Bringing the Beethoven: pianist David Korevaar

CU faculty member will stream all 32 Sonatas

By Peter Alexander March 27 at 2:40 p.m.

Some people who are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic will binge-watch old TV shows. David Korevaar plays Beethoven.

And he’s sharing it with anyone who wants to listen.

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David Korevaar. Photo by Matthew Dine.

Korevaar, the Helen and Peter Weill Faculty Fellow and a distinguished professor of piano at the CU Boulder College of Music, is planning to play all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas over 60 days. Each will be posted in turn on his YouTube channel.

A great musical legacy from the classical period, the 32 Beethoven sonatas have become one of the most important challenges pianists—and their audiences—can undertake. They cover just about his entire creative career, from the first sonatas, published in 1795, to the very last sonata, published five years before his death in 1827. As such, they document his stylistic development better than any other single genre.

As of Friday, March 27, Korevaar has posted performances of sonatas nos. 1 to 5—Op. 2 no. 1 in F minor, Op. 2 no. 2 in A major, Op. 2 no. 3 in C major, Op. 7 in E-flat major and Op. 10 no. 1 in C minor—with the remaining 27 to follow in order, through Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111.

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Beethoven, 1818. Sketch by August von Kloeber

Playing all the Beethoven sonatas is something that Korevaar had long wanted to do. In a way, the social distancing and self-isolation imposed by the pandemic provided the ideal opportunity. “Artists are finding ways to continue to be artists and for me this seemed like something that I could do at this moment, and share with people,” he says.

“I had been thinking about doing the Beethoven cycle, but I haven’t gotten to the point of really doing it. Here we are, we’re all stuck at home, and so I find myself in this situation of ‘Here is an opportunity to do this project and share it with whoever is interested.’ It’s a gift to myself and a gift to everybody else at the same time.”

One reason for doing all the sonatas one after another is that you can learn from playing or hearing a larger array of Beethoven’s works than from just the greatest hits that are played most often. This provides insight into his revolutionary place in music, Korevaar believes. “With his classic status, we accept Beethoven as normal,” he says. “We’ve normalized him.

“Beethoven, in his time, didn’t represent a norm. He represented something else, he represented something extraordinary. I hope the audience discovers just how wonderful and strange Beethoven is. Beethoven’s a verystrange composer, and a very playful composer, and those are things that really come through in these piano sonatas.”

Another point that Korevaar stresses is that Beethoven belonged to the first generation of composers for whom the piano specifically was their natural means of musical expression. Earlier composers—Mozart and Haydn and composers before them—knew a variety of keyboard instruments, harpsichords and clavichords and organs and early pianos.

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Mozio Clementi

“Beethoven is the first composer we talk about a lot in music history who was native to the piano,” Korevaar says. And while there are others of the same generation—the Czech composer Jan Ladislav Dussek and the Italian Muzio Clementi for example—they are largely forgotten today. “Dussek and Clementi are perpetually underrated,” Korevaar says. “They have their strengths and charms, but the truth is Beethoven is a much better composer.”

Knowing that context helps the listener understand why Beethoven’s earliest sonatas are so difficult from the very beginning. “There’s a sense of Beethoven saying ‘Look, I can do things on the piano with my two hands that even the best of the other pianists really can’t quite come up to that level’,” Korevaar says.

Korevaar admits that the sound may not be ideal on his made-from-home recordings. “Resources are limited, and the bandwidth is limited—just the quality of video that one can post off a home internet connection,” he says. “I’m recording QuickTime videos using my laptop camera and external mic. That’s all I’m doing.

“I’ve giving myself multiple shots at these things. With the few that I posted so far, I recorded them twice and then chose the one I like better. If it’s not good I’m not going to put it up. Hopefully people agree that they’re OK.”

In the end, it’s not so important to Korevaar whether a large number of people listen to his performances. “If there are people who are interested, it’s great,” he says. “And if there aren’t, I will still have done it and learned something from the process.”

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David Korevaar, playing Beethoven from home

 

Seicento presents music and dance of the French Baroque NOW CANCELED

This performance has now been canceled

By Peter Alexander March 11 at 12 noon

Would you want to see West Side Story without the dancing?

Amanda Balestrieri, director of the Seicento Baroque Ensemble in Boulder, says that’s the effect of hearing French Baroque music without dance. “If you have the music without the dance, it’s not complete,” she says. “It would be like going to see musical theater without the dance and chorus numbers.”

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Seicento Baroque Ensemble

To illustrate that point, Seicento has brought in a French Baroque singer/dancer, Elena Mullins, for their next concert. “Airs and Graces” will be performed in Denver Friday and in Longmont Sunday (March 13 and 15). The program will include numbers for Mullins as well as solo vocal pieces and full choral numbers with orchestra.

Several local singers will perform as soloists. Tenor Alex King and bass Allen Adair will take roles in scenes from French opera and a cantata. Soprano Kendall Baldwin, a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, will perform alongside 5th-grade students from Escuale Bilingüe Pioneer in Lafayette.

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Costume design for King Louis XIV as the Sun

Dance and music were closely related throughout the Baroque era, but especially so in France. Entertainment at the French court, including opera, featured extensive dance as well as singing, performed by professionals as well as members of the court, including the king. The dances were highly refined, with many moves and gestures that conveyed coded meanings to the audiences, and eventually led to the development of classical ballet.

Today Baroque music from Germany and Italy has eclipsed French music of the period, which has become more and more of a specialized field. Even less well known than French Baroque music is the dance that went with it.. “This is an esoteric corner of an esoteric art,” Balestrieri says.

