Violinist Sarah Chang visits Boulder on a rare solo recital tour

Program includes music she loves, but she’d still like to talk about her dog

By Peter Alexander Nov. 14 at 10:40 p.m.

Violinist Sarah Chang, a celebrated concerto soloist, comes to Boulder on Friday, Nov. 16, for a rare solo recital, but she would rather talk about her dog.

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Sarah Chang. Photo by Colin Bell, under license to EI Classics

“I wish people would ask me more about my dog,” she says. “He’s the number one thing in my life, and everybody always asks me about music.”

Of course it is the music that brings her to Boulder, and she agrees to talk about that, too. Her program features three works from the late 19th-, early-20th-century era of great violin playing: Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D minor and the imposing Franck Sonata in A Major.

“What I love about this program is that you have the exotic Bartók, which is so unique in its own way,” she says. “And then you have the Brahms which is so noble and so beautiful, and then you have the Franck which is just a masterpiece and probably one of the most well known sonatas for any instrument.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Sarah Chang, violin, and Julio Elizalde, piano
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, Macky Auditorium

Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances
Brahms: Sonata No. 3 in D minor
Franck: Sonata in A Major

Tickets

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Boulder Symphony evokes “Home” with the Holidays approaching

Nostalgia, a fast ride, and the feeling of the sea are on the program Nov. 17

By Peter Alexander Nov. 15 at 2:10 p.m.

Everyone thinks of home as Thanksgiving approaches.

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Boulder Symphony

As it happens, “Home” is the subject of the next concert by the Boulder Symphony, but despite the time of year, it is not about  the holidays. The title refers to one of the pieces on the program, a new work by Sarah Kirkland Snider. The title, Hiraeth, is an untranslatable Welsh word that encompasses nostalgia for home, as well as longing and sadness.

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Devin Patrick Hughes

Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor of the Boulder Symphony, first heard Snider’s music when it was played by the Detroit Symphony. “Snider is a really active composer,” he says. “She’s very young but at the same time she’s already been played around the world.”

Snider is currently in Boulder visiting the College of Music as CU.

In addition to Snider’s 26-minute piece, the program will also include John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, an energetic and stimulating concert opener that has practically become a staple of major orchestras’ repertoire since its premiere in 1986; and one of the best known works for orchestra, Debussy’s La Mer, a three-movement evocation of the sea.

Snider grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, but she wrote Hiraeth when she received a commission from the North Carolina Symphony to write a piece about her family’s historic ties to the state. Her conception of the piece took a darker turn when her father—her living connection to North Carolina—died suddenly after she received the commission.

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Sarah Kirkland Snider

“My musical ideas were now refracted through the lens of grief,” she writes in her program notes for the score. “The material grew darker, my thinking about the piece more complex. . . . Ultimately, Hiraeth is both elegy and personal meditation, steeped in the hazy, half-recollected textures and sensations that surround a memory.” (You may read her full program notes here.)

Snider’s score was originally conceived as a partner to a film score. The Boulder Symphony will not show the film, but Hughes believes the music stands well on its own. “I don’t think you need anything to go with it,” he says. “It’s very episodic, it’s very operatic. She brings you into this world and doesn’t let you out—in a good way!”

Hughes says that the Adams fanfare was selected specifically to introduce the Snider piece. “We were, ‘Well, what do you need to get home, fast?’” he says. “You couldn’t be more descriptive in the title [as to] exactly what it’s about. It literally takes you on that ride.”

The Adams score is fast and exciting—and more difficult than it sounds, he says. “John Adams is notoriously difficult in that he sounds so easy, but it’s funny how the simpler you get, sometimes the most difficulty enters with the precision that is needed. It’s hard for the brass placing the rhythms, and especially getting it up to the speed that Adams is asking for.”

The first half of the concert follows the theme of “Home,” but that idea is not evident in La Mer. Hughes says that the concert “needs to have a theme, but then you have the artistic side. You want all the music to be able to stand on its own merits.” And the Debussy, he adds, does fit into the program in a specifically musical way.

“This program is all about precision,” he says. “Debussy has this ethereal, elusive, cloudy, unfocused quality musically, because it’s French and it’s picture painting, but to make that happen, it needs the utmost precision. The colors don’t happen until you line it up, which is easier said than done”.

