New CMF music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni: “Don’t call me maestro!”

The conductor wants to build a relationship with the orchestra

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

By Peter Alexander

Jean-Marie Zeitouni, the new music director of the Colorado Music Festival, finds Boulder a very comfortable place to fit in and make friends.

Just don’t call him “maestro.”

He made this clear when he introduced the 2015 festival season Thursday evening (Feb. 26) at the Chautauqua Community House. “You can call me Jean-Marie or JMZ,” he said. “You can call me many things behind my back. But don’t call me maestro.”

When asked about that a couple of days later, he shook his head and made a sour face. “No,” he said. “I have played in an orchestra. There is not one master and the rest are slaves.”

This experience as an orchestra member is a very important part of the way Zeitouni thinks about his job here in Boulder. “I try to be the conductor I would want as a member of the orchestra,” he says. “The greatest goal for me this year (at the Colorado Music Festival) is to develop my relationship with the orchestra.”

One part of that relationship is to be found in the repertoire that Zeitouni, as music director, selects for the players, as members of the orchestra, to rehearse and perform. And in the season that was announced Thursday night, Zeitouni has included pieces that the musicians may be expected to relish.

For example, in addition to the usual Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and Sibelius symphonies, which the orchestra members have probably played many times, there are pieces such as Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 3 and Michael Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina that are outside the standard repertoire.

Surely some of the orchestra members will look forward to the French Baroque music of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Boréades. A rarity like George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony will have its advocates. And next to the perennially popular American in Paris there is the rare opportunity to play Darius Milhaud’s response, A Frenchman in New York.

But probably nothing will be more exciting for the players than Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. As with much of Bartók’s orchestral music, this is a virtuoso score that gives the players a chance to really show their worth. Although it has two singing characters, Zeitouni describes Bluebeard’s Castle as “an opera where the orchestra is the main character.” (It will be performed in Hungarian with English surtitles.)

Andrew Bradford

Andrew Bradford

Indeed, Zeitouni and CMF executive director Andrew Bradford confirm that they have already heard from members of the orchestra that this is the piece that they are most looking forward to.

Zeitouni, who lives in Montreal, will spend the summer in Boulder with his family. He readily cites Boulder’s concern for health, the environment, and the presence of many different cultural—and counter-cultural—elements as aspects of the city that he likes. “Like in Canada, you can be whoever you are,” he says. “I feel comfortable here.”

“It reminds me of the places I have been most joyous, in the Rockies of Canada, especially Banff.”

Speaking of their vision of the CMF, Zeitouni and Bradford point out that there were some limitations to what they could do in the first year. There was not time to develop partnerships that could be assets to the festival, and many potential soloists were not available on relatively short notice. That will change as they have more time to plan coming seasons.

2015-festival-icon-with-dates-300x213As for the future, Zeitouni says there is no fixed version of what any festival should be. He is clear that taking the heritage and the strengths of the CMF in consideration, they expect to move in new directions, aiming to make the summers more exciting, and to gain more national recognition for a festival that has already achieved a great deal in its history.

“We have many ideas” Zeitouni says. “We have big things in mind that we are starting to organize, but we want people to focus on what is there this year.

“What we have put together is quite good and we want to people to get excited about that.”

# # #

Read my season preview, and view a complete listing of the summer’s concert, below.

Boulder Bach Festival presents a complete realization of the B-minor Mass

J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach

By Peter Alexander

Zachary Carrettin and the Boulder Bach Festival last night (Feb. 28) delivered a performance of Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor that was creative, provocative, and sensational.

This was the first major work Carrettin has led since becoming musical director of the festival. If this is a harbinger of things to come, Boulder has much to look forward to.

The choral singing was immaculate, the orchestra superb, and the five soloists—sopranos Josefien Stoppelenburg and Melissa Givens, mezzo-soprano Julie Simson, tenor John Grau, and bass-baritone Michael Dean—were as well matched as any oratorio soloists you are likely to hear.

The B-minor Mass, nearly two hours of music, is a vast undertaking for any conductor or performing organization. It is so well known, and has been performed so often, that it is difficult to offer anything new. And yet Carrettin, who rethought the score from beginning to end, managed to make it fresh.

One departure from the norm was the choice to have some choral movements sung by the soloists rather than the full chorus. This is sanctioned by history, since the alternation between solo and group performance is one of the cornerstones of Baroque music, and Bach is known to have made similar decisions in performances he directed. There have even been modern Bach performances that reduced the entire chorus to soloists throughout, though few scholars endorse such an extreme.

