CU’s Eklund Opera presents a Victorian-era ghost story

You’ll have to decide what really happens in ‘The Turn of the Screw’

By Peter Alexander April 18, 2019, at 1:30 p.m.

The next production of the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program, Benjamin Britten’s TheTurn of the Screw, is a Victorian-era ghost story. Whether the ghosts are real or not, however, Eklund Opera director Leigh Holman won’t say.

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Photo for CU Presents by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

“I want that to be part of the mystery of the piece,” Holman says. “As a stage director I usually stay away from ambiguity, but in this case, I’m not doing that. I want people to leave and have those discussions — was it real?”

Performances will be April 25-28 in the Imig Music Building’s intimate Music Theatre. A cast of graduate and undergraduate students will be accompanied by a 13-piece chamber orchestra of freelance professional musicians, conducted by Jeremy Reger.

Britten’s opera is based on a short story by Henry James, about a governess hired to care for two children living in a remote English country home. Strange things start to happen, beginning when the boy, Miles, is permanently dismissed from his school without clear explanation.

Then the governess starts seeing ghosts, who apparently are Peter Quint, a former servant in the household, and Miss Jessel, the previous governess. She believes the ghosts are trying to lure the children — Miles and his younger sister, Flora — into demonic activities. Whether they are real, or creations of her overheated imagination, is the issue Holman wants the audience to decide for themselves.

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The Turn of the Screw
An opera by Benjamin Britten
Eklund Opera Program, Leigh Holman, director
Jeremy Reger, music director

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25–Saturday, April 27
2 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

Tickets

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Longmont Symphony continues Beethoven cycle with Symphony No. 2

“One of the greatest symphonies ever” is paired with Shostakovich

By Peter Alexander April 9, 2019, at 10:45 p.m.

Beethoven is consistently one of the top two classical composers by numbers of performances around the world—alongside Mozart—but not in Longmont.

Elliot Moore - credit - Photography Maestro

Elliot Moore. Photography Maestro.

“Particularly the earlier symphonies of Beethoven have been underperformed here,” Elliot Moore, the director of the Longmont Symphony, says. To change that, Moore has planned a complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies, more or less in order, over several years.

The First Symphony was played last year, and the Second Symphony, one of the least performed of Beethoven’s symphonies, will be performed this weekend (Saturday and Sunday in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium; see details below). The program also includes Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont and Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony.

“There was very little early Beethoven, very little Mozart, Haydn, being performed here for many years,” Moore says. And as a result, “there’s a freshness to the music here in Longmont that I’m not sure would be the case in New York.”

The documented history of the LSO supports Moore’s description. In the years since 1987 until last year, records that were easily found, there were no performances of symphonies Nos. 1, 2, or 4. There were two of No. 3, but only one each of 5 and 8. The later symphonies fared relatively better, with two each of Nos. 6 and 7, and three of No. 9.

Beyond the freshness and novelty of early Beethoven symphonies for Longmont audiences, Moore sees another reason to perform them. “Learning how the progression of the symphony has taken place helps inform our performances of music that was written later,” he says.

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Moore with the LSO. Smiling Elk Photography.

“In order to figure out how to play later symphonies, whether Berlioz, or Mendelssohn, or the orchestral works of Bartók, we need to know where the symphony came from. It’s important to understand how the early Beethoven symphonies helped bring the symphony into its current form.”

If this sounds like an educational project, Moore doesn’t deny that. And it is aimed at two constituencies. “There are two different groups that are evolving in terms of our listening ability and playing ability,” Moore says. “One is the audience, the other is the orchestra.”

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Beethoven ca. 1802. Portrait by Christian Horneman. (fi.wikipedia.org, Public Domain)

The two major works on the current program—Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony—were written at low points in each composer’s life. Beethoven wrote his Second Symphony in 1802, at the time he first learned that he was going permanently deaf—when he wrote his famous “Heiligenstadt Testament” expressing his anguish. “I endured this wretched existence,” he wrote; “only art it was that withheld me” from ending his own life.

