The Boulder Bach Festival presents a journey of exploration in Longmont

By Peter Alexander

Last night’s concert presented by the Boulder Bach Festival at Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium (Dec. 10, “Journey to Vienna with Mario Aschauer and Friends”) represented an ideal combination of repertoire, instruments and performance space.

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Mario Aschauer

The concert featured Aschauer, a musicologist and performer on the faculty of Sam Houston State University in Texas, on harpsichord; Zachary Carrettin, the artistic director of the Boulder Bach Festival, playing Baroque violin and the cello da spalla (“shoulder cello,” a small cello played on the shoulder, like a cross between violin and guitar); and the bright, clear voice of soprano Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson. The program comprised music from the late 17th and early 18th Imperial Court in Vienna, including pieces for harpsichord alone, a sonata for violin and harpsichord, and arias from operas written for court occasions,

Most of the music was discovered by Aschauer in Viennese archives. It had been performed at the court and then set aside, making last night’s concert the modern and U.S. premieres of several pieces. The composers included the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I as well as court composers George Muffat and his son Gottlieb, Attilio Ariosti, Antonio Caldara and Johann Joseph Fux.

The light and transparent sounds of the harpsichord and Baroque strings fit the repertoire perfectly, as did the lively, intimate space of Stewart Auditorium. Textures were clear and the audience was close enough to hear nuances that easily could be lost in larger halls. The program was presented with passion and an almost sensuous care for the sound. In short: this was as good an argument as you will hear for historical performance practice as a gateway to the sound world of the past.

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Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson

The entire program was both unfamiliar and fascinating. The arias were sung by Bird-Arvidsson with a seamless flow and elegant phrasing that was nicely matched by Aschauer and Carrettin in their obbligato accompaniments. Their committed advocacy for the music suggests that this unknown vocal repertoire is worthy of further exploration.

Of the instrumental works, Georg Muffat’s Sonata for Violin was strikingly strange, with passages of more or less normal Baroque phrases interrupted by sudden and unexpected  harmonic deviations. With the weirdness clearly brought out by the scoring, one wonders: was Muffat showing off for his imperial employer? It is certainly a piece that keeps both performers and listeners engaged.

Aschauer played a Plainte by Gottlieb Muffat in memory of the scholar Allison Dunlop, who tragically died just after completing a groundbreaking study of the composer. He performed this strange little lament with great feeling.

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Zachary Carrettin with his cello da spalla

Carrettin introduced his cello da spalla to the audience, explaining how it might have been used in Baroque times, and why the instrument disappeared in the later 18th century. Built to order and based on historical models, his is a one-of-a-kind instrument that Carrettin admitted he is still learning. When played with vigor, it produces a gruff, dark sound, but Carrettin showed that it is also capable of more lyrical expression.

With this program, the Boulder Bach Festival has continued its theme using Bach “as a compass,” as Carrettin says, while exploring the musical past with fresh eyes and ears. Aschauer, Carrettin and Bird-Arvidsson made the “Journey to Vienna” one to be relished.

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It will be ukuleles and a witch for the holidays

By Peter Alexander

Ah, the holiday season. That wonderful time for your favorite carols, colored lights, egg nog and — ukuleles?

Sure enough, it’s all part of the eclectic mix of holiday music on the Boulder classical scene, featuring not only the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, but also Elphaba from the Broadway hit Wicked, alongside other events that have become part of the annual December concert schedule. The perennial best-sellers — the Nutcrackers and the CU Holiday Festival — are already behind us, but there is still plenty of music to look forward to.

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The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will be at Macky Auditorium Thursday (7:30 p.m. Dec. 8) as part of the CU Presents series. Known for their iconoclastic, not to say wacky, programming, the group promises to perform their usual combination of rock and pop covers, including music from Joni Mitchell and Pharrell Williams, some jazz and country songs, and classic Christmas carols.

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Dee Roscioli

The Wicked Witch of the West sneaks into the Christmas schedule with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, who are presenting A Wicked Good Christmas Saturday in Macky (7:30 p.m. Dec. 10). Scott O’Neil will conduct the performance, which will feature vocalist Dee Roscioli, who played the role of Elphaba in the Broadway and national touring productions of Wicked, and the Fairview High School Festival Choir.

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

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Holiday Events in Boulder

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8
Macky Auditorium
Tickets

A Wicked Good Christmas
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Scott O’Neil, conductor, with Dee Roscioli, vocalist
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
Macky Auditorium
Tickets

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Boulder Chorale and Children’s Chorus

A Thousand Beautiful Things
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, and the Boulder Chorale Children’s Chorus
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
Tickets

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Kathryn Harms

Christmas with Ars Nova
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor, with Kathryn Harms, harp.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
St. John. Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder

2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., Cherry Hills Village

Tickets

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Dark Horse Consort

Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem: Christmas Music of Praetorius
The Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, conductor, with the Dark Horse Consort.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce, St., Boulder
Tickets

Candlelight Concert
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, David Rutherford, conductor
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15
Westview Presbyterian Church, 15th and Hover, Longmont
Tickets

 

Shining a light on a musical ‘blind spot’ in Vienna

One hundred years of music from the Hapsburg Court

By Peter Alexander

Vienna’s rich musical heritage of the Classic-Romantic periods is very familiar to audiences. But for a full century before Haydn or Mozart ever set foot in Vienna, the Austrian capital had a musical culture that scholar/performer Mario Aschauer calls “a phenomenon unique in music history.”

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Scholar/performer Mario Aschauer uncovers the forgotten music of Vienna with the Boulder Bach Festival

Between 1637 and 1740, four consecutive Hapsburg emperors were trained musicians and composers. “They had an amazing court (music establishment),” Aschauer explains. “They had international personnel and produced an unspeakable amount of music in pretty much every genre that was popular at the time.”

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Zachary Carrettin playing the cello da spalla

To open the door on these riches of the Baroque era, the Boulder Bach Festival has invited Aschauer to present “A Journey to Vienna with Mario Aschauer,” a concert of music from the Austrian court, to be presented Thursday in Boulder and Saturday in Longmont. The program features both operatic and instrumental selections, performed by Aschauer on harpsichord; the Bach Festival’s director, Zachary Carrettin, on Baroque violin and his recently revived cello da spalla; and by soprano Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, who performed with the Bach Festival in last season’s performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Works on the program include music by one of the emperors and court composers of different generations. There are pieces for keyboard alone, a sonata for violin and keyboard, and several arias with an obbligato instrument—an instrument that becomes a duet partner with the singer.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Soprano Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson

Journey to Vienna, with Mario Aschauer, harpsichord
Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violin and cello da spalla
Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano

Music by Emperor Leopold I, Georg and Gottlieb Muffat, Atonio Caldara, Attilio Ariosti and Johann Joseph Fux.

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8
Grace Lutheran Church, 1001 13th St., Boulder

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Rd., Longmont

Tickets