Second season under music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni offers many highlights
Former music director Michael Christie returns to Boulder for a Festival Orchestra concert July 14
By Peter Alexander
The program will look both new and familiar at the 2016 Colorado Music Festival.
The CMF announced its 39th festival season last night (March 2) at an event for their friends and supporters. Running from June 30 through August 7, this will be the festival’s second summer series under music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni.
Many of the familiar features of recent festivals will continue—Festival Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra concerts, the Music Mash-Up series, family and young people’s concerts, and chamber music performances. But within that general framework, there will be some new developments as well: chamber music will be presented in the Chautauqua Auditorium; and an imaginative new series of three concerts under the direction of CMF creative partner Joshua Roman, “ArC (Artistic Currents) at the Dairy,” will be presented at the Dairy Center. In a change from previous years, most Festival Orchestra programs will only be presented one night instead of two.
Innovations for the 2016 season will include the Fêtes Galantes Series of intimate house concerts of chamber music, July 11, 20 and Aug. 5; a partnership with the Boulder Valley Velodrome, “CMF Goes to the Velodrome,” July 29; and a “Festival of Dinners” prepared by chefs from Boulder restaurants to be announced on the CMF Web page.
Ukrainian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman will be one of several artists to have a residency at CMF, a notable expansion of festival activities. There will be several new and contemporary works during the summer, and Peter Brook’s controversial Tragedy of Carmen, a distillation of Bizet’s opera, will be presented July 10.
There will also be notable returns to the festival. Music director laureate Michael Christie will come back to Boulder to conduct a Festival Orchestra concert on July 14, with returning piano soloist Orion Weiss.
Other popular soloists from previous seasons will be back, including violinist Jennifer Koh with the Festival Orchestra on opening night, June 30. At the opposite end of the season, pianist Olga Kern will perform with the CMF Chamber Orchestra on the final concert, Aug. 7.
The “Click” Commission program that offers new works by composers selected and financed by festival-goers is back, with the premiere of the Second Harp Concerto by Hannah Lash, who will also be the soloist July 31. Lash will take part in a residency at CMF, extending her participation in the festival beyond the premiere of her new concerto.
There will a number of other notable guest artists during the summer: Guzman, pianist Stephen Hough, the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, conductor Christopher Rountree, pianist David Korevaar from CU, and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, among others.
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The season will be packed with so many highlights that it is difficult to list them all. Here is at least an overview of concert events. (All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Chautauqua Auditorium unless otherwise noted.)
The festival opens June 30 with “Narratives of Heroism,” a concert Zeitouni describes as “one of the highlights for me.” The program features Koh playing Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto, on a program with Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The concert will be preceded by a Pre-Concert Dinner at 5:30 p.m. on the great lawn at Chautauqua.
Also part of the opening weekend will be the residency of Sō Percussion from Brooklyn, currently Ensemble in Residence at Princeton University. They will give a recital July 1 on the Presenting Series of chamber music concerts, and will play Young People’s Concerts with the CMF orchestra at 10 and 11:30 a.m. July 2.
The holiday weekend will wrap up with “Red, White and Brass,” a patriotic pops concert by the CMF Brass Ensemble at 4 p.m. July 3. Other Family Fun Concerts will be at 3 p.m. July 10 and 31.
The second week will feature “Boulder Brahms,” with the Festival Orchestra playing the four Brahms symphonies in two concerts: Nos. 1 and 2 on July 7; and 3 and 4 on July 8. “We’re not doing a mini-festival proper, like we did last season,” Zeitouni explains. “Instead, there are different themes throughout the summer.
“It’s interesting to hear all (the Brahms symphonies) two by two, but the idea goes beyond this. One of the more long-term ideas for the festival is to do multi-year symphonic cycles, like Michael Christie did with Mahler. The Brahms cycle is, I would say, a pretty conservative first step.”
Zeitouni sees this as a way to open up the repertoire beyond the symphonies that are programmed most often, but without overwhelming the schedule and the audience by trying to fit all of a composer’s symphonies into a single summer. Possible future composers for a multi-year cycle might include Bruckner, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Dvořák, he said.
July 10 will see the presentation of a work that has become notorious in opera circles: Peter Brook’s abridged version of Bizet’s Carmen. The Tragedy of Carmen boils the opera down to about 80 minutes by paring away everything that does not have directly to do with the central drama of conflicting loves.
This distilled version, which only requires four voices and a chamber orchestra, “makes it a little bit more intense, if that’s even possible,” Zeitouni says. “It just tightens the tension—you have a higher alcohol content, because it’s a more concentrated formula.”
The Music Mash-Up series will feature three groups: Jazz trio The Bad Plus will present a deconstruction of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, enhanced with projections and passages of jazz improvisation, July 12. On July 26, CU faculty Paul Miller, who performs as DJ Spooky, will mix classical pieces using turntables and performing with the Festival Orchestra.