The chamber symphony is a string orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet, written in 1960, during a similar emotional crisis in the composer’s life, caused by a diagnosis of ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and a period of extreme political pressure from Soviet authorities. Shostakovich did not write a testament, but friends and family reported that he too thought about suicide.

The musical responses of the two composers to their crises was utterly different. Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet is an anguished work, reflecting the composer’s despair, but Beethoven’s Second Symphony is one of his happiest and most serene works. If you are looking for a musical expression of the composer’s anguish, you just will not find it in the Second Symphony.

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Beethoven’s signature on the Heiligenstadt Testament

“The Second is really one of my favorites of [Beethoven’s] symphonies,” Moore says. “There’s a lightness, there’s a freshness to the music that I have adored for years. It’s one of the greatest symphonies ever composed. I love it.”

Officially, Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet was written for a film about art treasures stolen from Dresden by the Nazis during World War II, and it carries the dedication “to the victims of fascism and the war.” But the composer really wrote the quartet for himself, as reported by confidants and confirmed in a letter he wrote later. “It’s hardly likely that anybody will ever write a work dedicated to my memory,” he wrote. “So I have decided to write one myself.”

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Shostakovich in 1959. Photo by Ida Kar.

“This is all about his experience, his life, and he’s pouring himself into the music,” Moore says. “That makes it his most personal work. How he made it so personal was by including the anagram of his name (D. Sch—D, Eb, C, B in German musical notation). He painted himself into this work, in each of the movements.”

Shostakovich wrote the String Quartet in Dresden. The city had been destroyed by the allies’ firebombing in February 1945. Even in 1960 Shostakovich was “shaken by the scenes of devastation,” a friend wrote, and managed to write the quartet in just three days.

Most commentators believe that the despair expressed in the quartet is as appropriate for the ruins of Dresden as for the ruins of Shostakovich’s emotions in 1960. The arrangement of the quartet for string orchestra that the LSO will perform was made by violist Rudolf Barhsai and approved by the composer.

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Ruins of Dresden, 1945.

Shostakovich fits well with Beethoven, Moore believes. “What I love about Beethoven and Shostakovich paired together is that in their own ways, they are both revolutionary composers,” he says. “The piece we’re opening with, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, is about Count Egmont and how he stood up to an oppressor.

In this and other works, Moore says, “Beethoven paved the path for other composers to respond politically to what was going on. That’s often what Shostakovich was doing. They use different language, they used different approaches, but there’s something Shostakovich got from Beethoven.”

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Longmont Symphony in Stewart Auditorium

“Beethoven Cycle”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor

Beethoven: Overture to Egmont
Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D major

7 p.m. Saturday, April 13
4 p.m. Sunday, April 14 (SOLD OUT)
Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum

Tickets (April 13 only)

 

Boulder Phil unveils new season, new motto, new logos

2019–20 season, labelled “Let’s play,” features pop elements throughout

By Peter Alexander April 7 at 3 p.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra—now officially aka “Boulder Phil”—unveiled their coming season, a new logo, and a new motto at an event for friends and supporters of orchestra Thursday evening, April 4.

B.Phil logoAcknowledging popular practice, the name “Boulder Phil” has been incorporated into the official logo. The logo itself is actually three related symbols, all of them playfully swirling swoops and curls. And in the same spirit, the new motto, for the orchestra and for the season, is “Let’s play.”

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Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead

All of that reflects the 2019–20 season’s programming, which includes some familiar classical masterpieces and also elements popular in the culture at large and with Boulder audiences: Music by Jonny Greenwood of the alt-rock band Radiohead and by Jon Lord of Deep Purple; the return to the Boulder Phil of the piano duo Anderson & Roe, a Boulder audience favorite since their 2016 performance with the orchestra; a screening of the popular film Raiders of the Lost Ark with the John Williams score performed live onstage; and a concert of “The Music of Queen.”

