Grace Notes: Sonic Alchemy at Boulder Bach; piano quintets with winds

Mozart, Pärt and Vasks at the Dairy; Mozart and Rimsky-Korsakov chamber music

By Peter Alexander April 5 at 11:45 p.m.

The Boulder Bach Festival continues to explore musical connections across time, as their upcoming concert (4 p.m. Saturday, April 8; details below) brings together works by Mozart with contemporary works by Arvo Pärt and Pēteris Vasks.

A composer from the Baltic nation of Estonia, Pärt is known for his development of a style he calls “tintinnabulation,” in which fragments of sound recur to suggest the ringing of bells. His music is deeply influenced by the mysticism of Byzantine Christianity, and in this concert will be contrasted with the rationality of the European Enlightenment, as reflected in the music of Mozart.

The two are conflated in Pärt’s Mozart-Adagio, a work for violin and piano that balances Mozart’s style and Pärt’s “tintunnabuli” and brings their two centuries—the 18th and the 20th—into close conjunction.

Vasks hails from another Baltic country, Latvia, where he was trained as a violinist and double-bass player. His highly original style has been described as “spiritual,” “powerfully evocative” and “imagematic”—i.e., creating a strong visual impression. Apart from his musical works, he is known primarily for his devotion to environmental causes, which often appear as the subjects of his works.

The performance, which includes two of Mozart’s keyboard fantasies, will be recorded for later release. That will be the second CD release from the Boulder Bach Festival, which has already issued a joint CD and Blu-ray recordings of music from the 2022 Boulder Bach Festival. That recording, “Boulder Bach Festival” on the Sono Lumnus label, can be purchased from the recording studio

# # # # #

“Sonic Alchemy”
Boulder Bach Festival: Mina Gajić, piano; YuEun Ki, violin; Coleman Itzkoff, cello

  • Mozart: Fantasia in C minor, K475
  • Arvo Pärt: Fratres for cello and piano
  • Pēteris Vasks: The White Scenery for piano solo
    Interior Castle for violin and cello
  • Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano
  • Mozart: Fantasia in D minor, K397Pärt: Mozart-Adagio for piano trio

4 p.m. Saturday, April 8
The Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center


# # # # #

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) will present the last of its 2022-23 Mini-Chamber concerts Saturday (7:30 p.m. April 8; details below), featuring the music of Rimsky-Korsakov and Mozart.

Pianist David Korevaar, who has been the featured artist for the mini-chamber concerts this season, returns to play two quintets for piano and winds with members of the BCO. It is notable that both works feature the wind players as much as the piano.

David Korevaar. Photo by Matthew Dine.

In 1876, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote a String Sextet for a competition sponsored by the Russian Musical Society. After completing the Sextet, he decided to write a separate piece for piano and winds. The composer described the work in his autobiography as follows:

“The First movement, Allegro con brio, (is) in the classic style of Beethoven. The Second Movement, Andante, contained a good fugue for the wind instruments with a very free accompaniment in the piano. In the finale, Allegretto vivace, I wrote in rondo form. Of interest is the middle section where I wrote cadenzas for the flute, the clarinet and the horn to be played in turns. Each was in the character of the instrument and each was interrupted by the bassoon entering by octave leaps.”

Mozart’s Quintet was written for a concert the composer presented in 1784, when he was at the height of his success in Vienna. In came right after thee piano concertos, K449, K450 and K451, and can thus be considered virtually a chamber concerto for piano, although the winds each have their own solo moments as well. After finishing the quintet, Mozart wrote to his father, “I consider it the best work I have ever written.”

The Quintet has the same three-movement structure as a concerto. The first has a slow introduction followed by an allegro where each instrument has its own theme. That is followed by a gentle slow movement and a rondo that, like the central section of Rimsky-Korsakov’s finale, leads to cadenzas for all five players. 

# # # # #

Mini-Chamber Concert 3
David Korevaar, piano, with members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

  • Rimsky-Korsakov: Quintet for piano and winds in B-flat major
  • Mozart: Quintet for piano and winds in E-flat major, K452

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave.