Three New CDs have Boulder connections

Music by Max Wolpert, performances by Altius, and Starkland’s latest

By Peter Alexander

Wolpert.CDAmanda Harberg: Viola Concerto; Elegy
Max Wolpert: Viola Concerto No. 1, “Giants”
Brett Deubner, viola; Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Linus Lerner, conductor
Naxos American Classics 8.559840

Max Wolpert is the only composer I can think of who has begun a piece of music with the end of the world.

What could come after that? As it turns out, quite a bit in Wolpert’s Viola Concerto, subtitled “Giants.” As recently recorded by violist Brett Deubner, for whom the concerto was written, and the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra with conductor Linus Lerner, “Giants” is an attractive, effective and intriguing bit of musical depiction.

The title comes from Genesis: “There were giants in the earth in those days.” Each movement refers to a different giant, starting with Father Time as imagined in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. A giant who slumbers deep beneath the earth, Father Time is awakened to “blow his horn and call the stars down from the sky.” If Wolpert’s end of the world is not as apocalyptic as we might expect, the chimes and final trumpet calls make a clear announcement.

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Max Wolpert

After this mild apocalypse, Wolpert looks to the sky and the familiar cloud-dwelling giant, soothed by a magic harp. Here, a lovely harp solo accompanies lyrical lines in the solo part. The sky giant grumblingly awakes when the harp ceases, to orchestral chords that call out “fee-fie-fo-fum.” As the harp resumes, the threat is evaded.

The third giant is a rollicking “Cloud Woman” who enjoys thunderstorms as “a wild dance party.” Her revels are evoked by a “Balkan-influenced groove,” with lots of non-symmetrical rhythms.

There is a clever bit of musical symbolism running throughout. Wolpert sees the disappearance of giants as the diminishing of the world. “To encapsulate this notion,” he writes, “the concerto is framed around a melodic interval which gradually diminishes”: A fifth in the first movement, a fourth in the second movement, and a third in the final movement.

Wolpert, who lives in Boulder and works at Rocky Ridge Music Center, describes himself as a “composer and storyteller,” and the giants are depicted vividly in his music. It’s all great fun, and this must be a pleasure to play. An accessible piece for audiences, I can imagine this Concerto showing up on programs for both adults and children. Brett Deubner plays with a lovely, deep viola sound, lyrical flow and great technical assurance.

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Brett Deubner

The disc is filled out with another Viola Concerto written for Deubner, by Amanda Harberg. The second movement, described as “a meditation on the fragility of life” is particularly lovely, again combining the viola with harp—an especially congenial pairing—at the outset.

The final piece on the disc is Harburg’s Elegy, written for piano and viola and arranged by the composer for viola with strings for Deubner to play. Written in memory of Harberg’s piano teacher and drawing from the same well as the concerto’s slow movement, this is an even more lovely and deeply affecting piece of music. I have a suggestion for orchestral programmers: the next time you need music for a somber occasion, perform Harberg’s Elegy.

The Southern Arizona Symphony is a community orchestra located in Tucson. Aiming to have an influence outside their own region, they have recorded, toured to China, and commissioned new works. If lacking brilliance or exceptional power, their performance is never less than effective.

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Altius.coverShostakovich: String Quartets 7, 8 & 9
Altius Quartet
Navona Records NV6125

 The Boulder-based Altius Quartet, formerly in residence with the Takas at CU, have released their second full CD, and it is one to be relished by their fans.

After their somewhat whimsical first recording, “Dress Code,” with its offbeat mix of Haydn, Led Zeppelin, and others, they have turned to a more weighty region of the quartet repertoire: the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth quartets of Shostakovich. Written at a critical point in the composer’s life, 1960 and 1964, these quartets are deadly serious and challenging to even the most experienced, mature quartets.

For the most part, the Altius prove themselves equal to the task. The members of the quartet are never less than completely assured in playing this challenging music, and they know what they want the music to say.

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Altius Quartet

From the first notes of the Seventh Quartet, they play with a nervous energy and palpable anxiety that matches the composer’s life under the Soviet state. Their tightly controlled performance of the Seventh reflects Shostakovich’s emotional state in 1960, suggesting that there is a hidden emotional depth that could burst through at any time.

The Eight Quartet was a literal cry of despair, written when Shostakovich was contemplating a suicide that his friends may have only just averted. Here the performance is cold, distant, at times as bleak as the composer’s mood. Even the demonic waltz of the third movement seems repressed.

