Zeitouni returns, bringing Romantic music, verve and excitement

Michelle DeYoung combines mezzo heft with soaring soprano

By Peter Alexander July 20 at 1 a.m.

Last night (July 19) Jean-Marie Zeitouni returned to the Colorado Music Festival, conducting a concert that had the same verve and excitement that marked so many of his performances when he was the music director.

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Michelle DeYoung

Joining Zeitouni and the Festival Orchestra on the first half of the concert was mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, this year’s SeiSolo artist-in-residence at CMF, who contributed a powerful soprano—going well above the usual mezzo range—to a performance of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Noted for a wide vocal range that opens the door to dramatic soprano roles as well as the deeper mezzo roles, DeYoung has earned a reputation as an outstanding Wagnerian singer. Onstage she has sung roles including Venus in Tannhäuser, Kundry in Parsifal and Brangäne in Tristan, among many others, and she often sings the heroic soprano excerpts including the Liebestod and Brunnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Gotterdämmerung in concert.

Her performance of the Liebestod had a Wagnerian heft as well as shimmering high notes—in effect, a mezzo sound in the lower range and a bright soprano sound up high. She could always be heard, even the middle of a massive orchestral texture. It was a performance few could match.

Zeitouni drew carefully controlled phrases and carefully shaped surges from the orchestra in the Prelude. Apart from imperfectly blended wind sounds once or twice, this was a consistently first-rate performance.

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

After Wagner, Zeitouni turned and addressed “my beloved CMF audience,” adding a touching personal note to the evening. He introduced composer Timothy Collins, whose song cycle Buch des Sängers (The singer’s book), written for DeYoung, received its world premiere next on the concert.

The vocal lines of Buch des Sängers fall squarely in DeYoung’s mezzo range, with only a few excursions into a higher, brighter range. The first song, “Loveliness,” is indeed as lovely as anything you will hear, with beautiful vocal lines cushioned in a warm blanket of orchestral sound.

That description could apply to most of the rest of the cycle, however. The orchestral sounds are consistently warm and flowing, almost always at a moderate tempo, with added sparkle from percussion and harp to provide highlights. It is all very pleasant, very welcoming to the audience, but greater variety of sound and tempo would command closer attention.

Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in Buch des Sängers, and DeYoung sang with a radiant conviction. This is music that audiences can embrace without difficulty. It is not hard to predict that other singers will want to take up this cycle, and that it will have many future performances.

The second half of the concert was devoted to an explosive and spectacular performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s most brilliant orchestral showpiece, Scheherazade. This is a piece that can display the best of any orchestra, and the CMF orchestra did not disappoint.

Never afraid of dramatic gestures, Zeitouni started the performance with a powerful call to attention, reminding us that the story the music is going to tell comes from the Arabian Nights. “Now we begin!” the lower voices declaim. This was immediately followed by one of many violin solos representing Scheherazade herself, played with a beautifully sweet sound and expressive rhythmic freedom by concertmaster Calin Lupanu.

In fact, the score is filled with individual instrumental solos, and one of the pleasures of the performance was hearing so many individual members of the orchestra have the opportunity to shine. In addition to Lupanu, there were solos for cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp—did I miss anyone?—all played with relish and artistry. Every one was a joy to hear.

The final movement was taken at a breakneck pace, about as fast as some parts can be played. It was almost all clean and clear, in spite of the speed, bringing the concert to a rousing close. Played with gusto, such Romantic warhorses can be great fun, and this one certainly was.

Scheherazade will be repeated tonight (July 20) at 6:30 as part of a “Fresh Fridays’ program. Zeitouni will also conduct the CMF Chamber Orchestra on Saturday in a program of Ravel and Beethoven. Purchase tickets here.

 

 

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni and Michelle DeYoung return to CMF

Performances include world premieres, iconic masterpieces

By Peter Alexander July 19 at 10:42 a.m.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni is back in town and he feels like a new man.

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Currently principal guest conductor of the Colorado Music Festival, Zeitouni was the CMF’s music director through the end of last summer. He is here for the current week, conducting concerts tonight and Sunday (July 19 and 22). Over the past year he has had surgery to reconstruct some joints, and says “I have much more energy and much less pain.”

Although he took time off for the surgeries, Zeitouni had a very good year professionally. “I did a lot of European conducting,” he says. “I managed to spend four months in Europe doing three opera productions, all French operas. I did squeeze in a tour in Brazil with my chamber orchestra, and guest conducting engagements throughout North America.”

