Longmont Symphony returns to live in-person performances Saturday

Program of music by Brahms, Mozart and Schumann launches 2021–22 season

By Peter Alexander Sept. 30 at 9:45 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will return to the Vance Brand Auditorium stage for its first live, in-person performance in 20 months at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 2). The program will feature music by three of the most loved classical composers: Brahms, Mozart and Schumann.

Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony onstage at Vance Brand Auditorium

“This is an exceptional opportunity for the musicians of the Longmont Symphony to come together again,” LSO music director Elliot Moore says. “It’s an amazing thing we are able to gather and have a live audience. And it’s another amazing thing that we’re able to have a venue to rehearse in, and to perform in. 

“When you combine all of these elements, I think it’s really going to be a celebration that we are able to continue lifting people up through music.”

Securing Vance Brand Auditorium for the series of rehearsals and full orchestra concerts this year was complicated by several factors. For one, there were shifting COVID protocols that the St. Vrain Valley School District, who control the use of the facility, had to consider. Then there was new staff for both the school district and the LSO working together for the first time to make the schedule work. “I’d like to take my hat off to our new executive director, Catherine Beeson, for the exceptional work she did,” Moore says.

In addition to Saturday’s concert, the LSO will present a second Masterworks Concert during the fall, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, also in Vance Brand Auditorium. In between, there will be a concert for smaller orchestra in Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 17. The fall portion of the season will conclude with “A Baroque Christmas” Sunday, Dec. 19 (see full schedule and programs below).

LSO music director Elliot Moore

Moore wanted to select just the right piece to open the first concert after the pandemic. When he selected Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture he had two thoughts, one whimsical and one serious. “I did happen to think the Academic Festival Overture is really about drinking songs,” he admits, then adds more seriously that “it uses the largest orchestra that Brahms ever used. It gives us the most possibility to use all of our musicians, so that everybody plays together. This (program) is about being together and offering something to our community that is uplifting, engaging, fun, and creates a common experience.”

The overture, written for a German university that gave Brahms an honorary degree, uses a variety of spirited student songs of the time, ending with one that is treated in appropriately academic counterpoint. Whether or not one recognizes the songs, the mood is clearly one of good cheer.

Mozart began his career in Vienna as a piano virtuoso. Consequently, his piano concertos were mostly written for the composer himself to play. A few however were written with an eye to possible sales to the public as well, particularly three that were written in 1782, soon after Mozart had moved to the imperial capital. The Concertos K413, 414 and 415 were written so that they could be performed either with full orchestra or, in private homes with only a string quartet accompaniment. 

In a famous letter to his father, Mozart wrote that the concertos “are a happy medium between too heavy and too light. They are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being insipid. There are parts here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, albeit without knowing why.”

Pianist Hsing-ay Hsu

Soloist for the Mozart concerto will be pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, a Steinway Artist and winner of the William Kapell International Piano Competition, among other awards. A former member of the CU College of Music faculty, Hsu was also director of the Pendulum New Music Series at the college.

The concluding piece on Saturday’s concert will be Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. First completed in 1841, it was revised by the composer ten years later. That later version was published and is the form in which the symphony is usually performed today. However, that version has been criticized as too heavily orchestrated, even though it was preferred by Schumann’s widow Clara. Because Schumann was first of all pianist and not an orchestral player, conductors and others have often revised the scoring of his symphonies, aiming to make them lighter.

Moore admits that he too will make some slight changes. “I do alter a couple of things,” he says. “I change a couple of dynamics. I do it in the spirit of hopefully clarifying the musical discourse, not to put my own stamp on it.”

Moore also notes that while it numbered fourth among Schumann’s symphonies, based on the revised version, it was originally the second to be written. “His first symphony is glorious, (but) this one has darker overtones,” he says. “At the same time, to me, it still ends in joy and exuberance.

“Right now, I’m OK with a symphony that has some darkness in it and takes us into the light.”

