Meet the Ivalas Quartet

New CU Graduate Quartet in Residence will play free concert 

By Peter Alexander Nov. 7 at 11:40 a.m.

The Ivalas Quartet only recently arrived in Colorado, but if you follow classical music you will be hearing about them soon.

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Ivalas Quartet: L-R Anita Dumar, Reuben Kebede, Pedro Sanchéz, Aimée McAnulty, rehearsing at the CU College of Music. Photo by Peter Alexander.

That’s because they are the new graduate string quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado College of Music, studying with the Takács Quartet. And they are very good — but don’t take my word for it. They will play their first full concert program in Boulder at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church. The performance is free and open to the public.

Their program fits the standard format for student recitals — or, for that matter, most professional string quartet concerts: A classical period quartet (in this case, Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2); a 19th century quartet (Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2, the “Second Razumovksy” Quartet); and one work that is more recent or less known (the First String Quartet by 20th century American composer George Walker).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Ivalas Quartet
Reuben Kebede and Anita Dumar, violin; Aimée McAnulty, viola; Pedro Sánchez, cello
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 2425 Colorado Ave., Boulder

Haydn: String Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2
George Walker: String Quartet No. 1
Beethoven: String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2

Free and open to the public

 

Seicento Baroque Ensemble presents “Praise and Lamentations” Nov. 8 & 10

‘Beautiful, inspired’ choral music from the 17th century

By Peter Alexander Nov. 6 at 11:15 p.m.

Amanda Balestrieri’s family just got a lot larger.

The conductor of the Seicento Baroque Ensemble thinks of the choir as family, and they just added 20 new members for their 2019–20 season. “We had just over 20 [singers] last time, and we’ve got over 30 this time,” she says.

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Amanda Balestrieri with Seicento from a past season

“It’s like having a third of your family new family members. It’s been really exciting to greet this new group of people and the atmosphere is great and everyone is very devoted and I think it’s wonderful!”

The expanded “family” will have its debut with a concert titled “Praise & Lamentation: Sacred Music of the Early Baroque,” to be performed in Boulder Friday and Denver Sunday (Nov. 8 and 10). Seicento will be accompanied on the concert by an ensemble of two violins, two violas da gamba and organ. Members of Seicento will play recorder to supplement the ensemble for some pieces.

The program is divided into two sections: “The Croatians,” featuring music by little known composers Vinko Jelić and Ivan Lukačić; and after intermission, music by Franz Tunder, Heinrich Biber and Salamone Rossi, all of whom are well known to scholars of the Baroque, if not to general audiences.

All of the composers on the program were active in the 17th century, the early years of the Baroque style, which is Balestrieri’s performance specialty and the focus of Seicento (the name means 17th-century).

Musical programs get created in many ways. Sometimes, as in the case of some selections on “Praise & Lamentation,” the conductor selects some favorite pieces and arranges compatible pieces around them.

And sometimes the conductor gets a random email from a distant country.

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Amanda Balestrieri

That is exactly what happened with Balestrieri while she was planning the concert. “I received an email from someone in Croatia,” she explains. “It just said, ‘would your ensemble be interested in performing these works by Croatian Baroque composers?’ So I wrote, ‘Tell me more!’”

It turned out that the email came from a retired Croatian architect who has copies of music that is known in Croatia, but largely unknown elsewhere. “Radio choirs in Croatia have done recordings [of their works] that you can find on YouTube, but there’s not a lot of information about these composers,” Balestrieri says

Both composers travelled around Europe, and particularly to Italy, which was a center for the development of the Baroque musical style. “They heard this music and a lot of what was happening in Italy was also happening elsewhere,” Balestrieri says. “So when you listen to this music you would think you were listening to Monteverdi”—the leading Italian composer of the time. “It’s that style of writing.”

The main difference from Monteverdi and others of the time, she says, is that “there are a few unusual harmonies in there. And the other thing you should listen for is the use of female voices” for the phrases of chant that are included in some of the pieces. It was more common for phrases of chant to be assigned to the men’s voices.

The second half of the program came from Balestrieri’s interest in separate settings of Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon.” She knew of the two settings, one in German by Tunder (An Wasserflüssen Babylon) and one in Hebrew by Rossi (Al naharot bavel), and thought it would be fascinating to juxtapose the two on the same program.

“I wanted to do the two settings that contrast so beautifully, one very guttural setting and one beautiful setting,” she said.