Also coming back to CMF is mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, who grew up in Colorado and sang at CMF last year. This year she is the SeiSolo Artist-in-Residence at the festival, which includes teaching a masterclass and three performances over eleven days.

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Michelle DeYoung

In that short span, she will perform two of the iconic masterpieces of the soprano and mezzo-soprano repertoires—her range is so great that she sings both—the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and the Abschied movement from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. As if that weren’t enough, she will also present two world premieres of music written for her by Australian composer Timothy Collins.

That all gets underway at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Chautauqua Auditorium, when Zeitouni, DeYoung and the CMF Festival Orchestra will collaborate on a program that features the Wagner, the premiere of Collins’s Buch des Sängers (The singer’s book), and one of the great orchestral showpieces, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

The program is built around the premiere. Collins and DeYoung have sung together, and he had written songs for her in the past. She asked him to write the orchestral pieces for her, asking that he find texts that had not been set before. His search led him to Goethe’s last poetry, contained in a large set of volumes known as the West-östlicher Divan (roughly translated as the West-Eastern Poetry Collection), which was inspired by translations of the 14th-century Persian poet Hafez. Goethe’s monumental collection actually comprises 12 books of poems, the first of which is titled Buch des Sängers. Collins set five of the poems from that volume.

All participants agree that the premiere is a special occasion. “I feel very lucky to partake in the creation of something that is so intimately connected with the performer,” Zeitouni says. “Usually, we try to fit the (performer to the) written music, but now the written music fits the performer. It’s like a glove around her voice. It fits her perfectly.

“It’s rare that we participate in this process, and I’m really honored.”

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Composer Timothy Collins

Collins feels both honored and challenged. “It’s a big responsibility, as well as a huge honor,” he says. “How many composers are asked to write for a Grammy Award-winning mezzo soprano? I just have to think a very great deal about trying to get it right for her voice to showcase what’s so unique about it.

“It’s not just any mezzo-soprano voice, because she has extra high notes, she has particular colors in certain parts of her voice. I just have to think a very great deal about trying to get it right for her voice to showcase what’s so unique about it.”

DeYoung returns the compliments. “He knows what the strengths and weaknesses of my voice are, so when he writes for me it really suits my voice—he highlights what I think is good about my voice. (The songs) are so beautiful that it’s an honor to sing them and to create them.”

Zeitouni wanted to build a program around the premier that would fit the occasion. Because she is known for singing Wagnerian roles, he thought there should be some Wagner in the program, and she had sung the Liebestod before. Then he added Scheherazade because it compliments the Goethe texts as another example of Eastern literature, the 1001 Nights, filtered through Western ears.

For Sunday’s concert with the Chamber Orchestra, Zeitouni says he wanted “to do a concert that is all orchestra, because I want the orchestra to be the gem. Basically we chose Mother Goose, the ballet, not the suite so it’s little longer, it’s a bit more developed, and (Beethoven’s) Eroica (Symphony).

The Beethoven of course is well known to the orchestral players and classical audiences alike, but Zeitouni says it is easy to make it new. “Each time I get a new score, I get fresh ideas, I imagine the people coming and hearing this the first time. How can we get tired of playing this?

“I’m not very old, but I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve done it almost every year. I’m still looking forward (to it) in the calendar. And I’m looking forward so much to do it here.”

De Young’s masterclass will be open to the public, at 2 p.m. Saturday (July 21) in the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette. She travels too much to have her own roster of students, but she often gives masterclasses. “I’m from Colorado, so it’s exciting to me,” she says of her role as SeiSolo Artist in Residence at the festival. “It’s a huge honor. If I can do anything to help or be involved, I want to do that.”

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Michelle DeYoung

The other premiere she will present will be part of her song recital the following Saturday (July 28) with pianist Cody Garrison from Denver. In addition to art songs by Brahms, Strauss and Barber, she will sing Collins’s Love’s Crusade, another piece that was written for her.

Love’s Crusade is a cycle of four songs, all taken from very different sources from Shakespeare to Collins’s own texts. “When I put these four songs together, it seemed that there was a common underlying theme of love, the struggle to protect love, and eternal love, so that’s where the title Love’s Crusade came from.

One song in particular Collins included because it fits DeYoung’s image as a Wagnerian soprano. Titled “Warrior Queen,” it tells of a Viking queen who leads the army to protect her husband’s realm. “I loved to present that role (of the) heroic woman who will lead the troops and that she’s the hero.

“I’m very excited to hear this for the first time in the flesh. They’re all very different.”

