Piano virtuosity, with and without the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Spanish pianist Victoria Aja will be heard in two performances in Boulder

By Peter Alexander

Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo

Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo

When a soloist comes all the way across the Atlantic, Bahman Saless likes to give her a real opportunity to be a star.

That is certainly the case for Victoria Aja, a Spanish pianist who has played extensively in Europe but is not well known here. Aja will be the soloist with Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra on their next concert, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, in the First United Methodist Church in Boulder (program to be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Broomfield Auditorium; tickets). And a week later, she will play a solo recital, “A Night of Spanish Piano Masterpieces,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in Grace Lutheran Church in Boulder (tickets).

“I really wanted to expose her to the Boulder audiences, in her own intimate setting, which is she does a lot of piano recitals,” Saless says. “I decided, she’s come all the way from (Spain) to here, we will basically host her the entire week, and have her do another recital program of just Spanish music.”

Pianist Victoria Aja

Pianist Victoria Aja

For the orchestra program, Aja will play two large pieces, virtual concertos, with the BCO: a chamber orchestra version of Manuel de Falla’s atmospheric piano showpiece Nights in the Gardens of Spain; and French composer Cesar Franck’s more serious work Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra.

The orchestra will also play two works that complete the Spanish/French pairing: de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” from El Amor Brujo and the early Symphony in C major by Georges Bizet.

The solo recital program of Spanish music, to be played without intermission, will include the complete Suite from El Amor Brujo, arranged for piano, as well as other works by de Falla, Isaac Albeniz, Joaquin Larregla, and two of the Fifteen Basque Preludes by Padre Jose Antonio Donostia.

Aja comes from the Basque region of Spain, near the border with France. A Basque musicologist and composer, Donostia based his Basque Preludes on the traditional music of the region.

Saless learned of Aja when she wrote to him a few years ago, including a resume and several DVD recordings of her solo recitals. “I had been wanting to do a Spanish program for quite a while, and I thought she would probably be a good fit,” Saless says.

“She is really from the more gypsy end of Spanish pianists—very sort of hot blooded, you know, rubatos, a crazy pianist. She specializes in de Falla, so I thought, let’s bring her in, we’ll do something cool and crazy.”

Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Friday and Saturday’s orchestra program, Oct. 3 and 4, is titled “Glamour,” but not for the exotic European piano virtuoso. “No,” Saless says, “really the glamour comes from the French-Spanish (culture) of that era, when the music was written. It’s very chic.

“It’s an amazing, exquisite program. It’s really very luscious. Sandwiched by the “Fire Dance” at the beginning and the Bizet Symphony at the end, it’s a really fun and jolly concert. In between, the de Falla pieces are so exotic and I think people are not used to hearing so much color. Color is everywhere with de Falla, and with that sense it’s a really unusual concert for us because you don’t do much color with a chamber orchestra.”

But Saless believes that the Oct. 10 solo recital will be Aja’s “signature event.”

“She is much more of a recital pianist than an orchestra pianist,” he explains. “I think that concert is really going to be fun, filled with music that you just will not hear here in the US. It will showcase her very stylistic, gypsy sort of piano.

“She’s extremely musical— she cannot not be musical!”

# # # # #


Boulder Chamber Orchestra
Bahman Saless, conductor, with Victoria Aja, piano
“Ritual Fire Dance” from El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla
Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Manuel de Falla
Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra by Cesar Franck
Symphony in C major by Georges Bizet

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, Broomfield Auditorium


“A Night of Spanish Piano Masterpieces”

Victoria Aja, piano
Presented by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10
Grace Lutheran Church, Boulder


One thought on “Piano virtuosity, with and without the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

  1. After doing a fair amount of research, I have realized the talent it takes to play the Piano in an Orchestra. The Piano can be an extremely underrated part of an orchestra, even though it takes questionably the most amount of focus. Being next to the percussion instruments, and typically having to come in after all the strings, wind, and brass, I admire the amount of focus it requires. It is awesome that you have created a performance dedicated to the Spanish culture as well. The program seems to have an outstanding set-up and sounds like it will live up to the title of an entertaining performance. I look forward to hearing of the success Aja and the rest of the Orchestra will have in the near future.
    -Ashley Heid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s