The mixture of popular and classical ingredients is obvious from the very first concert, titled “Gritty/Pretty” (Oct. 12–13). Two of the works on the program are by Greenwood and Lord, two successful rock musicians who have turned to classical composition. Greenwood has written several orchestral scores for film, including the Academy Award-winning There will be Blood. The Phil will perform a suite from Greenwood’s score for the film, which suggested the “Gritty” part of the concert’s title.

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Jon Lord

Lord, who was both a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and honorary Doctor of Music, was a composer of orchestral scores for more than 30 years, alongside his work with Deep Purple. Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman says that he heard Lord’s To Notice Such Things, a six-movement suite for solo flute, piano and strings, while driving, and was so taken with the music that he stopped to find out what it was.

Not being up on rock performers, he admits that he thought “who?” when the piece was announced, but he went on to learn about Lord, and the piece, which was written in memory of one of Lord’s close friends. The Phil performance will feature the orchestra’s principal flutist, Elizabeth Sadilek-Labenski.

Also on the same program is Schubert’s Fifth Symphony which, along with Lord’s score, suggested the “Pretty” part of the title.

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Anderson & Roe. Photo by Ken Schles.

Other nods to popular music in the program will be obvious: “Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert” (Oct. 27) and “The Music of Queen” (Feb. 15, 2020) from Windborne Music, the same organization that produced “The Music of David Bowie” for the current season (May 4). Not directly from the pop music canon, but certainly popular with Boulder audiences will be the return of the piano duo Anderson and Roe (Jan. 25), whose highly entertaining performance style captivated Boulder Phil audiences in 2016.

Two pieces on the program will be arrangements by Greg Anderson, half of the duo: Ragtime alla Turca, based on Mozart’s “Rondo all turca” for piano, and Danse macabre bacchanale, based on music by Saint-Saëns. The same program will see Butterman join Anderson and Roe for Mozart’s Concerto for Three pianos, and a performance of Mozart’s joyful “Haffner” Symphony.

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Zuill Bailley

Other returning guest soloists during the season will be cellist Zuill Bailey, playing Michael Daugherty’s Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra (Feb. 22) and violinist Jennifer Koh, playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (April 25). The latter concert will feature two pieces with accompanying visuals. Circuits by Cindy McTee will have visuals by computer graphics artist Aleksi Moriarty; and Alan Hovhaness’ Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, will have visuals by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, whose compositions Gates of the Arctic and All the Songs that Nature Sings were premiered by the Boulder Phil in past seasons.

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Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance with the Boulder Phil (2013)

Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance will appear with the Boulder Phil for the first time since their joint performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 2017, providing aerial choreography for the Butterfly Lovers Concerto by Chinese composers He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. The violin solo will be played by the Phil’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee.

 

The concert—rather hopefully titled “Rebirth of Spring”—will be presented March 21 and 22. Other works on the program will be Resurrexit by Mason Bates, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird.

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Aldo López Gavilan

“Latin Fire & Boléro,” the concert scheduled Nov. 3, will introduce a new soloist to Boulder audiences, Aldo López Gavilán. The Cuban-born composer/pianist will play his own Emporium, a concerto for piano and orchestra, on a program that also features two works by Argentinian composers: Astor Piazzolla’s Tangazo, and Alberto Ginastera’s virtuoso orchestral piece Variaciones concertantes, which assigns each of nine variations to a different solo instrument from the orchestra. Closing out the program will be Ravel’s Boléro.

Other events that will be part of the season will be the annual Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet, Nov. 29–Dec. 1; and a new Holiday concert, “Christmas with the Phil,” Dec. 21–23. The latter will feature the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah, and other seasonal music. Performances will be in more intimate venues than Macky Auditorium, including Boulder’s Mountain View United Methodist Church.

The full 2019–20 season of the Boulder Phil is listed below. Season tickets are currently on sale here.