The final Mash-Up brings the Colorado band Paper Bird to Chautauqua Aug. 2 to perform with the orchestra. Christopher Rountree, founder and director of wild Up, a Los-Angeles based chamber orchestra, will conduct the CMF orchestra on the July 26 and Aug. 2 Mash-Up performances.
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Michael Christie is very happy to be coming back to Boulder for the July 14 Festival Orchestra concert with pianist Orion Weiss. “We’ve got a great program,” Christie says. “I think its going to be a fun night.”
The concert will open with Leonard Bernstein’s Shivaree, a fanfare for brass, followed by Charles Ives’s Unanswered Question for strings and a single trumpet. “The Bernstein is very boisterous and the Ives is extremely quiet,” he says. “I think in Chautauqua it will be quite magical.”
Next will be the suite from Bernstein’s score for the film On the Waterfront, which Christie chose because it is not heard often and it has a lot of solos for his friends in the orchestra. “It’s a beautiful, cinematic work,” he says. The second half of the concert will be a single work, Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with Weiss as the soloist.
“When I think about Chautauqua, there are just so many faces that I can see, because I saw them for so many summers,” Christie says. “I can remember a lot of folks, and I’ll be curious to see if they will still be there.
“The other thing I’m really looking forward to is getting out to do some hikes. When the summer was going and I was music director there were always a billion things to take care of. I’d get to the end of summer and realize that I hadn’t done a single hike. I’m going to try to make up for that, so maybe you’ll see me on the trail!”
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The ArC at the Dairy series, presented at Boulder’s Dairy Center, has some of the most intriguing programs of the summer. On July 16 series director and cellist Joshua Roman will perform with soprano Jessica Rivera and CMF musicians to present his own song cycle we do it to one another, based on Tracy K. Smith’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection “Life on Mars”; and one of the iconic works of the 20th century, Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, written in a World War II prisoner-of-war camp.
On July 23, composer/violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph will join together to present “Blackbird, Fly,” a hip-hop influenced program that will address issues of tolerance and inclusion. And July 30 the Grammy-winning contemporary vocal group Roomful of Teeth will bring their unique style to the festival.
Chamber Orchestra concerts will include “Inspired by Bach” July 17, with violinist Gluzman playing and leading the orchestra in works of Mozart, Shostakovich, and Alfred Schnittke; Mozart’s three final symphonies together on a single concert directed by Zeitouni July 24; and the July 31 premiere of Lash’s Harp Concerto No. 2, the Click! Commission winner, programmed with music by Bach, Beethoven and Richard Strauss.
The Presenting Series will offer chamber music performances at Chautauqua Auditorium. After Sō Percussion opens the series on July 1, Weiss, Roman, Korevaar, Gluzman, Kern, and CMF musicians will perform in various combinations July 15 and 19 and Aug. 6. As part of his week-long residency, Gluzman will also appear with the Festival Orchestra in “Russian Passions,” the one orchestra program to be repeated, July 21 and 22.
In addition to Gluzman’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, the concerts will feature Liadov’s Enchanted Lake and a special presentation of Mussorgsky’s familiar Pictures at an Exhibition with animation that was created for the first performance in architect Frank Gehry’s New World Center in Miami Beach, Fla.
British pianist Stephen Hough returns to Boulder for the sixth Festival Orchestra program, “From Prague to Warsaw to Bucharest,” on July 28. Hough will play Liszt’s First Piano Concerto and Polish composer Witold Lutosławski’s Paganini Variations. “In a folkish-inspired program, we will open with the Enescu First Romanian Rhapsody and (close with) Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8,” Zeitouni says of the program.
Zeitouni identifies the Aug. 4 Festival Orchestra concert as one of his favorite programs of the summer. It will feature two major works, the Trois Nocturnes for orchestra of Claude Debussy, and Gustav Mahler’s deeply moving Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor and tenor Richard Cox as vocal soloists.
“This music is some of my favorites,” Zeitouni says. “I have a very personal relationship with Das Lied von der Erde, because it was one of the first recordings that I got as a teenager.” He also observes that the piece was requested by orchestra musicians, because they rarely have the chance to play it in their home orchestras, and it is a continuation of the Mahler cycle that Christie had begun.
The final night of the festival will be a Chamber Orchestra concert on Aug. 7. This program will feature Zeitouni and CMF favorite Olga Kern playing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto on a program with Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto and Schubert’s delightful Symphony No. 5.
Outgoing CMF executive director Andrew Bradford has written that “the offerings of the 2016 Colorado Music Festival are incredibly wide-ranging and diverse,” a claim that is hard to disagree with. “The season includes something that every music lover will enjoy,” he wrote.
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UPDATE (3/4/16): The full summer calendar is now available on the CMF Website.
TICKETS: Subscription tickets will go on sale Monday, March 7, and single tickets will be available Monday, April 4. For tickets to most events, click HERE. Tickets to the ArC series at the Dairy Center are available HERE.