# # # # #

Longmont Symphony Orchestra
Elliot Moore, music director
2021 fall season of concerts

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2
Vance Brand Auditorium

Hsing-ay Hsu, piano

  • Brahms: Academic Festival Overture
  • Mozart: Piano Concerto in A major, K414
  • Schumann: Symphony No. 4

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle”

7:30 Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Auditorium

Leberta Lorál, mezzo-soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19
Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont

  • Archangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso Op. 6. No. 8. (“Christmas Concerto”)
  • Gustav Holst: “Christmas Day”
  • J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”
  • Ottorino Respighi: “Adoration of the Magi” from Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticelli pictures)

Season and individual LSO concert tickets are available through the LSO webpage

Boulder Phil “together again” for two short concerts in October

Performances at Mountain View Methodist will be played without intermission

By Peter Alexander Sept. 29 at 3:40 p.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra will be “together again,” as their first in-person concert since the pandemic is titled.

Two concerts for a reduced orchestra have been scheduled for October, both in the intimate Mountain View United Methodist Church in Boulder. Concerts in Macky Auditorium are scheduled to resume in 2022.

The Boulder Phil’s last pubic performances were recorded for online streaming during 2020-21.

The two October concerts will be “Together Again” at 4 p.m Sunday, Oct. 3, featuring music by Haydn and the Swiss composer Frank Martin; and “The Art of Jazz” at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, featuring music of Shostakovich, Darius Milhaud and Kurt Weill. (Full programs are listed below.) Tickets for both concerts may be purchased at the Boulder Phil Webpage.

For safety reasons, both programs will be approximately one hour in length and will be played without intermission. In keeping with current COVID protocols in Boulder County, everyone attending these performances must be fully vaccinated, and must wear masks at all times. Consequently, children under the age of 12 cannot be admitted. 

The Boulder Philharmonic’s COVID-19 Health & Safety protocols are listed here

The first October concert, “Together Again,” features intriguing but little known works for small orchestra. Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 in D major was written in 1759 for Karl Joseph Count Morzin, a member of the Austrian nobility, before Haydn went to work for his better known employer Count Esterhazy. The symphony has three movements and lasts only about 12 minutes, making it a miniature precursor of the larger form that Haydn subsequently established over this career. 

The other two pieces on the program are sinfonias concertante, works similar to concertos with multiple soloists. The Sinfonia Concertante by Haydn, composed in London in 1792, features two soprano-bass instrument pairs: violin and cello, oboe and bassoon. Written on short notice near the end of Haydn’s first visit to London, the score treats the soloists as chamber musicians more than virtuoso soloists, and was a hit with English audiences. 

Composer Frank Martin, featured on a Swiss postage stamp

The second such work on the program is Martin’s Petite symphonie concertante (little sinfonia concertante). Composed at the end of World War II, it is scored for double string orchestra and a solo group that loosely corresponds to the Baroque continuo: harpsichord, piano and harp. This unusual combination creates a unique sound world that Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman describes as “Bach and Stravinsky meet the Addams Family.”

The second concert in October, “The Art of Jazz,” shifts gears fully into the 20th century for three pieces by European composers that reflect, in different ways, the world-wide influence of American jazz. The least serious jazz influence is heard in the Jazz Suite No. 1 by Shostakovich, written in 1934 for a Leningrad dance band. The light and tuneful score, with a waltz, a polka and a foxtrot, is as much central European as jazzy, likely because at the time genuine jazz was either unknown or forbidden in the Soviet Union. 

However, French composer Darius Milhaud was certainly exposed to authentic jazz, during a 1922 trip to the United States that took him into Harlem nightclubs. A year later he wrote a ballet for the modernist Swedish dance company Ballets Suédois titled La Création du monde (The creation of the world) in which he refracted the jazz he had heard in Harlem through his own very French sensibility to create a work that is sui generis

Milhaud was especially impressed with the jazz drummers he heard, playing what he called “a complicated percussion section played by just one man.” He includes a full drum set in the score of Création du monde, as well as a saxophone that takes the place of viola in a string quartet and at times emerges as a soloist. Other echoes of Harlem can be heard in the brass-heavy scoring and the writing for clarinet, string bass and trombone.

Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya in New York in 1942

The final piece on the program refracts American jazz through the decadent cabaret scene in Berlin during the 1920s. Kurt Weill’s Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera), a free translation into German by Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht of the 18th-century Beggar’s Opera, was premiered in 1928. By the time it was banned by the Nazis in 1933, it had been translated in 18 languages and had been performed at least 10,000 times in Europe.

Weill’s music for the Dreigroschenoper was written for a small pit band of doubling players, much like modern Broadway shows. Weill easily made a transition to Broadway when the rise of the Nazis forced him to leave Germany. Among his subsequent American theatrical hits was the posthumous 1956 off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera, which earned a Tony Award for the singer Lotte Lenya. Songs from that version, including “Mack the Knife” and “Pirate Jenny,”  became well known in the United States through numerous pop covers.

The orchestral suite from the original show, Little Threepenny Music, was compiled in 1929, capturing the acerbic sound of Weill’s music without the bitter cynicism of Brecht’s lyrics.

# # # # #

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, music director

Together again
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3
Featuring soloists from the orchestra

  • HAYDN  Symphony No. 1 in D Major
  • HAYDN  Sinfonia concertante in B-flat Major
  • MARTIN  Petite symphonie concertante, Op. 54

The Art of Jazz
4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30

  • SHOSTAKOVICH  Jazz Suite No. 1
  • MILHAUD  The Creation of the World, Op. 81a
  • WEILL  Little Threepenny Music

Bother performances at Mountain View United Methodist Church
355 Ponca Place, Boulder

TICKETS

NOTE: The second concert listing was corrected 10/28. Oct. 30 is Saturday, not Sunday.

Takács Quartet recording wins Gramophone award for 2021

Piano Quintet recording with pianist Garrick Ohlsson winner in chamber category

By Peter Alexander Sept. 28 at 11:30 a.m.

The London-based classical music monthly Gramophone recently announced the winners of their Classical Music Awards for 2021, including a recording by the Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the chamber music category.

Primarily a magazine devoted to reviews of new recordings, Gramophone annually selects the recordings it considers to be the best in a variety of categories. For 2021, the winner in the Chamber Music category is Ohlsson and the Takács’s recording of piano quintets by Sir Edward Elgar and Amy Beach. This CD was reviewed on this site earlier this year.

Jeremy Dibble’s Gramophone review, which is included in the announcement of the winner, states “Ohlsson and the Takács are to be congratulated for the warmth of their interpretation and for their ability to encompass the challenging range of Elgar’s complex moods.”

You may see the full list of 2021 Gramophone Classical Music Awards winners here. The winners are all automatically in contention for Gramophone’s award for Classical Music Recording of the Year. That award will be announced at the Gramophone Awards ceremony, which will be available online at 12 noon MDT (7 p.m. BST) Tuesday, Oct. 5, on the Gramophone YouTube channel.

ARS NOVA SINGERS WILL BE JOINED BY THE TRIO DUENDE FOR A MUSICAL “SALON”

Online event Sept. 25 replaces a planned fundraising gala

By Peter Alexander Sept. 21 at 9:30 p.m.

Thomas Morgan, music director of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, says “sitting on a beach in Maui sounds like a pretty good idea.”

Napili Bay, Maui, Hawaii

“All of us want to be traveling right now,” he continues, speaking after a year when most of us stayed in place. And while you and I may not be able to drop everything and fly to Hawaii, Morgan has the answer: he has programmed a piece of music that captures the Maui beach experience. “Napili Bay 2 p.m.” by J.A.C. Redford will be presented as part of an online performance by Ars Nova Saturday (Sept. 25).

“This piece is really evocative of [the beach at Napili Bay],” he says. “It’s spectacularly well written for the choir, and the chorus really loves to sing it. It’s a wonderful piece.”

The performance is part of “Sounds from the Soil: A Salon” to be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, and will remain available through Wednesday, Oct. 13. The program, which was recorded at Lone Hawk Farm in rural Boulder County, features Morgan conducting Ars Nova, plus the Duende Trio of mezzo-soprano Shannon Pennell, violinist Mintze Wu, and guitarist Alfredo Muro. Information and tickets can be found here.

