Longmont Symphony offers “spectacularly beautiful music”

“Tales from the Sea” features pieces by Mendelssohn, Elgar and Rimsky-Korsakov

By Peter Alexander April 3 at 5:10 p.m.

One of the things Elliot Moore has heard most about since becoming conductor of the Longmont Symphony is the 2013 flood.

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2013 Flood in Longmont (Matthew Jonas/Times-Call)

Moore was first interviewed for the position with the LSO in November of 2016 and he was hired the following spring. The current 2017–18 season is his first with the orchestra.

“I heard over and over that the flood of 2013 was a pivotal moment for Longmont,” he says. “Hearing so many stories about the flood, and how it’s still affecting life today, was the impetus behind this program. Because everyone had a story about the flood, I thought a program around water stories would speak to a Longmont audience.”

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

Elliot Moore. Photo by Photography Maestro

The program in question will be performed 7:30 p.m. Saturday (April 7) in Vance Brand Auditorium. There are many pieces of music about water, but Moore decided on two short pieces before intermission, and one longer one after: Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides to open the concert; Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar, with mezzo-soprano Sarah Barber; and filling the second half of the program, Rimsky-Korsakov’s popular Arabian-nights tone-poem, Scheherazade.

The Hebrides are a group of rugged island off the west coast of Scotland. Mendelssohn visited the islands, and a particularly picturesque cave carved from hexagonal columns of basalt known as “Fingal’s Cave” (another name for Mendelssohn’s overture).

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Fingal’s Cave in the Hebrides

“The Hebrides could be described as a postcard that Mendelssohn wrote when he visited the Hebrides,” Moore says. “As an outsider coming into Longmont, all the feelings that people were conveying to me are things that are (in) Mendelssohn’s overture. It’s a nostalgic and lonely piece, but it also includes a communal feeling.”

If Mendelssohn’s overture will be familiar to many in the LSO audience, the same cannot likely be said of Elgar’s Sea Pictures. In fact, it was not well known to Moore before he started preparing for the concert.

“I didn’t know the piece that well when I programmed it,” he admits. “So it’s been a real opportunity for me to get to know the music, and I have fallen in love with this piece. On the program, this is the piece I’m most looking forward to conducting.”

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Sir Edward Elgar at the beach

The Sea Pictures are five short movements, settings for mezzo and orchestra of five different poems by five different poets. “The water represents many things in Sea Pictures,” Moore says.

“It can represent the passage of time, and the feelings and the dangers for people when they’re around water. The third song is about a ship, and it’s a metaphor. The ship is essentially a congregation, and how we relate with other people and survive the challenging moments in our lives.

“It is spectacularly beautiful music that is rarely performed. I’m excited we’re bringing it here.”

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Mezzo Sarah Barber

Barber is a graduate of CU Boulder who has performed extensively in the front range area. She has sung with the Eklund Opera at CU, at Central City Opera, Opera Ft. Collins, the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and the Black Hills Symphony, among others. Twice a regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera Guild Competition, she has won other awards in college and professionally.

While the first half of the concert expresses feelings Moore encountered when people talked about the flood—feelings of danger, of uncertainty, of loss—the music of the second half is more exotic and less exclusively about water. Scheherazade is based on the 1001 Nights, in which a young bride keeps herself alive by telling ever more gripping tales to her bloodthirsty husband.

R-3804352-1374178228-1240The piece has four scenes that Rimsky describes in brilliant music that conveys a mood without being too literally programmatic. The first and last scenes are related to water and the sea. The movements are: ”The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship”; “The Kalandar Prince”; “The Young Prince and the Young Princess”; and “Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship breaks apart against a Cliff surmounted by a Bronze Horseman.”

There is one aspect of the story behind the music that Moore wants the audience to notice. “Over the course of the symphonic work, in many ways it becomes more critical that she tell a great story,” he says. “She’s coming to the end, and the question is, what will the end be? Will it be death?

“You can hear the voice of Scheherazade, which is the violin playing, as it becomes more and more urgent. And the sultan is so dying to know the end that he’s completely wrapped up in this story. So throughout the course of the work there is an evolution of the characters.”