I like more threat in the ominous thee-chord outbursts—recalling every Soviet citizen’s greatest fear, the KGB’s knock in the middle of the night—but the performance is consistent in its restraint. There is a brief moment of warmth near the beginning of the fifth movement, but that too fades into desolation. It’s not easy to enjoy this music, but this is a performance to admire.

Written four years later, the Ninth Quartet is somewhat sunnier, if not exactly cheerful. This is again music of great complexity, but the Altius plays with a remarkable transparency of texture throughout—you can hear every individual line. Restraint is again the keyword for the performance, and the shifting character of the movements is well delineated.

The disc is more than three works by the same composer: it is a satisfying whole, helped both by the selection of works, moving from anguish to near-manic cheerfulness in the composer’s outlook, and by the Altius Quartet’s keen perception and effective communication of the emotional narrative.

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Myers.CDDavid Lee Myers: Ether Music
Starkland ST-227

Boulder’s Starkland records has released a CD by one of the pioneers of electronic music, David Lee Myers. Also creating under the name Arcane Device, Myers has been constructing his own sound-producing electronic circuitry since 1980 and has more than 30 CDs to his credit.

The winner of Global Music silver medals for Creativity/Originality and Innovation in Sound, Ether Music features “Feedback Music,” comprised of sounds that are entirely generated by electronics—or as the printed notes explain it: “The album’s content spontaneously emerged from Myers’ self-designed, hand-built conglomerations of elaborately interconnected sound processing devices, with no external input.”

From the raw material of electronic hums, pops, clicks, thumps, and other sounds, Myers has crafted ten separate pieces. The different sounds are layered in ways both simple and complex, creating varied and shifting clouds of sound.

I know that not everyone will hear this as “music,” depending on how they define the word, but it is certainly creative use of sound. Like most of Starkland’s releases, hearing it expands the listener’s horizons and opens the ears to new possibilities.

Each track pulls you into a distinct world. Some of these worlds seem familiar, some are exotic, some are hallucinogenic, and they all invite exploration. If Myers’ work has a weakness, it is the difficulty of using electronic sounds to build the tension and subsequent release that comes naturally to tonal music. Lacking a definitive closing gesture to resolve the music’s journeys, many of the tracks simply fade into silence, letting the final mood linger without resolution.

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David Lee Myers

That said, every piece is worth hearing. If you wish to be engaged by new sounds, you should hear the entire CD. Of the ten tracks, the first, implicate order, is a good place to start because the layers of the texture are easily heard in their transformations and interactions. A pulsating, swelling and subsiding electronic drone is overlaid with drum-like clatters and clunks.

The third track, astabilized, is the most obviously derived from electronic feedback, including buzzes, static and electronic insect sounds. The fifth track, arabic science, features pitched drones and lines that sweep up and down the scale. The impression of a distant wailing chorus, birds and insects all invite the imagination to create a dramatic scenario.

The very rhythmic sixth track, the dynamics of particles, starts with bongo-like pops and snaps, soon joined by other pitched pulses that rise and fall in pitch. The steady meter of the drum sounds makes this one of the most purely enjoyable tracks.

Another thoroughly enjoyable track, radial axial, conjures a Fellini-esque world as if from a 1950s movie. A woozy electronic organ is transformed into a theremin—the staple sound of 1950s sci-fi—then a harmonica, then a wheezing calliope before shuffling off into the distance.

It must be great fun to create these pieces, and I find it great fun to sample, either all at once or just the occasional excursion into one or two of Myers’ sound worlds. Whether it adds up to deeper artistry probably depends on your taste and concept of musical art, but no one is likely to remain untouched by the wide creativity contained in this album.

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NOTE: A correction was posted 12.4.17. An earlier version of the story had stated incorrectly that Harberg’s Elegy had been arranged for viola and string by Deubner. It was arranged for Deubner by the composer.

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Boulder Symphony presents music inspired by Shakespeare

Two standard works and a world premiere are on the program

Central City Opera announces Magic Flute and Il trovatore for 2018

The Face on the Barroom Floor returns for 40th anniversary production

By Peter Alexander

Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il trovatore, two staples of the operatic repertoire, will be the mainstage productions for Central City Opera’s 2018 summer season.

