From Venice to Boulder: Music of “The Red Priest”

Vivaldi dominates program by Venice Baroque Orchestra

By Peter Alexander Oct. 31 at 10 p.m.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra with recorder soloist Anna Fusek. Photo courtesy of CU Presents.

No composer represents the Baroque era in music better than “Il Prete Rosso” (The red priest), Antonio Vivaldi.

Known for his fiery red hair, he wrote almost countless concertos—more than 500—for just about every possible instrument of his day, including Le quattro stagioni (The four seasons) for violin, four of the most popular and famous of all Baroque concertos. Covering wide realms of genres, he wrote sacred music, still performed, and more than 40 operas, hugely successful in his lifetime but not often performed today.

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Antonio Vivaldi

His music was known and studied by Bach, who wrote pieces based on some of Vivaldi’s concertos, which still stand as examples of Baroque form, technique and style.

Vivaldi was born and lived most of his life in Venice, so it is no surprise that the Venice Baroque Orchestra (VBO), playing Friday evening (Nov. 2) in Macky Auditorium, brings a lot of Vivaldi’s music with them. In fact, their program is almost entirely music by Vivaldi—concertos and opera overtures, or “sinfonias”—except for a single concerto grosso by Francesco Geminiani, who was a native of Lucca, on the opposite side of Italy from Venice.

Alessandra DiVicenzo, a violist and member of the VBO since it was founded 21 years ago, wrote about the concert from Santa Fe, where the orchestra was on tour earlier this week. “For us Vivaldi has always a place in our programs, since the freshness of his style makes his music very natural and easy to play for us,” she writes.

“Living, or just spending most of the time in Venice could have helped us develop a sensibility about how Venetian and Vivaldi’s music could sound. When you are in Venice you realize that light and water are two elements that give Venice a special touch, so it is easy to think that Vivaldi is like water, light and clear, always changeable and never still.”

The Venice Baroque Orchestra is known for their energetic and brilliant style in playing Vivaldi’s music. This has distinguished them from some of their more staid predecessors in the Baroque performance world, and in particular providees an individual sense of personality to each work they perform.

“To us it seems natural to bring excitement to the playing of Vivaldi’s music,” DiVicenzo writes. “Everything of this can be found in his scores, which are spontaneous, rich of vitality, rhythmic, sometimes nervous, and offering sudden changes of mood—like he surely was!”

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Francesco Geminiani

As for the non-Venetian on the program, DiVicenzo writes: “Geminiani is a very interesting composer. Maybe today his name is not so famous to a wide audience, but during the 18thcentury he was a VIP, one of the most acclaimed composers and violin virtuosos.

“He has an energy and vitality very similar to Vivaldi. All audiences appreciate it, so I’m sure Boulder’s audience will like it.”

DiVicenzo wants to call the audience’s attention to some specific aspects of the program, and of Vivaldi’s legacy. “One thing the audience could realize is that Vivaldi played a very important role in the development of the technique of many instruments, including violin, cello and flute. His solo concertos are very demanding for any performer.

“One example is the Violin Concerto in E minor, in which the soloist has very difficult passages for both right and left hand. Also the double concerto for violin and cello requires two soloists with outstanding technique. The breathtaking third movement lets the soloists show all their skill! And the program ends with the recorder concerto “Il Gardellino” (The goldfinch), one of many examples of Vivaldi’s skill in imitating nature by music.”

The concert is the second visit to Macky Auditorium by the VBO. Their previous performance here was in 2014, at which time DiVicenzo commented that the orchestra members travelled with some of the food from home. I asked her if Italians still balked at drinking American coffee.

“American espresso improved enough that Italians drink it,” she wrote. “At the San Francisco airport I heard some of us appreciating the one-shot espresso they were sipping. But nothing has changed in VBO’s equipment.

”The coffee machine continues to travel with us all over the world.”