Zachary Carrettin

Zachary Carrettin

For this performance, Carrettin used soloists to stress the personal as opposed to congregational expression of the text, as at the beginning of the Credo (“I believe in one God.”) This was extremely effective, both as a way to illuminate the meaning of the text, and as a source of variety in the texture and sound of the performance.

I was less convinced by another departure, when Carrettin gave the choral movement “Confiteor” (“I confess one baptism”) to a single soprano soloist and strings, converting a choral movement into an aria. On the one hand, this decision brings out the highly personal nature of the text at the moment that the soprano sings “I look for the resurrection of the dead.” But on the other, it suppresses the brilliant counterpoint among equal parts that Bach wrote.

There can be no complaint about the quality of the performance, however. Stoppelenburg has a soprano voice of remarkable purity and clarity, and her singing in the “Confiteor” was exquisite.

Another decision concerns the placement of the intermission. It usually occurs between the Gloria and the Credo movements, a location that corresponds to a break in the liturgical segments of the mass. But Carrettin understands that performances of the B-minor Mass are just that—performances—because the piece is not suited to use in a service. And so he decided move intermission to a moment of high drama within the Credo, immediately following the “Crucifixus” (“He was crucified’).

Boulder Bach Festival singers and players. Courtesy of the Boulder Bach Festival

Boulder Bach Festival singers and players. Courtesy of the Boulder Bach Festival

Carrettin had asked the audience not to applaud at that point, so Bach’s deeply moving music faded into silence, leaving the audience to contemplate the central event of Christian belief. That moment was made even more moving by the decision to have the “Crucifixus” sung only by the soloists, making it a musical expression of failing strength after the preceding full chorus.

After intermission, the audience returned for “Et resurrexit” (“And he rose again”), one of Bach’s most joyous and uplifting moments. Purists may object to having a break where there is usually continuity from sorrow to joy, but I found it highly effective as a moment of musical drama. It is this kind of creative rethinking that keeps the great masterpieces alive in our times.

On a purely musical level, the performance was extraordinary. The intonation among the singers and the orchestral players was exquisite, lending a clarity and transparency to Bach’s counterpoint that is only rarely achieved. This effect was aided by the meticulous phrasing, often based in the individual motives rather than long, Romantic lines that can obscure the exchanges among parts.

Earlier I praised Stoppelenburg’s performance of the “Confiteor,” but it would be unfair to single out only one soloist. They all sang with great precision of pitch and rhythm, rendering their complex lines, almost instrumental in quality, with remarkable clarity.

The balance among forces was carefully controlled throughout. In this respect particularly I would be remiss not to mention the brass players. The trumpets managed Bach’s high and difficult parts without ever overwhelming the singers, and the duet between horn and bassoon in the bass aria “Quoniam” becomes a new piece when the parts are so carefully balanced.

BBF-2014-15-season-brochure-pdfThe Boulder Bach Festival is likewise fortunate to have a flute player of the quality of Ysmael Reyes. His sound was gorgeous throughout, but especially in his duet with Grau in the “Benedictus.”

But above all else, I admired the pacing of the performance. It is hard to manage musical forces over such a long span of time, so that the chorus at the end of the Gloria can rise to a climax for the entire movement, and so that they can then achieve one more level of fullness of sound for the final “Dona nobis pacem,” before subsiding to a moment of rest and, indeed, peace.

In its accumulated impact, this may have been the most complete realization of the B-minor Mass I have heard. It was a remarkable achievement by the performers, and for everyone in attendance it was a night to remember.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni will lead Colorado Music Festival and audiences on “a journey together”

2015 season includes expanded chamber series and “Cellobration” mini-festival

By Peter Alexander

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

“This will be a season to get acquainted” Jean-Marie Zeitouni, new music director of the Colorado Music Festival, told the festival’s friends and supporters last night (Feb. 26) in introducing the program for the summer of 2015.

“It will be a chance to get to know one another better, and for me and the orchestra to know each other,” he said.

The festival program that Zeitouni and CMF’s executive director Andrew Bradford laid out included features that provide continuity with past festivals, as well as elements that reflect the personality of the new music director. (The full schedule is now listed below.)