Central City Opera Opening Night 2006- Page 2 of Book

The Historic Central City Opera House

Magic Flute and Il trovatore will be performed in repertory in Central City’s historic 550-seat opera house. Filling out the season are two smaller productions, to be presented in more intimate venues in Central City during the summer: the 40th-anniversary production of The Face on the Ballroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, which was commissioned by CCO; and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, in its Central City debut production.

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The Face on the Barroom Floor in the Teller House bar

Mollicone’s Face on the Ballroom Floor was premiered in 1978 in the Teller House Bar in Central City, where the painting that inspired the opera still draws tourists. The painting was made in 1936 under disputed circumstances and was inspired by a poem by Hugh Antoine d’Arcy that was published in 1887—and which was itself derived from an even earlier poem by John Henry Titus.

The one-act opera features two love triangles separated by a century, both revolving around the mysterious face on the barroom floor.

Classical Singer LanganThe season will see the return of number of singers in the two mainstage productions. Bass Kevin Langan, last seen in 2013 as Dr. Gibbs in Our Town, returns in his signature role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute. Langan was recently featured on the cover of Classical Singer magazine in recognition of his longevity over 38 years in opera. Katherine Manley returns as Pamina, and Alessandro Talevi returns to Central City as stage director.

Il trovatore will be practically a reunions party for the 2016 production of Tosca, including Jonathan Burton as Manrico, Alexandra Loutsion as Leonora and Michael Mayes as Count di Luna. John Baril, Central City Opera Music Director, will conduct, and Joachim Schamberger will be stage director.

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Pelham (Pat) Pearce

The pattern of presenting two major works in the Opera House and two smaller productions in other venues in Central City is one the CCO has adopted in the past few years. At one time, the shorter works were taken to other cities and towns in Colorado, but Pelham (Pat) Pearce, CCO’s general/artistic director, says “We decided that part of our identity is the actual experience of being (in Central City).”

According to Pearce, keeping the performances in Central City has not affected the company’s success. “The popularity of these one-acts continues to grow,” he says. “They draw opera goers who are looking for something different as well as those who are new to the art form and curious about experiencing something that’s shorter, less expensive, and feels more accessible.”

In addition to the four staged productions, the CCO summer season includes recitals, opera scenes, pre-performance lectures and post-performance opportunities to meet the artists.

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Central City Opera 2018 Season

Mozart: The Magic Flute
André de Ridder, conductor
Alessandro Talevi, stage director

Cast includes Kevin Langan as Sarastro, Katherine Manley as Pamina. Debuting with Central City Opera: Joseph Dennis as Tamino, Will Liverman as Papageno, Jeni Houser as The Queen of the Night and Ashraf Sewailam as The Speaker.

Matinees at 2:30 p.m.: July 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29; Aug. 2, 5
Evenings at 8 p.m.: July 7, 19, 27, 31
Central City Opera House

Performed in German with English supertitles.

Verdi: Il trovatore
John Baril, conductor
Joachim Schamberger, stage director

Cast includes Jonathan Burton as Manrico, Alexandra Loutsion as Leonora, Michael Mayes as Count di Luna and Maria Zifchak as Azucena.

Matinees at 2:30 p.m.: July 18, 22, 24, 28; Aug. 1, 3
Evenings at 8 p.m.: July 14, 20, 26
Central City Opera House

Performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Handel: Acis and Galatea
Christopher Zemliauskas, conductor
Ken Cazan, director

Cast includes artists of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program

July 25, 28 and Aug. 1 at 8 p.m.
July 26 at 5 p.m.
Venue in Central City TBA

Performed in English.

Henry Mollicone: The Face on the Barroom Floor, 40th-Anniversary Production
Michael Ehrman, head of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, director

Cast includes artists of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program

July 25, 28 and Aug. 1, 2, 3 at 1:15 p.m.
Venue in Central City TBA

Performed in English.

For tickets and more information about the 2018 summer season, visit the Central City Opera Web page, or call (303) 292-6700.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and soloists delight with rare, youthful works

Performances of music by Mendelssohn and Janáček were ‘charming and expressive’

By Peter Alexander

Last night (Nov. 10), Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra gave charming and expressive performances of two little known works: Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin and strings, written when the composer was 14; and Janáček’s Idyll for Strings, written when the composer was 24.

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Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Both scores have been eclipsed by greater works that came later in the composers’ careers. But last night’s performances were refined and stylish, making a case for the Concerto and the Idyll.

