Colorado Music Festival opens with fun, beauty, and excitement

Violinist Vadim Gluzman shines in Bernstein Serenade

By Peter Alexander June 29, 12:30 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival opened its 2018 season last night (June 28) with a program that had generous supplies of fun, beauty and excitement.

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Marcelo Lehninger

Guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger faced the challenge of launching the festival, conducting an unfamiliar orchestra in a hall where he had never performed. It is a testament to him and to the players that he acquitted himself with great success. He is a conductor who exudes a calm confidence and who leads with clarity and restraint.

Lehninger began the concert with John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture, which starts with a near-empty stage. Players and sections enter gradually until the stage is full (or nearly: the tuba player, in a humorous nod to the instrument’s bulk, enters oompahing breathlessly at the very end). Lehninger selected this score the represent the reunion of the orchestra players, who reconvene every summer in Boulder from their main-season jobs all over the country.

Promenade is a great concert and season opener: the percussion riffs, the brass fanfares, the woodwind noodling all give the players a chance to show their virtuosity, and the culminating broad, lyrical theme gives the strings their due as well. It was done with great brilliance and precision, announcing “THIS is an orchestra!” For future seasons, opening with Promenade would make a great Chautauqua tradition.

That bit of fun was followed by the beauty of Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, featuring violinist Vadim Gluzman. Effectively a five-movement concerto for violin with strings, percussion and harp, the Serenade was written in 1954, before West Side Story made Bernstein a popular sensation. The style is mostly conservative mid-century modernist, with hints of Shostakovich, Britten and others of the time, with the jazzy, hip “Lenny” that we expect only showing up in the final movement.

Plato’s Symposiumdepicts a series of discourses on the subject of love. Fittingly, the five contrasting movements of the Serenade are dominated by a lyrical spirit, with the particularly beautiful fourth movement suggesting Bernstein’s expansive love of humanity.

Vadim Gluzman Photo: Marco Borggreve

Violinist Vadim Gluzman

Gluzman was a sheer joy to hear. The lyrical solo that opens the Serenade filled the hall with beautiful sound, even at a piano volume, and the tricky pyrotechnics of the third movement were precise and flawless. The fourth movement was the expressive heart of the performance, and the finale had just the right amount of jazzy spirit.

I particularly enjoyed the way Gluzman interacted with the violin section behind him, frequently turning to face them rather than the audience, sharing the joy of performance with the players. Equally captivating was his interaction with the principal cellist during a joint cadenza. I have heard this piece live before, but never has it made a greater impression.

Lehninger closed the concert with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, one of the most viscerally exciting pieces in the repertoire. This was the first real test for the full orchestra, and with a few reservations they passed handily. This is the CMF orchestra we have heard before, with great individual virtuosity, a full sound, (mostly) impeccable intonation, and a wide range of dynamics and expressive potential. From the very first notes, the brass was bold, full and thrilling. The movement displayed the flexibility of the ensemble, with extensive tempo modifications and well controlled phrasing.

A few entrances were slightly blurred, but only a few, and from where I sat the balance was not ideal. The powerful brass section sometimes overwhelmed other sections, the middle of the texture was a little too thick, and some details were lost in the wash of sound. It may have sounded differently elsewhere in the hall.

In a moment of surprise, Lehninger turned to the audience between the first two movements to apologize that he had not spoken earlier, and to say “Welcome.” What could have been an awkward moment was made charming by his relaxed, affable personality.

The remainder of the symphony was played with great expression, notable flexibility and well marked expressive contours. The finale was taken at a driven tempo, but one that the players managed well. The movement was irresistibly exciting and did what it is supposed to do: Drive the audience to their feet. And so the 2018 CMF is well launched.

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Chautauqua Auditorium from the CMF Orchestra. Photo by Eric Berlin.

Dates, programs and tickets for CMF performances here.

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Guest conductors launch 2018 Colorado Music Festival

Violinists Gluzman and Quint, pianists Weiss and Martinez will be early soloists at CMF

By Peter Alexander June 28 at 12 noon

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Chautauqua Auditorium during a CMF orchestra concert. Photo by Eric Berlin.

The Colorado Music Festival, facing another year without a permanent music director, opens with two weeks of concerts led by guest conductors Marcelo Lehninger and David Danzmayr. Current artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead several concerts mid-summer, and former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni will return for one week.

The opening weeks set the festival pattern of full orchestra concerts on Thursdays and chamber orchestra on Sundays. Later, the season will also see the return of Fresh Friday mini-concerts and Saturday chamber music (full schedule at coloradomusicfestival.org).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

 

A LOSS FOR BOULDER’S CLASSICAL MUSICIANS

Classical music journalist/critic Kelly Dean Hansen leaves the Daily Camera

By Peter Alexander June 26, 2018, at 12:05 a.m.

Kelly Dean Hansen, the classical music critic for the Boulder Daily Camera since 2011, recently resigned his post.

