Composer Lowell Liebermann will have residency at CU Boulder College of Music

Public performances Oct. 18 & 19 provide an introduction to his music

By Peter Alexander

If you don’t know the music of American composer Lowell Liebermann, the coming week is your opportunity.

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Composer Lowell Lieberman. Photo by Christian Steiner

Actually, if you do know his music, the coming week is an opportunity, too. The composer of accessible, intriguing, and often surprising works in many different genres, Liebermann will be in residence at the CU College of Music through Thursday (Oct. 19). The residency includes two full programs of Liebermann’s music—at noon Wednesday at the Dairy Arts Center and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Grusin Concert Hall. (See the schedule below for details and admission information.)

A Roser Visiting Artist at CU, Liebermann was invited by Peter and Helen Weil Prof. of Piano David Korevaar, who met Liebermann when they were both undergraduates at Juilliard. “We’ve known each other since we were, dare I say, still teenagers!” Korevaar says. “And I’ve been interested in his music ever since.”

Korevaar has been playing some of Liebermann’s pieces in concerts over the past year, and just completed a recording of his music. “I was thinking very much about Lowell,” he says, “so I thought it would be great to have him come. [CU composition professor] Dan Kellogg was very supportive and together we applied for funding from the Roser Visiting Artist’s Fund.”

As part of the Roser fund’s support, Liebermann will be meeting with many different groups of CU students this week. Activities include masterclasses with piano and flute students, coachings with all the performers of his works being presented during the residency, and extensive work with composition students.

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David Korevaar

For those who may not know Liebermann’s music, Korevaar explains that it’s “accessible in the best sense. Often very lyrical, often dramatic. There’s a lot of variety— what he’s got first of all is an amazing craft. He can write anything, and for anything. He also has a great imagination, but he manages to integrate everything so well.

“His music, especially what he wrote in the 1990s, tended to have a lot of very, shall we say, nominally pleasant and familiar sounds. And some of it is not pleasant—one of the things that Lowell can do is really create some nightmarish sounds. He’ll do that by twisting your expectations, but he balances it well. He knows how to balance things, as any good composer does.”

Korevaar, who has been very busy with performances lately, from Beethoven with the Boulder Philharmonic to several Faculty Tuesday recitals and a Brahms concerto on tour, will be part of several of the performances. In spite of everything on his plate, he likes Liebermann’s music so much that he was unable to resist joining in.

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Jennifer Hayghe

“My original plan when I put this whole thing together was I wasn’t going to do any of the playing,” he says. “But how can I not put myself in? Lowell has some recent chamber pieces that he was particularly interested having done, plus there was the Sonata for Two Pianos, and I thought that would be a great piece for me to finally get to play with Jennifer Hayghe.”

The performances during the coming week will feature Korevaar and other CU faculty, students and alumni. Several of the piano pieces are included, played by different artists, including Liebermann himself Wednesday at the Dairy.

A number of chamber pieces are also included in the two concerts, among them the Flute Sonata—probably Liebermann’s best known work—performed by flutist Joshua Hall and pianist Cecilia Kao, and the Sonata for Two Pianos by Korevaar and Hayghe.

Another that Korevaar thinks is especially impressive to hear is the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, which he will play with clarinetist Daniel Silver and violist Ericka Eckert. (The full program for both concerts is listed below.) There will also be a talk-back with the composer following the Wednesday performance at the Dairy.

If you need one more reason to attend the concerts, Korevaar points out that there will plenty of flash and dazzle on display, including the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano. “I think one of the reasons that Lowell’s music has been very successful is that he also understands instrumental virtuosity, and there’s plenty of that,” he says.

“His music can be very brilliant and very showy.”

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Lowell Liebermann Residency
CU Boulder College of Music

Public events:

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Liebermann

2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, Grusin Concert Hall
Piano class, with CU students playing works by Lowell Liebermann

3:30 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 17, Room NB59, Imig Music Building
Flute Class, Christian Jennings Studio

12 noon Wednesday, Oct. 18, Dairy Arts Center
Soundscape at the Dairy: Music of Lowell Liebermann

—Piano Quartet: Sharon Park, violin; Stephanie Mientka, viola; Zachary Reaves, cello; Sarah Rushing, piano
—Elegy for Clarinet and Piano: Emily Wrangler, clarinet; Adam Coleman, piano
—Nocturne No. 2: Ryan Grippo, piano
—Nocturne No. 7: Sophia Zervas, piano
—Nocturne No. 10: Lowell Liebermann, piano
—Trio for clarinet, viola and piano: Daniel Silver, clarinet; Ericka Eckert, viola; David Korevaar, piano
—Post-concert talkback with Lowell Liebermann, David Korevaar, and Sharon Park