The program and others this year mark a return to genuine chamber orchestra repertoire for the BCO, after an excursion into the large-symphony realm last year. This is a good decision: the BCO sounded better and more comfortably at home with these two works than ever. It is one the best concerts I have heard them give.

Zachary & Mina

Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

The soloists for the Mendelssohn, pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin, ripped through their often-virtuosic parts, tossing off Mendelssohn’s adolescent show-off riffs with aplomb. The young Mendelssohn was clearly drawing on classical models for structure and syntax, but he did not hesitate to use more dramatic Romantic gestures for the solo parts.

For example, the Concerto opens with a Mozartian introduction that would not be out of place in the catalog of any Classical composer. The piano then seems to drop in from another planet—call it the world of heroic soloists—entering with stentorian chords and flamboyant arpeggios. Gajić played with complete command, and was matched by Carrettin’s flourishes on the violin.

The mixture of styles is especially evident when Mendelssohn begins to develop his carefully balanced melodies, spinning off into unexpected keys and sudden changes of mood. Writing for himself to perform on piano with his violin teacher, he seems unable to resist showing everything he can do with the material.

Much of the slow movement is a Romanza for the two soloists, which provided some of the best moments. The Finale bounces between light-hearted jollity and stormy outbursts of passion, much as we can imagine the 14-year-old Mendelssohn doing with his own playing. Gajić and Carrettin followed Mendelssohn through every twist and turn, matching one another note-for-note through all the movement’s many scampering scales and runs.

bsaless.1.Keith Bobo

Bahman Saless: Czech in a former life?

Saless and the BCO came into their own with the Janáček Idyll, a suite of seven movements marked with the sweet melancholy and dance rhythms of Czech folk music. Saless spends part of every year in Prague and has said that he must have been Czech in a previous life.

If so, his performance of the Idyll was clear evidence of his identification with Czech culture. His interpretation was sensitive and deeply expressive throughout. Apart from an occasional muddiness in the lowest parts—likely due more to the venue than the players—the performance was exemplary. Though little known, the Idyll contains music of unexpected beauty.

The performance will be repeated, tonight at 7:30 in Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Both pieces are well worth hearing: the Mendelssohn is a delightful glimpse of a young genius at play, brought delightfully to life, and the Janáček is filled with wistful beauty, played with deep expression.

You can order your tickets here. You won’t be sorry.

Youthful works form the Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s program Nov. 10 & 11

Music by Mendelssohn and Janáček with soloists Mina Gajić and Zachary Carrettin

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) calls its current season “Fourteeners,” in honor of the their 14th season and their goal of “reaching new heights.”

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BCO and Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo.

It may or may not be a coincidence, then, that conductor Bahman Saless chose a piece by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn for the next concert, to be performed Friday in Broomfield and Saturday in Boulder (Nov. 10 and 11). The program features pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin playing Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin, and strings from 1823.

Joining the Mendelssohn on the program is another youthful piece, the Idyll for Strings by Leoš Janáček, written when the composer was 24—a relatively young age for someone who lived and worked into his 70s.

Mendelssohn’s concerto is a youthful work, but it should not, Saless maintains, be considered an immature piece. “It gives the audience the chance to see the charm that you find in early Mendelssohn, and quite frankly his genius at that age,” he says. “It’s a pretty fascinating snapshot of what he was able to do at the time, and what he will be doing later.”

Carrettin agrees. “It’s an early work, but not that early,” he says. “He wrote it at 14, but at 16 he wrote the String Octet, which is considered by all to be a complete, mature masterpiece. In these two years, Mendelssohn becomes a fully formed master composer.”

Zachary & Mina

Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

Gajić and Carrettin are known for their historically informed performances with the Boulder Bach festival, of which he is the artistic director. The performance with Saless and the BCO will be entirely on modern instruments, including the piano, but Gajić and Carrettin, who are married to one another, have been practicing the concerto at home with their own historical pianos and violin bows. Using instruments from Mendelssohn’s time, they have found, gives insights into the music.

One of the pianos that they rehearsed with dates from 1845, during Mendelssohn’s lifetime. “It’s just a whole world of colors and possibilities for phrasing that come naturally on an instrument like this,” Gajić explains. “Because they’re so related to the instrument’s nature, it’s revealing to look into special colors, timings, pedaling. It’s wonderful to see how certain pieces unlock themselves on a piano like this.”

