Colorado Opera presents a Romantic hit of the 1920s

Die tote Stadt: A saga of love and delusion by the first great Hollywood composer

By Peter Alexander Feb. 23 at 5:15 p.m.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt (The dead city) is rarely performed today, but it was one of the greatest hits of the 1920s. 

Design rendering for Die tote Stadt, Act II, by Robert Perdziola

Korngold’s lush, Romantic score and the tale of love and madness resonated with European audiences after World War I. Even though the composer was only 23, Die tote Stadt was premiered simultaneously in two cities in 1920, and within two years had been performed world wide, including performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Suppressed by Nazi authorities because of Korngold’s Jewish heritage, the opera disappeared. But with its early record of success, Die tote Stadt is ripe for revival, and Opera Colorado is stepping up with a production that opens this weekend at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver (7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25; additional performances will be Tuesday, Feb. 28, Friday, March 3, and Sunday, March 5. See full details below).

Opera Colorado’s original production of Tote Stadt was designed by Robert Perdziola. The performances will be conducted by Opera Colorado’s music director Ari Pelto. Stage director is Chas Rader-Shieber.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold in 1920

Born in Austria in 1897, Korngold was one of many central European musicians of his generation who enriched the musical life of the U.S. when they fled the Nazi regime. Though not as well known today as Schoenberg or Bartók, he had immense impact on American musical life. He was the first great composer of music for Hollywood films, notably several swashbucklers starting Errol Flynn including Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and The Sea Hawk (1940). Korngold won Academy awards for his scores for Anthony Adverse (1936) and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The story of Tote Stadt is derived from a novel by the Belgian symbolist Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte (The dead city of Bruges). Korngold’s father knew the translator of Rodenbach’s novel into German, and suggested the story to his son as an opera. Father and son wrote the libretto together, under the name Paul Schott.

The plot concerns Paul, an artist living in Bruges, Belgium, whose wife Marie had died before the opera begins. Unable to accept his wife’s death, Paul keeps a morbid memorial to her in his apartment. One day he becomes convinced that a woman he saw in the street, a dancer named Marietta, is Marie reincarnated. He tells his friend Frank about this delusion.

Sara Gartland as Marietta. Photo courtesy of Opera Colorado.

Marietta visits Paul, and dances for him, then leaves for a rehearsal. Paul has an extended vision that involves a meeting with Frank and various members of Marietta’s dance company, and a liaison with Marietta. Later Paul imagines that he strangles Marietta rather than allow her to leave, but in the end he realizes that it was all an illusion.

With such an intriguing story, Tote Stadt might seem a good candidate for a return to the popularity it achieved in the 1920s. But there are reasons beyond Nazi suppression that it is not performed often. “I understand one reason why it’s not done very much, because it’s difficult music,” cast member Jonathan Johnson says. “The orchestra has to be on top of their game, we have to be on top of our game.”

In addition to Johnson, who sings the relatively minor roles of Viktorin, head of the dance company that features Marietta, and Gaston, who sings from offstage, the cast includes tenor Jonathan Burton, who recently appeared in Puccini’s Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera, in the leading role as Paul. Frank will be sung by Daniel Belcher, who has sung at the Met as well as houses in Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo and other cities around the world. Elizabeth Bishop, another Met soloist, will sing the role of Brigitte, Paul’s maid who leaves his service to join a convent.

The role of Marietta and the spectral Marie, taken by a single soprano, is more complicated. Sara Gartland, who has sung major soprano roles with companies across the U.S., was engaged for Marietta/Marie but developed severe vocal fatigue after arriving in Colorado. She was diagnosed with laryngeal nerve paresis, paralysis of the vocal cords, possibly a result of a past COVID-19 infection. As a result, Kara Shay Thomson, another experienced soprano, will sing Marietta/Marie while Gartland acts the role onstage.

This arrangement is not unusual when singers develop severe problems late in the preparation of a production. It happened at Opera Colorado in 2013 when bass Kevin Langan was unable to sing the role of Frère Laurent in Gounod’s Romeo et Juilliette. Langan acted onstage, while an apprentice singer sang the role from the side of the stage. The same thing happened at the 2011 world premiere of Kevin Puts’s Silent Night at Minnesota Opera, when tenor William Burden was unable to sing the lead role of Sprink on opening night and chorus member Brad Benoit sang the part while Burden acted and lip-synced. Many opera singers have had similar experiences.