Tickets

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, Grusin Concert Hall
Faculty/student recital of music by Lowell Liebermann

—Flute Sonata: Joshua Hall, flute, and Cecilia Kao, piano
—Nocturne No. 8: Maria Wietrzynska, piano
—Piano Trio No. 3: Charles Wetherbee, violin; David Requiro, cello; David Korevaar, piano
—Violin Sonata: William Terwilliger, violin, and Andrew Cooperstock, piano
—Sonata for Two Pianos: Jennifer Hayghe and David Korevaar
—Daydream and Nightmare for two pianos, eight hands: Sarah Rushing, Jonathan Morris, Nathália Kato, and Barbara Noyes

Free and open to the public.
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Edited 10.16 to correct the names of performers due to last-minute schedule changes.

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‘Bachtoberfest’ concerts are all about Bach, not beer

Boulder Bach Festival embarks on a new season of adventures

By Peter Alexander

Boulder’s ever-adventurous Bach Festival embarks on a new season of exploration, with concerts in Boulder Oct. 12 and Longmont Oct. 14.

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Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock for the Juilliard School and Philharmonia Baroque will be a guest artists with the Boulder Bach Festival. Photo by David Tayler.

Boulder Bach Festival music director Zachary Carretin explains, “We spent recent years talking about Bach as our compass, and that gives us liberty to explore in any direction, across time, across cultures. So exploration is certainly a theme (this year), and presenting music the festival has never presented before.”

Not that Bach has been forgotten. “Every program does connect to the music of J.S. Bach,” he says, “sometimes in more direct ways, sometimes with six degrees of separation.”

That description applies to the opening program, which features chamber works with and without voice by Bach and composers associated with him: Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, his student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and his son Johann Christian Bach, known as “The London Bach.” Featured performers are Carretin and Elizabeth Blumenstock on violin; cellist Guy Fishman; keyboardist Christopher Holman; and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Bachtoberfest”
Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carretin, artistic director
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Guy Fishman, cello; Christopher, Holman, keyboards; and Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road, Longmont

Tickets

 

Boulder Philharmonic brings “Music of Resistance” to Macky

Pieces by Benjamin Britten, Beethoven and Shostakovich

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic calls their next concert “Music of Resistance,” but it might more accurately be called “Music of Conscience.”

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Boulder Philharmonic

The concert, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 14) in Macky Auditorium, features three pieces, each of which expresses a message of conscience from the composer—two of them explicit, one more murky and controversial. Music director Michael Butterman will conduct.

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Tenor Matthew Plenk

The first piece will be Benjamin Britten’s Ballad of Heroes for tenor, chorus and orchestra, composed in 1939 for a “Festival of Music for the People” held in London. A setting of poetry by W.H. Auden and Randall Swingler, it is a response to the Spanish Civil War. The overtly political text roundly condemns the “numberless Englishmen” who have forgotten those who “fight for peace, for liberty, for you.” Matthew Plenk, a faculty member at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, will be the tenor soloist.

The second is Beethoven’s Fantasy for Piano, Vocal Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra, composed in 1808 for a massive concert that included the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, two movements from the Mass in C major. The Fantasy was hurriedly composed as a concert-ending piece that would bring all of the performers together.

The text, suggested by Beethoven and written mostly by the poet Christoph Kuffner, expresses the composer’s idealistic conviction that music can bestow “outer peace and inner bliss,” and the blessings of the gods upon mankind. CU music professor David Korevaar will be the soloist.

The final and more controversial piece is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, composed in 1937. The score was written after the composer was sharply criticized and threatened under orders from Stalin. Shostakovich stated that the subsequent symphony was “a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism,” and it ends with a march that expresses either the triumph of the Soviet state, or its brutality, depending on the interpretation.

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Michael Butterman

“There are different views of this,” Butterman says. “Certainly one of the more prevalent is the notion that Shostakovich was more or less pinned against the wall and told, ‘it would be a shame if anything happened to your career.’ So the question is, did he just say, ‘You want something that’s life-affirming? I can do that.’ Or was it a veiled protest?

“There is a way that rings in the Shostakovich that could be interpreted as compelled, or rejoicing that is done for show. Of course I don’t know, but I tend to think it’s that.”

The other two works are unfamiliar, but both can be seen as early, small-scale versions of larger and more familiar works written later in the composer’s career. Britten’s Ballad of Heroes shares many traits with the composer’s War Requiem, written in 1962, including the textual contrast between the quiet British homefront and the horror of war, brass fanfares, and Britten’s characteristic style of vocal writing for the soloist.

