Commissioned work by Hannah Lash July 22, all Joan Tower program July 25
By Peter Alexander July 20 at 12:10 a.m.
Hannah Lash always wanted to be a composer.
“One of my earliest memories was that the reason I wanted to take violin lessons was that I wanted to be a composer,” she says. “So I had that thought in my head from a very early age.”
Mission accomplished. Lash started on Suzuki violin, later studied piano and harp, and now teaches composition at Yale. Her new piece Forestallings was co-commissioned by the Colorado Music Festival, where it will be premiered Thursday (July 22) by the Festival Orchestra and conductor Peter Oundjian.
The same program will feature Kevin Puts’s Concerto for Marimba with guest soloist Ji Su Jung and Oundjian’s arrangement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor. The Lash score matches well with Beethoven, since it was originally planned as part of the 2020 Beethoven bicentennial.
In fact, Forestallings was commissioned by CMF and the Indianapolis Symphony to accompany Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. “I was really happy about that, because I really like that symphony,” Lash says. “It’s underplayed, and I’m really happy when it’s performed. It was fun to find some way of having a relationship to (the symphony).”
Her score does not quote Beethoven, but “gesturally it has touch points,” she says. “The first gesture of the first movement has a great deal to do with Beethoven. Then it goes in very different directions. These moments of opening a window between me and Beethoven were important to me.”
Puts has written that his Concerto for Marimba “reflects my love for Mozart’s piano concertos,” with the influence “mostly in the relationship between the soloist and orchestra.” Listeners may also hear a strong kinship to lyrical moments of Mozart’s concertos.
Soloist Jung is a rare musician who started studying percussion as a young child. Born in South Korea, she later came to the United States to study at the Peabody Conservatory and Yale University.
The Lash premiere is part of a concert series that CMF is calling “Music of Today.” The series opens with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Tuesday (July 20), playing the String Quartet No. 1 by American composer John Adams as well as works by Haydn and Debussy (see full programs below). Adams’s First Quartet was inspired by the St. Lawrence Quartet, to whom it is dedicated. “I was reminded how much the sound of the string quartet is like elevated human discourse,” he wrote. “It’s like speech brought to the highest level.”
Like the Lash, Adams’ quartet was influenced by Beethoven—in this case scherzo movements from two late quartets. While writing the quartet, Adams was also listening to the quartets of Ravel and Debussy, the latter of which closes the St. Lawrence program.
Friday’s “Music of Today” concert (July 23), titled “Kaleidoscope,” comprises entirely music by living composers, with an emphasis on percussion. Jung will be featured again as soloist, along with pianist Christopher Taylor, along with CMF string players and percussionists. The diverse program ranges from the Piano Quintet No. 2 by William Bolcom to Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert (Part IIC), as well as several pieces for percussion
The final event of “Music of Today” will be a concert on Sunday (July 25) devoted to the music of American composer Joan Tower, including the world premiere of A New Day for cello and orchestra. This program grew from Oundjian’s long friendship with Tower. “Joan is an old friend of mine,” Oundjian says. “She was really dying to write a cello concerto.”
To fulfill that wish, CMF commissioned the work that became A New Day, and chose for soloist Alisa Weilerstein, whom Oundjian has known virtually her entire life. Member of a musical family, and another child musician, Weilerstein started playing cello at the age of four.
A New Day is in part an expression of Tower’s gratitude for every day of life. “As we get older, we begin to treasure and value every day that is given us,” she writes in program notes. “This feeling becomes even stronger when we are able to get past 90. I am not quite there yet, but my husband Jeff is and the closer I get to his passing, the more I treasure every new day.”
Other works on the all-Tower program will be No. 5 in her series of fanfares “For the Uncommon Woman”; Made in America, her setting of “America the Beautiful”; and Duets, an orchestral piece built on duets between individual players in the orchestra.
The next week at CMF opens with a concert in the festival’s Robert Mann Chamber Music series. The program comprises two works by Beethoven, the Quintet for piano and winds and the Septet, played by members of the CMF Orchestra (Tuesday, July 27).
Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, see the return of CMF resident artist Augustin Hadelich to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra. The program also features two works that are distinctly less known than the Beethoven concerto: Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to his magic opera Oberon, and the robust and engaging Dances of Galánta by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. Both are works I would welcome more often on orchestral programs.
Finally, the concert on Sunday, Aug. 1 will present more underplayed works, as well as two guests of significant interest. Saxophonist Steven Banks will play the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto and the Concertino da Camera for saxophone and 11 instruments by Jacques Ibert; and longtime CMF supporter and Boulder businessman Chris Christoffersen will narrate Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.
Also on the program are Copland’s popular Fanfare for the Common Man, which inspired Tower’s fanfares; and Oundjian’s arrangement of a movement from the Second String Quartet of Florence Price, an important early 20th-century African-American composer who is being rediscovered today.
This concert is one of Oundjian’s favorites of the 2021 festival. “I love that program,” he says.
“Steven Banks is incredible. He’s a miraculous musician—honestly, every single note he plays, he’s really charismatic.”
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Colorado Music Festival
Schedule July 20–Aug. 1
All concerts in Chautauqua Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20
St. Lawrence String Quartet
- Haydn: String Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4
- John Adams: String Quartet No. 1
- Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, op. 10
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Ji Su Jung, marimba
- Hannah Lash: Forestallings (CMF Co-commission)
- Kevin Puts: Concerto for Marimba
- Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14, op. 131 (orchestrated by Peter Oundjian)
7:30 p.m. Friday, July 23
CMF Orchestra strings and percussion, with
Christopher Taylor, piano, and Ji Su Jung, marimba
- Nebojsa Zivkovic: Trio per Uno
- Nico Muhly: Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion
- Peter Klatzow: Concert Marimba Etudes
- Derek Bermel: Turning
- Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (Part IIC)
- Leigh Howard Stevens: Rhythmic Caprice
- William Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 2
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 25
Music of Joan Tower
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Alisa Weilerstein, cello
- Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5
- Joan Tower: Made in America
- Joan Tower: Duets
- Joan Tower: A New Day for cello and orchestra (world premiere)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27
Colorado Music Festival Orchestra members
- Beethoven: Quintet for piano and winds in E-flat major, op. 16
- Beethoven: Septet in E-flat major, op. 20
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 30
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin
- Carl Maria von Weber: Overture to Oberon
- Zoltán Kodály: Dances of Galánta
- Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61
6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Steven Banks, saxophone, and
Chris Christoffersen, narrator
- Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
- Florence Price: String Quartet No. 2 (Movement 2)
- Alexander Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E-flat major, op. 109
- Jacques Ibert: Concertino da Camera
- Copland: Lincoln Portrait
The full calendar for the 2021 CMF season can be seen here. Tickets may be purchased through the Chautauqua Web page. Because health restrictions are subject to change over the summer, be sure to check the CMF 2021 tickets FAQ page.