Continuity will be represented in the general layout of the festival, with weekly concerts by the Festival Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra during the season, which runs from June 26 to Aug. 9. That is a slight shift from past festivals, opening on a Friday and ending on a Sunday, rather than ending with a Friday concert by the Festival Orchestra.

There will be many elements familiar from past festivals, including Music Mash-up concerts directed by Steve Hackman; an expanded series of five chamber concerts, moved to Boulder’s First Congregational Church (1128 Pine St.); and a one-week mini-festival, this time a “Cellobration” presenting both chamber and orchestral works that feature the cello.

In introducing the mini-festival, Zeitouni joked that Bradford, a cellist, had insisted on the “Cellobration.” In fact, the programs are well chosen, and will provide audiences the opportunity to hear a foundational instrument of orchestral and chamber music in a wide variety of contexts, including solo works, sonatas with piano, concertos, and as a member of large and small ensembles.

Olga Kern

Olga Kern. Photo by Fernando Baez

There will also be some new wrinkles to the festival. One will be a solo piano recital in the Chautauqua Auditorium by Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist and CMF favorite Olga Kern. Another surprise will be an evening of musical humor by Igudesman & Joo. Two classically trained and exceptional performers, violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo will present their wildly popular program, “A Little Nightmare Music.”

Zeitouni’s musical personality will be reflected principally in the orchestral repertoire of the festival. One aspect is his love of vocal music, reflected in the appearance of solo singers with the orchestra; another is the inclusion of some intriguing and not always familiar bits of French music.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Those interests show up already on the Festival Opening Night (July 1). Zeitouni and the Festival Orchestra will present a program of French and Italian music—“a voyage, to start our journey together,” Zeitouni said. Like any good voyage, this one starts on the sea, with Debussy’s La Mer. Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux will sing Ravel’s song cycle Shéhérazade, based on poems by the eccentric French poet who adopted the pseudo-Wagnerian name Tristan Klingsor. To enhance the audience’s understanding of the cycle, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Timothy Orr will read translations of the poems.

The second, Italian half of the program will include a number of operatic arias for contralto by Rossini, again sung by Lemieux, and conclude with Respighi’s colorful Pines of Rome.

The season will end Aug. 9 with “A Royal Finish,” featuring the chamber orchestra, soprano Sarah Coburn, and the Colorado Music Festival Chorus in vocal works by Mozart and Handel. Once again there are familiar pieces, like Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate and Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. But there are also some great music that should be heard more often, including Mozart’s early Regina Coeli K. 108, and Handel’s splendid Zadok the Priest.

Composer Michael Daugherty

Composer Michael Daugherty

The remainder of the orchestral series will include popular works from the standard repertoire—Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite—as well as some less familiar works that will appeal to Boulder’s musical adventurers. Among these, one has to mention the Colorado premiere of the Grammy-Award winning piano concerto “Deus Ex Machina” by the seriously hip pop-influenced composer Michael Daugherty; and the Colorado premiere of Opening Remarks by Lee Actor.

Also off the beaten path will be the North American premiere of the Festive Overture by Spanish composer Benet Casablancas; the much admired if rarely heard Third Symphony by American Charles Ives; and the even more rarely heard Jazz Symphony by the self-proclaimed “bad boy of music,” George Antheil.

Continuing the focus on vocal music will be a concert performance of Bartók’s two-character opera Bluebeard’s Castle, performed in Hungarian with English supertitles. Hungarian singers Krisztina Szabo, soprano, and Gabor Bretz, bass-baritone, will be guest soloists.

Joining nature and music, “John Fielder’s Colorado” will celebrate the centennial of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fielder’s acclaimed photos will be coordinated with performances of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

Steve Hackman

Steve Hackman

Turning to this year’s Music Mash-Up series, Steve Hackman will once again bring a completely new score, Bartók + Bjork. The other mash-ups feature an earlier Hackman score, Copland + Bon Iver, the Colorado group SHEL, and singer/actress Storm Large with her band, Le Bonheur.

Finally, Bradford has announced the very welcome return of the “Click Commission.” This program, which gives the audience the chance to select the recipient of a commission of a new piece for the following year’s festival, will now be expanded to include a mini-residency at the CMF for the winning composer.

The commission for the 2016 festival will go to one of three composers selected by the CMF: Pierre Jalbert, Hannah Lash and Daniel Wohl. Potential contributors to the program will have the opportunity to hear works by all three, and to vote with their contributions for the composer they prefer. This is your chance to pay the piper and call the tune! Watch the CMF Web page for details.