As far as Balestrieri knows, this will be first time in the Boulder area that French Baroque music has been performed together with authentic dances. She wanted to showcase the two together, for both Seicento members and the audience. “I wanted this to be an encompassing concert,” she says.

“I wanted the choir to have the experience of the music. I wanted the dancer to give that element for people to understand the visual side, and also the fact that it was combined with singing and music.”

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Elena Mullins

Like performers at the French court, Mullins is both a singer and a dancer. She will appear in the first piece on the program, singing La Musique (the allegorical character of music) in an excerpt from Les arts flourissants (The flourishing arts), a chamber opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

She will then appear as a dancer, performing a series of standardized Baroque dances, in Les caractères de la dance by Jean-Féry Rebel. “‘The Characters of the dance’ was a famous piece from the time that was supposed to show you all the different dance styles,” Balestrieri says. It includes a courante, menuet, bourrée, sarabande and gavotte, among other courtly dances that also found their way into the instrumental music of the period.

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Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Lully by Paul Mignard

The rest of the program will feature examples of French Baroque music, performed without choreography. There will be several excerpts from the opera Bellérophon by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who was composer and music director to the court of King Louis XIV, as we’ll as a dancer. One particularly entertaining scene features a trio of sorcerers with a chorus of sorcerers and sorceresses. “It’s really clever, very hard for the chorus,” Balestrieri says.

To open the second half of the program, Balestrieri will sing two airs de cours (courtly airs) about the pain and pleasure of love. Baldwin and the 5th-grade students will sing Plaisir d’amour by Jean-Paul Égide Martini, a song that has been popular for more than two centuries, and that became the basis of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t help falling in love with you.”

“The other piece I’m excited about is the cantata by Montéclair called The Triumph of Love,” Balestrieri says. The cantata features three singers—a narrator with Bacchus and Cupid, the gods of wine and of love.

“The scene is a hillside where Bacchus commands his grape pickers,” Balestrieri explains. “He’s in control, and then Cupid flies in and interferes by making everybody fall in love and languish. He has a fight with Bacchus, [until] Bacchus falls in love and accepts love in his court. They agree to cooperate, and then we sing, ‘Just grab a bottle of wine and rekindle the fires of love.’ I love it—it’s so fantastically French!”

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Amanda Balestrieri

Balestrieri wanted to include the children in the performance as a way of spreading knowledge of the French Baroque as well as enriching their education. “The kids who do this don’t yet know how fabulous this is,” she says. “But when they come in and they see this dancer in costume and they hear this music, they will never, ever forget it. And that is important, because you never know who is going to be smitten with this art.”

But the combination of music and dance is not an easy thing pull off. It requires not only specialists in the French Baroque style, it requires dedicated performers who can learn complex music, and it requires a specialist in both the singing and the dance of the French court. Even in major cities, opportunities to see and hear an authentic music and dance performance of this repertoire are rare.

“We have something that will not appear here again anytime soon,” Balestrieri says. “If people want to see it, now’s the time to come!”

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Airs and Graces: Song & Dance in the French Baroque
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri conductor
With guest artists Elena Mullins, Baroque dancer and soprano; Alex King, tenor; Allen Adair, bass; Kendall Baldwin, soprano; students from Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer; and instrumental ensemble

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, Claver Recital Hall, Regis University, Denver
3 p.m. Sunday, March 15, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Excerpts from Les arts florissants
Jean-Féry Rebel: Lex caractères de la danse: Fantasie
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Excerpts from Bellérophon
Jean-Paul Égide Martini: Plaisir d’amous
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair: Le triomphe de l’Amour

Tickets

Boulder Phil announces 2020–21 Season

High drama from Hollywood to Peter Schaefer’s Amadeus to Wagner’s Ring Cycle

By Peter Alexander March 9 at  3 p.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic’s recently announced 2020–21 season will feature a full production of Peter Schaeffer’s Tony-winning play Amadeus, with live actors and orchestra; the return to Boulder of popular soloists Rachel Barton Pine (violin) and Jake Shimabukuro (ukulele); and two new works that were co-commissioned by the Boulder Phil.

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Boulder Philharmonic

Other highlights of the season will include concert music by Hollywood composers, an orchestral compilation of the most popular music from Richard Wagner’s epic four-opera cycle, The Ring of the Nibelungen, and a quirky 10-minute mashup of all nine Beethoven symphonies by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen.

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Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times”

The orchestra’s 63rd season opens Oct. 3 with “From Vienna to Hollywood,” a concert featuring music by Charlie Chaplin, written for the film Modern Times; a violin concerto by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a transplanted Austrian composer of film and concert music who lived in United States in the 1930, ‘40s and ‘50s, performed by violinist Philippe Quint; and Brahms’s First Symphony.

The remainder of the season comprises five further main season concerts, including the live performance of Amadeus Jan. 23, 2021, plus the annual performances of Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet Nov. 27 and 29, and “Jake Shimabukuro & the Boulder Phil” Feb. 6. (See the full listing of concerts and dates, below.)

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Rachel Barton Pine

The first of the two co-commissions will be performed Feb. 3, as part of a program titled “Ravishing Rachmaninoff.” Rachel Barton Pine, who was last in Boulder in 2014, will play the new Violin Concerto written for her by jazz pianist/arranger Billy Childs, which was commissioned by a number of orchestras around the country. The concerto is one of several projects Pine has undertaken to amplify African-American voices in classical music.

