizet, de Falla, Rodrigo, Torroba and Celedonio Romero. Television fans have seen and heard The Romeros many times on such shows as The Tonight Show and The Today Show, PBS's Evening at the Boston Pops, the KPBS/PBS biographical documentary Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar, other PBS specials and the NDR documentary film Los Romeros: Die Gitarren-Dynastie.
Joshua Roman, Cello
Young Cellist Deserves the Buzz He's Generating By R.M. Campbell - Seattle Post-Intelligencer March 18, 2007
Ever since Joshua Roman walked on the stage of Benaroya Hall late last season to join his new colleagues of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra as principal cello, there has been a buzz.
Then, it was his looks: a 22- year-old with curly blond hair who looked as if he had stepped out of an Italian Renaissance painting. At the time, there was an audible intake of breath from the audience, at least those around me, at his visage, pleasing smile and confident walk.
In the months that followed, the buzz continued. Symphony officials were quick to take notice and started making use of him at symphony functions. He is a walking advertisement that the symphony can be as hip as any institution. There are other musicians in the orchestra, only slightly older than Roman, who make the same point, the difference being that he makes it more dramatically. His exposure as a musician has been less, small solos here and there plus a larger one earlier this season in the slow movement of Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. Local impresarios have taken notice and booked him for later this year.
Roman made his Seattle recital debut Friday night at Town Hall. I can't remember when a symphony musician in his first year of local employment has made such a gesture, and I can't remember when a cello recital of such a young artist was not only sold out, but with people standing outside in a long line stretching down Seneca Street, hoping to secure a spare ticket. The concert was delayed more than 20 minutes as Town Hall officials tried to squeeze as many people as it could into the hall.
So, the music making: Just as Roman's appearance and demeanor are striking, so are his skills. The program was not long, but immensely challenging, all for solo cello: Bach's Sixth Suite, Ligeti's Sonata and Kodaly's Sonata.
Everything he did he did with poise and equanimity, technical difficulties flying away as if they were nothing. He is a musician of imagination and expressive breadth. The Bach was richly considered and thus executed; the Ligeti, compelling; and the Kodaly, completely persuasive. His tone is deep and strong, in part thanks to a loan of an early 18th-century cello made by Domenico Montagnana, from the string collection of David Fulton.
Charles Robert Stephens, Baritone
Charles Robert Stephens’s career spans a wide variety of roles and styles in opera and concert music. His performances show "a committed characterization and a voice of considerable beauty." (Opera News) At the New York City Opera he recently sang the role of Professor Friedrich Bhaer in the New York premiere of Adamo’s Little Women, and was hailed by The New York Times as a "baritone of smooth distinction." Since his debut as Marcello in La Bohème, Mr. Stephens’ New York City Opera roles include Frank in Die Tote Stadt, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and 43 performances as Germont in La Traviata on tour across the US.
Mr. Stephens has sung on numerous occasions at Carnegie Hall in a variety of roles with the Oratorio Society of New York (St. Matthew Passion), the Masterworks Chorus (Messiah), and Musica Sacra (Lord Nelson Mass). Recent Carnegie Hall performances with Opera Orchestra of New York have included roles in Otello, Lucrezia Borgia, and Adriana Lecouvreur.
Mr. Stephens’ many operatic roles include Rigoletto, Amonasro, Germont, Rodrigo, Count di Luna, Gianni Schicchi, Tonio, Enrico, Sharpless and many others, with leading opera companies throughout the U.S. and abroad. Mr. Stephens continued to exhibit a wide ranging repertoire in the 2007-8 season with new roles in a Baroque Opera in Seattle, Scarpia in Tosca with Spokane Opera, Belcore in l’elisir d’amore in his return to the Helena Symphony, Britten’s Cantata Misericordia in Tacoma and Seattle and Verdi’s Requiem in Philadelphia.
Recent orchestral engagements include Messiah with the Santa Fe Symphony, Portland Baroque Orchestra, and the Helena Symphony, Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony with the Tacoma Symphony, the title role in Rigoletto with the Spokane Symphony, The High Priest in Samson and Delilah in Birmingham and the Mozart Requiem in Walla Walla. Festival appearances include performances at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and the Methow Chamber Music Festival, a return engagement at the Spoletto Festival in the Brahms Requiem with the Westminster Choir and TV appearances in New York City as a featured artist with "Regina Resnik Presents."
2009-10 include Elijah with Seattle Pro Musica, Messiah with the Helena Symphony, Carmina Burana at Whitman College and the Brahms Requiem with the Bellingham Festival.
Mr. Stephens has taught at Portland State University and continues as instructor at Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound.