BOULDER PHIL’S OPENING CONCERT IN SPIRIT OF REIMAGINED SEASON

Program features works by Vivaldi/Richter, Britten and Jesse Montgomery

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 14 at 3 p.m.

A reimagined season for the Boulder Philharmonic will begin with a night of reimagined music, recorded in a hangar at the Boulder Municipal Airport.

The first concert, “Vivaldi Recomposed,” will feature modern composers’ reworkings of iconic compositions and their own works. The concert will be available beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman rehearsing in the Brungard Aviation hanger at Boulder Municipal Airport. Photo by Peter Alexander

“[This concert] is really emblematic of everything we are doing this year,” Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Phil, says. “We have an unusual season that is reimagined, reinvented and adapted.”

The program is centered around Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, a 13-movement work inspired by Vivaldi’s famous set of concertos. Using about one-quarter of Vivaldi’s original material, Richter develops short, iconic motifs through looping and phasing, showing his minimalistic and postmodernist style. The re-composition is “very familiar but with a twist that is new and fresh,” Butterman says.  

“Richter takes the same music, but he rescores it and repeats it with different harmonies and accompaniment,” concertmaster Charles Wetherbee says. “Sometimes he takes blocks of music that we know very well and suddenly throws in a bar of 7/8. That can be really mind-bending. It is very familiar yet completely not.”

Charles Wetherbee. Photo by Peter Alexander

The rest of the program also links to the theme of reimagining. Jesse Montgomery expanded her own composition Strum, originally written for the Catalyst Quartet, to a version for string orchestra. In Strum, the orchestra builds dynamic textures through pizzicato, layered rhythms and ostinatos.

Strum is really attractive. It’s rhythmically driven with just enough tunefulness to be very listenable and fascinating,” Butterman says. 

In his Simple Symphony, Britten expanded eight short themes, which he composed as a child, into a piece for string orchestra. The four movements, “Boisterous Bourrée,” “Playful Pizzicato,” “Sentimental Saraband” and “Frolicsome Finale,” have nostalgic titles, reminiscent of childhood. Simple Symphony is one of Britten’s more conservative works stylistically, showing his early neoclassical influences.

Vivaldi Recomposed was the first concert the Boulder Phil recorded at the airport in late September. After two rehearsals the first day, they had a dress rehearsal and recording session the next day. Over the next two weeks, they recorded five more concerts with equally quick turnaround. 

“You just got through this recording session, but you know you need to be back the next morning with a brand new program that would be recorded in less than 48 hours,” Butterman says. “It was a lot to stay on top of.”

Michael Butterman. Photo by Peter Alexander

“It was not easy to have that many programs in your fingers, in your brain, in your heart,” Wetherbee says. “It takes a lot to assimilate that much all at once and to play it with conviction. It was a very compressed way to work.”

While recording Vivaldi Recomposed, Wetherbee found it challenging to maintain the energy of a live performance without an audience, in the middle of an airport hangar.

“We didn’t have the energy of being in the hall like a live concert,” Wetherbee says. “You hear the audience move around in their seats, applaud or draw their breath in at the end of an exciting movement. When you are playing for cameras, there is none of that energy. 

“I had to guard against the feeling that it is sterile, that you are just in a studio. In a recording, you worry about every note being perfect. In a live performance, you don’t have to worry about every note. You have to worry about the energy and about what you want to say.”

For the Boulder Phil’s first virtual concert, Butterman and Wetherbee hope the audience will enjoy the visual experience, which will be more immersive than a live concert. “I am pretty excited about the visuals,” Butterman says. 

“The setting of the airport with the different camera angles and close ups is going to be fun. Through the use of the cameras, people are going to feel like they are in the mix. I hope they feel that they are drawn into the concert.”

“There’s no way [a virtual concert] replaces the live experience,” Wetherbee adds. “Yet, we are moving toward slightly different art form, to be enjoyed for its own ends.”

# # # # #

Vivaldi Recomposed
Michael Butterman, conductor
Charles Wetherbee, violin

Jesse Montgomery: Strum
Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Stream available from 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
You may purchase access here.

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