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Morgan, director (center)

The program developed from Ars Nova’s planned fall gala, a fund-raising event to kick off the 2021–22 season. The gala was scheduled for Sept. 11, but “we realized that probably wasn’t going to be an appropriate time to do a fundraiser, indoors,” Morgan says. “Fortunately, we were able to make the change and not do it as an in-person event. We kept the date and took the choir out [to Lone Hawk Farm] and recorded both indoors and outdoors.”

Lone Hawk Farm is a working organic farm and event venue located in the country between Boulder and Longmont. The program is a collection of pieces that are new to Ars Nova and others they have performed before. Among the latter is Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti a Baroque piece that was on Ars Nova’s very first concert in March 1986. Morgan says he wanted to perform the Crucifixus because “it connects to our very first concert, so it’s like beginning again after this current wave of the pandemic.

“It’s a wonderful eight-voice piece that builds in a really elegant way with a lot of suspensions and resolutions. It’s a really fun piece for the choir to sing.”

Alfredo Muro

The members of the Trio Duende all have prior connections to Ars Nova. Pennell is a member of the choir, and both Wu and Muro have played with the group before. The trio is intriguingly multi-cultural: Pennell is a Coloradan living in Lyons, Muro is from Peru, and Wu is a native of Taiwan who used to live in Lyons and now resides in Carbondale, Colo. Wu in particular is a shape shifting musician who has performed everything from Bach to Celtic fiddling—sometimes on the same program—and now has taken up bossa nova.

“The first time the trio got together was 2014,” Wu explains. At the time, she was living in Lyons, where she organized the eclectic “Sound of Lyons” music festival. They recently got together again in Carbondale, where Wu lives now and has curated the Garden Music series. That was where Morgan heard them and invited them to play for the Ars Nova gala/online “Salon.”

Mintze Wu

The name Trio Duende comes from the Spanish word meaning “soul” or “passion.” It was a word that Muro’s wife used to describe how the three musicians perform together. “She was talking about when we play together there is this quality of passion, of being very inspired,” Wu says. “And so we decided to use that name.”

For the online performance, Trio Duende presents three pieces, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s iconic bossa nova Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema). Wu and Muro will also play a duo, and Muro will play solo pieces on guitar.

Thomas Morgan

Morgan talks about other pieces that Ars Nova will perform: “I should probably mention Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s little motet ‘Summer is Gone,’” he says. “Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer of African descent. He achieved a lot of success as a composer, including three tours of the United States in the early 1900s. This little piece is based on the poem ‘Bitter for Sweet’ by Christina Rosetti. It’s perfect for this time of year and for the changing of season. It’s just a beautiful little piece.

“Our recording of it was done right near sunset at a beautiful location out in the country. It really looks good.”

# # # # #

Sounds from the Soil: A Virtual Salon
Ars Nova Singers
Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director and conducto
Trio Duende, guest artists: Shannon Pennell, mezzo-soprano, Mintze Wu, violin, and Alfredo Muro, guitar

  • Antonio Lotti: Crucifixus
  • Cary John Franklin“The Merry-Go-Round at Night”
  • Sibelius, arr. Blake Morgan“This is My Song” (Finlandia)
  • J.A.C. Redford: “Napili Bay, 2 p.m.”
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: “Summer is Gone”
  • Josef Rheinberger: Abendlied
    —Ars Nova
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes: Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema)
  • Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Maria: Manha de Carnaval (Morning of Carnival)
  • Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes: Samba Em Preludio
    —Trio Duende
  • Instrumental works
    —Mintze Wu, violin, and Alfredo Muro, guitar

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25
TICKETS
NOTE: This event will premiere on YouTube. A performance link will be sent to ticket-buyers just before showtime, valid to watch through October 13.

Takács Quartet opens 2021–22 campus concert series Sunday

Performances will be available for in-person attendance and streaming

By Peter Alexander Sept. 10 at 4:30 p.m.