“That’s one thing that’s very interesting about his compositions,” DeYoung says. “In that cycle especially all four are so different. I always call him a melodist, because he writes such incredible melodies, and writes for (each individual) poem.”

DeYoung will finish her CMF residence fittingly, with the final movement of Mahler’s great song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Titled Abschied (Farewell), this is one of the great pieces written for mezzo-soprano. That performance will be on a program with conductor Peter Oundjian and the CMF chamber orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29.

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Colorado Music Festival
Events with Jean-Mari Zeitouni, conductor, and
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, SeiSolo Artist in Residence
July 19–29
All concerts in the Chautauqua Auditorium

Scheherazade
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (world premiere)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Fresh Fridays: Scheherazade
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
(Played without intermission)

Vocal Masterclass
2 p.m. Saturday ,July 21
Center for Musical Arts, 200 East Baseline Road, Lafayette
Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung
Free and open to the public

Beethoven’s “Eroica”
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Ravel: Mother Goose (full ballet)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

A Poetic Evening
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, and Cody Garrison, piano

Timothy Collins: Love’s Crusade (World Premiere)
Music by Brahms, Strauss and Barber

Made in America
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Joan Tower: Made in America
Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Maher: Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde

Tickets
Full CMF calendar

 

Dramatic Trovatore, strikingly original Magic Flute in Central City

Both operas run in repertory to the first week of August

By Peter Alexander July 17 at 4:05 p.m.

Central City Opera opened a powerful, dramatic production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore Saturday (July 14) in their intimate and historic opera house.

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Il Trovatore: Ashraf Sewailam (Ferrando), Lindsay Ammann (Azucena) and ensemble. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Intimate is not just a descriptor; it is a significant reason for the production’s impact. With it’s rousing choruses, virtuoso arias, violent passions and gruesome deaths, Il Trovatore meets all the expectations of grand opera, fit for the grandest houses. And yet Central City proved that thoughtfully presented, it can thrive and land a powerful punch in a smaller house. In this space, the music is loud; occasionally I thought it could have been scaled back, but grand opera is meant to overwhelm the emotions. This is a Trovatore to remember.

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Il Trovatore: Jonathan Burton (Manico) and Lindsay Ammann (Azucena). Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Director Joachim Schamberger’s creative production design uses projections—he is also a video designer—to visually expand the limited space of the Central City stage, making a unit set serve effectively as gypsy camp, a palace garden, a gloomy dungeon. Scenes mimed on a bridge above the back of the stage helped fill out the action, much of which is described after the fact. These scenes were effective supplements to the narrations of past events, but at other times distractions from the singers on the main stage below.

Schamberger’s direction served the drama well. The convoluted story of switched babies, misfired revenge and long-nurtured hatreds can be confusing, but the direction, including some well calculated pieces of stage business, the mimed scenes, the acting of the cast, and texts that were projected between scenes all served to clarify the story.

The cast featured top-rank singer-actors. In the title role, tenor Jonathan Burton had a powerful Italianate sound, ideal for the role. From his plaintive offstage serenades to his violent fight scenes with his rival DiLuna, to his climactic cabaletta near the end he handled the vocal demands handily. He carried the lyrical lines effectively, and sang the climatic high notes with a strong, ringing sound. There is no genuine love duet in the opera, but his tenderness in the quieter moments with Leonora was expressive.

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Il Trovatore: Michael Mayes (DiLuna), Jonathan Burton (Manico), Alexandra Loutsion (Leonora) Photo by Amanda Tipton.

As Leonora, Alexandra Loutsion has the power from top to bottom to handle one of the most difficult soprano roles in the repertoire. Her sound was most beautiful in softer passages, but when pushed in volume or intensity she developed a wobbly vibrato that slightly muddied some lines. The fearsome coloratura was dispatched with surety and aplomb.

Baritone Michael Mayes warmed into the role of DiLuna vocally, but was dramatically a force of nature throughout. His characterization, both physically and vocally, conveyed DiLuna’s mad obsession with Leonora compellingly. His brooding anger gave depth to his character and to the drama. At times, the intensity of his passion was vocally over the top, and I thought the music would have been better served by a more modulated, lyrical handling of some phrases.

The character whose obsession drives the drama is the gypsy Azucena. In this searing role, mezzo-soprano Lindsay Amman rose to the big moments in her part, but was fitfully effective elsewhere. Her voice has the dark, smoky quality for the part, but transitions to the lowest notes were not always graceful. Azucena is, frankly, a monstrous character—she throws her own baby in the fire and raises the brother of the man she despises largely to seek revenge by seeing either of them kill the other—and a daunting challenge to any singer. Amman was carefully directed, and often conveyed Azucena’s fury, but at other times was not crazed enough next to the violent passions of the other characters.

