Principal cello and principal clarinet will be featured soloists Dec. 11
By Peter Alexander Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.
There are lots of Christmas concerts in Boulder this time of year, but only one is offering chocolate along with the music.
The Boulder Chamber Orchestra has paired with Boulder’s Piece, Love & Chocolate for their concert Saturday (7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church), and while the program does not feature a single carol, who can turn down the sweets?
The occasion for the chocolates is the performance of Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet, a piece that suggests—requires?—a specific kind of chocolate with each of its four movements. For the rest of the program, conductor Bahman Saless wanted to feature members of the BCO as soloists.
“It’s really important to support our principal musicians,” he says. “We had planned during the COVID year to do two pieces (featuring BCO players). I decided that in the spirit of the orchestra being a family that it would be appropriate to do both of them on the same night.”
The two solo pieces will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, played by principal cellist Joseph Howe, and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, played by principal clarinetist Kellan Toohey. For the former, Saless points out, Howe and the BCO will perform the original version, which is not often heard today.
The cellist who played the premiere and the score’s dedicatee, Wilhelm Fitzhagen, considered the Variations to be ”his” piece. He changed the order of the variations and cut Tchaikovsky’s final variation, all without consulting the composer. Tchaikovksy reportedly hated the changes, but didn’t challenge them, and ever since it has been Fitzhagen’s revised version that has usually been performed.
The original version “is hard to get now” Saless says. “We had to get it from somewhere else—it’s out of print.” Nevertheless, some scholars and performers prefer the original version, because the order of the variations seems to follow a more logical musical development.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was one of the composer’s very last completed pieces, composed shortly before his death in 1791. It was written for Anton Stadler, a personal friend of the composer and one of the very first virtuoso clarinet players. He performed on an instrument that had an extended range, making it possible to play a few notes lower than the modern instrument. It also had a very primitive fingering system with only a few keys, making it remarkable that the piece could be played at all. Today it is regarded as the first great solo piece for the instrument and is often played for professional clarinet auditions.
But back to the chocolates! Goulet describes his Symphonic Chocolates as “a work meant to accompany a chocolate tasting . . . an orchestral suite in four short movements in which each movement evokes a different flavor of chocolate.” The four flavors are described musically, and “the audience is invited to eat four small chocolates while each movement of the corresponding flavor is being played.”
The four movements and their descriptions in Goulet’s program notes are: “1. Caramel Chocolate: A long lyrical melody supported by a rich and enveloping sonority; 2. Dark Chocolate: An intense habanera of desire and seduction, spiced up with a dissonant bitterness; 3. Mint Chocolate: A delicate freshness with icy cold sonorities; 4. Coffee-infused Chocolate: An espresso tempo with a Brazilian flavor.”
For the BCO performance, Boulder’s Piece, Love and & Chocolate will provide a box of four small chocolates of the described varieties which can be purchased with the tickets to the concert. The chocolates will be given out at the concert to ticket holders who purchased them.
If you don’t recognize the name, Goulet is active both as a composer of concert music and of music for video games. He was staff composer for Gameloft 2007–13, and has written the music for games including “Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade,” “The Amazing Spider Man” 1 and 2, “Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front” and “Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War.”
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“A Gift of Music:” Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
- Maxime Goulet: Symphonic Chocolates
- Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme (original version)
Joseph Howe, cello
- Mozart: Concerto in A for clarinet and orchestra
Kellan Toohey, clarinet