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Boulder Phil 2019–20 Season
All concerts at Macky Auditorium unless otherwise specified

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“Gritty/Pretty”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Elizabeth Sadilek-Labenski, flute

Jonny Greenwood: Suite from There Will Be Blood
Jon Lord: To Notice Such Things
Schubert: Symphony No. 5

2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m. at Pinnacle PAC

51K8ouYrHeL._SY445_“Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert”
Film screening with live orchestral performance of John Williams’s score
Gary Lewis, conductor
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27

“Latin Fire & Boléro”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Aldo López Gavilán, piano

Astor Piazzolla: Tangazo
Aldo López Gavilán: Emporium
Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones concertantes
Ravel: Boléro

7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3

Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky
With Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor

Photo-by-Eli-Akerstein

Boulder Ballet’s Nutcacker. Photo by Eli Akerstein

2 p.m. Friday, Nov.29
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30,
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1

“Christmas with the Phil”
Gary Lewis, conductor

Handel: Messiah (Part I: Christmas section) and other works

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek, Colo.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree, Colo.

“Anderson & Roe Return!”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, duo-pianists

Gabriel Fauré: Masques et Bergamasques
Mozart: Concerto for Three Pianos, K242
Mozart/Anderson: Ragtime alla Turca
Mozart: Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”)
Saint-Saëns/Anderson: Danse macabre bacchanale

Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m.

“The Music of Queen”
Brent Havens, conductor
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15

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Michael Daugherty

“Hemingway Portraits & Sibelius”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Zuill Bailey, cello

Michael Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

Saturday, February 22, 7:30 p.m.

“Rebirth of Spring”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance and Charles Wetherbee, violin

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Mason Bates. Photo by Lydia Danmiller

Mason Bates: Resurrexit,
He Zhanhao and Chen Gang: Butterfly Lovers Concerto
Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21
2 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at Pinnacle PAC

“Beethoven & Beyond”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Jennifer Koh, violin

B.Phil logo.2Cindy McTee: Circuits, with visuals by Aleksi Moriarty
Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, with visuals by Stephen Lias
Beethoven: Violin Concerto

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April

Tickets and more information: Five- and six-concert subscription packages are now available; click here or call 303-449-1343. Single tickets go on sale June 1, 2019.

 

CU Presents’ 2019–20 season features Grammy winners and nominees

Kronos Quartet returns, Eklund Opera presents It’s a Wonderful Life

By Peter Alexander April 4 at 4:15 p.m.

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CU Macky Auditorium

The coming season of CU Presents at Macky Auditorium will feature the return of the Kronos Quartet, not heard in Boulder since 2014; the first appearance here by A Far Cry string orchestra; and the combination return/first local performance of Jake Heggie’s and Gene Scheer’s opera It’s a Wonderful Life, workshopped at CU in June 2018 and now scheduled for a full production by CU’s Eklund Opera Program.

These and other music, dance and theater events have been announced as part of the 2019-20 season of CU Presents. The full schedule for the season is listed here; see a schedule of the music events below .

In addition to CU’s own Takacs Quartet in their annual series on campus, the Grammy winners on the schedule are Kronos Quartet and the Chick Corea trio. A Far Cry was nominated for Grammys in 2014 and 2018.

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A Far Cry sting orchestra. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Founded in Boston in 2007, A Far Cry is an adventurous string orchestra. They are a democratic, self-conducted ensemble in which decisions are made collectively and leadership rotates among the players—or “Criers,” as they like to call themselves. They were recently part of a commissioning project with pianist Simone Dinnerstein for Philp Glass’s Third Piano Concerto, which Dinnerstein played with the Boulder Philharmonic as part of the orchestra’s 2017–18 season.

A Far Cry will perform a new program for the tour that will bring them to Boulder on Feb. 8, 2020. Under the title “Memory,” the program will comprise works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Arvo Pärt.

Kronos

Kronos Quartet. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Over 46 years, Kronos Quartet has been known for the innovative programming and presentation of music for string quartet, and especially new works. More than 900 works have been written for Kronos, by composers from all over the world. Their extensive discography, including more than 40 studio albums, has its own Wikipedia entry that also lists compilation albums, video albums, film soundtracks, and Kronos’ contributions with other artists ranging from Linda Ronstadt to Nine Inch Nails.