But the two settings contrast in other ways than their language and musical style. Tunder sets the first part of the Psalm, which is entirely a lamentation: “We sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. . . How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Rossi’s setting adds the final lines of the Psalm, which are a violent call for revenge: “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed. . . Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

The inclusion of those texts then led Balestrieri to add the “praise” part of the program, to provide balance for the audience. “I always try to make sure that there’s some kind of flow in the emotions,” she says. “If you’re going to go into the depths, you also want to have something uplifting, so that people have a more balanced experience.”

The rest of the program then consists of music by Tunder, by Heinrich Biber, and by Rossi. “It’s almost like a catharsis in the middle of the program,” Balestrieri says.

Salamone Rossi

Salamone Rossi

All three composers have attracted Balestrieri’s attention in the past. Of the three, Rossi is a particularly interesting figure in the history of Baroque music. An Italian Jewish musician, he was employed by the Catholic court of Mantua as concertmaster of the court orchestra, where he heard and played the music of the leading composers of the time.

Rossi’s own works include instrumental pieces and choral settings of Jewish liturgical music in the original Hebrew language—an entirely novel development in his time, and one for which he had to have the permission of the Rabbi. Seicento has sung his music before, and Balestrieri loved it. “The music itself is so beautiful, I wanted to program more of it,” she says.

The concert as a whole mostly comprises music that will be unfamiliar to anyone who has not studied the music of the 17th century, but Balestrieri wants you to know that she doesn’t chose pieces just because the are unknown. “My main criterion is the music has to be really good,” she says. “It’s not a question of just finding any old music that people haven’t heard.”

On this concert, she says, the music she found “is really solid and beautiful and inspired.”

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Seicento Baroque Ensemble

“Praise & Lamentation: Sacred Music of the Early Baroque”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri, conductor
Music by Vinko Jelić, Ivan Lukačić, Franz Tunder, Heinrich Biber and Salamone Rossi

7:30 p.m. Friday, Mov 8, First United Methodic Church, Boulder
3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Church, Denver

Tickets

Cellist Adrian Daurov joins Longmont Symphony for Shostakovich Concerto

LSO extends its Beethoven symphony cycle with “Eroica” Nov. 9

By Peter Alexander Nov. 4 at 4:50 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony’s current cycle of Beethoven symphonies enters a new phase next Saturday (Nov. 9), when the full orchestra performs the popular Third Symphony, known as the “Eroica,” in Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

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LSO and Eliot Moore in Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

The first and second symphonies were performed by the LSO’s smaller chamber orchestra in Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum. The Third, however, was a breakthrough work for Beethoven and the history of the symphony. It is larger in every way than any previous symphony—longer, more intense—and as such needs a larger venue and larger performing forces.

It will be performed Saturday on a program with Shostakovich’s daunting First Cello Concerto, played by Russian-born cellist Anton Daurov. Opening the concert will be the very rarely heard Prelude in Unison from Georges Enesco’s Suite No. 1 for orchestra.

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Elliot Moore

The Enesco score is, as the title says, entirely for strings in unison, with occasional punctuation from a timpani. “The Prelude in Unison is a piece that called out to me because there’s something about everyone playing in unison,” LSO conductor Elliot Moore says.

“There’s something that’s very moving about all of those string voices being one, while they’re all singing the same thing. How their voices come together is very beautiful, very moving. It’s a beautiful thing to experience.”

The Cello Concerto occupies a special place for both Moore and Daurov. Moore is a cellist as well as conductor, and both he and Daurov grew up listening to recordings of the concerto by the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom it was written.

“It’s one of the pieces that made me really fall in love with classical music,” Moore says. “It’s just an incredible masterpiece for the cello.”

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Adrian Daurov

Daurov confirmed the concerto’s reputation as one of the most difficult pieces in the cello repertoire. “It’s emotionally as well as musically hard,” he says. “There’s a lot of work for the brain as well as the fingers.

“From the first there is not a moment to relax. Even in the slow movement it’s not like your nice and Romantic slow movement than you can just enjoy playing. You really need to build the tension throughout. It’s challenging.”

Unlike most concertos, Shostakovich’s Concerto No.. 1 has a lengthy, fully written out cadenza that leaves the soloist completely exposed. “Not many concertos have a in-written cadenza for 10 minutes in the middle of the piece,” he says.

“You sit in front of people in front of you in the hall, and 100 people behind you in the orchestra, and you have to play this really musically and emotionally challenging cadenza when you are already tired from the first two movements.”

Daurov does feel a special connection to the concerto having grown up in Russia. Like Shostakovich, he attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory. “He went up the same steps and studied in the same classrooms that I did,” he said. “The atmosphere was there and I captured the spirit of the epoch that he was in.”

