Soundscape Series will offer adventurous programs
By Peter Alexander
The Dairy Center for the Arts is building a new matinee music series, and they have brought in a two-by-four.
No, not a wooden 2×4; a concert featuring two quartets. The performance, “Music for Four,” will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday (March 18) in the Dairy’s Performance Space. The program will be shared by the Boulder Bassoon Quartet, playing music from their album “From the Opposite Shore”; and the Altius String Quartet, playing music by Joseph Haydn and György Ligeti.
The Dairy’s intriguing and adventurous Soundscape series of monthly concerts started in January, and so far has featured programs of “Women in Classical Music” and “Jazz in Classical Music.” The current series will continue through June, then take two months off before resuming in the fall. You can learn about the remaining concerts through the Spring, featuring the Austin Piazzolla Quintet, “Classical Music Unbuttoned” and the Miami String Quartet with composer Bruce Adolphe on the Dairy Center Web page.
The 2015-16 series will be announced by June, director James Bailey says.
Bailey started the series to fill an unmet need that he saw. “I have held the belief for a long time that there are many people in the Boulder area, and in the Denver area, who either cannot go out at night, or who don’t like to go out at night,” he says.
“I’ve often thought there was a need for a good, broadly diversified, highly professional matinee series, so people who go during the day could be out before the traffic got bad. They could be home for dinner and have had a wonderful artistic experience during the early afternoon.”
Bailey, who has organized concert series in Denver at Dazzle and Lannie’s Cabaret over the past four years, was able to sell his idea to Bill Obermeier, executive director of the Dairy. Obermeier liked the idea and gave Bailey the go-ahead for the Soundscape matinee series last fall.
“I think that the key (to programming the series) is a lot of variety,” Bailey says. “In terms of the genres of music, there’s going to be a lot of modern music. But I personally believe that people will get off their sofas and come out to hear contemporary music. There is an appetite for modern music, particularly modern chamber music, that is not being met.”
Bailey said that the performers will all be professionals, from young freelancers from the various universities, to university professors, to freelance professionals who perform with the Boulder Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony and other groups around the state. Occasionally, groups who are traveling in Colorado will also be featured. The musicians will be paid modestly.
“They aren’t doing it for the money,” Bailey says. “What they are going to be able to do is perform alongside other professional musicians, doing music that they really want to do.”
Wednesday’s concert is a perfect example of Bailey’s approach. It features two young ensembles, playing music they love to perform. Members of the Boulder Bassoon Quartet are graduates of CU who met as students. Today they are freelance musicians who also perform as a quartet.
“It’s an unusual type of group,” Bailey says. “(But) they are brilliant performers, and they’re a lot of fun. They play music that is alive, it’s exciting, and in the performances that I’ve heard, they stole the show.”
The quartet will play two works that they commissioned, a quartet that American bassoonist/composer Paul Hanson wrote while living in Japan, and one that Japanese composer Rica Narimoto wrote while living in New York City. Both are on the quartet’s debut album, “From the Opposite Shore.”
Brian Jack, one of the members of the quartet, explains that Hanson is a virtuoso bassoonist and composer whom they really wanted to work with. “He’s not only a classical musician, he’s a jazz musician and a funk bassoonist, an electric bassoonist,” he says. “He’s an amazing pioneer with the instrument.
“He went to Japan because he was invited by Cirque de Soleil to create his own role at the new production in Tokyo. So the guy’s music is very worldly and eclectic and of super high quality. And his quartet is all about his time in Japan.”
The Japanese composer, Narimoto, spent several months on a grant living in New York, so the quartet members asked her to write a piece about her time there. “Her piece is quite different from what we got from Paul Hanson, but they are both really high quality,” Jack says. “Her musical language is modern, but it’s written in a way that really captures all these experiences that everybody has had, (such as) running through sudden rain and hearing subway announcements.”
The Altius String Quartet is the graduate string quartet-in-residence in the CU College of Music. They are mentored by the renowned Takács String Quartet, but they also perform widely as a professional quartet in their own right. They are resident quartet of the Western Slope Concert Series in Grand Junction and have coached chamber music and performed at Music in the Mountains Conservatory in Durango.
“This is a young group that has already won a number of competitions,” Bailey says. “They are really, really good. And they are going to perform what I think is one of the best string quartets of the 20th century: the Ligeti String Quartet, ‘Metamorphoses Nocturnes’. That is just an amazingly good piece of music.”
The Hungarian composer György Ligeti composed his First String Quartet, titled “Metamorphoses Nocturnes,” in 1953–54, but his music was banned at the time by the Communist regime in Hungary. It was not performed until 1958, after Ligeti had moved to the west. In addition, Altius will play a movement from a string quartet by Joseph Haydn, and both groups will show their lighter side by playing arrangements of rock music.
With a program that will appeal to Boulder’s adventurous audience, this is a concert to be relished. And Bailey is sure that you will hear about both groups in the future.
“This is one of those instances where we’re going to be able to say, ‘Wow, I heard those guys when they were (getting started)’,” Bailey says. “In fact sometimes, I joke that I really want to book both of these groups as much as I can now, because some day I won’t be able to afford them!”
Tickets for Wednesday’s Soundscape performance are available here.