Ashraf Sewailam, a CU graduate and well known to Boulder audiences, was a commanding Fernando, as he should be. From his sudden appearance at the very beginning, where he has one of the best scenes ever written for a secondary character, his deep bass sounded strongly. His well dramatized interactions with DiLuna strengthened both characters.

I should spare a word for the chorus, which was superb. As well as an opera for big voices, this is a choral opera, with the Anvil Chorus and the Soldiers’ Chorus of Act III only the two best known moments of many. I loved seeing the gypsy women pounding the anvils in the second act. I’m not sure that fits the medieval setting of the opera, but it was a great moment, and seemed to be relished by the actors.

Dana Tzvetkova’s neo-medieval costumes matched the production well, delineating the characters without any fussy affectations. John Baril led an effective performance, supporting the singers and keeping the performance moving at full tilt. Apprentice artists Michelle Siemens, Zachary Johnson and Fidel Angel Romero, and studio artist Griffen Hogan Tracy were all pleasing in their smaller roles.

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The summer’s other major production in the Central City Opera House is a radical and fascinating re-imagination of Mozart’s Magic Flute. This strikingly original interpretation deserves a careful response.

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Magic Flute: Katherine Manley (left, Pamina) and Joseph Dennis (right in tan suit, Tamino), with Kevin Langan (center, Sarastro) and ensemble. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Director Alessandro Talevi conceives of the opera’s fairy-tale plot as seen through the eyes of children, specifically the three boys who serve as the opera’s spirit guides. In a pantomime during the overture, the three boys are shown in a Victorian-era bedroom dominated by a grim portrait of the boys’ mother—the Queen of the Night.

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Magic Flute: Two boys from the Colorado Children’s Chorale and the dollhouse theater. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Downstage right, and onstage throughout the opera, is a dollhouse theater with cutout characters the boys are playing with. Sent to bed by three stern servants—who become the three ladies who serve the Queen of the Night—they sneak back to the theater for after-hours play. Everything that happens from that point until just before the end comes from their imaginations, as symbolized by characters coming in and out through the bedroom fireplace.

This conception accomplishes several things. For one, it makes the magical aspects of the story seem natural as the product of boys’ imaginations. This solves, for example, the problem of how to portray the later trials by fire and water. Usually rather lame—sweet music played by the flute while two singers walk in front of colored projections—this is here shown as the boys playing in their theater. For modern viewers, this scene makes more sense as a child’s game than as reality.

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Magic Flute: Will Liverman (Papageno) with Tascha Koontz, Kira Dills-DeSurra and Melanie Ashkar (three ladies). Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Talevi’s interpretation also makes more palatable the misogynistic aspects of the text. Pre-adolescent boys would naturally expect a hero to have women fawning over him and a chosen mate who needed his guidance. In other boyish innovations, Tamino’s sidekick Papageno rides an ostrich and Sarastro, the philosopher king of Mozart’s and librettist Emanuel Schickaneder’s Masonic-inspired plot, becomes the father the boys wish they had—the ringmaster of a wondrous carnival.

Talevi also aims to explain the supposed confusion in the original story, that the Queen of the Night starts as a good character and Sarastro evil; then they switch places, with the Queen becoming evil and Sarastro good. This reversal has never bothered me, since the libretto makes it clear that part of Tamino’s quest is learning to see the truth about both characters.

For Talevi, the subject of The Magic Flute is growing up. Tamino symbolically, and the boys more literally, reject their punishing mother and grow into adults over the course of the opera. This change is made manifest in the production, and Talevi’s sense of theater makes it especially touching at the end

As written, there is a great deal of silliness in The Magic Flute. This production adds silliness on top of silliness, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but which the Central City audience clearly relished Sunday afternoon (July 15). The silliness does have one drawback: it detracts from the moments that Mozart and Shickaneder took more seriously. Particularly discomfiting were the two arias sung by Sarastro; the texts are those of a philosopher, not a ringmaster.

Obscured in the reinvention is the fact that The Magic Flute was part of a long Viennese operatic tradition of questing heroes and comic sidekicks. Mozart and Schickaneder simply superimposed Masonic ideals on that template. They were both Masons, as were many of Vienna’s leading citizens, and there is every reason to believe that their audiences took the opera more seriously in 1791 than we are likely to in 2018. Sarastro’s texts were not bland bromides at a time when the Enlightenment ideals underlying our Declaration of Independence were still fresh.