Because of the “unfocused quality” of the music not everyone hears the same thing in La Mer. Some people may hear the waves, others might hear the wind passing over the sea, and some might not hear the sea at all, but that’s all right with Hughes. “That’s what makes [the music] so great,” he says. “It can mean anything to anybody.

“Debussy is not trying to create sights or sounds. He’s evoking how he feels from the ocean.” And of course, evoking those feelings still requires the precision Hughes was talking about. “It’s a challenge,” he says.

“We’ve done Mahler and full operas and [Stravinsky’s] Rite of Spring, but I’d say this is our most challenging concert.”

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“Home”
Boulder Symphony, Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
First Presbyterian Church, 1820 15thSt., Boulder

John Adams: A Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Sarah Kirkland Snider: Hiraeth (Colorado Premiere)
Debussy: La Mer

Tickets

Longmont Symphony connects with sister city, explores Japanese influences in music

“A Cultural Affair” introduces pianist Taka Kigawa from Chino, Japan

By Peter Alexander Nov. 8 at 10:05 p.m.

The next concert of the Longmont Symphony, titled “A Cultural Affair,” features a Colorado premiere and a Colorado debut.

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Taka Kigawa makes his Colorado debut with the Longmont Symphony. Photo by Ruby Washington/New York Times

The performance, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 10) in Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, introduces pianist Taka Kigawa in his first performance in Colorado. The premiere, on the other hand, is not so much an introduction, since it features a composer from Altona, Colorado: Conor Brown, whose How to Relax with Origami was premiered by the Detroit Symphony in 2017 but has not yet been played in the composer’s home state.

In addition to Brown’s piece, the program features Kigawa playing Ravel’s Concerto in G, and the LSO will conclude the concert with Debussy’s La Mer.

The genesis of the concert was the fact that Kigawa is from Longmont’s sister city of Chino, Japan. “When I did my audition (with the LSO in 2016), I was made aware that Longmont has two sister cities,” Moore says. “And it happens that Taka is from Longmont’s sister city in Japan! One of my goals is to connect people through music, and I think that right now is a great time for this.”

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Conor Brown

Another theme of the concert is influences that cross cultures. That is evident in Brown’s How to Relax with Origami, which has been shaped in some very specific ways by the principles of origami.

“Japanese origami is very intricate but small,” Moore says. “But it’s a very specific, intentional, beautiful, small art. And each one of the eight movements in Brown’s piece is a very intricately designed compact composition that in that way relates to origami.”

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Ravel (seated) with American bandleader Paul Whitman

With the Ravel Concerto, one of the external influences is American jazz, which Ravel had heard in a tour of the United States. This is something that Kigawa, the native of Chino, Japan, has come to feel very comfortable with.

“Living in New York I have not only classical musician friends but also jazz music friends,” he says. “They quite often invite me, ‘Hey Taka, let’s jam!’ And I say ‘sure,’ just for fun.”

The Concerto in G is one of Kigawa’s favorites. “I think this concerto is one of the best concertos,” he says. “I mean literally ‘concerto,’ concerto means ‘playing with.’

“This concerto is not like Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff, the pianist showing off his hand dexterity and power. This is really chamber music. I would be very happy if the audience will listen to the mixture of piano sound and other instrument sounds, and how Ravel pulls that into a coherent piece of music.”

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Debussy in his home with Hokusai’s print on the wall.

To fill out the concert, Moore wanted another piece with a Japanese connection. This led him to Debussy’s La Mer, which was inspired by a famous print by the 18th– and 19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Debussy, who was very interested in Asian art, had a copy of Hokusai’s print in his home.

Moore finds a Japanese imprint on La Mer not only in the inspiration from Hokusai’s print but in the music itself. For example, Debussy uses pentatonic (five-note scale) fragments of melody, which sound Asian to Western ears. Those fragments appear and disappear throughout the piece, in a way that Moore relates to eastern philosophical ideas of impermanence.

He also points out that the very opening of the piece represents dawn on the sea—which occurs in the east, not the view of the sea from France. “The sun rising in the east is depicting that we are taking this voyage to an eastern country,” Moore says.

“Of course the piece is about the sea, and there’s a lot of things about the sea in the music,” he adds. For example, each of the three movements portrays a different aspect of the sea: “From dawn to noon on the sea,” “Play of the waves,” and “Dialog of the wind and the sea.”