The CU College of Music and the resident Takács Quartet go into the 2021–22 academic year with a full schedule of on-campus concerts.

Naturally, this marks a change from last year, when COVID-19 and construction in the Imig Music Building prevented the usual activities in the college from taking place in person. What effect the emergence of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 will have remains unknown, but for now the live series gets under way at 4 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 12) in Grusin Music Hall with a full concert program. The Takács series also includes guest performances by the Parker Quartet from Harvard University.

Takács Quartet— Amanda Tipton, Photographer

At this time, masks are required in public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus regardless of vaccination status. Furthermore, an order from Boulder County Public Health also mandates masks indoors in public spaces throughout Boulder County. This order applies, regardless of vaccination status, to all persons age two and up. Dates in the future remain subject to any changes in university policy. 

As in past years, all Sunday Takács programs are scheduled to be repeated on Monday evenings. Each concert will also be available through a ticketed live stream Sunday afternoon that will remain available up to one week after the Monday performances. Details and tickets to live performances and the streams are available through CU Presents.

In addition to familiar works from the standard repertoire—quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Schubert—the Takács Quartet will play two important works by Czech composers that are heard less often. These are the String Quartet No. 2 by Leoš Janáček, titled “Intimate Letters” by the composer (Sept. 12 & 13); and the String Quartet No. 1 by Smetana, titled ”From My Life” (Oct. 31 & Nov. 1).

Written in 1928, Janáček’s Quartet No. 2 was inspired by the composer’s unrequited love for a married woman nearly 40 years his junior. The title refers to the more than 700 letters between Janáček and the woman, Kamila Stösslová, who remained emotionally distant but was with the composer when he died. Janáček wrote to Stösslová, “You stand behind every note” of the quartet.

One of his last works, the quartet was premiered a month after Janáček’s death.

Smetana’s quartet was also written relatively late in the composer’s life and is also autobiographical. The name “From My Life” was provided by the composer, making the quartet, and along with Janáček’s Quartet No. 2, one of the few deliberately programmatic chamber works. 

The first three movements refer to different stages in Smetana’s life—his youthful romanticism, his love for dancing as a young man, and his love for his wife. The final movement dramatizes the persistent ringing that developed in the composer’s ears in his later years, represented by a sustained high E, and his subsequent loss of hearing.

The quartet was composed in 1876 and given its official public premiere in 1879. For an earlier private performance the viola part, which has a prominent solo at the beginning of the first movement, had been played by the young Dvořák.

Another lesser known work will be performed during the fall, Henri Dutilleux’s Aini la nuit (“Thus the night”) Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Composed over period of years 1973–76, Dutilleux’s quartet was inspired in part by the quartets of Beethoven, Bartók and the 12-tone works of Anton Webern.

A meticulous composer who has a relatively small output, Dutilleux was not a strict adherent of serialism, although he does make use of pitch series. The quartet, aimed at evoking a sense of the night, is in seven strongly contrasting movements with four very short interludes he called “parentheses” serving as transitions between movements.

Though performed relatively infrequently, Ainsi la nuit is regarded as one of the most important works for string quartet from the late 20th century.

Parker Quartet. Photo by Luke Ratray.

The Parker Quartet, whose members are Blodget Artsists-in-Residence at Harvard University’s College of Music, will complete the fall series with guest performances Nov. 21–22. Their program has not yet been announced.

# # # # #

Takács Quartet
Fall 2021 concert series

Takács Quartet

  • Haydn: String Quartet in F minor, Op. 20 No. 5 
  • Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” 
  • Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, “Death and the Maiden”

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13
Grusin Music Hall 

Takács Quartet

  • Mozart: String Quartet in D minor, K421
  • Henri Dutilleux: Ainsi la Nuit
  • Smetana: String Quartet No. 1 “From My Life”

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1
Grusin Music Hall 

Parker Quartet

  • Program TBA

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22
Grusin Music Hall 

In addition to live performances, each concert will be streamed live on  Sundays, and each stream will remain available until one week following the Monday performances. Details and tickets to both live performances and the streams are available through CU Presents.