Because of that connection—and how well he plays the concerto—it is a piece that Daurov is often asked to perform. “I’ve played it with many, many different orchestras,” he says. “I love playing it, I never get tired of it.”

For Moore, Beethoven’s Third Symphony represents a major turning point for the symphony in general. “The ‘Eroica,’ is so much larger than the first or second symphony, or any symphony really that came before it,” he says. “It is the work that ushered in the romantic period. It’s where he breaks new ground.

“It’s big, and I’m really thrilled with what all the musicians are bringing to this performance. I think that the orchestra is bringing a lot of heart and soul and vigor to making this performance something that really is heroic work”

“I think it’s going to be really exciting how we bring these notes off the page!”

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Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Adrian Daurov, cello

Georges Enesco: Prelude in Unison
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1
Beethoven: Symphony No 3 (“Eroica”)

7:30 pm. Saturday, Nov. 9, Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Tickets

‘Bamboozling’ piece anchors Boulder Phil concert

Cuban composer Aldo López-Gavilán performs his ‘Emporium’

By Peter Alexander Oct. 31 at 3:15 p.m.

Michael Butterman, conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic, was sitting in his driveway, thinking “What on earth is going on?”

“It was just an amazing mix,” he says of the music he was hearing on American Public Media’s radio program Performance Today. “I was trying to guess what it was. Whatever it was, it was exciting and intriguing.”

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Aldo Lopez-Gavilán

It turned out to be Emporium for piano and orchestra by Cuban pianist/composer Aldo López-Gavilán, and Butterman decided he wanted to perform the piece with the composer on the Boulder Phil’s season.

The title gave Butterman the key to the wildly eclectic style of the piece. “When they said that the title was Emporium,” he says, “I thought, OK, it’s a cornucopia. It has influences from every possible genre and place that I could imagine.”

The title also suggested to Butterman that one could play almost anything with it, but he settled on music that had a stylistic relationship to López-Gavilán’s Latin American roots: Tangazo by Astor Piazzolla, the Variaciones Concertantes by Alberto Ginastera and Ravel’s Boléro.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Latin Fire and Boléro”
Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Aldo Lopez-Gavilán, pianist/composer
Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne, tango dancers

Astor Piazzolla: Tangazo
Lopez-Gavilán: Emporium for piano and orchestra
Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones concertantes
Ravel: Boléro

7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 [PLEASE NOTE: SUNDAY AT 7, not Saturday]
Macky Auditorium
Tickets

 

Burrichter and Boulder Chorale explore rhythms around the world

Music from Native America, across Latin America, and India, Nov. 2 and 3

By Peter Alexander Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m.

The next concert by the Boulder Chorale starts with drums playing the rhythm of the heartbeat.

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Boulder Concert Chorale. Photo courtesy of Boulder Chorale.

“That’s a great way to start, since that’s the first rhythm we all hear, the heartbeat of the mother,” Vicki Burrichter, Boulder Chorale’s director, says. “I wanted to start there and expand out from there.”

The concert, titled “Rhythm Planet,” will be presented in Boulder Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 3 and 4). The idea behind the concert is that rhythm is found in all cultures, all over the planet. “I wanted a program that focused on rhythm from around the world,” Burrichter says.

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Vicki Burrichter. Photo by Glenn Ross.

That first piece, with the heartbeat drumming, will be Mahk Jchi, which she describes as  “a Sioux nation piece. I thought we need to start with our own (North American) cultures. I love this song—I’ve done it for 20 years with other choruses.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the music on the program comes from the African musical diaspora in Latin America, and particularly from Brazil, where powerful rhythm is a prominent element of the musical styles that developed there. The second piece on the program exemplifies how the music of Brazil has travelled around the world: “To the Mothers of Brazil: Salve Regina” was written by Swedish composer Lars Jansson, for a visit to Brazil.

“It’s an homage,” Burrichter says. “It’s like a Western chant, except more rhythmic. It layers and layers, the chorus doing sacred texts that just build and build, and the percussion builds—it’s really stunning. I was really happy when I found that piece!”

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Brazilian composer Gilberto Gil

More thoroughly Brazilian will be “Batmacumba” by Gilberto Gil, arranged by Marcos Leite, both renowned Brazilian musicians. Burrichter discovered Leite’s choral arrangements through Brazilian friends who had sung in his vocal groups. “As far as I know, nobody else in the U.S. is doing this piece,” she says.