The season’s other new piece, Drew Hemenger’s Ozymandias, was initiated by the Boulder Phil and commissioned together with the Rogue Valley Symphony of Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass, Ore. A musical response to climate change, Ozymandias will feature tenor Matthew Plenk, faculty member at the University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Festival Chorus.

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Scenic design from the 1876 first performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle

Ozymandias will be part of a program titled “Epic Tales,” although it might as well have been titled “Downfalls.” In addition to Hemenger’s score about climate change, the concert will include two other works that illustrate tales about bad choices that lead to bad results: Richard Strauss’ epic tone poem Don Juan, whose protagonist ends up in hell; and a 45-minute compilation of orchestral highlights from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which ends with Brunnhilde’s fiery immolation and the collapse of Valhalla.

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Michael Butterman

The selection includes the most popular excerpts from Wagner’s four-opera cycle, presented in order: “The Entry of the Gods into Valhalla,” “The Ride of the Valkyries,” “Magic Fire Music,” “Forest Murmurs,” “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” and “Brunnhilde’s Immolation Scene.” “It runs about 45 minutes, so we’ve cut out about 14 hours,” writes Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman by email.

“Come to think of it, “ he adds, “We’re doing a lot of distilling this season: Mozart’s life in one evening, all of The Ring Cycle in 45 minutes; and Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies in 10 minutes.”

The “Season Finale” will take place May 2, 2021, with Andriessen’s 10-minute mashup of all nine Beethoven symphonies, The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven; Beethoven’s full, unexpurgated Third Symphony, the “Eroica”; and new Takacs Quartet member Richard O’Neill playing William Walton’s Viola Concerto.

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Violist Richard O’Neill

“Our goal is to create programs and experiences that resonate with the artistic and intellectual pulse of our audience,” Butterman writes. “A work about our changing planet, a hybrid concert-play, a quirky condensation of Beethoven’s symphonies in 10 minutes—these are experiences that I believe Boulderites will enjoy.”

Additional events in the 2020-2021 season include concerts at Boulder Public Library, “Events of Note” featuring guest artists in intimate venues, pre-concert talks with Butterman, the #nophilter Happy Hour series with a string quartet of Boulder Phil musicians playing pop, rock, and metal, and the continuation of the “Nature & Music” guided hikes with Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks naturalist Dave Sutherland.

Subscription packages are now available,. For more information, call 303-449-1343 or click here. Single tickets will go on sale June 1.

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Boulder Philharmonic: 2020–21 Season
(All performances in Macky Auditorium unless otherwise indicated)

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“From Vienna to Hollywood”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, Pinnacle PAC
Michael Butterman, conductor
Philippe Quint, violin

Charlie Chaplin: “Smile” from the film Modern Times
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, pp. 68

“Royal Fireworks!”
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, Pinnacle PAC
7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8 (note early start time)
Michael Butterman, conductor

Francis Poulenc: Suite française
Kurt Weill: Suite from The Threepenny Opera
Gounod: Petite Symphonie
Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
With Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor
2 & 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27
2 p. m Sunday, Nov. 29

Amadeus by Peter Schafer
With CU Department of Theater and Dance, Boulder Chamber Chorale
Michael Butterman, conductor
Bud Coleman, Director
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23

Jake Shimabukuro & the Boulder Phil
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6
Program TBA

“Ravishing Rachmaninoff”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13
Michael Butterman, conductor
Rachel Barton Pine, violin

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Vocalise
Billy Childs: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, op. 27

“Epic Tales: Music to Honor the Earth”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20
Michael Butterman, conductor
Matthew Plenk, tenor, and the CU Festival Chorus

Richard Strauss: Don Juan
Drew Hemenger: Ozymandias: To Sell a Planet
Richard Wagner: The Symphonic Ring

“Season Finale: Eroica”
7 p.m. Sunday, May 2 (note early start time)
Michael Butterman, conductor
Richard O’Neill, viola

Louis Andriessen: The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven
William Walton: Viola Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (“Eroica”)

‘Subversive, seditious, bawdy, proto-feminist’ opera NOW CANCELED

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at CU has been canceled 

By Peter Alexander March 5 at 5 p.m.

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CU Production of Marriage of Figaro. Photo by Glenn Asakawa.

Conductor Nick Carthy says that Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is “the first great proto-feminist opera, and on top of that it’s subversive, it’s seditious, it’s bawdy, and Mozart wrote it!”

Widely considered one of the greatest operas ever written, The Marriage of Figaro will be presented by the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program March 13-15. Carthy will conduct the student orchestra and cast, and Eklund Opera Program director Leigh Holman will be stage director.

Figaro, servant to the Count Almaviva, is about to marry Susanna, servant to the Countess. The Count, however, desires Susanna and wants to re-instate an old feudal right for masters to sleep with servants when they marry. The Countess and Susanna, and to a lesser extent Figaro, plot together to embarrass the Count and force him to abandon his plans.

There are many other twists involving minor characters, but those revolve around, and reinforce the main themes of, the plot: Not only do the servants thwart their master — a common basis for comedy in the 18th century — but the women foil the men. That is especially powerful, and is one of the things — with Mozart’s music — that elevates Figaro above other operas of its time.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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The Marriage of Figaro
By Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte
CU Eklund Opera Program

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14
2 p.m. Sunday, March 15
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

 

LSO at Stewart Auditorium: Lesser known Beethoven and Schubert

Longmont Symphony extends its Beethoven symphony cycle, Feb. 29 & March 1

By Peter Alexander Feb. 25 at  11 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony and conductor Elliot Moore continue their ongoing cycle of Beethoven symphonies with concerts at the Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 29 and March 1; details below).