# # #

In September of last year, I stuck my neck out by offering suggestions for the future of the Colorado Music Festival. While I do not claim any influence on the professional directors and the board of the festival, I am pleased that three of my six suggestions—reinstate the “Click Commission,” expand the chamber music series, and bring back the mini-festival—were addressed in the program for the coming year. I believe that all three are integral to the unique character of the Colorado Music Festival.

Another idea I offered—that the festival should treasure its orchestra—is honored in Zeitouni’s selection of repertoire, which will certainly give the orchestra the opportunity to shine throughout the summer. This is a season that the players will enjoy.

And my preference to hear challenging explorations of music by living composers gets some satisfaction from the inclusion of works by Michael Daugherty, Lee Actor and Benet Casablancas.

With less than one year to pull a festival together, Zeitouni and Bradford have delivered an interesting season. There’s plenty for all of CMF’s diverse constituencies, and much to relish.

# # #

Subscription tickets will be available starting early in March, with single tickets going on sale April 1. See the CMF Web page for details as they become available.

# # #

COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL
2015 Season Program
All Concerts in Chautauqua Auditorium unless otherwise indicated

Week 1

10 a.m. Friday, June 26, and Saturday, June 27
Young People’s Concerts, program TBD
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 1: Opening Night, Welcome Jean-Marie!
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto, and Timothy Orr, speaker
7:30 p.m. Friday, July 3: An Evening with Olga Kern
Olga Kern, piano
Beethoven: Variations on a Theme by Salieri, WoO 73
Charles-Valentin Alkan: Etude No. 3
Chopin: Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor
Rachmaninoff: Twelve Preludes

Week 2

7:30 p.m. Monday, July 6, First Congregational Church: Piano Chamber Music
Musicians of the CMF
Dvorák: Piano Quartet
Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7: Music Mash-Up, Bartók + Bjork
Steve Hackman, conductor, with singers TBA
Hackman: Bartók + Bjork Mash-Up (World Premiere)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 9, and Friday, July 10: Tchaikovsky and the Grammys
Festival Orchestra, David Danzmayr, conductor, with Terrence Wilson, piano
Lee Actor: Opening Remarks (Colorado premiere)
Michael Daugherty: Deus ex Machina (Colorado premiere)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12: An Evening in Vienna
Chamber Orchestra, David Danzmayr, conductor, with Alexandra Soumm, violin
Schubert: German Dance in D major (arr. Anton Webern)
Mozart: Violin Concerto in D major, K.218
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2

Week 3: Cellobration Mini-Festival

4 & 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, First Congregational Church: Complete Bach Suites for solo cello
Bjorn Ranheim and Guy Fishman, cello
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16, and Friday, July 17: Impossible Dreams
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Desmond Hoebig, cello
Wagner: Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2
Richard Strauss: Don Quixote
4 & 8 p.m. Saturday, July 18, First Congregational Church: Complete Beethoven cello sonatas
Musicians of the CMF
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 19: Monday July 20 in Estes Park
Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Julie Albers, cello
Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Haydn: Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D major (“Paris”)

Week 4

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21: Music Mash-Up, Copland + Bon Iver Featuring SHEL
Steve Hackman, conductor
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, and Friday, July 24: Beyond Fairy Tales
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Krisztina Szabo, soprano, and Gabor Bretz, bass-baritone
Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite (1919 version)
Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle (In Hungarian with English supertitles)
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26; Monday July 27 in Estes Park: Sounds of the Mediterranean
Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Ana Vidovic, guitar
Benet Casablancas: Festive Overture (North American premiere)
Joaquin Rodrigo: Concierto d’Aranjuez
Vivaldi: Guitar Concerto in D major, RV.93
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”)

Week 5

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, First Congregational Church: Chamber Music for Strings
Musicians of the CMF
Brahms: Sextet for Strings in G major
Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, and Friday, July 31: John Fielder’s Colorado
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”)
Performed with projected images by photographer John Fielder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1: A Little Nightmare Music
Igudesman & Joo
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2; Monday, Aug. 3 in Estes Park: Nature’s Tableaux
Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Calin Lupanu, violin
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Boreades
Charles Ives: Symphony No. 3
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Haydn: Symphony No. 73 in D major (“The Hunt”)