Kronos has been nominated for a Grammy 11 times, and won twice. In recognition of the 2014 centennial of World War I, in 2014 they presented the film Beyond Zero in Macky. A reconstruction by Bill Morrison of film from World War I, Beyond Zero featured a score by Aleksandra Vrebalov played live by Kronos. For their performance at Macky in March 19, 2020, they will present a new program, “Music for Change: The 60s,” including a celebration of Pete Seeger’s music and a work inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Houston Grand Opera world premiere production of It’s a Wonderful Life

Heggie and Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, with the San Francisco Opera and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. The opera is based on the 1946 film of the same name, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers.

The original production premiered in Houston Dec. 2, 2016, with subsequent performances in San Francisco and Bloomington, Ind. Prior to the premiere, the opera received workshop performances in Boulder in June 2016, through the Eklund Opera’s New Opera Workshop (CU NOW).

The Eklund Opera will present an all-new production of the opera Nov. 15–17, 2019, in Macky Auditorium.

Music events from CU Presents’ 2019–20 season are listed below:

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Artist Series at Macky Auditorium

Music events

Chick Corea Trilogy
with Christian McBride and Brian Blade
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019,
Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade join Chorea for an evening of Corea classics and jazz standards.

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Nobuntu

Nobuntu
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30
“Nobuntu”—an expression meaning feminine familial love, humility and kindness—is the name of a female a cappella quintet from Zimbabwe that performs traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro jazz and gospel.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19

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Natalie McMaster and Donnell Leahy

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy
“A Celtic Family Christmas”
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17

A Far Cry string orchestra
“Memory”
Music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Arvo Pärt and Elgar
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

Kronos Quartet
“Music for Change: The 60s, The Years That Changed America”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020

Holiday Festival

Dec. 6-8, 2019
CU Boulder’s Holiday tradition featuring student choirs, bands and orchestras—along with faculty performers—in a concert of holiday favorites

Takács Quartet at Grusin Music Hall

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Takács Quartet

Chamber Series:
4 p.m. Sundays Sept. 8, Oct. 27, Jan. 12, March 8, May 3
Encore Series:
7:30 p.m. Mondays Sept. 9, Oct. 28, Jan. 13, March 9, May 4

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11: The Takacs Quartet presents the Tesla Quartet

Eklund Opera Program

It’s a Wonderful Life
Music by Jake Heggie; Libretto by Gene Scheer
Nov. 15-17 at Macky Auditorium

The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
March 13-15 at Macky Auditorium

Béatrice et Bénédict
Music and libretto by Hector Berlioz, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
April 23-26 at the Music Theatre

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Season tickets for these and other events presented by CU Presents are now on sale and my be purchased here. The complete listing of the CU Presents 2019–20 season, including dance performances and productions of the CU Department of Theater and Dance, may be found here.

 

 

Longmont Symphony’s ‘Musical Journeys’ take many forms

Violinist Sharon Roffman will play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto April 6

By Peter Alexander April 4 at 3:30 p.m.

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Violinist Sharon Roffman

“Musical Journeys” is the thread running through the 2018–19 season of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO), and it takes different forms in each of three works on their next concert, to be performed Saturday(April 6).

Most obvious is Smetana’s tone poem The Moldau, which describes the river Moldau flowing from the mountains, though the villages of Bohemia and on to the sea.

Also on the program is Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in a performance that recalls career journeys of the soloist, Sharon Roffman, and the LSO’s conductor, Elliot Moore, who have known each other since they were 15. The Tchaikovsky is one of the first concertos Roffman learned, and she has recently returned to it after 10-plus years. Her journey over that time, playing chamber music, solo engagements, and in orchestras, has deepened her understanding of the concerto.

The final piece on the program is Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which the Hungarian composer wrote at the end of a journey that brought him to the United States during World War II. More significantly, Moore programmed the Concerto for Orchestra in order to highlight the LSO’s journey during his two years as music director.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Conductor Elliot Moore and the LSO

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Sharon Roffman, violin

Smetana: The Moldau
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Tickets