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Venice-1Venice Baroque Orchestra

Program of Baroque Concertos by Vivaldi and Geminiani
With Anna Fusek, recorder; Gianpiero Zanocco, violin;
Massimo Raccanelli and Federico Tiffany, cellos
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Macky Auditorium

Full Program

Tickets

 

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Boulder Chorale presents the music of Cuba Oct. 27–28

Music of Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, Gloria Estefan is featured

By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 9:35 p.m.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Boulder Chorale and Children’s Choirs. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Choral conductor Vicki Burrichter went to Cuba in 2003.

Suzanne Morales

Guest artist Suzanne Morales

It took 15 years, but that trip has led to a concert of Cuban choral music in Boulder. Burrichter is now the artistic director and conductor of the Boulder Chorale, who will present “¡Viva Cuba!” Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 27 and 28). The Chorale will be joined by vocal soloist Suzanne Morales; the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir, the oldest age-group of the Chorale’s children’s choirs; and the Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars, an instrumental ensemble hired especially for the occasion.

Bel Canto will sing with the adult Chorale for the opening number, “Chan Chan,” and present a couple of their own pieces as well. Morales and the Cuban Allstars will perform on their own in between the choral sections of the concert.

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Vicki Burrichter. Photo by Bob Evans.

Burrichter has been drawn to Cuban music since she took the Colorado College Women’s Chorus to Cuba in 2003, but the concert is part of a larger mission for her. “My favorite thing is to look for ways to bring music of other cultures into the choral world,” she says. “I’m always trying to bring more cross-cultural music to the world of choral music, along with all the traditional things that we do.

“The Cuban concert is going to be really exciting!”

She also sees a theme behind the theme of Cuban music, explaining, “as Carlos Santana said, ‘I don’t play Latin music, I play African music.’ I’m such a lover of all things that have to do with African rhythms, whether it’s Brazilian music, or Cuban music—I love that.”

Santana and Burrichter are pointing to the cultural origin of the musical styles, and particularly the rhythms, that dominate music through Latin America, in addition to American jazz, blues and gospel styles: the music brought to the Americas by the African slave trade. “I’m going to start the concert with just the percussion doing kind of an African rhythm, so that people get the idea,” Burrichter explains.

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Members of Buena Vista Social Club

For the rest of the concert, the names of the composers may not be familiar, but many of the songs will be, having been popularized by some of the leading Latin performers. For example, the very first piece, “Chan Chan,” was popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble formed in 1996 to preserve the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. Buena Vista Social Club became famous when they toured the United States in 1998 and were the subject of a widely shown documentary film by German filmmaker Wim Wenders released in 1999.

Other parts of the program feature music that is even more familiar to American audiences. “We’re doing Guantanamera, which everybody knows,” Burrichter says.

“There’s a lot of famous salsa songs and Latin dance music. We’ve got [Tito Puente’s] ‘Oye Como Va,’ which was made very famous by Santana. ‘Cúcula,‘ ‘La Vida es un Carnaval’ (Life is a carnival) and ‘Quimbara,’ are Celia Cruz pieces, and ‘Conga’ was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.”

Burrichter doesn’t want you to think of this as another staid classical music concert. “This is not going to be a concert where you’re going to have to sit quietly in your seats,” she says. “If you know the music, you can sing along!”

And she implied that dancing in the aisles will not be discouraged. “The Latin dance medley is going to be really exciting!” she says. “People will love that.”

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The concert represents a collaboration between the Boulder Chorale and Intercambio, an organization that offers English classes for adults, cultural awareness workshops, and other classes aimed at immigrants in Boulder County. Another collaborator is Boulder’s Rayback Collective at 2775 Valmont Rd., where there will be a gathering for musicians and audience members alike following Sunday’s concert.

Slides will be shown during the performance taken by Jenny Desmond of Intercambio, during her visits to Cuba.

Both performances will be preceded by a pre-concert lecture by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center and a scholar of Cuban music.

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 ¡Viva Cuba!

Boulder Concert Chorale with the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir
Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars instrumental ensemble
Suzanne Morales, vocal soloist
Vicki Burrichter, artistic director and conductor

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Performances preceded by a pre-concert talk by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets

‘West Side Story’: 61 years old and still as relevant as today’s headlines

CU Eklund Opera presents Bernstein’s masterpiece

By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 12:15 p.m.