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Longmont Symphony Chamber Orchestra in Stewart Auditorium. Photo by Peter Alexander.

The program features one of Beethoven’s least-performed symphonies, No. 4 in B-flat major, as well as Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major. “It’s Beethoven’s Fourth and of course, it’s known,” Moore says. “But these are pieces that are not the meat and potatoes of either composer.

“The Ninth Symphony of Schubert is performed much more often than the Fifth symphony. Schubert’s Eighth Symphony is performed much more often than the Fifth. For a Beethoven symphony, the Fourth is pretty rarely performed. So it’s a concert that is great repertoire, but that is a little bit underperformed.”

It is specifically repertoire that Moore has wanted to bring to the Longmont Symphony from the day he arrived. For both the players and the audiences, it is important to know these earlier symphonies, he says.

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Elliot Moore. Photo by Photography Maestro.

“Early Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn: these are composers that in the history of the Longmont Symphony are generally underrepresented. In fact, I think that this is the Longmont premiere of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony.

“It’s important for a musical organization to have these pieces in their repertoire, and also know the style. This style can lead to how we interpret Schumann, to how we interpret Brahms. It’s important that we not have holes in our collective education of where does the symphony come from. It’s important that we do all of these symphonies, and I wanted to begin right at the beginning of my tenure as music director.”

Both symphonies were written in the early years of the 19th century—Beethoven in 1808, Schubert in 1816—and early in each composer’s symphonic careers. But both are also works that look back to the 18th century, rather than forward to the Romantic era that was just getting started in music.

“The thing that is interesting to me is that Beethoven had just composed his Third Symphony, and when he wrote his Fourth, he looked much further back rather than forward into what the symphony would become,” Moore says. “He went back more toward Haydn.

“In Schubert’s case, instead of looking at Beethoven and what Beethoven had written, he was more inspired by Mozart in this symphony. So both symphonies have a very classical sense to them.”

Both are works that Moore is looking forward to conducting. “Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony is one of the most energetic and spirited symphonies,” he says. “It will be a lot of fun to bring this light-hearted work to our audience. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to with Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony.

“With Schubert’s Fifth, it’s how to me it sounds like an extension of Mozart. It’s as if we’ve got Mozart’s 42nd Symphony, and that’s something that I am really looking forward to bringing to life.”

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Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium. Photo by Peter Alexander.

Beethoven Cycle: Beethoven and Schubert
Longmont Symphony Chamber Orchestra
Elliot Moore, conductor

Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major
Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29
4 p.m. Sunday, March 1 [sold out]
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Tickets

 

Music by Luigi Cherubini, an often overlooked composer

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Chorale collaborate on Requiem

By Peter Alexander Feb. 13 at 11 p.m.

Maria Luigi Carlo Zenobio Salvatore Cherubini just may be the most influential classical composer you have never heard of.

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Luigi Cherubini. Portrait by Jean-Auguste-Dominiquie Ingres.

As director of the Paris Conservatoire for 20 years (1822-42) and author of an important textbook on counterpoint, he influenced a generation of younger musicians. His many operas and his church works were widely performed and admired in his lifetime.

In particular his Requiem in C minor—which will be performed Saturday (Feb. 15) by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Choir—was admired by Beethoven, who asked that it be performed at his funeral.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece,” says Vicki Burrichter, director of the Boulder Chamber Choir who is preparing the chorus for the performance. “Cherubini’s really extraordinary and was admired by Beethoven and Schumann and Brahms. I think he should be performed a lot more often.”

Bahman Saless, the conductor of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra who will lead the performance, agrees. He writes by email from Prague, where he is traveling as a conductor, “What I would like our audience to take away from this concert is that there were many contemporaries of Beethoven and Mozart who were overshadowed by the presence of these titans. Some of them deserve some light to shine on them.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Luigi Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, chorus director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, First United Methodist Church
1421 Spruce St., Boulder

Tickets

‘Thread of destiny’ runs through Longmont Symphony’s Feb. 15 program

Violinist Andrew Sords and Longmont Youth Symphony will join the LSO onstage

By Peter Alexander Feb. 13 at 2:20 p.m.

The next concert by the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (7:30 p.m. Saturday at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium) is steeped in the idea of destiny.

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Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony Orchestra

The concert is titled “The Force of Destiny,” a title taken from the opening Overture to La Forza del destino by Verdi, but the idea of “destiny” goes much farther than that. “I believe that in this program there’s a thread of destiny,” Elliot Moore, the LSO’s conductor, says.

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Elliot Moore

In fact, Moore finds a sense of destiny everywhere he looks: in the pieces he has selected for the program, in the violin that his soloist Andrew Sords will play, in the instruments in the orchestra, in the inclusion of the Longmont Youth Symphony in the performance of one piece on the program, and even in the future of the arts in Longmont.

“In Longmont, we’re living into this possibility of the arts being a real economic driver, and putting the arts on the map here” he says. “It’s something that’s going on. So I find that the music, our soloist, all of these things are all coming together—I believe it’s our destiny.”

After Verdi’s Overture, the next piece on the program will be John Corigliano’s The Red Violin: Chaconne, based on music from the 1998 film The Red Violin, about the twisted fate—or destiny?—of a fictional violin that is traced from 17th-century Italy to England and China, an auction in Montreal and eventually New York. In the film, music by Corigliano was played by violinist Josh Bell. Corigliano later adapted the music to make several concert pieces, including The Red Violin Concerto and The Red Violin: Chaconne.