Kelly Dean Hansen Camera Classical Music Writer

Kelly Dean Hansen. Boulder Daily Camera photo.

Hansen resigned as of May 27, but only announced the decision yesterday, June 24. He had written music criticism for the Camera since 2003, first as an assistant to long-time local critic/journalist Wes Blomster, and then as the newspaper’s sole classical music writer after Blomster’s death in October, 2011.

Hansen’s departure had been rumored in classical music circles for some time, and the publication by the Camera of a preview of this summer’s Colorado Music Festival—long a favored topic for Hansen—by reporter Christy Fantz on June 22 seemed to confirm the rumors. Two days later, on June 24, the Boulder Free Press Web page published an article by Hansen announcing his resignation from the Camera and explaining his decision.

The main reason appears to have been the gradual reduction in the number of articles and the total space allotted by the paper for classical music. After 2017, Hansen wrote, “the cuts were unrelenting and ever increasing. . . . By the time I submitted my last piece around Memorial Day, my writing had become a shadow and shell of its peak around 2014.”

Asked to comment on Hansen’s departure, Quentin Young, the Camera’s features and entertainment editor, wrote: “The Camera, like newspapers across the country, has fewer resources than it did five or 10 years ago. But we remain committed to providing robust coverage of local news and events, including classical music.”

In a spoken conversation he added a personal note of appreciation. “Kelly had a rare mix of talents, which most importantly includes a breadth of knowledge of the subject he was writing about,” Young said. “I’m personally sad to see that go.”

Hansen expressed his own sadness in his article for Boulder Free Press, writing “the pain is real, the sense of loss is real.” Likewise, the loss to the Boulder classical music community—musicians, musical organizations and audiences—is real, for at least two reasons.

One is that Hansen had a unique and well informed perspective that cannot be completely replaced. And the second reason is that any community thrives best when multiple voices are heard.

I remember when my friends in the professional theater world used to complain about the power wielded by a single critic in New York, Frank Rich of the Times. I always maintained that the only problem with the highly opinionated and outspoken Rich was that there were not more of him. Likewise, the loss of critical voices and informed journalists in city after city across the country weakens the fabric of our artistic communities, and is always to be mourned.

“In today’s journalistic world I was an anachronism,” Hansen writes, noting the shrinkage of arts criticism in the country’s daily newspapers. “But,” he adds, “I genuinely believe that what I had to offer was both rare and treasured, which explains why I did what I did for as long as I did.”

Indeed.

Finally, my personal reaction is first of all my sadness not to see him at the concerts I attend, which has been a part of musical life since I arrived here, and also that I do not want to be the sole critical voice in Boulder’s incredibly vital classical music scene. Honestly, there is more than any one person can quite keep up with.

Besides, I love to read what others have to say, even when they have a very different perspective than mine—as Hansen often did. I learned from reading his reviews, and will happily welcome other writers to the scene, whenever they might appear.

Let us hope we do not have too long to wait.

NOTE: Edited to correct typos, 6.26.18

CU NOW presents selections from new opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer

If I Were You’ addresses questions of identity, life and death

By Peter Alexander June 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Jake Heggie, composer of the opera Dead Man Walking, and Gene Scheer, who wrote librettos for Heggie’s Moby Dick and It’s a Wonderful Life, are hard at work again.

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CU NOW Rehearsal. L to R: Erin Hodgson, assistant to the composer and librettist; Gene Scheer, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer (photo by Glenn Asakawa)

Their latest project, an opera that addresses existential questions about identity, life and death, has brought them to Boulder and CU Eklund Opera’s New Operatic Workshop (CU NOW). Selected excerpts from the new work, If I Were You, will be presented to the public for free, performed by CU student singers.  The Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CFI), a separate project of CU NOW will present four short operas by CU composition students: three 8-minute works and one 30-minute work.

CU NOW invites a composer and librettist every year to come to Boulder for a couple of weeks in June as they develop a new opera and work with student singers. The composers have the opportunity to hear portions of their own work and make changes as necessary before it’s complete. As part of his association with CU NOW, Heggie has also been working with the students whose works will be presented by the Composer Fellows’ Initiative.

If I Were You, as Heggie describes it, is “a modern-day Faust story” with an overlay of Gothic romance. “It’s about a disillusioned young man who wishes he could be anyone else,” he says. Heggie and Scheer will decide which portions of the opera to perform during the workshop. They will introduce the musical excerpts to the audience and explain the plot as they go along.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

CU New Opera Workshop festival (CU NOW)
Leigh Holman, director
Jeremy Reger, director of music

 

If I Were You (selected excerpts)
Libretto by Gene Scheer
Music by Jake Heggie
Adam Turner, guest conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 17
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CU NOW—CFI)
Daniel Kellogg, managing director
Four short operas by student composers
Steven Aguillo, guest music director
Bud Coleman, stage director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16
ATLAS Blackbox, Roser ATLAS Center

Performances free and open to the public