Johnathan Johnson. Photo by Dario Acosta for Opera News

Although he has a relatively small role in the production, Johnson may be on his way to greater renown. He was featured in the February 2023 issue of Opera News magazine. “I was thrilled,” he says about the article. “It puts my name in front of people who don’t know who I am.”

The article came as a surprise, Johnson says, probably as the result of a principal role he took in Stewart Wallace’s opera Harvey Milk at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis last summer. As for his role in Tote Stadt, “I’m the ringleader of the cacophony that happens in the second act,” he says. 

Even though Viktorin is onstage for only about 10 minutes, Johnson is committed to making the role more than a walk-on. “Small roles don’t know that they’re small roles, and that’s how you should play them,” he says. “I try to never rest when I’m onstage, and think about my relationship to all of these other characters.”

But in this case you shouldn’t take what you see literally. “It’s a dream-like sequence where we’re all in Paul’s mind,” he explains. “The version of us that you see is not necessarily the version that exists offstage.”

Before being cast in the Opera Colorado production, Johnson had only heard a single aria from Tote Stadt, and he is relishing learning the opera. “I have such appreciation for Korngold, how he weaves the themes throughout,” he says. “It’s an express train that you have to get on, and if you miss your stop, good luck getting back on! It just rolls. And because of that I find it incredibly compelling to hear.

“This music is so beautiful and film-like, in a way that I think people will respond to. There are parts that still give me chills.”

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Opera Colorado
Die tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Libretto by Paul Schott (Erich and Julius Korngold)
Ari Pelto, conductor; Chas Rader-Shieber, director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, Tuesday, Feb. 28, and Friday, March 3
2 p.m. Sunday, March 5

Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex


NOTE: Opera Colorado has announced their 2023–24 season, featuring productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Wagner’s Flying Dutchman and Saint Saëns’s Samson and Delilah. Information about season tickets may be found on the Opera Colorado Web page

Grace Note: Longmont Symphony presents Sibelius

Saturday’s concert features violinist Judith Ingolfsson

By Peter Alexander Feb. 16 at 11:05 a.m.

“Sibelius’s only desire was to depict the greatness of his native Finland,” Longmont Symphony conductor Elliot Moore wrote for the orchestra’s newsletter.

He so far succeeded, Moore noted, that he became a potent symbol of his nation and its people. And it was Finland’s resistance to Russian control, symbolized in Sibelius’s music,  that inspired Moore to choose Sibelius as the subject of a musical portrait, just as we all observe the struggle of Ukraine against Russian control.

Jean Sibelius in 1890.

That musical portrait will be the next concert of the Longmont Symphony, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18 in Vance Brand Civic Auditorium). The concert will open with Finlandia, the composer’s most overt expression of Finnish nationalism and patriotism, and close with the Second Symphony, which Sibelius called “a confession of the soul.” The program will also feature violinist Judith Ingolfsson playing Sibelius’s Violin Concerto.

Finlandia was written specifically for a celebration of the Finnish press in 1899, which was intended to protest Russian censorship. Originally performed under other names to avoid Russian suppression, the score later became Sibelius’s best known work and has been performed widely around the world.

Judith Ingolfsson

Completed in 1902, Sibelius’s Second Symphony was written soon after the premiere of Finlandia. The final movement, with a powerful transition from minor to major, was associated by many with Finland’s struggle against Russia, and at one time the piece was popularly known as the “Symphony of Independence.” Though no longer called by that name, the Second Symphony remains one of the composer’s most performed works.

Sibelius wrote his Violin Concerto—his only concerto for soloist and orchestra—in 1904, but that original version was not a success and is rarely performed. The revised version was premiered the following year with Richard Strauss conducting the Berlin Court Orchestra and violinist Karel Halíř. Sibelius removed passages that he thought had not worked, but this slightly easier version is still one of the leading virtuoso concertos in the violin repertoire.

Ingolfsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, and moved to the United States at the age of 14. She studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Cleveland Institute. She currently lives in Europe where she teaches at the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart and is co-artistic director and founder of the Festival Aigues-Vives en Musiques in France. 

At the age of eight she played as a soloist with the Iceland Symphony. She won the gold medal in the 1998 Indianapolis International Violin Competition, and was a prize winner at the Paganini Competition in Genoa and the Concert Artists Guild Competition in New York. In 1999 she was named “Debut Artist of the Year” by NPR’s “Performance Today.”