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Andrew Sords

Sords, who will play the Chaconne with the LSO, says that Corigliano’s score for the film is “one of the genius pieces of the last 23 years. It’s cinematic even without a movie to go with it.”

Sords’ own violin does not quite have the romance and mystique of the fictional “Red Violin,” but it inspires Sords to think about its history. “I think about my own violin, which is only 100 years old: who played on it before me, where did it go? The movie [has] those Hollywood elements, but it really does make you think about these instruments, who played on them, what blood, sweat and tears went into them.”

“That was one of the things that I wanted to do with this program,” Moore says. “Each one of the instruments [in the LSO] has a story. It has some kind of destiny. If it’s to inspire our community or to make its way into the hands of a child, it can change their life. I want to underscore how instruments have life, and they can impact the world.”

Sords will also play La Campanella (The little bell), a movement from Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Paganini was the greatest violin virtuoso of his time. A great showman, he was known for playing things that others considered impossible. As a result, he was rumored to be in league with the devil—which is the connection that Moore sees to the idea of destiny.

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Charicature of Paganini

“Paganini was thought of as this devilish character who could do insane feats on the violin,” he says. “To me, that’s how it goes together with The Red Violin, as well as with the rest of the program—this sort of unbelievable ability to do the impossible.”

La Campanella is the last movement of the concerto, written to end the piece with a flourish of virtuoso pyrotechnics. The piece proved to be so catchy that another great virtuoso, Franz Liszt, wrote a brilliant etude based on Paganini’s theme. “If he were alive today, Paganini would probably be writing for Lady Gaga,” Sords says.

But is the movement that difficult for today’s violinists? “I think everything’s difficult,” Sords says. “Intellectually it’s not as hard as others, but you still have to have that little bit of thought and pizzazz and architecture to it in order to pull it off.”

The final work on the concert will be The Pines of Rome by Respighi, one of the great orchestral showpieces, from the eerie depiction of catacombs to the inexorable advance of Roman legions in the finale, “The Pines of the Appian Way.” In addition to the offstage brass that give an extra impact to the finale, The Pines of Rome is also notable as the first piece to combine live performance with an electronic effect: a recording of a nightingale in the peaceful “Pines of the Janiculum.”

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Longmont Youth Symphony (May, 2019)

For this performance, members of the LSO will sit side-by-side with the Longmont Youth Symphony. “Tying us back into the theme of destiny, I think about what this experience may give these young people who are so passionate about music,” Moore says, “where this may lead them down the road—whether they be the future musicians of the Longmont Symphony or any symphony across the United States.

“Including youth in this program is so important to what the Longmont Symphony’s committed to: fostering a love of music for every single person in our community.”

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“The Force of Destiny”

Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony_preview
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Andrew Sords, violin
The Longmont Youth Symphony

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb, 15, Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Verdi: Overture to La forza del destino (The force of destiny)
John Corigliano: The Red Violin: Chaconne for violin and orchestra
Paganini: La Campanella (The little bell) from Violin Concerto No. 2
Respighi: The Pines of Rome (side-by-side with the Longmont Youth Symphony)

Tickets

 

Colorado Music Festival announces 2020 summer season

Beethoven celebration, living composers, chamber music series are scheduled

By Peter Alexander Feb. 6 at 2 p.m.

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Chautauqua Auditorium, site of Colorado Music Festival performances

The 2020 Colorado Music Festival (CMF) will include concerts celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, works by living composers throughout the summer, a chamber music series named in honor of Robert Mann, first violinist of the famed Juilliard String Quartet for more than 50 years, and two Sunday concerts devoted to the music of Mozart. (See the full summer schedule and programs below.)

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Juilliard String Quartet. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco.

The current Juilliard Quartet will launch the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, June 30. Other prominent guests during the summer will include composer John Adams, conducting his Third Piano Concerto Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes with pianist Jeremy Denk, July 19; the St. Lawrence String Quartet, July 7; the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, July 14; and 24-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, playing all of the Beethoven piano concertos on three concerts, July 23–26.

The season was unveiled to the festival contributors and board members Tuesday (Feb. 4). In introducing the concert schedule, the festival’s music director, Peter Oundjian, said “The festival is an inspiration to me. It’s been great fun putting together this season.”

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CMF music director Peter Oundjian

This is Oundjian’s second year as music director. He noted that this was the first time that he could plan the entire festival from the very beginning. Consequently, the season reveals his vision for the festival, particularly the inclusion of music by living composers. The emphasis on chamber music reflects the fact that Oundjian was first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet for 14 years.

The attention to music by living composers includes two world premieres of works commissioned by the CMF. The first concert (June 25–26) will open with Forestallings by Hannah Lash, who was a CMF “Click Commission” composer in 2016, when she performed the premiere of her Second Harp Concerto. The second world premiere, a new work by Chinese-born American composer Wang Jie, will be performed by Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra July 16.

The opening concert combines two main themes from the summer: the Beethoven anniversary and music by living composers. Lash’s score was inspired by Beethoven’s Second Symphony. It will be followed by John Adams’ Absolute Jest, a score that quotes and reshapes music from Beethoven’s late quartets. The performance will feature Boulder’s and CU’s Takács Quartet as guest artists, with the Festival Orchestra. And officially launching the Beethoven celebration, the concert will end with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

At the opposite end of the season, the Festival Finale concert on Aug. 1 will feature a single work, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor. Oundjian will conduct.