You should also listen to the soloists within the orchestra, because Scheherazade is one of the great orchestra showpieces of the 19th century. “There are a lot of solos, and one of the things that I like about it is that it features all the principal winds—it’s very virtuosic for so many players of the orchestra,” Moore says. “And of course, there’s the violin and there’s the harp as well!

“It’s quite a virtuosic piece for the orchestra.”

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“Tales from the Sea”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Sarah Barber, mezzo-soprano

Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony 2_preview.smiling_elk

Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony

Mendelssohn: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave)
Elgar: Sea Pictures
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

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CU Presents Artists Series 2018–19 features Venice Baroque, Sarah Chang, Tafelmusik

Dates announced for Takács Quartet, Eklund Opera performances, other events

By Peter Alexander April 1 at 11:40 p.m.

CU Presents has announced its 2018–19 season of music, dance and theater, including significant classical music performances by guest artists and CU organizations.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra

The return of the Venice Baroque Orchestra to Macky Auditorium  will lead off the schedule of classical guest artists Nov. 2. Violinist Sarah Chang will present a solo recital Nov. 16, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto-based historical-performance group, will present “The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House” March 4.

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Sarah Chang. Photo by Colin Bell for EMI

There is also good news for those interested in world music. The Silkroad Ensemble, founded 20 years ago by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will perform in Macky Jan. 31, and the remarkable Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo is scheduled for Feb. 16.

Boulder audiences have long relished the world-renowned Takács Quartet. With new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, they will present two performances each of five programs September through April. The Carpe Diem Quartet, featuring CU assistant prof. and Boulder Philharmonic concertmaster Charles Wetherbee as first violinist, will appear on another pair of concerts on the Takács series in November.

Finally, the Eklund opera program will feature two Macky Auditorium productions—a work celebrating the Leonard Bernstein centennial Oct. 26–28, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin March 15–17—and Benjamin Britten’s setting of Henry James’s creepy ghost story Turn of the Screw in the Imig Music Building Music Theatre April 25–28.

The full listing of classical music events is below. Season ticket sales begin at 10 a.m. Monday, April 2, and single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 20. A listing of all CU Presents events, including theater and dance, popular attractions, and Holiday performances, can be found at the CU Presents Web page.

Tickets are available here,  or by phone at 303-942-8008.

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CU Presents Classical Guest Artists 2018–19
Performances in Macky Auditorium

Venice Baroque Orchestra
With Anna Fusek, recorder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2

Sarah Chang, violin
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16

Tafelmusik
“The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House”
7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4

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Tafelmusik. Photo by Sian Richards.

Takács Quartet
Sundays sold out by subscription; Mondays have limited availability
All performances in Grusin Music Hall

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept 24

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29

Sunday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m. (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26 (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13
7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10,
7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11

4 p.m. Sunday, April 28
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29

Eklund Opera Program

Title TBA*
Music by Leonard Bernstein
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium
*Due to contractual obligations, the title of this production will not be announced until May 1, 2018

Eugene Onegin
By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16
2 p.m. Sunday, March 17
Macky Auditorium

The Turn of the Screw
By Benjamin Britten
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25; Friday, April 26; and Saturday, April 27
2 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Music Theatre, Imig Music Building

World Music Events

Silkroad Ensemble
7:30 p.m.. Thursday, Jan. 31
Macky Auditorium

Kodo
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Macky Auditorium

Boulder Phil collaborates with Cleo Parker Robinson for ‘Lark Ascending’

Emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw plays Prokofiev on the same program

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 5:50 p.m.

“The idea of connecting orchestral music with other art forms has been very much on my mind.”

That statement from Michael Butterman, conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic, is clearly reflected in the orchestra’s recent seasons. Concerts have included projected visual images, and there have been collaborations with Boulder Ballet, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance and Central City Opera.