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The 1845 piano that Gajic and Carrettin have used for rehearsals (photo by Peter Alexander)

“Every time we go back to the 1845 (piano) in rehearsal, it reveals something that the other pianos didn’t reveal,” Carrettin adds.

One difference using earlier pianos and bows is tempo. To Carrettin and Gajić it feels right to play faster on the older, lighter instruments. “For us, the later the instrument, the more resonance, the thicker the sound, the more we find that if we go just a couple of clicks slower, the sonorities make more sense with the character of the music,” he says.

That character, Carrettin explains, falls between the Classic and Romantic styles. “It has a little bit of tension between classical rhetoric and Romantic expression,” he says. “There’s a sense of walking between two worlds at a particular time in history, which I love.”

The score combines expressive melodies with virtuosic flourishes, all in a chamber music texture of exchange between soloists and orchestra. “It’s really exciting to bring the chamber music aspect into a concerto,” Gajić says. “We’ll have a great time performing with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.”

Saless is equally excited. “It’s always a pleasure and an honor to work with Zachary and Mina,” he says. “It’s a charming piece, and performing with a husband and wife couple also makes it intriguing, because it’s like the violin and piano could be one instrument.”

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Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo

Saless and the BCO played the Janáček Idyll before, and it’s a piece that he feels a special connection with. “The first time I conducted it was in the Czech Republic and I fell in love with it,” he says. “It’s such a [cultural] identity piece, especially the last movement that brings this absolute joy of Czech culture. I think if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was Czech in my last life!”

We think of Janáček as a 20th-century composer, because his best known works were composed after 1900, but the Idyll was written in 1878, more than 20 years before the new century. The first performance was heard by Dvořák, a friend of the younger composer who is often cited as an influence on the Idyll. But Saless isn’t sure about the influence.

“It’s hard to say if it’s Dvořák’s influence or just Czech influence,” he says. “Because it’s so Czech, it sounds like Dvořák.”

Some of Janáček’s later and better known pieces are fairly complex and spiky, but the Idyll is very straightforward. “It’s much more approachable,” Saless says. “It’s a suite of seven movements like folk songs, and that’s really all it is. It’s pretty simple.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to play, however. “There are some parts that are just impossibly hard,” Saless says. “There are some really hard cello parts. I’ve done quite a few Janáček pieces in the Czech Republic, and every orchestra complains how hard it is.”

The difficulty of the string writing probably reflects Janáček’s training as a pianist and organist and not a string player. “My guess is that he was so young that he was writing more as a composer that was not so familiar with the limitations (of the instruments),” Saless says.

“Having said that, it’s just gorgeous. Don’t miss it!”

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BCO Logo 2016

Idyllic Mendelssohn
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Mina Gajić, piano, and Zachary Carrettin, violin

 

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10
Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Rd., Broomfield

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

PROGRAM

Mendelssohn: Concerto for piano, violin, and strings
Leoš Janáček: Idyll for Strings

Tickets

Moore and Longmont Symphony explore “The American Frontier” in music

Veterans Day concert includes music by John Williams and Dvořák’s “New World”

By Peter Alexander

Conductor Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra are approaching the 2017–18 season as a series of new frontiers.

Elliot Moore at Lake McIntosh - credit - Photography Maestro (1)

Elliot Moore in Colorado. Courtesy of Photography Maestro.

There are new frontiers for the orchestra, which has its first new conductor in more than 30 years. There are new frontiers for Moore, who moved to Colorado from Detroit to lead the LSO. And there are new frontiers for the audience, with new repertoire and new takes on old repertoire all year.

In the next concert—7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Vance Brand Auditorium in Longmont—Moore and the LSO are celebrating “The American Frontier.” Because the concert falls on Veterans Day, the concert is presented “In Honor of our Veterans.”

“It occurred to me that with our second program falling on Veterans Day, that would be a wonderful opportunity (for) an American theme,” Moore says. “So I thought it would be good idea to make a statement about America and our music.”

All the pieces on the program are written by Americans or in America, and a couple are specifically patriotic. The concert will open with For the Uncommon Woman, composer Joan Tower’s 1992 response to Aaron Copland’s World War II Fanfare for the Common Man, which will open the second half of the concert.

Also on the program are “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film Saving Private Ryan by John Williams and Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, performed by violinist Andrew Sords. The concert will conclude with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” written in the U.S. in 1893.

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Joan Tower. Photo by Noah Sheldon.