Similarly, Beethoven’s Fantasy sounds very much like the Ninth Symphony written 16 years later. The regular phrasing and simple outline of the theme, the combination of chorus, soloists and orchestra, and the use of variations leading to a triumphant close inevitably remind listeners of the symphony’s famous finale.

In spite of being unfamiliar, both works are “worth hearing and also interesting because of their better known analogs,” Butterman says. “You get some insight into the world views and the frames of mind of these two (composers), through the text and the quality of the music carrying the text.”

The Britten was suggested to Butterman by an orchestra member. He didn’t know the score, but once he listened, he said, “I thought it was really effective.

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Benjamin Britten

“It’s fascinating because Britten was a pacifist, and yet this piece is celebrating those who went off in the International Brigade to fight in the Spanish civil, against fascism. He’s saying, If you believe in something, you’ve got to stand up for it.”

Plenk had not heard the piece before, either. As in much of Britten’s music, he says, “there’s a somewhat instrumental character to the way he writes for tenor.”

As for the political content of the text, “any time you’re performing, you’re trying to express what the composer intended, whether it’s political or not,” he says. “I’d urge people to let the text lead them (in how they listen to the music). I would say that with any music, but this was written for a specific purpose, to memorialize the fallen soldiers from the International Brigade of the Spanish Civil War.”

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David Korevaar

Korevaar relishes the opportunity to play Beethoven’s Fantasy. “One of the reasons we play it is because it has this wonderful sense of uplift,” he says. “It starts in C minor, a key that Beethoven uses for drama and tragedy. And C major (where it ends) is a key of joy and light. And so there is an aspect of a ritual experience” when you hear it.

One thing Korevaar particularly enjoys is the way “the piano is given a sort of Promethean role,” he says. “When I play this piece I have the feeling of having magical powers.

“The piano begins alone, and then we add the instruments one at a time. It’s like you’re giving life to all these figures, and then once the orchestra and the piano have had their say, what more can you do? Then you conjure up human voices, first solos and then a chorus!

“It’s really marvelous.”

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Music of Resistance
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
Matthew Plenk, tenor, and David Korevaar, piano
CU Boulder and Western Illinois University choirs
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Ars Nova singers open season with the Monet of choral music

Program features the complete choral works of Maurice Duruflé

By Peter Alexander

If Monet’s paintings were music, they would be the choral works of Maurice Duruflé.

That’s the view of Thomas Edward Morgan, director of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, who open their season Oct. 6 and 7 in Denver and Boulder with an all-Duruflé program, featuring the composer’s entire output for chorus.

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Thomas Edward Morgan and Ars Nova Singers. Photo by Julie Afflerbaugh.

“Our mailing for this [concert] used a Monet painting of Rouen Cathedral,” Morgan says. “Duruflé was a choir boy at that cathedral, and [his music] is as close as we get in the musical world to how Monet was seeing the world.”

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Maurice Duruflé

Duruflé’s name is probably better known to choral singers than to the general public, largely because his music is very rewarding to sing, but there’s not very much of it. “He was a perfectionist,” Morgan says. “He didn’t release very much material, but all of what he did is just extremely well crafted, and a joy to do.”

The anchor of the program will be Duruflé’s best known work, his Requiem, composed in the 1940s. The other choral works on the program are a set of four motets, composed in 1950; the Cum jubilo Mass of 1960, for male choir and organ; and Notre Père (Our Father), an a capella work composed in 1977.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Maurice Duruflé: The Complete Choral Works

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director
Joyce Kull and Brian du Fresne, organ
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder

Tickets

 

 

 

Longmont Symphony Orchestra embraces ‘New Frontiers’

Elliot Moore, new music director, opens the 2017–18 season Oct. 7

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) enters a new era Saturday (Oct. 7), playing their first regular-season concert with recently-hired music director Elliot Moore.

Elliot Moore at Lake McIntosh - credit - Photography Maestro (1)

New LSO director Elliot Moore loves living in Colorado.

Titled “New Frontiers with Old & New Friends,” it will be the first major concert since the full retirement of Robert Olson, who was music director of the LSO for 34 years. “Having a new music director after 34 years is an entirely new frontier, for the orchestra, and maybe for the community,” Moore says.

The idea of frontiers runs through the entire season, from “New Frontiers and Old Friends” Saturday, to a program titled “The American Frontier” on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to spring concerts featuring a world premiere, music evocative of the sea, and the LSO’s first-ever chamber orchestra concert in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium. (See the full season here.)