 

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Dancers from the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Now you can add Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble to the list, with Robinson’s original choreography for Vaughan Williams’s Lark-Ascending for Saturday’s concert (April 7). The performance will feature the orchestra’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee, playing the solo violin part, with the dancers arrayed on the front of the stage.

Two other works will complete the concert program: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5, and the emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw playing Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

The collaboration with Robinson is one that Butterman has been planning for some time. “I wanted to work with Cleo’s company since I first came to Boulder,” he says. “It was just a question of (finding) something that would be a good fit for them and for us.”

The Lark Ascending came to mind as a suitable piece. “I thought it was a captivating piece of music, and it certainly has a sensibility that invited storytelling and choreography,” Butterman says. “So I approached Cleo about coming up with her own approach to this.”

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Cleo Parker Robinson

Robinson loves the celebrated choreography that Alvin Ailey created for the piece, but she had no trouble finding her own interpretation. She was inspired in part by the writing of Maya Angelou, she says: “As soon as I began to hear the music and think about the theme, (I remembered that) she wrote ‘I know why the caged bird sings.’

“I had seen choreography with the lark being female, but I shifted it, (because) we’re seeing so many young people incarcerated. Usually it’s young Black men, brown men, and those without resources. I was overwhelmed with this.”

Robinson visualized a piece that was universal at the same time that it portrays an unjustly imprisoned Black man. “Who do people listen to once they are in such a dark place?” she asks. Her answer involves a quartet of dancers: the prisoner and three women.

“We have the mother coming to him as a voice of compassion,” she explains. “Then his sister comes to him as a voice of hope. And the woman that he loves comes to him as a voice of love, sharing that she carries his child. Their child, if nothing else, (gives him) a purpose to live.”

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Michael Butterman. Photo:  Jiah Kyun

The Fifth will be the first Sibelius symphony that Butterman has performed with the Phil. “It seems like time to do one,” he says. “If you’re doing the Fifth you naturally think of the association of the last movement with swans. Sibelius wrote about being on the edge of a lake when an assemblage of swans flew overhead. He wanted to somehow capture that moment in the last movement.”

That beautiful tune he wrote to represent the flight of swans has made the symphony popular, but in other ways, Butterman says, Sibelius can be difficult for performers and audience both. “Many composers present a theme in its fully formed state, take it apart in what we would call the development section, then put it back together,” he says. “We don’t have that overview in most of Sibelius.

“His approach is to present a series of ideas, not apparently related, over the course of a movement or an entire symphony. He begins to put the pieces together, and we then see the big picture toward the end. It’s like uncovering puzzle pieces or little glimpses of an idea, maybe excavating something and over time you’re able to reveal the treasure underneath.”

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto was written around the same time as the composer’s popular ballet Romeo and Juliet, and on the surface it has some of the same lyrical, accessible qualities as the ballet. Jackiw, however, hears darker elements below the surface.

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Violinist Stefan Jackiw

“There are certainly lyrical moments, like the second theme of the first movement,” he says. “And the second movement is one of the most beautiful things Prokofiev ever wrote. But I wouldn’t say that the piece on the whole is genial. I think actually there’s a lot of menace and nihilism as well.”

Jackiw points particularly to the opening theme for solo violin, which is flowing and lyrical but written in a five-beat pattern, and to the following orchestral entrance, which is tonally disorienting. These together, he says, “contribute to a sense of un-moored-ness and ungrounded-ness and discomfort. There’s a lot of this eerie quality in the first movement.

“The third movement also has the sense of throwing the performers and the listeners off kilter. It starts as a wild dance, and the road of the piece is a descent into madness. So while there are sweet moments, there’s a lot of demonic chaos.”

But the combination of sweetness and chaos, Jackiw believes, is what makes the concerto worthwhile. “A lot of this piece is about the dramatic tension between darkness and light, despair and hope,” he says.

“Listening out for that dramatic tension and seeing how that arc travels throughout the piece—that’s really what this is about, and a big part of what makes this piece special.”

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Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

“A Song for Swans”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
With Charles Wetherbee, violin, and the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
With Stefan Jackiw, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7
Macky Auditorium

Tickets