Olson heading toward the door after 33 years in Longmont

Saturday will be his last concert as music director, but he’ll be back

By Peter Alexander

Robert Olson has changed the Longmont Symphony, and the Longmont Symphony has changed him.

Olson photo

Enter a captionRobert Olson. Photo courtesy of Longmont Symphony.

“I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done over three decades,” says the director who brought the LSO from a group of raw amateurs who had to be led measure by measure through Stravinsky’s Firebird to a first-rate community orchestra that tackles major repertoire unafraid. And along the way, he says he learned something, too.

With a concert on Saturday (7:30 p.m. April 9, Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont), Olson will step down after 33 years as the orchestra’s music director—more than half the LSO’s 50 years of existence. He will return in the fall to conduct the opening concert of the 2016–17 50th-anniversary season, but most of the concerts during the year will be conducted by candidates to take his position.

Saturday’s concert brings to an end a season-long exploration of Russian music. The major work will be Tchaikovsky’s über-popular Piano Concerto, performed with pianist Chih-Long Hu, whom Olson has known for many years. Other works on the program will be the March and Scherzo from Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, familiar from its use in TV shows and commercials; Shostakovich’s youthful Symphony No. 1, written when he was just 19; and one non-Russian work, the Intermezzo from Leoncavallo’s I pagliacci.

If this doesn’t sound like a valedictory program for an outgoing maestro, that’s because Olson doesn’t like to think about making a grand exit. “That’s not in my personality,” he says. “It would be fine with me just to quietly go away.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Robert Olson, music director
With Chih-Long Hu, piano

Prokofiev: March and Scherzo from Love for three Oranges
Leoncavallo: Intermezzo from I pagliacci
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Skyline High School, Longmont
Tickets

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Mozart’s Requiem: “A Musical Miracle and a Mystery Story”

Performances Friday and Saturday by Pro Musica Colorado and St. Martin’s Chamber Choir

By Peter Alexander

It is one of the most famous stories in music history.

Lange_PortraitOfMozart,Unfinished

Unfinished portrait of Mozart by Joseph Lange

It was December, 1791. Mozart lay on his deathbed, with his family and friends gathered around. They sang for the dying composer, music from the Requiem that he might as well have been writing for himself and that he was never to complete. After his death, Mozart’s friends and students gathered up all the bits and pieces of music that lay scattered around the room and worked feverishly to finish the manuscript, so that Mozart’s widow could deliver a completed score to the eccentric count who had paid for it.

Out of all of the confusion there emerged a work that has captivated listeners ever since, in spite of the uncertain authorship of its various parts. “It’s a musical miracle and a mystery story wrapped into one,” says Cynthia Katsarelis, who will conduct performances of the Requiem Friday in Denver and Saturday in Boulder (7:30 p.m. April 8 at First Baptist Church in Denver, and April 9 at First United Methodist Church in Boulder).

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis. Photography by Glenn Ross.

Katsarelis, director of the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, has put together what she considers just about an ideal group of performers for the Requiem. “Pro Musica and (Denver’s) St. Martin’s Chamber Choir are practically a dream team for the Mozart Requiem,” she says. “And our soloists are all people who are just wonderful artists.

“It’s going to be different from a Mozart Requiem with a large orchestra and choir. Our size is more like the size that Mozart would have had, and there’s a kind of immediacy and a visceral quality to doing it with a chamber orchestra and a chamber choir. I think it’s a special team, and there’s incredible potential of being a worthy Requiem.”

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Manuscript page of Mozart’s Requiem

Like all conductors who approach the Requiem, Katsarelis had to decide exactly what to perform. Mozart left different movements in differing degrees of incompletion: some merely had to be filled in according to a partial score, some had to be completed, and some had to be composed more or less from scratch.

Adding to the confusion, Mozart left behind what his widow called “scraps of paper” that may have held music, or instructions, or both. At least two different pupils undertook a completion. And all of their contributions were mixed together, and it was years before scholars were able to separate, more or less, who did what.

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Franz Xaver Süssmahr

Today there are numerous performing versions to choose from. The score that was turned over to the count three months after Mozart’s death was essentially completed by Mozart’s pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr. But Süssmayr was not a very good composer: Mozart didn’t think much of him, calling him “a duck in a thunderstorm,” and he made numerous mistakes in the score that he hurriedly finished.

And so there have been many subsequent versions that aim to correct and improve on Süssmayr. Some editors have gone so far as to write whole new movements to stand alongside Mozart. Katsarelis has chosen a version created by Franz Beyer in 1971 that sticks largely to Süssmayr’s version, but polishes some of his work.

There are three movements that Mozart never started, but Katsarelis thinks that Süssmayr had some help with those. “He claimed to have composed the Sanctus, the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, but I’m not convinced of that, for reasons right out of the music,” she says. “I had my doubts to begin with. Süssmayr never, ever composed anything of the caliber of (those movements).”

She has a “sneaking suspicion,” she says, that the scraps of paper that Mozart left had music on them that Süssmayr was able to use. And, she adds conspiratorially, “I have a theory that I actually don’t have an ounce of historical evidence for, but during the time that Süssmayr was completing the Requiem, he was studying with Salieri.”