The frontier theme also has a personal meaning for Moore. “Moving out here is definitely a new frontier, for both me and my wife,” he says. “I’m very happy to say that we love it here, we’re having a fantastic time living in the community.”

The additional theme of friendships old and new runs through Saturday’s concert. Foremost of course is the fact that Moore is making many new friends as he settles into the Longmont community. But that idea is also reflected in the music Moore selected for the program: Slalom by CU composition professor Carter Pann, Rachmaninoff’s beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with pianist Spencer Meyer, and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

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Pianist Spencer Meyer

The first half of this program is devoted to new friends, including the pianist playing the Rachmaninoff, Spencer Meyer. “He and I share the same artistic manager and we’ve been hearing about each other for a long time,” Moore says. “I’m really excited to be working with him for the first time.”

In a sense the Rachmaninoff might be thought of as an old friend for musicians and audiences alike. With its virtuoso exploration of Paganini’s famous theme—used by numerous composers as a subject for variations—and the beautifully tender 18th variation, it’s a piece that everyone loves.

“Everybody does love this piece,” Moore says. “It has a lot to do with the great violinist Paganini and the story that Paganini sold his soul to the devil, and it includes the (melody of the) 13th-century Dies Irae chant throughout the work.

“When you know the meaning (of the chant,) which is the Day of Wrath, I think it gives the music more meaning and enhances everyone’s experience.”

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Composer Carter Pann

Pann is another new friend for Moore. “While we have never met, we’ve had wonderful exchanges on e-mail about his music,” he says. “I’m really excited to be working with him. Having such an incredible artist living right here within the community is inspiring.”

 Pann’s piece, describing a fast descent of a ski run, is filled with quotations from popular classical pieces. “In my head, I see Carter putting on his headphones,” Moore says. “He puts on his favorite playlist and starts zooming down the mountain. You’ll hear some works that are familiar to us all in his piece.”

Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the final piece on the program, is all about friendship. Each of the score’s 14 variations is a character sketch of one of Elgar’s friends. Elgar, who enjoyed puzzles, concealed the names of the people represented—some only slightly, by using their initials, others more carefully with puns or more cryptic designations. One titled “Romanza” is represented by a series of asterisks, which may stand for a local musical patron, who was away on a sea voyage, or a lost love of Elgar’s youth who had sailed to New Zealand years before.

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Sir Edward Elgar

Perhaps the most famous variation is titled “Nimrod.” In it, Elgar paints a portrait of a close friend and associate, Augustus Jaeger. In German Jaeger means “hunter,” which suggested the Biblical name of Nimrod, “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” Others portrayed in the piece include Elgar himself, his wife, and amateur musicians from Elgar’s circle.

Moore likes to note that some of the variations also tell a story that would be known to the subject. “One example is one of his friends, (who) liked to play fetch with his dog,” he explains. “The musical vignette is about playing a game of fetch, and the dog barking. That’s the story that the two of them knew about.”

The Enigma Variations can be enjoyed without knowing any of this, but Moore aims to provide as much information as possible. “I think the more you understand, the more fun you have,” he says. “I intend to give a talk, with some musical examples, to everyone who’s there.”

Enhancing listeners’ understanding and enjoyment of the concerts is one of Moore’s main goals as director of the LSO. Or in the poetic language of concert themes, introducing the audience to both new friends and old.

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Opening Night: New Frontiers with Old & New Friends
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
Spencer Meyer, piano
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Tickets

Boulder Phil opens their season with an outstanding soloist, great works

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu weds technique and expression for Schumann’s Concerto

By Peter Alexander

Last night (Sept. 24) conductor Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic opened their 2017–18 season with “The Boulder Phil at 60,” a successful and well balanced program that featured an outstanding soloist, two great works, and a (relatively) new piece that that was co-commissioned with 47 other orchestras around the country.

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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra

The performance was introduced by Boulder City Council Member Jan Burton reading from a proclamation declaring Boulder Philharmonic Day, congratulating the orchestra for realizing its mission to reflect the Boulder community as well as for its longevity. While the program did not have the Boulder-centric focus of the recent seasons, it was received with enthusiasm.

The concert opened with Dreamtime Ancestors by Christopher Theofanidis. Commissioned by a consortium of orchestras in 48 of the 50 states, including the Boulder Phil for Colorado, it has been played around the country starting with its world premiere in 2015, and has now made its way to Boulder.

Dreamtime Ancestors was supposedly inspired by, and has titles reflecting, Australian Aboriginal spiritual beliefs, but you would be hard pressed to discern that in the music. The highly characteristic and mystical Aboriginal beliefs are reflected in only the most general way; about the best you can say is that Theofanidis tastefully avoids any patronizing faux-exoticism in the music.