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“Sibelius: A Portrait”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Judith Ingolfsson, violin

  • Sibelius: Finlandia
    —Violin Concerto in D minor
    —Symphony No. 2 in D major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium


Young girl yearns for luxury at Boulder Opera

Massenet’s Manon Saturday and Sunday at the Dairy

By Izzy Fincher Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Costume rendering by
Alyssa Rider

“It has never been a matter of wonder to me that human resolutions are liable to change; one passion gives them birth, another may destroy them,” wrote L’Abbé Prévost in his classic novel Manon Lescaut from 1731. 

Manon, a young French girl, is tormented by dreams of grandeur, yearning for a life filled with luxury and wealth in early eighteenth-century Paris. But as she climbs the social ladder, she soon finds herself torn between the power of true love and her own self-destructive greed.

Costume rendering by
Alyssa Rider

The tragic tale of Manon will take the stage for Boulder Opera at the Dairy Arts Center. The company will present Jules Massenet’s opera Manon based on the novel Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 and 19 (details below), with Amy Maples as Manon and Cody Laun as Des Greiux, under stage director Gene Roberts and conductor Steven Aguiló-Arbues.

The modernized production, set in the 1960s, aims for a fresh take on the classic.

“In certain ways, the excesses and heavy drug use of the 1960s can serve as a mirror for the original time period,” Laun says. “The opera is a cautionary tale of what will happen if you take this to excess. I think [the different eras] parallel each other well. The nostalgia and the familiarity will help to draw people in.”

Costume rendering by
Alyssa Rider

Originally set at the height of the Belle Époque (beautiful epoch; 1871–1914) in Paris, productions of Massenet’s Manon are often quite lavish. For the extravagant, stylish haute couture, women wear ornate dresses crafted to exaggerate the S-shaped Edwardian silhouette, while men don sleek tailored sack suits.

In contrast, Boulder Opera’s production will be more toned down with colorful, vintage fashion. This era certainly has its draw—as shown with Jean Aurel’s 1968 film Manon 70, starring Catherine Deneuve, set in the swinging ‘60s in Paris. 

In any era, Massenet’s opera holds its own with the vibrant music and dynamic storytelling. The opera, which debuted at Paris’ Opéra-Comique in 1884, has become one of the composer’s greatest and most enduring successes for a reason.

“In his musical language and storytelling, Massenet uses lots of lush textures and rubato for the expressive shaping of phrases,” conductor Aguiló-Arbues says. “His music is full of charm and speaks directly to the [audience].

“The music is almost cinematic. The overarching, sweeping ideas and characterizations paint the scenes in a very emotional, grandiose way.”

Amy Maples (Manon), Cody Laun (Des Grieux) and Nick Navarre (Guillot) rehearsing Manon

The opera depicts the passionate relationship of Manon and Des Grieux, her on-and-off-and-on-again lover. While Manon aspires to have social status and wealth, Des Grieux dreams of a simple, happy life with his partner. A dissatisfied Manon soon gives in to her greed, and the couple’s conflicting dreams pull them apart, eventually leading to their downfall.

“Manon is that wild card friend who is always flying on the seat of her pants, barreling into life fearlessly,” Maples says. “She’s a ‘yes’ person.”

It can be easy to play into the role of Manon as the femme fatale, a seductive, manipulative woman who uses her beauty and charm to ensnare men like Des Grieux and De Brétigny, her other love interest. However, Maples hopes to dig deeper into Manon’s motivations and backstory, to help the audience see Manon as a more sympathetic character.  

“At first, I didn’t sympathize with her,” Maples says. “I just thought she was selfish. But then I realized that underneath all of her desire for wealth is actually a drive for significance in the world. For me, that opened up my heart to her a little more.”

During the opera, Manon is only 15 years old. This can be easy to forget, considering the sophistication of the role, which requires a mature virtuoso soprano. The vocally demanding part has even been described as “the French Isolde” by American opera singer Beverly Sills. 

Steven Aguiló-Arbues, conductor

Manon’s arias call for light agility, as in “Je suis encore tout étourdie” (I’m still all dazed), virtuosic power with sparking high notes during her time with the Parisian aristocracy, as well as delicate sensibility, as in the mournful “Adieu, notre petite table” (Farewell to our little table).

Her duets with Des Grieux need to be convincing yet not melodramatic, as the two fall suddenly into an all-consuming love.

“There is lots of imitative music between Manon and Des Grieux, where one will echo the other’s theme or finish it for them,” Laun says. “This shows how their relationship is sweet on one hand, but it is also a little codependent and unhealthy. They can’t live well without each other.”