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Jeni Houser (Queen of the Night) and Katherine Manley (Pamina) Photo by Amanda Tipton.

But whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the production, Talevi is to be applauded for taking a fresh look at the opera and pursing his conception to its logical conclusion. Ultimately, he has taken the opera’s message seriously, and given us a serious new way of looking at it. If you go, don’t be afraid to think!

The cast is generally strong. As Tamino, Joseph Dennis has a pleasant voice that was sometimes pinched in the upper register, particularly earlier in the evening. Pamina was portrayed by Katherine Manley, who expressed her character’s fluctuating emotions—melancholy, love at first sight, joy, despair—very effectively.

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Fidel Angel Romero (Monastotos) and Katherine Manley (Pamina) Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Jeni Houser’s Queen of the Night commanded all the heights and leaps of her notorious part. Will Liverman was especially outstanding as Papageno, vocally solid and funny. Ashraf Sewailam was an imposing Speaker of the Temple, full voiced and effective. Apprentice artist Fidel Angel Romero provided all the villainy required for the role of Monastatos.

Disclosure: When Kevin Langan sang his very first Sarastro 40 years ago, I was in the audience and reviewed his performance. I am certainly not objective, but I enjoyed his continuing command of the role and his adaptation, after so many years, to the unfamiliar notion of Sarastro-as-ringmaster. For the record, this is his 20th  production as Sarastro.

Apprentice artists Tasha Koontz, Kira Dills-DeSurra and Melanie Ashkar were pleasing in every way as the Three Ladies. Studio artist Véronique Filloux was cheerful and bright-voiced in the tiny role of Papagena.

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Joseph Dennis (Tamino) with three boys from the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

The boys from the Colorado Children’s Chorale were onstage more than any other singers, and they carried off their parts with enthusiasm and energy. One of my favorite moments is when they appear alongside Tamino, costumed as a Victorian explorer, in the uniforms of Boy Guides, map in hand, but they were delightfully in tune with both music and concept throughout. Conductor André de Ridder lead the very solid orchestra with finesse and style.

Both Il Trovatore and The Magic Flute continue in repertory in the Central City Opera House  through Aug. 3 and Aug. 5 respectively. Tickets may be purchased through the CCO Website.

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Central City Opera House interior

Oundjian debuts at CMF with stunning program, riveting performance

Pianist Yefim Bronfman adds luster to the evening

By Peter Alexander July 13 at 12:25 a.m.

Peter Oundjian, the current artistic advisor of the Colorado Music Festival, last night (July 12) made his first appearance leading the Festival Orchestra. He had selected a stunning program and delivered a vivid and riveting performance.

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Peter Oundjian, artistic advisor to CMF

Oundjian and the orchestra opened with a brash, zesty performance of Leonard Bernstein’s well known Overture to Candide. This bustling overture won the audience from the first notes, as it always does, getting the concert started on a bright note.

Next on the program, Oundjian brought on a friend from his student days at Juilliard, the widely esteemed Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman, for a performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto in D minor. Oundjian explained the esoteric relationship to the Bernstein Overture: That Bernstein had given a speech before a notorious 1962 performance of the same concerto with pianist Glenn Gould, disavowing Gould’s interpretation while endorsing his right as a performer.

He reassured the audience, however, that he and Bronfman would not duplicate the conflict between Bernstein and Gould.

After Bernstein, the orchestra produced a noticeably darker sound for Brahms. From the very beginning, Oundjian established the contrast between the power of Brahms’ opening phrase and the lyrical sections that followed. In particular, he showed an ability to spin out melodies over a long musical span, a skill that Bronfman duplicated in his playing. Oundjian’s support for the soloist was exemplary.

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Pianist Yefim Bronfman

For his part, Bronfman demonstrated both the strength and the lyrical warmth that Brahms demands of the soloist, while producing a beautiful sound from the piano. His playing was carefully controlled, down to the most delicate passages. This is a killer concerto—Bronfman called it “terrifying”—but he more than survived; he conquered.

Bronfman has said that playing the second movement is almost a religious experience. He conveyed that depth of feeling throughout, once again elegantly spinning out phrase after long lyrical phrase.

The rousing finale wants to drain all of a performer’s energy, but Bronfman seemed to rise comfortably to the challenge—and then to prove the point, tossed off a muscular performance of Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude as encore. His grand virtuosity and musicianship added luster to the evening.

