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Summer classical music atop Aspen Mountain

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The venues for the summer Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado this summer are as large as the Benedict Music Tent (2,050 seats) and as intimate as a private home. But none is more lovely than the top of Aspen Mountain.

On a hillside just beyond the gondola station, at 11,000 feet, is a platform that accommodates a handful of musicians. Every Saturday at 1 p.m. listeners sit at picnic tables or on the grass.For the cost of a gondola ticket ($19) they hear students from the festival's music school play anything from Bach to Beethoven, from to Gershwin to gospel.

Behind the little music tent is a spectacular panorama of Aspen Highlands ski area and the surrounding elk range. Call it the Big Outdoors With Brass when the players are four trombonists, as they were last Saturday.

Charles Dieterle, 21, and Colin Marusek, 23, played standard trombones. Elena Grijalva, 22, and Taylor Fong, 22 played bass trombones. They just met this summer. All rotate through the three principal orchestras that perform during the week in the Benedict Music Tent.

Among their more unusual offerings were an all-trombone version of "Summertime" from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess;" a contemporary gospel piece by University of Iowa professor and composer Jeffrey Agrell; and a portion of "Four Quartets for Four Trombones" by contemporary composer Evan Williams.

The concert ended with the March from Wagner's "Tannhauser." Introducing it, one of the performers said: "Trombonists get excited about seeing Wagner on the music stand because they know they will be the loudest instrument in the orchestra."

The Aspen Music Festival's Saturday Top of the Mountain concerts continue throuigh Aug. 9.

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