“It’s a wonderful Tropicalisima piece about combining pop culture—Batman—with Macumba, which is one of the religions of Brazil. In the late 1960s, early ‘70s, there was a lot of experimentation combining pop culture with indigenous African rhythms. It’s a really cool, exciting piece.”

“Batmacumba” is one of two pieces to be sung by the Boulder Chamber Chorale, a smaller group from within the Concert Chorale. The other is “Gede Nibo,” which comes from the Haitian Vodou religious tradition. Because both pieces come from syncretic religions that include African elements, “they make a nice couple,” Burrichter says.

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Karl Albrecht (Bobbi) Fischer

In addition to these shorter pieces, Burrichter wanted a larger piece that could serve as a centerpiece of the concert. She found an unusual work that includes various Latin rhythmic elements and again illustrates the reach of Latin music: the Missa Latina (Latin Mass) by Karl Albrecht (Bobbi) Fischer, who is mostly active in Germany as both composer and performer.

The word “Latina” in the title is a pun, referring to both the setting of the Catholic Mass in Latin, and the use of Latin American musical styles and rhythms—particularly the tango. The Missa is scored for chorus and soloists with violin, bandoneon (or accordion), jazz trio and additional percussion.

“I heard it on YouTube, and it was absolutely wonderful,” Burrichter says. “It uses a lot of tango rhythms from Argentina, but also a little bit of salsa, a little bit of Cuban son, and other rhythms from Latin American countries. I loved it!”

Also on the program will be “Barso Re,” written by A.R. Rahman, a composer and music director who works in India’s film industry. The song came from the award-winning soundtrack for the 2007 Hindi film Guru. “I’ve listened to that song since it came, out, “ Burrichter says.

The first half of the concert ends with a percussion improvisation by Carl Dixon, from the Boulder Samba School; Vincent Gonzalez, who performed on the Chorale’s recent concert of Brazilian music; and Michael D’Angelo, who traveled wit the Chorale to the Netherlands this past summer.

“I have asked the guys to put together a history of percussion in five minutes or less,” Burrichter says, laughing. “I tasked them to see what they could create together in terms of interlocking and building rhythms from different cultures. I think it will be fascinating to see what they come up with.”

The concert concludes with an arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” arranged for the Chorale by Adam Waite, who also arranged the opening piece. “It’s about saving the planet, and it has a beautiful, haunting melody. The message is exactly what I wanted to convey: this is our planet, and we should try to be in rhythm together.”

Burrichter adds one thought, that she does not select pieces to fit a musical trend. Her programs grow out of her own curiosity and fascination with different styles of music. “I listen to music from all over the world, and I’ve done that for 50 years,:” she says.

“This is going to be one of the most exiting programs I’ve done here.”

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“Rhythm Planet”
Boulder Concert Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director
With various guest artists

Correction: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3
Pre-concert discussion 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce, Boulder

Tickets

CORRECTION: The dates of the performances were corrected on Nov. 1. The concerts are Saturday and Sunday, as originally stated; the correct dates are Nov. 2 and 3.

‘A space of awe and wonder’

Pro Musica brings musical and spiritual insights to Bach’s Mass in B Minor

By Peter Alexander Oct. 24 at 4:10 p.m.

J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor is one of the great works in the European musical tradition.

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Photo courtesy of Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of the Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra describes it as “a cathedral in both sound and spirit.” She will conduct the Mass in B Minor Friday and Saturday (Oct. 25 and 26) in Denver and Boulder. In addition to Pro Musica, the performances will feature St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, directed by Tim Kreuger, and four soloists: soprano Jennifer Bird, tenor Derek Chester, mezzo-soprano Julie Simson, and baritone Jeffery Seppala.

“It’s certainly a bucket-list piece, for both me and Tim Kreuger,” Katsarelis says. “We’ve talked about this for years, and it was time. There’s something about Bach and particularly the choral masterpieces and the B-minor Mass in particular that is so universal and so touches the spirit and the soul, and connects us to our humanity.”

Katsarelis relates that perception of the Mass to an underlying theme for the current season of three concerts: Social conscience and the human condition. The second concert (Feb. 1 and 2) is titled “Diverse Voices” and will feature music by African-American composers William Grant Still and Gabriela Frank. In March they will present “Composing Climate,” featuring Gwyneth Walker’s Earth and Sky, which has texts from Native American leaders Chief Joseph and Chief Seattle, alongside words by Henry David Thoreau.

See more in Boulder Weekly.

