The temperatures may still be high, but fall is on its way, which means it’s time for the annual Red Rocks Music Festival.
Taking place in Sedona and Phoenix, the festival brings local and international musicians and composers together in a series of four concerts from Sept. 3-17. Each concert is performed twice, once in Phoenix at the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center and a second time at the Sedona Creative Life Center. Tickets are $25 per concert or $75 for all four.
The festival’s founder and executive director is violinist Moshe Buskshpan. Born in Israel, Buskshpan moved to the U.S. in 1976 to pursue a master’s degree in violin performance at Northern Illinois University.
Buskshpan said he began organizing the Red Rocks Music Festival and nonprofit to fill a void after a festival in Flagstaff was discontinued. The Red Rocks Music Festival often features prominent Jewish musicians.
The festival’s first year was headlined by Shlomo Mintz, an Israeli conductor and violinist. Buskshpan said Mintz will again appear at next year’s festival.
This year, though, the first concert is “Americana Treasured Masterpieces,” featuring the Dueling Piano Divas, Andria Fennig and Ashley Snavley. Fennig and Snavley play together on a single piano in “four hands” style.
“There are times where we have a little bit of gymnastics or choreography going on,” Fennig said.
The duo performs works by American composers Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Edward MacDowell. Performances take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3 at the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, 122 E. Culver St., Phoenix; and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8 at the Sedona Creative Life Center, 333 Schnebly Hill Road, Sedona.
The second concert is “World Music,” featuring Nikola Djurica on clarinet; David Ehrlich and Anna Kazepides on violin; Nokuthula Ngwenyama on viola; and Jan Simiz on cello. Ante Grgin will conduct in his Arizona premiere. The group performs klezmer and Balkan music. This is Djurica’s second appearance at the festival.
“This clarinetist is coming back really by popular demand,” Buskshpan said.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6 in Phoenix and at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9 in Sedona.
The third concert is “Classical Jewels,” featuring the same performers from “World Music” with the addition of Michael Kazepides on double bass and Teresa Ehrlich on piano. They will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Minor and Shubert’s Piano Quintet in A Minor. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7 in Phoenix and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10 in Sedona.
The fourth and final concert is “Tempest to the Silver Age,” featuring Mikhail Yanovitsky on piano. He will perform works by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Scriabin. The Jewish Yanovitsky, a St. Petersburg native, started playing piano as a child; his first teacher was his mother. He graduated from the Leningrad Special School of Music and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire. He currently teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 in Sedona and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17 in Phoenix.
Throughout the years, Buskshpan has moved the festival to various venues in both cities. In the Valley, the festival moved from Scottsdale to Tempe to downtown Phoenix before settling on the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center in 2015.
Buskshpan has also had to grapple with changing lineups. He and the festival’s artistic director, David Ehrlich, had to redo the lineup this year because guitarist Mirko Dimitrijevic from Serbia was unexpectedly denied a visa.
“The visas are becoming more challenging,” Buskshpan said.
Obtaining funds has also become more difficult, “especially here in Arizona,” he added.
The festival relies on the support of a strong core of local donors, many of them members of the Jewish community. Buskshpan said that without this support, the festival would not be able to keep attracting world-class musicians and conductors to Arizona.
For more information or to order tickets, call 602-402-4551 or visit redrocksmusicfestival.com. JN