Week 6

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Music Mash-Up, The Crazy Arc of Love with Storm Large
Steve Hackman, Storm Large & Le Bonheur
7:30 pm. Thursday, Aug. 6, and Friday, Aug. 7: Trading Places
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Bernstein: Overture to Candide
Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
George Antheil: Jazz Symphony (1955 version)
George Gershwin: An American in Paris
Darius Milhaud: A Frenchman in New York
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, First Congregational Church: Chamber Music for winds and piano
Musicians of the CMF
Samuel Barber: Summer Music
Walter Piston: Wind Quintet
Beethoven: Quintet for piano and winds
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9: A Royal Finish
Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Sarah Coburn, soprano, and the Colorado Festival Chorus
Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus
Mozart: Exsultate Jubilate
Mozart: Regina Coeli K.108
Handel: Zadok the Priest
Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
Handel: Excerpts from Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

Edited Feb. 27 for minor corrections in the program, consistency between the program listing and the text of the article, and to insert the date of the announcement.

Edited March 1 to correct the title of Milhaud’s Frenchman in New York.

Carrettin and the Boulder Bach Festival take a new look at the B-minor Mass

Boulder Bach Festival singers and players. Courtesy of the Boulder Back Festival

Boulder Bach Festival singers and players. Courtesy of the Boulder Bach Festival

By Peter Alexander

Bach’s B-minor Mass is one of the most studied, most well known works of music there is.

But have all the answers been found to performing this monumental work? Zachary Carrettin, the music director of the Boulder Bach Festival, who will conduct the B-minor Mass this weekend (Friday at Montview Presbyterian in Denver and Saturday at First United Methodist in Boulder, both at 7:30 p.m.), doesn’t think so.

“The great choirs all over the world have been performing the B-minor Mass for over 200 years,” he says. “Each one of those masterful renditions differs greatly in tempo, in the sense of the musical line, in the dramaturgy of the text and the music. So there is still room for us to re-examine the music and what it means to us today.”

Zachary Carrettin

Zachary Carrettin

Carrettin has invited vocal soloists and other performers to join the Boulder Bach Chorus and Players. The guest artists will be soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg from the Netherlands; American mezzo-soprano Melissa Givens; alto Julie Simson, who returns to Boulder where she taught at CU; tenor John Grau from Minneapolis, who also taught at CU; and American bass-baritone Michael Dean. Violinist Kenneth Goldsmith will be concertmaster.

“I have chosen such autonomous musicians that a lot of my work will involve listening to them, watching them and learning from them,” Carrettin says. “Bringing together the wealth of experiences and the distinct relationships that we all have to Bach and the B-minor Mass—it’s a great honor and a great thing to be part of.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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BBF-2014-15-season-brochure-pdfJ.S. Bach: Mass in B minor
Boulder Bach Festival and soloists
Zachary Carrettin, conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27
Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church
1980 Dahlia St., Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28
First United Methodist Church
1421 Spruce St., Boulder

Tickets

Boulder Phil marks Valentine’s with Legendary Lovers and Red Violin

heart-roses1By Peter Alexander

Valentine’s will be a day for heart-shaped candies; lacy greeting cards; special dinners with your sweetheart; and—thanks to the Boulder Philharmonic—music about a red violin.

Violinist Philippe Quint will join conductor Michael Butterman and the orchestra Saturday evening (7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in Macky Auditorium) to perform John Corigliano’s Red Violin Concerto. The concert, titled “Legendary Love,” will also feature the Prelude and Liebestod (Love Death) from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet.

Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross.

As part of a season of musical “Legends,” a concert on Valentine’s Day suggests obvious possibilities. “Fortunately for us, there is no shortage of good pieces that have dealt with this particular topic—literary couples and so on,” Butterman says. “We thought the date was a mixed blessing (but) we hope that people will choose to make it an evening out and make it part of their Valentine’s plans.”

Philippe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

Philippe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

If you don’t know Corigliano’s Red Violin Concerto, Quint thinks you are in for a treat. “Expect the unexpected,” he says.

“Prepare for an emotional roller coaster. It will really take you from a space of meditation into an absolute emotional frenzy and back, and back again.”

The concerto had its origin in the Academy Award-winning score that Corigliano wrote for the 1998 film The Red Violin. The story of tumultuous and passionate events in the 300-year history of a violin that has literally been varnished with blood, the film featured music played by virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell.

While using music from the film score, the concerto is at least one step removed, since ideas from the film are reworked for a completely different genre. After finishing the film score, Corigliano, whose father was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, created several concert pieces for violin from the film music. When he pulled the Red Violin music into the concerto, he was thinking of the performances he had heard his father give in Carnegie Hall.