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Antonio Salieri

That Salieri? The one who definitely didn’t poison Mozart but was still the villain of the play and movie Amadeus?

Yes, that one. “I just have this sneaking suspicion that Salieri might have helped,” she says. And it’s definitely not the craziest theory about the Requiem, which has attracted conspiracy stories from the date its very first performance.

Regardless of who wrote those movements, and whose help they might have had, “the meat of the Requiem is what Mozart wrote,” Katsarelis affirms. And after the disputed movements, the Requiem ends with two more movements that re-use Mozart’s music from the beginning.

Following the Requiem, the concert will include one more short piece, Mozart’s beautiful and elegiac Ave verum corpus, composed only months before the Requiem. “By doing the Ave verum corpus, we’re absolutely sure that we’ll be ending with Mozart, no question,” Katsarelis explains. “It’s a piece that everybody knows and loves, and it’s a very comforting and beautiful piece.”

In spite of the mystery and confusion, the different hands that touched the Requiem, and all of the controversy that has swirled around the piece over the centuries, “the fact the sublime music comes through is pretty miraculous,” Katsarelis says. “It is deeply moving to do the piece that was the last thing Mozart composed.

“He made it the most beautiful music that he could possibly write. That’s his final gift to us, and it’s one that I receive very gratefully, and that we’ll share on Friday and Saturday.”

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Mozart’s Requiem

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, music director
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir
Timothy J. Krueger, artistic director
Amanda Balestrieri, soprano
Leah Biesterfeld, alto
Joseph Gaines, tenor:
David Farwig, bass

W.A. Mozart: Requiem, K626
W.A. Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus, K618

Friday, April 8, First Baptist Church, 1373 Grant St., Denver
Saturday, April 9, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
Both concerts at 7:30 p.m.
Pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. both evenings

TICKETS

NB: Edited to correct typos 4.7.16.

Boulder Phil announces 2016–17 Season

Concert for the Kennedy Center, duo concertos mark a year with few blockbusters

By Peter Alexander

The crowd at Macky Auditorium from the stage - Glenn Ross Photo

Boulder Phil in Macky Auditorium. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Forging its own path, the Boulder Philharmonic has announced a season for 2016–17 that is unlike most orchestra seasons around the country.

Music Director Michael Butterman_2_Credit Rene Palmer.small

Michael Butterman. Photo by Rene Palmer

For one thing, the season marks the Boulder Phil’s tenth year with music director Michael Butterman. Most orchestras would celebrate that with splashy programming, but the Phil is not taking that route. The one semi-splashy event—a concert March 25 that will be taken to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on March 28—offers an eclectic program that, characteristically for the Phil, reflects Boulder’s close relationship to nature.

Otherwise, the season avoids the blockbuster mentality. There will be world premieres, there will be concertos for pairs of soloists, there will be great local musicians from CU Boulder, there will be lighter symphonies from heavyweight composers, and there will be music from less familiar composers. What there will not be will be are the big-name soloists and spectacular works that most orchestras use to fill the hall.

There is no doubt Butterman’s style of programming has drawn audiences over the past ten years. According to figures provided by the Boulder Phil, they have had 10 successive seasons of increasing sales of subscriptions. The current year is up 25% over the previous season, already setting an attendance record for the orchestra even before the last two concerts of the 2015–16 season.

“Whatever we present, we want to make sure it makes some kind of statement that we’re not just another orchestra but something a little bit different and special,” Butterman says. “For the most part we want to be presenting things that are a little more unique, and not exactly replicating (programming) in other places.”

In that they have certainly succeeded. The season is filled with intriguing offerings, music that adventurous listeners will be excited about, and programs that do indeed reflect Boulder’s personality as a community.

The March 25 concert that will travel to the Kennedy Center follows that pattern. “The capstone to this anniversary season is taking this program that is about who we are and the relationship we have with the community and presenting it on a national stage,” Butterman says.

“This is saying to the (classical music) industry ‘Look, here’s how one orchestra has found a way to be successful, to reflect its community, to do all the things that we need to do to continue to matter in the 21st century.”

Lias in GoANP.2

Stephen Lias in Gates or the Arctic National Park. Photo courtesy of the composer.

The concert will open with the world premiere of a new work by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, whose Gates of the Arctic opened the 2014–15 season. Commissioned in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and inspired by Rocky Mountain National Park, the new score will be accompanied by “choreographed visuals”—projected photos—of the park. Lias will be working on the score while in residence in the park later this year.

Writing from Tongyeong, South Korea, where he is attending the 2016 International Society for Contemporary Music World Music Days, Lias comments, “My plan is to create a dramatic line for the piece based on my many experiences in the park (including an upcoming one this June), and the extensive photographic collection the park has given me access to.

“I hope to write a piece that will capture the dramatic scope of the place, but also the intimate ‘moments’ that we each take home with us. Through the music and the synchronized images, audiences will have a vicarious wilderness experience that will deepen their relationship with this remarkable national park.”