Instead, the score is composed in a more-or-less contemporary Western orchestral style, with a discernable profile and structure that makes the music easily accessible. Avoiding any bold gestures, the music holds nothing that would disconcert a contemporary classical-music audience. Played with warmth and firm musicality by the Boulder Philharmonic, it made an unchallenging but agreeable opening for the concert.

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Pianist Jon Nakamatsu

The first of the two great works was Schumann’s familiar Piano Concerto in A minor, played by soloist Jon Nakamatsu. The pianist’s sure technique was used in service of a deeply expressive performance that clearly moved the audience. In a work of many moods, his interpretation was striking for its use of gentle lyricism in the quiet, reflective moments to contrast with the more robust portions of the concerto.

This was especially effective in the slower middle movement, which was played with great beauty and tenderness. In the first movement, however, I found the style of the quieter moments overdrawn. Nakamatsu’s lyricism was lovely, but the tempo sometimes slowed so much that these quieter passages seemed to interrupt the overall momentum and continuity of the movement.

The contrasting moods were better matched in the finale, which danced along convincingly as Nakamatsu met every expressive demand. Butterman and the orchestra provided secure support for his interpretation. A standing ovation from a nearly-full Macky Auditorium brought Nakamatsu back onstage for a lovely and touching encore performance of Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu.

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Michael Butterman

The orchestra came into its own for the other great work, forming the full second half of the concert: Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor. Sometimes celebrated as the composer’s greatest symphony, the Seventh is less known, and notably more somber than either the cheerful. folkish Eighth Symphony or the ever-popular Ninth Symphony, famously composed in the New World.

This symphony is a challenge for both conductor and orchestra, requiring stylistic commitment and perception, as well as musical precision and control. Butterman and the Phil met the challenges head on, with a strong conception of the work. The very beginning was a little ragged in pitch and rhythm—a reflection of the musicians having been apart for the summer?—and the orchestral sound was not initially consistent, lacking a solid core.

Happily, the players soon settled in and the performance grew stronger and stronger. Individual moments were musically expressive throughout, and the first movement ended forcefully. The second movement was stylish and well paced. The third movement, titled only “Scherzo,” has an obvious folk-dance quality throughout, a feeling that was well captured by Butterman and the Phil.

The stormy finale was the best movement, with well controlled pacing that reflected the composer’s calculated withholding of a major-key resolution until the very last measures. Individual players shone in their solo passages, including one of the best propulsive punches for a timpanist to be found anywhere in the orchestral world. Once again the audience stood, celebrating Boulder’s fine orchestra, its remarkable 60-year history, and the successful start of a new season.

Takács Quartet and Boulder Phil deliver a classical double-header

The missing composer in both concerts? Beethoven.

By Peter Alexander

Takasc String Quartet

Takacs Quartet. Photo by Keith Saunders.

Boulder will see a classical-music double-header Sunday, Sept. 24 as the Takács Quartet and the Boulder Philharmonic both open their seasons the same day.

The Takács goes first, at 4 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall on the CU campus with a program of Haydn, Mendelssohn and Brahms. And at 7 p.m. in Macky Auditorium, the Boulder Phil will open their 60th anniversary season with the music of Dvorák, Schumann and Christopher Theofanidis. The Takács will repeat their concert on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

That Takács program, and later programs during the year, are noticeably missing one composer. There are classical works during the fall (Haydn, Mozart), Romantic works (Mendelssohn, Brahms), and one new piece (Carl Vine). But there is no Beethoven.

That’s because the Takács played the full cycle of Beethoven quartets several times last year, and they decided enough was enough. “We’re definitely taking a breather from Beethoven this year,” the quartet’s first violinist, Edward Dusinberre, says.

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Jon Nakamatsu

Music director Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic will open their 60th season with a work co-commissioned with orchestras in all 50 states, Dreamtime Ancestors by Christopher Theofanidis. Other works on the program are Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor with pianist Jon Nakamatsu, and Dvorák’s Symphony No 7. in D minor.

Nakamatsu is looking forward to playing the Schumann Concerto, even though he has played it many times before. “People say if it’s really familiar to the audience, it’s more difficult to play because everyone has an opinion,” he says. “But I find if you don’t have to win people over with the piece, you just have to play. Playing something everyone loves already, you have happy people in the hall. That’s a good place to start.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Takacs Quartet
Haydn, Mendelssohn and Brahms
4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24 (sold out)
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25
Grusin Music Hall

Tickets

Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, conductor
Jon Nakamatsu, piano
“Boulder Phil at 60”
7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24
Macky Auditorium

Tickets