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Composer John Adams. Photo by Vern Evans.

John Adams’ music will be heard throughout the festival. In addition to Absolute Jest on the opening concert and his appearance July 19 conducting Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes, his String Quartet No. 2 will be played July 7 by the St. Lawrence String Quartet; and City Noir will be performed on a Festival Orchestra concert conducted by Oundjian July 16. Extending the Adams’ family presence in the festival, a Chamber Concerto by his son, Samuel Adams, will be performed July 16.

In a welcome contrast to previous years and most orchestras around the country, another trend that emerges from the festival program is the inclusion of women composers. As noted, the entire festival opens with a new piece by Hannah Lash.

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Brooklyn Rider

The July 14 program by Brooklyn Rider includes works by no fewer than five women: Caroline Shaw, Gabriela Lena Frank, Du Yun, Matana Roberts and Reena Esmail. Wang Jie’s world premiere will be July 16; “Kaleidoscope,” an inventive program of unusual instrumental combinations will open with Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” No. 5 July 17; and the July 19 orchestra program will open with Tumblebird Contrails by Gabriella Smith.

Maintaining a pattern from previous festivals, major concerts by the Festival Orchestra will be Thursday nights. Three of those programs, including the Festival Opening Night June 25, will be repeated the following Friday. The second and third Festival Orchestra programs will be repeated as well: July 2 and 3, with guest conductor Andrew Grams, featuring guitarist Sharon Isbin and music by Aaron Copland; and July 9 and 10, a program of Russian Masters conducted by former music director and principal guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

In addition to Oundjian and Zeitouni, two guest conductors will lead Festival Orchestra concerts during the summer: Andrew Grams, who has been part of the CMF in the past, July 2 and 3; and Gemma New, a young conductor from New Zealand, making her CMF debut July 5. Colorado Symphony associate conductor Christopher Dragon will lead the Family Concert July 11.

In addition to those already named, a number of guest soloists will appear during the summer. Some of them will be returning after previous performances at CMF, but others will be appearing at the festival for the first time. These guest artists are the piano duo of Christina and Michelle Naughton, June 28; pianist Conrad Tao July 5; pianist Nareh Arghamanyan July 9 and 10; violinist Angelo Xiang Yu and actor John de Lancie July 12; violinist Tessa Lark and saxophonist Timothy McAllister, July 16; pianist Christopher Taylor and marimbist Jisu Jang July 17; and violinist Augustin Hadelich, July 30.

Colorado Music Festival subscription renewals are now available for those who have subscribed in the past. Single tickets will go on sale Monday, March 16. For information on tickets, call 303-440-7666, or click here.

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2020 Colorado Music Festival Schedule
All performances in the Chautauqua Auditorium
All performances at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise specified

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Photo by Michael Quam (2019)

Opening Night
Thursday, June 25, and Friday, June 26
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Takács Quartet

Hannah Lash: Forestallings (World premiere; Colorado Music Festival commission)
John Adams: Absolute Jest (2012)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

Sunday, June 28
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor

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Christina and Michelle Naughton

Christina and Michelle Naughton, piano duo

Mozart: Overture to Così fan tutte
Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos, K365 (316a)
Mozart; Overture to The Magic Flute
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K425 (“Linz”)

Tuesday, June 30
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Juilliard String Quartet

Beethoven: String Quartet in F Major, op. 18 no. 1
Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No. 3
Brahms: String Quartet in A Minor, op. 51 no. 2

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Sharon Isbin. Photo by Henry Fair.

Thursday, July 2, and Friday, July 3
Festival Orchestra, Andrew Grams, conductor
Sharon Isbin, guitar

Ravel: Alborada del gracioso
Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
Chris Brubeck: Affinity (2016)
Copland: “Buckaroo Holiday” from Rodeo
Copland: Suite from Our Town
Copland: “Party Scene” and “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land
Copland: “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo

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Gemma New. Photo by Roy Cox.

Sunday, July 5
Festival Orchestra, Gemma New, guest conductor
Conrad Tao, piano

Mozart: Chaconne and Pas seul, ballet music from Idomeneo
Mozart: Piano Concerto in A Major, K488
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550

Tuesday, July 7
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: St. Lawrence String Quartet

Haydn: Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4
John Adams: String Quartet No. 2 (2014)
Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, op. 10

Thursday, July 9, and Friday, July 10
Russian Masters
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Nareh Arghamanyan, piano

Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major

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Christopher Dragon

Saturday July 11 at 11 a.m.
Family Concert
Christopher Dragon, guest conductor
Really Inventive Stuff, guest artists

Bizet: “Les Toreadors” from Carmen
Leopold Mozart: “Toy Symphony” (formerly attributed to Joseph Haydn)
Francis Poulenc: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

Sunday, July 12
Festival Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Angelo Xiang Yu, violin; John de Lancie, actor

György Ligeti: Concert Românesc (1951)
Ravel: Tzigane, Rapsodie de concert for violin and orchestra
Brahms: Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 6
Pablo de Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
Mendelssohn: Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Caroline Shaw. Photo by Kate Moreno.