In the first movement, Moore says that the instrumental sound becomes brighter and warmer as the movement proceeds toward noon. Then, “certainly the second movement is about the play of the waves,” he says. “It’s much more playful than the first movement. One of the images that I have is bubbles coming up to the surface—I hear that sort of lightness and buoyancy in the music.”

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

And he believes the Japanese influence makes one last appearance before the end: “In the last movement Debussy does put in the buildup and the crash of the great wave off Kanagawa.”

That moment, with it’s connection from a Japanese artist, to a French composer, to American listeners, is the kind of cultural connection that Moore wants the audience to recognize. “I want to use music as a catalyst to connect people, whether it’s people from Japan to Colorado, or people within the city of Longmont.

“That’s the main point of this performance.”

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A Cultural Affair
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore conductor, with Taka Kigawa, piano
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Conor Brown: How to Relax with Origami (Colorado premiere)
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
Debussy: La Mer

Tickets

Boulder Bach Festival returns to the B-Minor Mass, but differently

Concert performance in Macky Auditorium will not be ‘historically informed’

By Peter Alexander Nov. 8 at 12:00 noon

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Photo by Glenn Ross

Conductor Zachary Carrettin and the Boulder Bach Festival return to one of J.S. Bach’s masterworks of their repertoire on Sunday (Nov. 11), the Mass in B minor. But if you heard it the last time they performed the same work, in 2015, you should know this time will be different.

Then it was performed in intimate settings in Boulder and Denver; now it will be performed in Macky Auditorium. Then it was performed by a small chorus and orchestra; now the numbers will be greater. Then there were period instruments; now there are not. Then the soloists were early-music specialists; now they include operatic voices.

In fact, this will be very much a “modern” performance, with no self-consciously historical performance practices. Doing a deliberately non-historical performance seems unusual for an organization devoted to early music, but that decision was influenced both by the large concert hall where it will be presented and by Carrettin’s own philosophy.

“I firmly believe that the acoustic environment, the ensemble size, and the approach that we take with phrasing and tone production and balance should change from concert to concert,” he says.

Read more in Boulder Weekly

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Dance of Life: Mass in B Minor
Johann Sebastian Bach

Boulder Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Peter Scott Drackly, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone

Veterans’ Day and 100th Remembrance Day
2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 11
Macky Auditorium

Tickets from Macky Auditorium

Seicento focuses on the texts of music for voices and violins

“Baroque Pairings” will be performed in Longmont, Boulder and Denver

By Peter Alexander Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m.

Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director of Seicento Baroque Ensemble, hopes you will pay attention to the words.

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Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director, and Gerald W. Holbrook, associate conductor and accompanist, with members of Seicento Baroque Ensemble

Seicento’s next concert program, titled “Baroque Pairings: Violins and Voice,” includes several different types of texts, sacred and secular, all set with care and expression. The music comes mostly from the 17thcentury—“Seicento” means 1600s—divided among pieces by German composers and pieces by Venetian and northern Italian composers, including two works from convents in Milan and Novara, Italy.

Performances will be Friday in Longmont, Saturday in Boulder, and in a particularly informal setting Sunday in Denver. The Denver performance will be preceded by a social event with wine available for sale (see details below).

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Amanda Balestrieri

As a singer with a degree in languages, Balestrieri always takes deep interest in the words she sings or directs. For her, what she calls “the marriage of the text” with the music is paramount. “The poet wrote the text, then a composer chooses a text. How do they set this text, and what does this text mean?

“I feel that the text is integral. I’m always involved in the translations, and I am completely on the choir’s case constantly, not only about what the words are, but (the context)—are we in religious fervor, are we in the throes of passion?”

To help direct the listener’s attention to the text, Balestrieri and Seicento came up with an unusual way of laying out the program. The cover lists all the pieces in order—titles and composers—but not the performers. That makes it easy to get an overview of the concert.

Inside the program, every piece is listed again in order, with all the details, including soloists, the text and translation for each piece. “I felt that if we could incorporate the text within the program it would make a lot more sense to people rather than flipping backward and forward all the time through the performance,” she says.

The concert’s theme was suggested by the standard Baroque-era texture of two treble parts and bass. “Around (the 1600s) the violin was becoming a very prominent instrument, and two violins with continuo (bass) was becoming more popular,” Balestrieri says. “It seemed to make sense that first we have the pairing of two violins, and then we have the violins with voices.”

Balestrieri started with music that she knew, and expanded to some new pieces that she found to fit the program. To provide variety, there will be pieces that are instrumental, vocal solos, and choral pieces. Guest performers will be Stacey Brady and Brune Macary, on Baroque violin; Sandra Miller on Baroque cello; and Gerald Holbrook on harpsichord and organ. Vocal soloists will be guests and members of Seicento.

Heinrich Schütz

Heinrich Schütz

The program will be presented in three parts,: “The Germans,” featuring music by Heinrich Schütz, Franz Tunder and Dietrich Buxtehude; “The Nuns of Milan and Novara,” with one piece each by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani and Isabella Leonarda; and “The Venetian School,” with music by Biagio Marini, Claudio Monteverdi, Salamone Rossi and Tarquinio Rossi.

“In the German set, what you hear is the solid faith of the Lutheran church set to music, along with a much more human style,” Balestrieri says. “For example, the Tunder is a solo piece (for voice), ‘Awake Wise Virgins,’ and it’s got the giddy excitement of the bride. You really hear this in the music.

Cozzolani“For the nuns, what’s interesting to listen for is how it might have been sung by all women. This music is quite theatrical, but it’s also very much close harmony. It’s very beautiful in that way.”

In the 17thcentury Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe and was known for its brilliant art and music. It was a center for great experimentation in secular musical styles including the madrigal, as well as brilliant sacred music.

“It’s the sacred and secular cross-over,” Balestrieri says. “You have this beautiful writing, going from violin solo (at the beginning of the set) that’s very experimental and fluid, into the madrigals by Monteverdi—he’s going to be a little more out there.”

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Salmon Rossi

The set includes music by Rossi, one of the most remarkable figures of the era. A Jewish violinist/composer who served as concertmaster at the Catholic court in Mantua, Rossi wrote in the style of the period, very much like Monteverdi. “One of the things that is really interesting is that (Rossi) was writing music on a par with all of these other composers,” Balestrieri says.

“He lived through a period of cultural exchange where you have someone who’s forced to live in a ghetto who’s also out doing music and was inducted into court society.”

One of Rossi’s great accomplishments was an extensive set of Jewish liturgical music, Ha-shirim asher li-Shlomo (The Songs of Solomon, after his name and not based on the Biblical Song of Solomon), published in 1623. Three pieces of that collection will close the concert.

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Baroque Pairings: Voices and Violins
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director
Music of The Germans, The Nuns of Milan and Novara, and The Venetian School

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, First Evangelical Church, 805 Third Ave., Longmont
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruces St., Boulder
3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, The Studios at Overland Crossing, 2201 Delaware St., Denver (preceded by 2 p.m. pre-concert mixer and wine bar)

Information and tickets

 

Violinist Midori comes to Boulder as a concerto soloist and much, much more

Week-long residency includes teaching, master classes and a public lecture

By Peter Alexander Nov. 1 at 12:15 p.m.

Sometimes a soloist is more than a soloist.

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Midori will be soloist with the Boulder Phil. Photo by Timothy Greenfield Sanders.

The next concert of the Boulder Philharmonic, at the unusual time of 7 p.m. Sunday, features the violinist Midori Goto (who performs under the mononym Midori) playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto. That’s Midori appearing as a traditional concerto soloist, but it’s only one part of a week-long residency in Boulder that includes teaching students from grade school through college as well as community outreach to adults.

The Boulder Philharmonic and the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras (GBYO) were selected for the residency — one of only two in the 2018–19 year — through a competitive process administered by the Midori Orchestra Residencies Program in New York.

Sunday’s concert will feature two other works along with the Sibelius Concerto: Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds by Tan Dun, an atmospheric piece that includes an mp3 file that audience members can download and play on their cell phones during the concert; and Brahms’ Third Symphony.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Midori Plays Sibelius
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman director
With Midori, violin
7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4

Macky Auditorium

Tan Dun: Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 3

Tickets

Midori Orchestra Residencies Program events

Citizen Artist Talk
Saturday, Nov. 3, 1 PM
Naropa University Performing Arts Center, 2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Free and open to the public

Community Play-Along
Sunday, Nov. 4, 12-1:30 PM
Naropa University Performing Arts Center, 2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Free and open to the public

Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras Concert with Midori
Monday, Nov. 5, 6 PM
Macky Auditorium, Boulder

More information on all events, registration for the Community Play-Along and tickets for the GBYO performances can be found here.

