Fresh Fridays return, Mashups and Happy Hour Concerts do not
By Peter Alexander Jan. 26, 2018 at 12:10 a.m.
There will be some things old, some things new, and a few things gone missing at the Colorado Music Festival (CMF) this summer.
The 2018 season, announced by the festival today, was assembled by artistic advisor Peter Oundjian in association with the CMF board of directors and the summer’s slate of guest conductors. Oundjian was appointed in place of former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni, who stepped down after the 2017 season.
Zeitouni remains as principal guest conductor, and will lead three concerts during the summer. Oundjian will conduct eight concerts, including one pair with the same program, and guest conductors will take the remaining orchestral concerts.
A quick glance at the schedule shows that there will be fewer performances than in most recent summers. The season will largely comprise more-or-less standard orchestra programs, performed by either the full Festival Orchestra on Thursdays and Fridays, or the CMF Chamber Orchestra on Sundays. Over the summer, Saturdays will offer two family concerts, two chamber concerts performed by members of the CMF orchestra, and one vocal-piano recital. An additional “Family Fun” concert will be on a Friday (see full schedule below).
All concerts will be in the Chautauqua Auditorium, and nothing has been scheduled for Monday–Wednesday. But Oundjian has brought in a dazzling array of soloists that should attract audience interest, and there will be some hugely popular pieces along the way. The interest of variety is served by a season-long emphasis on music made in America, which brings a number of newer and less familiar works into the schedule.
The six-week season opens Thursday, June 28, with Brazilian-born conductor Marcelo Lehninger, music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and violinist Vadim Gluzman, and ends with the Festival Finale concert Saturday, Aug. 4, featuring the return of the popular pianist Olga Kern to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on an all-American program conducted by Oundjian.
In addition to Kern, returning soloists over the summer will be pianist Orion Weiss, who will play Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto July 1, and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung will sing the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde July 19, Abschied from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde July 29, and a song recital July 28.
Other soloists include several with illustrious careers, as well as promising younger artists. Two of the best known are friends that Oundjian invited to perform here: pianist Yefim Bronfman, who will make his CMF debut with Brahms’s First Piano Concerto July 12 and 13 on the only program to be repeated in its entirety; and violinist Robert McDuffie, who will play Philip Glass’s “American Four Seasons” July 15. The Glass piece was written for McDuffie, and premiered by him with Oundjian conducting in 2009.
“I came (to Boulder) last summer, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Chautauqua,” Oundjian says. “This is just such a beautiful place. And I thought the orchestra was wonderful. And so I said to everyone, ‘C’mon, you should come out here, it will be great fun!’”
Other soloists over the summer will be violinists Gluzman, Philippe Quint and Augustin Hadelich; pianist Gabriela Martinez; and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan.
A prominent feature of the season is music by American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Samuel Barber, Philip Glass, John Adams, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Joan Tower and George Walker are all on the schedule, as is Leonard Bernstein, whose centennial is being celebrated on seven of the summer’s performances.
But as Oundjian explains, the theme is broader than that. “The 100th anniversary of Bernstein was my starting point,” he says. “Everything I’m conducting is connected in one way or another with Bernstein: music that would have inspired him, which is a lot of the American music, and then music that he inspired.
“There are several pieces by European composers written on American soil. The only two pieces I’m conducting that were not written on American soil were two of Bernstein’s favorite pieces. One is the Abschied from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which he considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all time” (July 29).
The second piece is the Brahms First Piano Concerto (July 12–13), which Bernstein conducted in a notorious performance with pianist Glenn Gould in 1962. Bernstein gave a famous speech before the performance in which he stated both his disagreement with Gould’s interpretation, and support for his right to that interpretation.
The pieces written in America by European composers will be Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (July 12), Dvořák’s “American” String Quartet (July 21) and Cello Concerto (Aug. 2), Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (July 26) and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (Aug. 2).
Each of the other conductors created their own programs apart from Oundjian’s American theme. In his one week at Chautauqua, Zeitouni continues showing his love for great vocal music with the performance of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
There are other classical blockbusters on the guest-conductor programs. Zeitouni will conduct Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade July 19 and 20, and Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony July 21. Lehninger will conduct Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 on opening night, and Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” with Weiss July 1, and conductor David Danzmayr has programmed Mahler’s First Symphony July 5.
There are some obvious changes from past seasons, partly on account of decisions made by the board. For example, there will be no Tuesday night performances, and the series that previously occupied those nights—Mashup concerts and their successor, Happy Hour concerts—are missing from the schedule. “Fresh Fridays,” short, informal concerts on Friday evenings that start at 6:30, will continue for a second year.
“We found last year that the sales for our Friday nights were actually higher than the Tuesday nights,” CMF executive director Elizabeth McGuire explains. “Those (‘Fresh Friday’) concerts point more directly to our core product, so we were thrilled about that. We wanted to put emphasis on these concerts.”
There will be two “Fresh Fridays” during the summer, one conducted by Zeitouni on July 20 and one conducted by Oundjian on July 27. Each will repeat one work from the full orchestral program of the preceding evening, and one work selected for its popular appeal.