Is this the season for hijinks between movements? On both of his concerts earlier, guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger offered comments between movements of larger works. Last night, Bronfman acknowledged a scattering of applause after the admittedly virtuosic and impressive first movement with a quick bow from the bench. This elicited laughter, and in turn he and Oundjian—old pals—chatted briefly between themselves.

The concert closed with a work that is not well known, as I heard audience members saying on the way from the auditorium: Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The last work he completed, these fantastic dances (as Rachmaninoff initially proposed naming the work) are a sort of reflection on mortality. In fact, the last of the three includes the Gregorian Chant for the Requiem Mass, Dies Irae, a theme that Rachmaninoff brought into a number of his works.

The flighty beginning of the first dance was exquisitely played, and the vast contrasts of dynamics, rising from the slightest gestures to powerful climaxes and fading back into nothingness gave great drama to the music. Oundjian has said this is one of his favorite pieces, and as he performs it, finding all the expressive depth and beauty it contains, it is easy to see why.

The powerful performance showed just what the CMF orchestra is capable of. The score requires a rich string sound and great virtuosity from the winds, all within a musical fabric of great flexibility. It is a sure sign of Oundjian’s orchestra leadership that the performance succeeded at such a high level.

A special word should be said for the woodwind, horn and trumpet sections, in both Brahms and Rachmaninoff. I heard the delicate horn solos in the Brahms, the saxophone solo in the first Rachmaninoff dance, the exposed trumpet entrances, the rare (and no doubt relished) star turns by the bass clarinet, the bassoons and all the other woodwinds with great pleasure.

Last night’s program will be repeated tonight at the Chautauqua Auditorium. You may purchase tickets here.

NOTE: Edited for clarity July 13.

 

 

Three Classical Music groups announce seasons for 2018–19

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova and Boulder Opera set their schedules

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 1:45 p.m.

Three different classical musical organizations in Boulder—Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova Singers and Boulder Opera—have recently made public their planned season for the coming year. The full season for each group is listed below.

First out of the blocks will be the Boulder Opera Company, with a free concert in the Boulder Bandshell at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. The performance with piano, co-sponsored by the City of Boulder, will feature highlights from Puccini’s La Bohème and other popular operas.

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Boulder Opera Company

Over the three days span Dec. 7–9, Boulder Opera will present the Colorado premiere of Little Red Riding Hood by Russian composer Cèsar Cui. All six matinee performances of this 35-minute work will be accompanied by piano and string quartet, and will offer the opportunity for children to sing ensemble parts. Part of Boulder Opera’s educational program, Little Red Rising Hood will also be taken to after-school programs and the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette.

The season will conclude May 3 through 12 with the paring of two one-act operas, the comedy Signor Deluso by Thomas Pastieri, sung in English; and the tragic Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni, sing in Italian with English titles.

In addition to these performances, Boulder Opera will present a public masterclass in Italian opera Tuesday, Aug. 14, and a fund-raising Gala Concert, featuring highlights from the season Friday, Oct. 12.

Executive/artistic director of Boulder Opera is Dianela Acosta. More information on Boulder Opera can be found here.

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Ars Nova Singers

Ars Nova Singers title their 2018–19 season “New Horizons.” Over four concerts the season covers a wide musical spectrum, from the opening concert of “Sacred Jazz” in October, featuring Will Todd’s Mass in Blue for soprano, choir and jazz ensemble, described as “religious doctrine meets funk”; to February’s program featuring the Renaissance “Earthquake Mass” of Antoine Brumel, which has been called “one of the true marvels of Renaissance choral writing.”

The annual Ars Nova Holiday concert in December will feature the Colorado premiere of The Consolation of Apollo by Kile Smith, a work celebrating the 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast by the crew of Apollo 8. The program will also include music for the holiday season.

Ars Nova will conclude the season with “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2.” The Arts Nova Web page describes this multi-disciplinary collaborative project: “In the summer of 2018, an online gallery of works by Colorado visual artists will be assembled. Then, poets from across the state will view the gallery and use the images as a basis for writing new poetry. This new poetry will be assembled into an anthology, and Arts Nova will commission four Colorado composers to use this anthology to create new music for chorus.”

The artistic director and conductor of Ars Nova is Thomas Edward Morgan. More information on Ars Nova Singers can be found here.

Boulder Chamber Orchestrawill present five full orchestral concerts during the year under music director Bahman Saless, plus a season-opening chamber music concert by violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her piano trio Take 3, with pianist Susan Boettger and cellist Lila Yang.