From Venice to Boulder: Music of “The Red Priest”

Vivaldi dominates program by Venice Baroque Orchestra

By Peter Alexander Oct. 31 at 10 p.m.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra with recorder soloist Anna Fusek. Photo courtesy of CU Presents.

No composer represents the Baroque era in music better than “Il Prete Rosso” (The red priest), Antonio Vivaldi.

Known for his fiery red hair, he wrote almost countless concertos—more than 500—for just about every possible instrument of his day, including Le quattro stagioni (The four seasons) for violin, four of the most popular and famous of all Baroque concertos. Covering wide realms of genres, he wrote sacred music, still performed, and more than 40 operas, hugely successful in his lifetime but not often performed today.

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Antonio Vivaldi

His music was known and studied by Bach, who wrote pieces based on some of Vivaldi’s concertos, which still stand as examples of Baroque form, technique and style.

Vivaldi was born and lived most of his life in Venice, so it is no surprise that the Venice Baroque Orchestra (VBO), playing Friday evening (Nov. 2) in Macky Auditorium, brings a lot of Vivaldi’s music with them. In fact, their program is almost entirely music by Vivaldi—concertos and opera overtures, or “sinfonias”—except for a single concerto grosso by Francesco Geminiani, who was a native of Lucca, on the opposite side of Italy from Venice.

Alessandra DiVicenzo, a violist and member of the VBO since it was founded 21 years ago, wrote about the concert from Santa Fe, where the orchestra was on tour earlier this week. “For us Vivaldi has always a place in our programs, since the freshness of his style makes his music very natural and easy to play for us,” she writes.

“Living, or just spending most of the time in Venice could have helped us develop a sensibility about how Venetian and Vivaldi’s music could sound. When you are in Venice you realize that light and water are two elements that give Venice a special touch, so it is easy to think that Vivaldi is like water, light and clear, always changeable and never still.”

The Venice Baroque Orchestra is known for their energetic and brilliant style in playing Vivaldi’s music. This has distinguished them from some of their more staid predecessors in the Baroque performance world, and in particular providees an individual sense of personality to each work they perform.

“To us it seems natural to bring excitement to the playing of Vivaldi’s music,” DiVicenzo writes. “Everything of this can be found in his scores, which are spontaneous, rich of vitality, rhythmic, sometimes nervous, and offering sudden changes of mood—like he surely was!”

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Francesco Geminiani

As for the non-Venetian on the program, DiVicenzo writes: “Geminiani is a very interesting composer. Maybe today his name is not so famous to a wide audience, but during the 18thcentury he was a VIP, one of the most acclaimed composers and violin virtuosos.

“He has an energy and vitality very similar to Vivaldi. All audiences appreciate it, so I’m sure Boulder’s audience will like it.”

DiVicenzo wants to call the audience’s attention to some specific aspects of the program, and of Vivaldi’s legacy. “One thing the audience could realize is that Vivaldi played a very important role in the development of the technique of many instruments, including violin, cello and flute. His solo concertos are very demanding for any performer.

“One example is the Violin Concerto in E minor, in which the soloist has very difficult passages for both right and left hand. Also the double concerto for violin and cello requires two soloists with outstanding technique. The breathtaking third movement lets the soloists show all their skill! And the program ends with the recorder concerto “Il Gardellino” (The goldfinch), one of many examples of Vivaldi’s skill in imitating nature by music.”

The concert is the second visit to Macky Auditorium by the VBO. Their previous performance here was in 2014, at which time DiVicenzo commented that the orchestra members travelled with some of the food from home. I asked her if Italians still balked at drinking American coffee.

“American espresso improved enough that Italians drink it,” she wrote. “At the San Francisco airport I heard some of us appreciating the one-shot espresso they were sipping. But nothing has changed in VBO’s equipment.

”The coffee machine continues to travel with us all over the world.”

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Venice-1Venice Baroque Orchestra

Program of Baroque Concertos by Vivaldi and Geminiani
With Anna Fusek, recorder; Gianpiero Zanocco, violin;
Massimo Raccanelli and Federico Tiffany, cellos
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Macky Auditorium

Full Program

Tickets