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened on Broadway just over 61 years ago — Sept. 26, 1957 — but for Leigh Holman, the story does not get old.

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West Side Story cast members Christine Honein as Maria and Patrick Bessenbecher as Tony. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado.

Holman is the director of the Eklund Opera Program at the CU College of Music, which will be presenting Bernstein’s masterpiece Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26–28. The cast of CU students, freshman though graduate students, will be stage-directed by Holman. Guest conductor Philip Hesketh will lead the singers and student orchestra.

The show is a transplanted version of Romeo and Juliet, with New York street gangs replacing the rival families. The conflict is between immigrants and newer immigrants, the Jets and the Sharks, a white gang and a Puerto Rican gang.

West Side Story has a theme that’s important to talk about right now,” Holman says. “It’s a story about people who are immigrants, and nothing could be more relevant. When someone moves into our area, is in the workplace or in school with us, people who don’t look like us, what sort of fear ignites in us and how do we act upon that?

“To me it sounds like a story from 2018.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Art by Janalee Robison for CU Presents

West Side Story
By Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Eklund Opera Theater

7:30 pm. Friday Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Longmont Symphony schedules chamber orchestra concerts at Stewart Auditorium

Moore: Classical works will “further the orchestra’s artistic achievement”

By Peter Alexander Oct. 18 at 8:40 p.m.

Elliott Moore, conductor of the Longmont Symphony, wants the orchestra to play more music from the Classical era.

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Conductor Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony.  Smiling Elk Photography.

The standard works of the 19th-century Romantic era have been staples of the orchestra for many years, but the LSO has not played much Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven. To remedy the imbalance, they have started scheduling chamber orchestra concerts in the intimate Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum. Last year there was one; this year there will be two, at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons Oct. 21 (sold out) and April 14. Similar concerts are planned for future seasons as well.

The orchestra will perform three works Oct. 21: Lacrimae Beati by American composer Richard Danielpour, which is derived from the last notes Mozart wrote before his death; Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major with soloist Alice Yoo; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major, known as the “Jupiter” Symphony. The April 14 concert will feature Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont, the Chamber Symphony, op. 110a, by Shostakovich; and Beethoven Symphony No. 2 in D major, performed as part of a multi-year Beethoven cycle that will include all nine symphonies.

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Eliot Moore

The programming of Classical-era pieces, as well as contemporary works for smaller orchestra, accomplishes two things, Moore says. “Haydn and Mozart are not composers that have been performed a great deal in Longmont,” he explains. “It still has a feeling of being fresh here, and it’s important that the Longmont Symphony bring this to our audiences.”

The second thing it accomplishes is more important, Moore believes. “One of the aspects of what a music director does is to further the orchestra’s artistic achievement,” he says. “You use the repertoire to further that artistic achievement.

“For example, our performance of Mozart’s final symphony, the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony, will influence how we perform our Beethoven Second Symphony, and how we perform our Beethoven Second Symphony will influence how we perform Brahms. This music all goes together, and for us to jump to Brahms without having a background in the performance of Mozart and early Beethoven, and then of late Beethoven—we are missing some steps.”

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Richard Danielpour

Of the works on the sold-out Oct. 21 concert, Moore is especially excited about Danielpour’s Lacrimae Beati. “I’m thrilled that Longmont will see the Colorado premiere of this fantastic work,” he says. “To me that’s very exciting, that we are able to bring [that] to our audience.

“What’s important is that Danielpour quotes Mozart’s Lachrymosa from his Requiem. It’s a direct quote, and the piece is based on the last eight notes that Mozart wrote. I wrote to Dr. Danielpour, and he is very honored that his piece is on the same program with Mozart’s final symphony.”

The April concert features music by two composers, Beethoven and Shostakovich. “These two composers go together so well, because while they lived in different times, they both are revolutionary composers,” Moore says. “Beethoven was doing so many new, exciting things, and it packs a punch in what he’s delivering. Shostakovich does the same thing in a different way.

“What is compelling about the program is the old and the new and how it relates.”