Moore had a message in mind when he chose to open the program with Tower’s music. “It is a narrative in terms of what women can be doing,” he says. “Besides being equal partners to males in the military, women can be composers who have a lot to say, they can lead orchestras and be leaders in all different fields. So it’s a way of showing the possibilities that exist for equality.”

As a soloist and chamber musician, Sords spends a lot of time travelling. It’s not an easy life, but, he says, “Standing in front of an orchestra makes it all worth it, and I think how fortunate that I get to speak in the language of Samuel Barber.”

One of the most popular pieces Barber composed, the Violin Concerto combines soaring, Romantic melodies with jagged rhythms and spiky, contemporary harmonies. It is an unusually constructed work, with two leisurely, lyrical movements followed by a much shorter movement of non-stop virtuosity.

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Andrew Sords

Sords admits that he only recently added the concerto too his repertoire, although people had been urging him to learn it for about 15 years. “I was the only 30-year-old violinist on the planet who had never played it,” he says, laughing. But now he loves the piece. “It’s indulgent but not syrupy,” he says. “It’s lush and you get to pull a large sound out of the strings. It’s such a feel-good piece.”

Sords has worked with Moore before and is happy to be a guest with the LSO. “I’m just thrilled to be up there on stage a for the 22 minutes I get to share with the Longmont Symphony and Elliot,” he says. “He is a wonderful, classy, completely prepared conductor. I feel very safe with him on the podium.”

In his preparation to conduct Dvořák’s “New World,” Moore has looked carefully at the composer’s original score as well as the symphony’s history. From the score he las learned that many performance traditions are not based on what Dvořák wrote, and from the history he has learned about some American influences on the work.

“My approach before with this piece was that it was essentially a Czech symphony, written in the United States,” he says. “And now that I’ve been studying more of the history, I think that it is much more of an American symphony, that truly would not have been the same symphony had he not lived in the United States.”

Among other American elements, he learned about an opera Dvořák planned based on Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Although he never wrote the opera, it is possible that the slow movement and the scherzo of the symphony were based on ideas taken from the Hiawatha story. (Moore will discuss the history of the symphony and the possible connection to Hiawatha in a pre-performance discussion at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.)

Dvořák’s visit to America, Moore says, is only one of the “new American frontiers” represented by the concert. Those frontiers also include Aaron Copland’s creation of a unique American style, Joan Tower’s original and creative response to Copland’s fanfare, Samuel Barber’s composition of what Moore calls “the first great American violin concerto,” and the most American frontier of all, music written for film as represented by John Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen.”

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The American Frontier—In Honor of our Veterans
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Andrew Sords, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Pre-performance conversation: 6:30 p.m.
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

PROGRAM :

JOAN TOWER: For the Uncommon Woman (for Orchestra)
JOHN WILLIAMS: “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan
SAMUEL BARBER: Violin Concerto
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man
DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”

Concert Information and tickets
Box office: 303-772-5796

LIVESTREAM: You can see Jake Heggie’s opera that was workshopped at CU

It’s a Wonderful Life available Friday–Saturday, Nov. 10–11, from Indiana University

By Peter Alexander

It’s a Wonderful Life, the opera by Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer based on the beloved film of the same title, was workshopped in Boulder as part of the CU New Opera Workshop (CU NOW) in June, 2016. The world premiere followed at the Houston Grand Opera.

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CU NOW workshop of Jake Heggie’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” June 2016. Heggie is at the far right, in blue. Photo by Peter Alexander

Now Boulder audiences will be able to see that original production, in a revised version of the score, through livestreaming from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Performances will be available live at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time (7:30 p.m. EST), Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11. The performances will be streamed from the Musical Arts Center on the IU campus in Bloomington.

All live streams and archived performances from the Jacobs School of Music are available here.

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Houston Grand Opera production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Photo by Brian Mitchell.

It’s a Wonderful Life was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, with the Jacobs School of Music and the San Francisco Opera, all of whom will share the original production. The world premiere was in Houston Dec. 2, 2016. Indiana performances will be Nov. 10, 11, 16 and 17, with the first two streamed live.

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Jake Heggie (left) with librettist Gene Scheer. Photo by Brian Mitchell.

The San Francisco Opera will present It’s a Wonderful Life during the 2018–19 season. After that, the next scheduled performances, and the first new production will be presented in Boulder by the CU Eklund Opera program in 2019.