Frequent Flyers A.S.

Frequent Flyers with the Boulder Phil in Macky Auditorium

Other works on the same program will be pieces that reflect the Boulder personality and the city’s relationship with nature. They are also pieces that form part of the orchestra’s history, having been performed in previous seasons: Jeff Midkiff’s Mandolin concerto From the Blue Ridge, with the composer as soloist, previously performed in April 2014; Ghosts of the Grasslands by Steve Heitzeg, performed in March 2014; and Copland’s Appalachian Spring with Boulder’s Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance company, a repeat of a performance from 2013.

As with many orchestras, Boulder Phil announces that “each concert will feature a major symphonic work,” but with the exception of Respighi’s Pines of Rome on the season’s final concert (April 22), they are not orchestral showpieces: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 (“Little Russian,” Oct. 8); Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 (Nov. 6); and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 (Jan. 14). All are first performances by Butterman with the Phil, and all are welcome, but they are not works that most orchestras build seasons around.

Walther & Dusinberre

Takács Quartet members Geraldine Walther and Edward Dusinberre

There are other familiar works that have broad appeal, including Appalachian Spring (March 25). Rachmaninoff’s lyrical and virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini played by pianist Elizabeth Joy Roe will be a draw for the opening concert (Oct. 8). Takács Quartet and CU faculty members Edward Dusinberre and Geraldine Walther will join the orchestra for Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (Nov. 6).

Those familiar works will share the season with more adventurous programming, including the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc, performed by the young piano duo Anderson & Roe (Oct. 8); the Concerto for Violin and Horn by Ethel Smyth, performed by Jennifer Frautschi and Eric Ruske (Jan. 14); Luciano Berio’s classically-inflected Four Original Versions of Boccherini’s Return of the Nightwatch from Madrid and the world premiere of the Double Concerto for violin and guitar by Stephen Goss, performed by orchestra concertmaster Charles Wetherbee and CU professor Nicolò Spera (both April 22).

Butterman believes that the Boulder audience will continue to embrace the orchestra’s offbeat programming. “People have come to place a certain amount of faith in the choices we make,” he says. “They seem to be willing to trust that we’ll make choices (that) will be interesting and enjoyable and provocative.”

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Jake Shimabukuro

As usual, there will be performances outside the main series of classical concerts. The annual performances of Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet will be Nov. 25–27. There will be a concert Feb. 4 with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, performing his own original music as well as unusual arrangements for ukulele and orchestra of classical, popular and contemporary music, from Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Alli Mauzey

Alli Mauzey

December 10 the orchestra will welcome Broadway singing star Alli Mauzey, who rose to fame as Glinda in Wicked, singing songs from that show and other Broadway shows. The program, titled “A Wicked Good Christmas,” will also feature music for the holidays.

“It’s a concert that I think will tread the line between being a holiday concert and a Broadway pops concert,” Butterman says. “It’s one that we hope will offer things for the community that are a little beyond what a typical classical audience might expect, and by virtue of that reach more of a family audience.”

 

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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, Music Director
2016-2017 Season

Saturday, Oct. 8: Opening Night
Poulenc: Concerto for Two Pianos, Anderson & Roe, piano duo
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 (“Little Russian”)

AndersonRoe+by+Woodrow+Leung

Anderson & Roe. Photo by Woodrow Leung

Sunday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m.: Mozart & Beethoven
Thomas Adès: Three Studies from Couperin
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, with Edward Dusinberre, violin, and Geraldine Walther, viola
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

Nov. 25–27: The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet
Performance times tba

Saturday, Dec. 10: A Wicked Good Christmas, with Alli Mauzey
Songs from Wicked and other Broadway shows, plus Christmas classics

Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017: Brahms & His World
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Ethel Smyth: Concerto for Violin and Horn, with Jennifer Frautschi, violin, and Eric Ruske, horn
Schumann: Symphony No. 4

Saturday, Feb. 4: Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele, with the Boulder Phil
Gary Lewis, conductor

Saturday, March 25: Nature & Music—Kennedy Center Kick-Off Concert
Program to be repeated at the inaugural SHIFT Festival in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Stephen Lias: World premiere commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, with choreographed visuals
Jeff Midkiff: Mandolin Concerto, From the Blue Ridge, with Jeff Midkiff, mandolin
Steve Heitzeg: Ghosts of the Grasslands
Copland: Appalachian Spring, with Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance

Saturday, April 22: Season Finale: The Pines of Rome
Stravinsky: Monumentum pro Gesualdo
Luciano Berio: Four Original Versions of Boccherini’s Return of the Nightwatch from Madrid
Stephen Goss: Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar (world premiere), with Charles Wetherbee, violin, and Nicolò Spera, guitar
Verdi: Overture to Nabucco
Puccini: The Chrysanthemums
Respighi: The Pines of Rome

All Concerts in Macky Auditorium
All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.

Tickets and More Information: Five- and six-concert subscription packages are now available. New subscribers save 50% off single ticket prices. Call 303-449-1343 or click here