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Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Tim Kreuger, director
Jennifer Bird, soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; Julie Simson, mezzo-soprano; Jeffery Seppala, baritone

J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, Mountview Presbyterian Church, Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, Mountain View United Methodist, Boulder

Tickets

 

Paired programs open Boulder Chamber Orchestra season Oct. 26–27

Pianist Sara Davis Buechner will play both Chopin concertos over two concerts

By Peter Alexander Oct. 22 at 9:50 p.m.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra is offering an unusual and intriguing choice of programming as they open their 16th season Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 26-27).

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Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.  Photo by Keith Bobo.

The concert programs are parallel but different each evening: Conductor Bahman Saless and pianist Sara Davis Buechner will present Chopin’s First Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s First Symphony on Saturday, and successive works by both composers—Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s Second Symphony—on Sunday.

“We like to torture ourselves by doubling the repertoire with the same number of rehearsals,” Saless says, tongue firmly in cheek.

In addition to the separate programs, both concerts will include the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream—added to the program at the request of the BCO’s principal flutist, Cobus du Toit. Noting that this movement is included in most orchestra auditions, for just about every instrument, Saless told du Toit “I suppose the orchestra already knows it, so let’s just throw it in. I’ll just do it.”

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Sara Davis Buechner

The idea of paired programs came about when Saless engaged Buechner. She was already scheduled to appear with the Ft. Collins Symphony Nov. 2, and Saless asked her what she would like to play in Boulder. She suggested the two Chopin concertos, and rather than do both on one program, Saless had the idea of splitting them over two concerts.

His choice to go with Chopin’s concertos 1 and 2 was Beethoven’s symphonies with the same numbers, also spilt over the two concerts. “We’ve done our cycle of all nine Beethoven symphonies in 15 years,” Saless explains. “It’s time to restart the cycle, and I wanted to do these two symphonies again for a few years, so I figured, let’s just go with that!”

Both pairs of works—the two Chopin concertos and the two Beethoven symphonies—were written when the composers were just getting started. At the same time, there are considerable differences, too.

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Frédéric Chopin. Portrait by Maria Wodzinska.

The concertos were written when Chopin was still a student in Warsaw, before his fateful move to Paris in 1832. They were the only concertos he wrote; in Paris he was known for individual pieces for solo piano, including his waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, etudes, and other short works. The conertos were not published in the order they were written—in other words, the Second Concerto was actually the first written and vice-versa.

In both concertos, Chopin’s focus was clearly on the piano part, and the orchestral writing is considered only partly successful. They were written at almost the same time, around 1830, and there is little stylistic difference between them.

Nevertheless, Saless favors the second concerto—the first one written. “Number 2 is in many ways a better piece than Number 1,” he says. “The first one (Number 1) is more of a showpiece. The second one is a lot more internal, it’s more personal, it’s more intimate.”

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Beethoven. Portrait by Christian Horneman.

Beethoven wrote his First and Second symphonies after his 1792 move to Vienna. They were written under the influence of Haydn, and are considered a continuation of the Classical symphonic style. The big change in Beethoven’s style came with the Third Symphony, written a few years later.

But unlike the concertos, the two symphonies do reveal the composer’s growing sophistication and expanding understanding of the genre. “Number 1 is so much getting your feet wet, as a symphony,” Saless says. “It’s got so much humor and spontaneity in it. Then with the second, there is just a turbo-charged travel from Number 1.”

The BCO has titled the programs “Classical Mavericks,” a reference to the independent stance taken by both Beethoven and Chopin as they launched their careers, respectively in their early concertos and symphonies. “Beethoven and Chopin both were very passionate about their values,” Saless says.

He extends the same description to the soloist for the concerts. Sara Davis Buechner already had a successful solo piano career as David Buechner, winning major prizes at several piano competitions. In 1998, at the age of 39, she came out as a transgender woman, and made her “second debut” (her words) as Sara Buechner playing the two Chopin concertos with New York’s Jupiter Symphony.

When she made the change, opportunities to perform dried up. She has reported that conductors would not return her calls, and in one case she was sent a check not to perform. “She had to deal with dents in her career for a few years,” is how Saless described that period of her life. Today she teaches at Temple University, and is once again earning appearances as soloist

“I think that Boulder should know about her, because it’s important to us that people should be judged by their talent and not anything else,” Saless says. “I’m excited to work with her.”

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“Classical Mavericks”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Sara Davis Buechner, piano

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26:

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C major

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27:

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D major

Both performances at Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder
Tickets

CORRECTIONS: Minor typos corrected Oct. 23.