Another reason McGuire cited for the decrease in the overall number of concerts was that the musicians believed the schedule had become too full. “They were concerned about (repetitive motion) injury, because we were typically offering more (rehearsals and concerts) per week than they would have in their home orchestras,” she says. “They felt that it was just too much in the span of one week.
“We wanted to listen to what the musicians were telling us. They are our greatest asset, so we tried to give them a day off during the week, and we also are increasing their pay this year. Those were ways to make our musicians know that we were listening to them and that we wanted to support them.”
Also missing this year is a “Click” Commission premiere. “The reason is, we didn’t get a lot of enthusiasm” last year, McGuire says. “If we’re going to do something like that, we want people to be engaged and interested in it.”
She does point out that there will be two world premieres during the summer, both pieces by Australian composer Tim Collins, Buch des Sängers (The singers’ book) performed by De Young and the Festival Orchestra under Zeitouni July 19, and LOVES CRUSADE performed by De Young with pianist Cody Garrison July 28.
A new feature of the CMF’s concerts for children and families is that they have been designated “sensory-friendly,” meaning they have been designed to be welcoming to families with children who have “sensory sensitivities.” The accommodations at these performances include leaving the house lights on during the concert and providing a movement area at the back of the hall. (See the full description of these concerts below.)
Season subscriptions for the 2018 Colorado Music Festival are on sale now through the Chautauqua Box Office (phone: 303.440.7666). Single tickets will go on sale March 12.
The next Music Director: No news is good news
Peter Oundjian was hired as artistic advisor to CMF, not as a permanent music director. The search for a new music director is entirely private, and none of this summer’s guest conductors should be considered a candidate for the position, according the executive director Elizabeth MGuire. “There’s no public aspect of (the search) whatsoever,” she says.
“The more we talk about it, the less chance we have of attracting who we want, so it’s all under wraps. Hopefully, people will understand why we’re so close-lipped about it.”
No timetable has been announced for filling the position.
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Colorado Music Festival
Peter Oundjian, Artistic Advisor
All concerts at Chautauqua Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 28: Opening Night
Marcelo Lehninger, conductor, with Vadim Gluzman, violin
John Corigliano: Promenade Overture
Bernstein: Serenade (After Plato’s Symposium)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4, op. 36
2 p.m. Saturday, June 30: Family Fun Concert “Meet the Strings”
Members of the CMF Orchestra. SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 1
Marcelo Lehninger, conductor, with Orion Weiss, piano
Stravinsky: Suite No. 1 for Small Orchestra
Mozart: Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 5
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Gabriela Martinez, piano
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20, K466 in D minor
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
2 p.m. Saturday, July 7: Young People’s Concert: “Dances From Around the World”
Radu Paponiou, conductor
SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 8
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Philippe Quint, violin
Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances
Piazzolla: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Schubert: Symphony No. 3
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Yefim Bronfman, piano
Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, op. 45
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14: Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players
Stravinsky: Octet for Wind Instruments
Prokofiev: Two Pieces for String Octet
Mendelssohn: String Octet, op. 20
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin
Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Philip Glass: Concerto No. 2 for Violin, “American Four Seasons”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (World Premiere)
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20: FRESH FRIDAYS*
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21: Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players
Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2 (“Company”)
Barber: String Quartet
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12, op. 96 (“American”)
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Ravel: Mother Goose
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin
Paul Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
John Adams: “Doctor Atomic” Symphony
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 27 FRESH FRIDAYS*
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, and Cody Garrison, piano
Art songs by Brahms, Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Timothy Collins: LOVES CRUSADE (world premiere)
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Joan Tower: Made in America
Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Mahler: Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello
Leonard Bernstein: Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free
Dvořák: Cello Concerto
Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3: Family Fun Concert “Meet the Brass”
Members of the CMF Orchestra. SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4: Festival Finale
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Olga Kern, piano
Leonard Bernstein: Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free
Samuel Barber: Symphony No. 1 in One Movement, op. 9
George Gershwin: An American in Paris
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
*Fresh Fridays: Start at 6:30 p.m. with an hour-long, intermission free concert, leaving patrons time to go out for post-concert dinner and drinks.
Family Fun Concerts give younger children a chance to meet different sections of the orchestra, as small ensembles perform short, informal 45-minute programs.
The Young People’s Concert is designed for children ages 4 and older and includes events after the concert on the great lawn, with costumed characters, hands-on instruments, creative face painting, and other activities.
Sensory-Friendly Concerts are designed to create a performing arts experience that is welcoming to all families with children with autism or other conditions that create sensory sensitivities. Accommodations: house lights will remain on during the performance; microphone volumes will be decreased; staff will be easily accessible for any problems or questions; involuntary movements and noises are acceptable and welcomed; a designated movement area in the back of the auditorium for anyone who feels the need to move during the performance; and general admission seating, so that everyone may find a comfortable place to sit.
NOTE: Edited to correct typos, Jan. 26 at 8:48 a.m.