Throughout the opera, Massenet relies on leitmotifs like this to characterize each protagonist and express their turbulent emotional states. Combining Wagner’s concept of musical drama with the lyricism of the Italian operatic tradition and the expressiveness of French grand opera, Massenet showcases his compelling, distinctive style.

Thus, Massenet’s music draws the audience into the lover’s misadventures and heartbreak. As Manon barrels headfirst toward her inevitable downfall, the audience begins to sympathize with the misguided young girl—even though, in the end, she only has herself to blame for the personal tragedies she faces.

“This shows how people should have the freedom to delight,” Laun says, “but it’s also a cautionary tale of (the need for) temperance and discernment, because getting too carried away can lead to one’s own destruction.”

# # # # #

Jules Massnet: Manon
Boulder Opera
Gene Roberts, stage director, and Steven Aguiló-Arbues, conductor 

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19
The Dairy Arts Center


Takács Quartet’s Dusinberre appears as soloist in Brahms Concerto

Concert with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra will be Saturday

By Peter Alexander Feb. 9 at 2:10 p.m.

“You know you’re going to want more later,” Bahman Saless says about the Brahms Violin Concerto.

“It’s like German chocolate cake. It’s heavy, it’s sweet, it’s filling—I love the entire piece!”

Edward Dusinberre

Saless will conduct this tasty concerto with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Feb. 11; details below) with violinist Edward Dusinberre of the Takács Quartet as soloist. Other works on the program will be Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”).

Dusinberre has especially warm feelings for the concerto, which he learned as a student at the Royal College of Music in London. “I first performed the piece with an amateur orchestra in northwest England,” he wrote in an email communication. “My grandfather was playing in the viola section. 

“What I remember more than the actual concert was my Dad driving from many miles away, both to hear the concert and so that he could drive me south afterwards. I was . . . a bit insecure about how I had played. I cherish that memory of his reassuring presence as we drove late at night through the countryside.”

Dusinberre cherishes the concerto not only because of that memory, but also for its musical qualities. “I love the balance of drama and lyricism,” he wrote. “The first solo entrance and other sections are propulsive and intense, but the movement has moments of ethereal wonderment—those are some of my favorite passages in all music.”

Both Saless and Dusinberre singled out the slow movement for comment. “The slow movement is one of the greatest slow movements of any violin concerto,” the conductor says, while the soloist wrote that “after the serenity of the slow movement, the high-spirited, at times joking mood of the finale is a necessary foil and satisfying conclusion.”

Saless hopes that as they listen to the concerto, the audience will pay attention to how the violin and orchestra relate and interact. “Brahms wrote it as a piece of music where it isn’t necessarily always the orchestra that’s going to accompany the violin,” he explains.

“A lot of the melodic line is in the orchestra, which is fascinating. There are some incredible parts that require the listener to really listen to the orchestra.”

Bahman Saless with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Saless chose to open the concert with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture because it is such an ideal program opener. “It’s so powerful and captivating that it’s like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in eight minutes,” he says. And “it’s a great piece, not only because of the quality of it, but as far as marketing is concerned there are a lot of people that know it.”

Following the drama of Beethoven and the deep beauty of the Brahms, the program switches gears for the final piece, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4. Known as the “Italian” Symphony, it was begun when Mendelssohn was visiting Italy as a young man and is full of the cheery liveliness so often associated with that country. “It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done,” Mendelssohn wrote to his sister.

“To me it definitely does show that joy and brightness of Italy, and the energy and life of Italian culture,” Saless says. “It’s one of these pieces that as soon as I start listening to it or singing it, it doesn’t stop. It’s a very fun piece that I thought would be good compliment to a relatively heavy Brahms and Beethoven half (of the concert). It’s kind of a lighter, brighter piece, and also we’ve got such a great string section I thought it would be a really good showcase for them.”

Once again Saless wants to draw attention to the slow movement. “It’s simplicity at it best, short, very simple,” he says. “It also has a tiny bit of Bach. Mendelssohn was a huge fan of Johann Sebastian Bach, and it’s almost like an homage to him with the way that the basses have this little walking bass part that reminds you of a lot of Bach pieces.”

Saless and Dusinberre are both pleased to have the opportunity to work together. “I’m honored to have Ed perform with us,” Saless says. “I’m really, really looking forward to this.”

As for Dusinberre, in addition to his busy world-wide concert schedule with the Takács Quartet, he is happy to play a favorite concerto with the local musicians of the BCO. “Every now and again it’s great to return to works that I played before I joined the Takács,” he wrote. “It’s a joy to perform with Bahman and the BCO, many of whose players are friends or former students. There’s an inspiring spirit of community in the orchestra.