“This is my first (concerto) for my first love, the violin,” he has written. “It is an ‘in the great tradition’ kind of concerto, because I wrote it in an attempt to write the piece my father would love to play.”

Quint concurs. “This work is mostly a throwback into the Romantic period of great violin writing,” he says. “It’s a very substantial work, where Corigliano takes it to the next level by adding these really unbelievable effects. There are going to be some sounds that you never heard.”

Philippe Quint. Photo by Philipp Jekker

Philippe Quint. Photo by Philipp Jekker

He particularly points to the concerto’s final movement, which the composer describes as “a rollicking race” between soloist and orchestra. Quint compares that movement to a famous scene from another film: “You remember those Indiana Jones movies, with the huge rock that’s running, and you’re running away. The last movement is really like that rock, it’s coming at you at this crazy speed and you’re trying to get away from it.”

By coincidence, Quint himself plays a violin that is known for the reddish tint of its varnish—although there is no blood involved. It is a Stradivarius violin from 1708—near the age of the red violin of the film—that is known as “The Ruby Strad.”

“I love to speculate that this is the violin that inspired the film,” Quint says. “But it’s a fictional story, so any such claim is false.” Noting that the violin belongs to the Stradivari Society of Chicago, Quint adds, “I feel very, very fortunate to have an opportunity to play on this violin.”

The two pieces that comprise the second half of the concert program are about legendary lovers—Tristan and Isolde, and Romeo and Juliet. Both works date from the second half of the 19th century, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde from 1859, and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet from 1870 (revised in 1880). But though they both celebrate famous love stories, they are in many ways very different.

Tristan and Isolde. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1911.

Tristan and Isolde. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1911.

Often described as the beginning of modernism in music, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is famous for the use of chromatic harmonies to extend a feeling of musical tension across an entire 5-hour opera. Even before it had been premiered, Wagner himself made an arrangement pairing the Prelude—the opera’s opening section, today studied in detail by all music students—and the closing passage, Isolde’s Liebestod (Love death).

“What we have in this piece in particular is, not so much the soaring high moments that one feels in romance, but the longing, the anticipation, the tension, the bittersweet aspects,” Butterman says. “That is wholly the function of Wagner’s ability to create tension and almost never quite give it resolution.”

Romeo and Juliet. Painting by Francesco-Paolo-Hayez.

Romeo and Juliet. Painting by Francesco-Paolo-Hayez.

If Wagner’s score lacks the “soaring high moments that one feels in romance,” as Butterman says, that’s just what Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet offers in its “rhapsodic, passionate melody” representing the lovers.

“The tension that Tchaikovsky creates is not so much with this use of chromatic harmony,” Butterman says, “but with his ability to bring in elements of the conflict between the families with the introduction of brass and percussion.

“You have this soaring theme and all of a sudden (brass and percussion interruptions) and then it goes back to the soaring theme. It’s not a piece where you can follow the story in a linear fashion from beginning to end. I think it is more just ideas from the drama that have gotten mixed together in a 20-minute piece.”

In addition to the Valentine’s Day performance, there will be other events leading up to the concert. From 7:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday evening (Feb. 11), the Dairy Center in Boulder will present Café Phil—a free open rehearsal of the orchestra with Butterman. This is very much a working rehearsal, and will be without the soloist, but will be a revealing glimpse into the inner workings of the orchestra. Wine, beer, coffee, juice, snacks and pastries are available for purchase until 9:30 p.m.

There is also the opportunity to see the film of The Red Violin, which will be screened at the Dairy Center’s Boedecker Theater. Showings will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, Feb. 11 and 13, and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12.

# # # # #

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

“Legendary Love”
Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, conductor Philippe Quint, violin
John Corigliano: Red Violin Concerto
Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14
Macky Auditorium
Information and tickets

Café Phil open rehearsal
Boulder Philharmonic and Michael Butterman, conductor
7:30–10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11
Dairy Center for the Arts Free

RedViolin400x518Screenings of The Red Violin
4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12
4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13
The Dairy Center for the Arts
Information and tickets

Pro Musica Colorado presents a rich exploration of sound and expression

By Peter Alexander

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of Pro Musica Colorado

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of Pro Musica Colorado

The Pro Music Colorado Chamber Orchestra performed a concert of music for strings last night (Feb. 7) with pieces that were inspired by poetry, by earlier music, and by nature.