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Over the season, the BCO will feature several soloists from the CU faculty: pianist David Korevaar playing Mozart in December; violinist Edward Dusinberre, also playing Mozart in February; and violist Geraldine Walther playing an arrangement for viola and strings of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. Violinist Chloe Trevor will be a guest soloist in November, playing the Vivaldi Four Seasons concertos as well as the Piazzolla Four Season of Buenos Aires.

In addition to Mozart, the December program will include Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and settings of holiday carols. Among the latter will be one of the more unusual pieces of the BCO season, Weihnachtsmusik by Arnold Schoenberg, which is actually a little known but perfectly lovely setting of the familiar German Christmas hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (known as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming”).

The season will end in May with a concert featuring BCO members Cobus DuToit, flute, and Bridget Kibbey, harp, playing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Not on the schedule this year will be a New Year’s Eve concert, which BCO has made part of their season for several years. According to Saless, more and more orchestras are filling that slot in the calendar, so the BCO performance was no longer unique.

More information on the Boulder Chamber Orchestra can be found here.

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BOULDER OPERA
Dianela Acosta, artistic director
2018–19 season

Italian Opera Masterclass with Anthony Michaels-Moore
Congregation Nevei Kodesh, 1925 Glenwood Dr., Boulder
2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14

Opera in the Park
Boulder Bandshell
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Free

Gala Concert
The Studio, 3550 Frontier Avenue, Boulder
7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

Family Series
Cèsar Cui: Little Red Rising Hood
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
1 & 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
2 & 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
1 & 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Sung in English

Thomas Pastieri: Signor Deluso (Sung in English)
Pietro Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana (Sung in Italian with English titles)
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
3 p.m. Sunday, May 12

More information here

ARS NOVA SINGERS
Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director
2018–19 Season
“New Horizons”

Sacred Jazz
7:30 p.m. Friday, October 5, SJE (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oc.t 6, BLC (Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village)
Will Todd: Mass in Blue

In the Moon of Wintertime
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 9, SPDen (St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, SJE
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, FCC (First Congregational Church, Longmont)
Kile Smith: The Consolation of Apollo(Colorado premiere)
Holiday Music

Music of the Renaissance: The Earthquake Mass
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, SPDen
Antoine Brumel: Missa Et ecce terra motus (Mass “And behold the earth moved”)

A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, BLC
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, SJE
New works by Colorado composers

More information here

BOULDER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Bahman Saless, music director
2018–19 Season

Saturday October 6, SDA (Seventh Day Adventist Church)
Take 3: Susan Boettger, piano; Lindsay Deutsch, violin; and Lila Yang, cello

Friday Nov. 30, BA (Broomfield Auditorium); Sat. Dec. 1, SDA
Chloe Trevor, violin
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Piazzolla: Four Season of Buenos Aires
Janáček: Suite for strings

Friday Dec. 21, BA; Sat. Dec. 22, SDA
David Korevaar, piano
Mozart: Piano Concerto in B-flat Major, K595
Handel: Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 1
Corelli: Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, “Christmas Concerto”
Schoenberg: Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)
Selected Holiday Carols

Friday Feb. 1 (BA); Sat, Feb. 2, 2019 (Boulder)
Edward Dusinberre, Violin
Mozart: Violin Concerto in G major, K216
Sibelius: Suite Mignonne
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Friday March 29, (BA); Sat, March 30 (SDA)
Geraldine Walther, viola
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, arranged for viola and strings
Verdi: String Quartet, arranged for string orchestra

May 12 (SDA) (Sunday Matinee)
Cobus DuToit, flute; Bridget Kibbey harp
Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299/291c
Debussy: Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
Mozart: Symphony No. 33

More information here
Season tickets

CMF artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead concerts with Bernstein theme

Principal guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni returns for the festival’s fourth week

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 12:25 p.m.

Peter Oundjian is the most distinguished musician to lead the Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in its 43 seasons.

http://www.jaimehogge.com

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Jaime Hogge.

Since Jean-Marie Zeitouni stepped down as music director at the end of last season, Oundjian — former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet and just-retired as music director of the Toronto Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestra — has been artistic advisor to the festival. This year he will conduct three weeks of orchestral concerts, starting the weekend of July 12–15.

Zeitouni, now CMF’s principal guest conductor, will lead the orchestral concerts the following week. Oundjian will return for the final two weeks, July 26–Aug. 4.