Tuesday, July 14
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Brooklyn Rider String Quartet

Caroline Shaw: Schisma (2018)
Gabriela Lena Frank: Kanto Kechua #2 (2018)
Du Yun: i am my own achilles’ heel, a form that would never shape (2018)
Matana Roberts: borderlands (2018)
Reena Esmail: Zeher (Poison) (2018)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, op. 132

Thursday, July 16
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Tesssa Lark, violin, and Timothy McAllister, saxophone

Wang Jie: World premiere (Colorado Music Festival commission)
Samuel Adams: Chamber Concerto (2017)
John Adams: City Noir (2009)

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Jisu Jung

Friday, July 17
“Kaleidoscope”
Festival Orchestra members, Christopher Taylor, piano, and Jisu Jung, marimba

Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5 (1993)
Nico Muhly: Big Time for string quartet and percussion (2012)
Eric Ewazen: Northern Lights (1989)
Derek Bermel: Turning (1995)
Nebojsa Zivkovic: Trio per Uno (1995/1990)
William Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 2 (2011)
Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (Part IIC) (1975)
Leigh Howard Stevens: Rhythmic Caprice (1989)

Sunday, July 19
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian and John Adams, conductors

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Jeremy Denk. Photo by Dennis Callahan.

Jeremy Denk, piano

Gabriella Smith: Tumblebird Contrails (2014)
John Adams: Piano Concerto No. 2,  Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (2019)
Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 6 (2019)

Tuesday, July 21
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Festival Orchestra members

Mozart: String Quintet in G minor, K516
Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, op. 111

Thursday, July 23
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: Overture to Fidelio
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, op. 19
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, op. 15

Friday, July 24
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, op. 62
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, op. 37
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, op. 58

Sunday, July 26
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131 (arr. Peter Oundjian)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73

Tuesday, July 28
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Festival Orchestra members

Beethoven: Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, op. 16
Beethoven: Septet in E-flat Major, op. 20

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Augustin Hadelich

Thursday, July 30
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Augustin Hadelich, violin

Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67

Saturday, August 1
Festival Finale
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor

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Peter Oundjian conducting the CMF Orchestra (2019)

 

Boulder Opera presents “purrr-fect introduction to opera”

Montsalvatge’s Puss in Boots will be presented in English and Spanish

By Peter Alexander Jan. 30 at 3:15 p.m.

“It’s a purrr-fect introduction to opera,” Dianela Acosta says about the Boulder Opera’s current production of Gato en botas (Puss in boots) by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge.

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Boulder Opera’s production of “Puss in Boots”: Winona Martin, Nathan Snyder, Jennifer Burks, Steven Groth (l-r)

Acosta is the company’s executive artistic director and a cast member, and she is excited about the upcoming performances, which will be offered in both the original Spanish (with English titles) and in English. “The music is gorgeous,” she says.

”There’s moments of Puccini, there’s Mozart, there’s Handel, there’s recitative, it’s very melodic. It’s also very surprising, the music. It’s beautiful.”

With two separate casts, one for each language, the production will be presented six times over the next two weekends, Thursday Jan. 30 through Saturday Feb. 8 (see dates and times below). Performing in both the original Spanish and in an English translation is part of Boulder Opera’s outreach to area schools—in this case bilingual schools in particular.

“We have a lot of partnerships with schools in the area that are bilingual,” Acosta says. “They’re super interested, because there are not a lot of cultural activities in Spanish. We’ve been really successful with this opera in doing outreach.”

Acosta says that they have arranged for 600 students from 10 different school to attend performances. “We tie it to an educational study guide that talks a little bit about the different elements of the opera, a little bit of the history of the composer, and the history of opera,” she says.

Though unfamiliar to American audiences, Montsalvatge (mont-sahl-VAHT-jeh) is well known in Spain. Acosta, who is Spanish, has sung his art songs, but had not known the opera until she was looking for fairy-tale operas for outreach to families and younger audiences. He wrote Gato con Botas in the 1940s, combining traditional operatic forms and styles with contemporary styles including jazz.

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The Princess (Jennifer Burks), King (Steven Groth) and Miller (in river; Nathan Snyder)

The opera is based on the familiar tale of “Puss in Boots,” a conniving cat who uses various tricks to pass off his owner, a poor miller, as a nobleman. He saves his own life in the process, kills an ogre, and arranges for the miler to marry a princess. Naturally, everyone lives happily ever after.

Ashley Gulbranson, music director of the production, says “This is a very accessible opera. It’s two acts with five scenes, and will last less than 60 minutes. So it’s a really great introduction to opera.”

The two casts are entirely separate, with most of the Spanish cast members native Spanish speakers. Having two casts does add to the time needed for rehearsals—”We’ve been having three hour rehearsals, and usually we do about half with one cast, half with another,” Gulbranson says.

That also adds to the cost to the company, but Acosta, who sings el Gato (the cat) in the Spanish cast, said it would have been nearly impossible to perform in both languages with only one cast. “It’s difficult to keep it straight, to keep [the different texts] separate,” she says. “So we just went ahead and hired a Spanish cast.”

To Boulder Opera, the expense is worth it because it contributes directly to their mission of making opera accessible and developing new audiences. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this opera is that it’s part of our children’s series,” Gulbranson says.

“Those performances are reaching a greater audience and getting children and families introduced to the operatic art form.”

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Puss in Boots by Xavier Montsalvatge
Boulder Opera, Michael Travis Risner, artistic director and stage director
Nadia Artman, executive producer, set and costume designer

Performances at E-Town Hall, 1535 Spruce St, Boulder:
10 a.m. and 12 noon Thursday, Jan. 30 (performed in Spanish with English titles)
2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 (performed in English)
4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 (performed in Spanish with English titles)
3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2 (English)

Performance at Center for Musical Arts, 200 E. Baseline Rd., Lafayette:
3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 (performed in English)

Tickets

 

Boulder Symphony’s “Genius” concert unites Mozart and Einstein

Slightly different programs will be presented Thursday and Friday evenings

By Peter Alexander Jan. 28 at 4:10 p.m.