Cynthia Katsarelis conducted Pro Musica’s string sections with both intensity and control. The performance proved to be a beautiful and rich exploration of sound and expression.

All three pieces on the program—Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 2, “The American Four Seasons,” and the world premiere of . . . I give you my sprig of lilac by CU composition student Daniel Cox—originated in roughly the past 100 years, and all three impressed with the depth and breadth of sound that a string ensemble can produce.

The program opened with Cox’s brief, elegiac score. The winner of a composition competition, Cox turned to Walt Whitman’s memorial poem for Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” for inspiration. The title comes from lines in the poem, describing the passage of Lincoln’s coffin through the streets: “With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang,/Here coffin that slowly passes,/I give you my sprig of lilac.”

The sound is warm and comforting as the music gradually emerges, swells, then trails into silence. The obvious comparison is of the funeral cortege slowly passing, but it would undervalue the music to hear it only in pictorial terms. Cox has written a polished and assured work that reaches deeper levels of emotion and honors Whitman’s poem.

The earliest piece on the program was Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia, finalized 1919 and inspired by the music of the 16th-century English composer Thomas Tallis. The score harkens back to the idyllic days before the First World War, expressing the very apotheosis of the English pastoral style that emerged from the composer’s study of folk song.

The performance by Katsarelis and the Pro Musica players was impressive for both the fullness of sound—the sheer volume—that can be achieved by a small group of string players, and by the careful control of the music’s contour. Katsarelis loves to talk about the “journey” of each piece; here that journey was clearly delineated in her interpretation.

Philip Glass

Philip Glass

The second half of the concert was filled by Glass’s Concerto, written as a companion for the much loved Four Seasons concertos of Antonio Vivaldi. Although Glass has declined to indentify which seasons the individual movements represent, there is a sense of a journey—that word again!—through time and the stages of the year. And while Glass sticks mostly to the stylistic paths that he has long followed in his career, the music is varied in its expressive content and always rewarding.

Yumi Hwang-Williams. Photo by r r jones

Yumi Hwang-Williams. Photo by r r jones

The concerto’s eloquent soloist was Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony and an accomplished solo artist and chamber musician. She was equally impressive in the solo part’s seamless long lines, the breathless pianissimos, and the cascading arpeggios for which Glass is so well known.

Katsarelis and Pro Music provided full-bodied support, with great rhythmic propulsion when needed, the requisite chugging that never flagged in the lower parts, and delicately balanced chords in the gentler moments. This is a style that we do not hear often in Boulder, and it was delightful to hear Glass’s music so enthusiastically championed.

But which season is which? I have my ideas, but you won’t find an answer here. As a Buddhist, Glass likely honors the journey over the destination. So you will have to find your own answers; I would not deny my readers that personal journey of discovery.

Pro Musica Colorado Offers Four Seasons, But Can’t Say Which is Which

Also on the program: World Premiere by CU student Daniel Cox

By Peter Alexander

Philip Glass

Philip Glass

The Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra will perform Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2: “The American Four Seasons,” but don’t ask which season each movement represents.

Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis explains that the composer left it up to the listener to decide: “The concerto was commissioned by violinist Robert McDuffie,” she says. “But when McDuffie and Glass got together, they didn’t agree on which parts went with which season.

“Glass saw that as an opportunity for the listener to make their own interpretation—and that’s the invitation to our audience.”

yumi-hipThe performances (Friday, Feb. 6, in Denver and Saturday, Feb. 7, in Boulder, both at 7:30 p.m.) will feature violinist Yumi Hwang Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony as soloist. Other works on the program will be the world premiere of . . . I Give you my Sprig of Lilac by CU composition student Daniel Cox, and the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Katsarelis thinks that Hwang-Williams is the ideal interpreter for Glass’s concerto. “Yumi’s appetite for music goes beyond the orchestral,” Katasrelis says.

“She is a concertmaster who runs the full gamut of repertoire, as concerto soloist she runs the gamut, she has particular experience in the contemporary repertoire, and she’s a formidable chamber musician. All of that comes to bear in making her one of the most fabulously intelligent and deep feeling soloists that you could have.”

Read the full article in Boulder Weekly.

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Cynthia Katsarelis and the Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orcehstra

Cynthia Katsarelis and the Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orcehstra

“American Seasons”
Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, St. John’s Cathedral, 1350 Washington St., Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder

Click here for tickets; or call 720-443-0565