Since the Houston opening, Heggie and Scheer have made a number of revisions to the opera. Heggie is currently in Bloomington observing rehearsals, to make sure that the changes work well on stage.

“The spots where it needed revision seemed very clear to me and to Gene, once we saw the production [in Houston],” Heggie says. “We cut a lot of material but we also rewrote, and I added new material where it was needed.”

Compared to the version performed in Houston and the workshop performances in Boulder, there are some major changes. “The whole prologue is cut way down so we get right into the story,” Heggie says. “We’ve tightened things up to make sure that we’re always telling the story.”

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Houston Grand Opera production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Photo by Brian Mitchell.

Heggie has also written some new material. “I expanded two arias, one for George and one for Mary in Act I that really help them open their hearts, and then I’ve added a beautiful—I think—duet between Mary Bailey and Claire the angel in Act II,” he says.

While Heggie has made revisions in earlier operas, he says these are the most extensive changes he’s ever made. “We cut an entire character—Mr. Gower, the pharmacist,” he explains. “We realized that we actually didn’t miss anything. We got all of the information we needed elsewhere, and the thing is that in opera you’ve got to move things along so that there’s time for the music to tell the story.”

The result of all these changes is that the opera has been tightened to a total running time of less than two hours. Heggie expects that these will be the last changes he will make, meaning that the version livestreamed from Bloomington will be the same for both San Francisco and the CU production. “My hope is that we’re really set after IU, and that we don’t have to do any more tinkering or trimming,” he says.

Indiana University’s other performances online

The Jacobs School of Music livestreaming site is a broad resource for classical music audiences, and especially opera fans. The school has a long and distinguished history of high-quality opera productions and other performances, dating back more than 50 years. Past opera productions and concert performances of both classical music and jazz from the Jacobs School of Music are available on demand.

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The Musical Arts Center at Indiana University, the venue for the Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater performances.

All but the very oldest of the archived opera streams include subtitles throughout. According to Philip Ponella, the Leonard Phillips and Mary Wennerstrom Director of the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at IU and director of Music Information Technology for the Jacobs School of Music, performances are generally archived if copyright restrictions allow, and left on the site for as long as practical. The project is still being developed, and policies may change.

The current site has performances archived, available on demand, from the past eight seasons. Opera performances on the site include standard repertoire, including Don Giovanni, Carmen and La Bohéme; less familiar rarities including Puccini’s La Rondine and L’Étoile by Emmanuel Chabrier; new works including The Tale of Lady Th Kính by P.Q. Phan; and several operas by Handel.

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Philip Ponella

Ponella says that it is important for the school to provide public access to their performances, and they encourage access to their streams from around the country. “First of all, many of us are concerned about the future of classical music and opera and the kind of things that we do here,” Ponella says. “One thing [Jacobs School of Music] Dean Gwyn Richards says that resonates with many of us is, how can we be more relevant to more people.

“The other part is, we like to think that this is one of the best music schools in the United States, and when you’re not located in New York or Boston or Los Angeles, sometimes that’s a hard sell. This gives us the opportunity to walk the walk, and not just say this is a really great school.”

Ponella points out that the livestreamed performances also include a pre-performance presentation given by a musicology Ph.D. student in the school, presented 30 minutes before the livestream is scheduled to start. “As Dean Richards says, whenever we can, we show that we’re not just about performance but our academics are of equal quality. And the fact that we stream at this high level of quality points to the kind of institutional resources that we’re drawing upon as well.

“We’ve got a very large pipe out to the internet that many institutions don’t have access to, and (we have a) recording arts program and audio engineers.”

Classical Music Livestreamed from Indiana, Boulder, and around the World

IU is only one source of livestreamed performances available from around the world. In addition to the performances from the Jacobs School of Music, in Boulder faculty Tuesdays and other performances from the CU College of Music are available online.

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Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

Opera is available from many different sources, mostly by subscription but with occasional free performances. Livestreaming from individual companies include the Metropolitan Opera, The Vienna State Opera, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich . There are also sites that bring operas from many different companies, such as OperaVision with productions from several European countries. A careful Google search will turn up other sites.

With so many different sources of performances that you can watch live from home, wearing your PJs and enjoying a bowl of popcorn or a glass of wine, for the classical music lover it really can be a wonderful life.

I’ll meet you at the computer!

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Houston Grand Opera production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Photo by Brian Mitchell.