Of the works on the program, the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony is a string orchestra arrangement of the composer’s Eighth String Quartet, one of his most emotionally powerful pieces. In contrast to the sometimes anguished Shostakovich score, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 is one of the composer’s sunniest work. Its programming represents a continuation of the Beethoven cycle that began last year with the First Symphony.

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Longmont Symphony at the Stewart Auditorium

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Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum. Photo by Peter Alexander.

Haydn & Mozart
4 .m. Sunday, Oc.t 21, 2018
Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Alice Yoo, cello

Richard Danielpour: Lacrimae Beati
Haydn: Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C major (“Jupiter”)

SOLD OUT

Beethoven Cycle
4 p.m. Sunday, April 14, 2019
Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium
Elliot Moore, conductor

Beethoven: Overture to Egmont
Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony, op. 110a
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D major

Tickets

Grace Note: Boulder International Chamber Music Competition Announces Winners

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By Peter Alexander Oct. 14, 2018, at 3:20 p.m.

The Boulder International Chamber Music Competition: The Art of the Duo concluded its competitive rounds Saturday (Oct. 13).  The winners were announced that evening, and the winners concert was held Sunday afternoon, Oct. 14, in the Gordon Gamm Theater of the Dairy Arts Center.

The winners are:

First Prize: Iwo Jedynecki (Poland) & Aleksander Krzyżanowski (Poland), accordion and piano
Best Performance of Commissioned Piece, “True Green” by Tomasz Golka
Audience Favorite Award
Second prize winners (tie): YuEun Kim (South Korea) & Sung Chang (South Korea), violin and piano; and
Matthew Cohen (U.S.) & Zhenni Li (China), viola and piano
No third prize was awarded.

Infinite Space: Boulder Phil plays music about stars and astronomers and planets

New video by artist Gary Kelley will accompany The Planets by Gustav Holst

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic calls their 2018–19 season “Open Space,” and they will begin their classical programming Saturday (Oct. 13) focusing on the openest space of all. Under the title “Infinite Space,” they will perform music about stars and astronomers and planets.

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Artwork by Gary Kelley for The New Live, from “The Planets Re-imagined”

You might guess one of the pieces: The Planets by Gustav Holst, one of the best loved and most programmed pieces for orchestra. The other two are completely new to Boulder audiences, having both been written in this century: Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and James Stephenson’s Celestial Suite.

“To take something well loved and surround it with music that is a discovery for people—that is the formula we have followed for a while,” Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s music director says.

Holst’s Planets will be accompanied by a video, “The Planets Re-imagined,” created by artist Gary Kelley, who is known for his posters and illustrations, and The New Live, a company specializing in multimedia productions for the concert stage.

Kelley created more than 25 separate images, from large oil paintings to small illustrations, that are combined in video imagery. The subject of the images is World War I and the time after the war, rather than the physical planets themselves.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Infinite Space”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor

Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
James Stephenson: Celestial Suite
Gustav Holst: The Planets

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
Macky Auditorium, Boulder

2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14
Pinnacle Performing Arts Center, Denver (without video projections for The Planets)

Tickets

Related events:

“Meet the Planets” Musical Hike
Dave Sutherland, leader
7:15 p.m. Oct. 11 CANCELED (weather)
7:15 p.m. Oct. 12 and Monday, Oct. 15 (weather permitting; clear skies are forecast))
Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead
Free

Free Pre-Concert Talk
Hosted by CPR’s Marilyn Cooley with Michael Butterman, astronomer Kyle KremerandDavid Brainof CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
Macky Auditorium

 

Boulder International Chamber Music Competition presents duos from around the world

Live rounds and winners concert will be open to the public, Thursday–Sunday

By Peter Alexander Oct. 9 at 4:10 p.m.

Twenty classical music duos are arriving in Boulder this week from all over the world.

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Dairy Arts Center, location of the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, “The Art of the Duo”

They are coming for the second Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, “The Art of the Duo,” which will unfold in the Gordon Gamm Theater of the Dairy Arts Center Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 11–14. The duos (listed here) include standard duo pairings, including violin and piano, cello and piano; other common pairings, including flute and piano, clarinet and piano, trumpet and piano; and one surprising pair, accordion and piano.