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Mozart

Mozart, a composer universally acknowledged to be a genius, and Albert Einstein, a scientist universally acknowledged to be a genius, will be brought together, after a fashion, on the next concert of the Boulder Symphony.

The program, appropriately titled “Genius,” will be presented twice, in slightly different forms. Devin Patrick Hughes will conduct.

Both programs honor some of the great geniuses of physics as well as music. Thursday (Jan. 30) at Boulder’s Jewish Community Center (JCC), the program will comprise Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550; Einstein’s Dream by Cindy McTee; the world premiere of And Yet it Moves, an homage to Renaissance astronomer Galileo by Clay Allen; and Fermi’s Paradox by Austin Wintory, inspired by a question the Italian nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi once asked casually over lunch.

A second performance Friday (Jan. 31) at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Boulder will substitute the first movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, played by Jessica Zhang, in place of McTee’s score. Zhang was the winner of the Single Movement Division of the Concerto Competition of the 2019 International Keyboard Odyssiad® and Festival Competition, held last summer in Ft. Collins.

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Composer Cindy McTee

A program with music celebrating the work of great scientists has long been a goal for Hughes. “I’ve been wanting to do a program for a long time that brings the arts and sciences together,” he says, “especially now in this world we live in, where sometimes science gets pushed onto the side of opinion. For hundreds of years the arts and sciences were intertwined.”

Both performances open with one of Mozart’s most well known and celebrated works, the Symphony No. 40 in G minor. It was written at a time when Mozart was in dire straits financially and having to beg loans from his close friends. “This is out of tragedy, Mozart looking inside,” Hughes says. “Of course it’s the creative genius Mozart, and every time you play a Mozart symphony, it’s operatic, you’re telling a story.”

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Albert Einstein

Mozart pairs well with McTee’s Einstein’s Dream, because Einstein was devoted to Mozart’s music. An excellent amateur violinist, he often played Mozart’s violin sonatas, and once described Mozart’s music as “part of the inner beauty of the universe.” McTee wrote Einstein’s Dream in 2005, for the World Year of Physics, also known informally as the “Einstein Year” because it was the centennial of some of Einstein’s critical work on the theory or relativity.

The piece is scored for strings and percussion who play with a computer-generated MP3 track that strictly controls the unfolding of the music. It begins with a chorale by Bach, another composer that Einstein admired for the logical construction of his works. The individual movements have titles referring to Einstein’s groundbreaking work as a physicist, including “Warps and Curves in the Fabric of Space and Time,” “Pondering the Behavior of Light” and “The Frantic Dance of Subatomic Particles.”

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Composer Clay Allen

And Yet it Moves was commissioned by the Boulder Symphony for the “Genius” program. Allen is a doctoral composition student at the University of Colorado, where he directs the Pendulum New Music concert series. Hughes suggested the idea of a piece about Galileo to Allen, who embraced the idea.

The title, And Yet it Moves, is a comment attributed to Galileo, after he was placed under house arrest and forced by Catholic authorities to recant his claim that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo’s ideas were such a threat to the Catholic Church’s theological stance that the earth was at the center of the universe that Galileo was tried by the Inquisition. His books were banned by the church until 1718, and only in 1992 did Pope John Paul II finally admit the church had been wrong to censor Galileo’s work.

Allen’s score includes “sweeping string melodies that [portray] standing up in the face of tyranny or ignorance,” Hughes says. The composer will attend the premiere performances by the Boulder Symphony and will speak about his work at a 6:45 p.m. preconcert talk both nights.

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Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi was an Italian nuclear physicist who was part of the Manhattan project developing the atomic bomb during World War II. Once when chatting with fellow scientists over lunch in 1950, Fermi asked if the universe is so vast, with so many galaxies and planets that could hold life, “Where is everybody”?—meaning all the other life forms that should be out there.

This was the origin of “Fermi’s Paradox,” that the universe is vast enough and old enough that we should have made contact with another civilization, but we have not. “Out of Fermi’s Paradox comes a bunch of different solutions,” Hughes says, ranging from the difficulty of interstellar travel to the idea that they are already here in the form of UFOs.

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Composer Austin Wintory

“Wintory doesn’t exactly say this,” Hughes says, “but one of those solutions is that every time a society develops to where they can destroy themselves, they do. You can hear the doom [in the music], so it’s kind of a warning.”

The composer provided his own epigraph for Fermi’s Paradox in his program note, poetically describing the paradox that Fermi saw: “Our eyes turn to the sky and we see a nearly endless sea of stars and galaxies. . . . With eyes and ears aimed outward, it’s logical that we’d catch glimpses of life and peoples everywhere.

“But we see only overwhelming darkness. We hear total silence. Ours is an existence of oppressive loneliness.

“Reality is at once beautiful and terrifying,” he concludes; “lonely, yet of one.”

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Devin Patrick Hughes and the Boulder Symphony

“Genius”
Boulder Symphony, Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan 30, Boulder Jewish Community Center

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550
Cindy McTee: Einstein’s Dream
Clay Allen: And Yet It Moves (World Premiere)
Austin Wintory: The Fermi Paradox (Colorado Premiere)

7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, First Presbyterian Church, Boulder

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550
Clay Allen: And Yet It Moves (World Premiere)
Austin Wintory: The Fermi Paradox (Colorado Premiere)
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2, First Movement, Jessica Zhang, piano

Tickets