For his concerts, Oundjian has established a theme: “It’s all Bernstein-inspired,” he says, in honor of the 2018 centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. That means “things that influenced Bernstein, things Bernstein loved, things he was famous for, and by extension, music written on American soil.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado Music Festival
July 12–July 22
All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium

Two Peak Performances
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Yefim Bronfman, piano

Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, op. 45 

Octets at Altitude
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Stravinsky: Octet for Wind Instruments
Prokofiev: Two Pieces for String Octet
Mendelssohn: String Octet, op. 20

All-American
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin

Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Philip Glass: Concerto No. 2 for Violin, “American Four Seasons”

Scheherazade
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (world premiere)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Fresh Fridays: Scheherazade
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
(Played without intermission)

American Strings
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2 (“Company”)
Barber: String Quartet
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12, op. 96 (“American”)

Beethoven’s “Eroica”
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Ravel: Mother Goose
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

Full calendar

Tickets

Guest conductor Danzmayr leads an energetic concert at CMF

Music by Bartók, Piazzolla and Schubert—all drawn from folk sources

By Peter Alexander July 9 at 12:35 a.m.

DAVID-DANZMAYR-

David Danzmayr, guest conductor at CMF

David Danzmayr, the summer’s second guest conductor at the Colorado Music Festival (CMF), selected three pieces for last night’s chamber orchestra concert (July 8), all with roots in folk music.

In comments before the concert began, he noted that the three composers—Bartók, Piazzolla and Schubert—seem to have little in common, but the common thread is music reflecting their individual national cultures—from Hungary, Argentina and Austria, respectively.

The specific pieces he selected were Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, based on dances that the composer recorded in Hungarian villages as part of his folk music research; Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, drawn from the native tango music of Argentina; and Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, incorporating music of the Austrian countryside.

All are pieces that benefit from high energy, and that Danzmayr provided. Not that the performance was unblemished, but the energy comfortably overcame any imperfections.

Originally composed for piano, Bartók’s seven Romanian Folk Dances were performed in the composer’s own setting for small orchestra. The challenge is to create the rhythmic freedom of eastern European folk dances within orchestral sections. This is well accomplished in three movements, where Bartók hands the melody to solo players—clarinet in the second dance, piccolo in the third, and solo violin in the fourth. The soloists played with appropriate verve, with firm orchestral support.

Danzmayr gave the full ensemble portions of the score all the rhythmic impulse that a folk dance needs, driving right past a few moments when the texture became thick and murky.

Quint by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Philippe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

The hit of the evening was the Piazzolla Seasons of Buenos Aires, a response to Vivaldi’s famous set of concertos, performed by the CMF strings with soloist Philippe Quint. A player who has his own ties to the style of Piazzolla’s music, Quint delivered a passionate performance. This is music that should be enjoyed, and everyone on stage seemed to be having fun. The audience’s enjoyment was evident by the applause, hesitantly between movements and raucously at the end.

The program had the seasons listed out of order—Summer, Winter, Fall, Spring—but in the event Quint played them in the usual order: Summer, Fall, Winter Spring. This is music of rapidly shifting moods, sometimes capturing the rough tango of Buenos Aires dance halls, sometimes more sultry, sometimes fiery. Quint seems to have them all in his hip pocket, moving from one mood to the next with no visible strain, and then filling the hall with a beautiful tone in the last movement’s lyrical moments. Conductor, orchestra and soloist danced together without a stumble.

To close the concert, Danzmayr and the orchestra gave a sparkling performance of Schubert’s Third Symphony. A native of Salzburg, Danzmayr said in an earlier interview that when you grow up playing the music of the Austrian countryside, as he did, “you have [the style] in your bones and in your feelings.”

He also said that this symphony is one of his favorites, and that was reflected in the performance. His enthusiasm for the music was evident, while his attention to detail, in the selection of tempos, in the phrasing, in the application of dynamics, made every gesture and phrase effective. The solemn slow introduction was followed by a cheerful romp and the sprightly, folkish “slow” movement positively danced along.

The minuet’s bumptious beginning suggests that Schubert had heard some Beethoven, but it then settled into a pleasingly pastoral second theme and trio. The bustling finale suffered only the occasional smudge in the strings, showing how close to the edge Danzmayr’s tempo really was. As so often in Schubert the composer’s delight in his own music made it hard for him to let go, as the movement rushed to a rousing finish.

The good cheer, the light orchestra texture, the sheer joy of the music makes the symphony seem less impressive than it really is, but careful attention to last night’s performance revealed its beauty.