They are arriving from many parts of the globe. There are contestants from South Korea, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland, as well as the U.S. and Canada.

All live portions of the competition are open to the public, with semi-final rounds Thursday and Friday, Oct. 11-12, the final round on Saturday, Oct. 13, and the winners’ concert Saturday, Oct. 14 (see schedule below). All performances will be in the Gordon Gamm Theater. Tickets for the four-day event, or for each individual day of the competition, are available through the Dairy Web page.

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Mina Gajić

The competition is the brainchild of its artistic director, pianist Mina Gajić, who put together the first competition in 2016. Like many music contests, it will be held every two years.

“With each new iteration of the competition we’ll be able to continue promoting this kind of competition [for duos], which is pretty rare in the classical music world,” Gajić says. “At the same time we’re promoting Boulder as an arts destination and bringing even more visibility to our cultural life that is already rich.”

Gajić has assembled a jury of three accomplished musicians to judge the live rounds, representing three different instrument families represented in the competition:

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    Jon Kimura Parker. Photo by Tara McMullen

    Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, an internationally recognized performer and director of the Honens International Piano Competition and Festival in Calgary;

  • Violinist Ani Kavafian, professor in the practice of violin at Yale University who has performed as soloist and chamber musician with leading ensembles around the world; and
  • Clarinetist Richie Hawley, who teaches at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival in Longmont in 2017.
Ani-Kavafian

Ani Kavafian

“Our judges are some of my favorite musicians,” Gajić says. “They are world-class performers and teachers, equally as soloists and chamber musicians.”

The application process for the competition began last summer. The deadline was in July, after which a four-person panel—Gajić, Zachary Carrettin of the Boulder Bach Festival, plus the 2016 winning duo of cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki—heard to and watched more than 100 online application videos. After an intensive two-week period, the semi-finalists who would come to Boulder were announced Aug. 1.

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Richie Hawley

“I listened several times to all the videos,” Gajić says.“It’s a really big responsibility to be the one who says this duo can enter can enter, and this duo cannot, but that’s just the nature of a competition.”

Even narrowed down to the 20 semifinalists, two full days is a lot of music by duos. “Those are long days, but our audience is really devoted to this event,” Gajić says. “I was amazed how many people stayed the whole time in 2016. Audience members develop a relationship with the performers and want them to advance to the finals, to win a prize!”

As in 2016, the competition has commissioned a work to be performed by all contestants in the semifinal round. This year’s piece, “True Green,” is by Tomasz Golka, director of the Riverside (Calif.) Philharmonic and an accomplished violinist. It is an interesting challenge for the composer to write a piece that can be played by duos with differing instruments and sonic capabilities.

The challenge for the performers is to come up with their own interpretation of a piece they have never heard or seen before, and make it fit the individual character of their instrument. “It’s really great to hear the same piece performed 20 different ways, in 20 different instrumentations, 20 different interpretations,” Gajić says.

Like most musical organizations in U.S., the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition is supported by a combination of grants and individual gifts. “I have great support from the Boulder Bach Festival, who serves as the fiscal agent, so that is extremely helpful,” Gajić says. “And we get really great support from the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau, who have supported us in many different ways, because we bring valuable arts tourism to Boulder.

“We’re promoting the classical music scene here, and we’re also attracting contestants ages 18–35 who are discovering Boulder. This is an event where (young artists) can gain experience, see a beautiful town in the United States, win some substantial cash prizes, and get other performance opportunities.

“I would encourage anybody to come and experience this live, because it’s something really special, and it’s happening right her in Boulder.”

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The Art of Duo
Boulder International Chamber Music Competition

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Semifinal rounds:
2–5 and 6:30–9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11
3–5:30 and 6:30–9 p.m. Friday, Oc.t 12
See the full list of participating duos here.

Finalist rounds and announcement of winners
1–9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13

Final concert: Three prize-winning duos
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14

All performances in the Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy ArtsCenter
Tickets available through the Dairy Arts Center Web page