“I feel grateful to be part of that.”

# # # # #

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Edward Dusinberre, violin

  • Beethoven: Overture to Egmont
  • Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major
  • Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder


Grace Notes: Guest artists for Ars Nova and Boulder Bach

“Stardust” for Black History Month, and a renowned guest artist

By Peter Alexander Feb. 7 at 10:04 p.m.

The Denver-based string group Sphere Ensemble will be a guest of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers for a concert recognizing Black History Month. Titled “Stardust,” the program will be presented at 7:30 pm. Friday in Boulder and Saturday in Denver (Feb. 10 and 11; details below).

Joel Thompson

Under the direction of Ars Nova’s artistic director Tom Morgan, the program opens with the world premiere performances of Love Songs from Lonely Letters by Joel Thompson. Ars Nova is one of five American choirs that jointly commissioned the Love Letters, which are based on the writings of Ashon Crawley, who teaches at the University of Virginia. 

An Atlanta resident and Emory College grad, Thompson is the composer of a widely acclaimed opera based on “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, the most checked-out book in the history of the New York Public Library. Thompson’s opera was premiered in August 2021 by Houston Grand Opera, where he currently holds a residency. Thompson will speak at the Ars Nova performances about his Love Songs, a work that explores individual agency and transformative joy.

The Sphere Ensemble will play their own arrangements of works by the Black English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the remarkable Brazilian woman composer Francisca Edwiges Neves Gonzaga, known as Chiquinha Gonzaga.

The program concludes with music by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Ars Nova will repeat his Berlin Mass, a 1990 composition that they performed with the Boulder Philharmonic in 1997. Originally written for voices and organ, the score was arranged by the composer for voices and strings and incorporates the composer’s tintinnabula technique (from the Latin word for “bell”)—a way of creating deep resonance in slow-moving passages by combining notes of the tonic chord with simple scale patterns.

# # # # #

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor
With Sphere Ensemble

  • Joel Thompson: Love Songs from Lonely Letters
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Three-fours, II: Andante (arr. Alex Vittal)
  • Chiquinha Gonzaga: “Corta-Jaca” (arr. Alex Vittal)
  • Arvo Pärt: “Es sang vor langen Jahren” (Long years ago the nightingale sang)
    —Virgencita (Little Virgin)
    Berlin Mass

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10
First United Methodist Church, 14521 Spruce St., Boulder

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11
Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver

TICKETS, including livestream Feb. 10–28

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The Ukrainian-born Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman and the Indonesian pianist Janice Carissa will present a joint recital as guests of the Boulder Bach Festival, at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum.

Vadim Gluzman. Photo by Marco Borggreve

The children of musicians, Gluzman was born in the former Soviet Union and grew up in Riga, Latvia. He began studying violin at seven and moved to Israel with his family at 17. Today he teaches at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore as distinguished artist in residence and plays a Stradivari violin that once belonged to the virtuoso Leopold Auer.

Carissa first studied piano with her mother in her native Indonesia. She came to the United States to study at the Curtis Institute in 2013 and made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 16. She is currently a master’s student of Robert McDonald at the Juilliard School. She has appeared at Caramoor, Marlboro and Ravinia festivals, among others.

Their program features J.S. Bach’s Sonata in C minor for violin and keyboard, as well as the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin, with a piano accompaniment by Robert Schumann. Continuing a tour through music history, Gluzman will play the A minor sonata for violin solo by the late Romantic violinist/composer Eugène Ysaÿe and par.ti.ta for solo violin written for the Bachwoche (Bach week) in Ansbach, Germany, by Lera Auerbach.

Gluzman wrote, “par.ti.ta is an incredible work, projecting Lera’s lifelong fascination with Bach. . . . We hear traces and echoes of Brandenburg Concerti, Concerto for two violins, sonatas and partitas for violin solo. No particular work is being quoted, yet I can’t help the feeling of being drawn to an incredible world of shades, echoes—are these shades of ourselves?”

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Boulder Bach Festival
Vadim Gluzman, violin, and Janice Carissa, piano

  • J.S. Bach: Sonata in C minor, S1017, for violin and clavier obbligato
  • Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata in A minor, op. 27 no. 2, for violin solo
  • Lera Auerbach: par.ti.ta
  • J.S. Bach: Partita in D minor, Chaconne, with piano accompaniment by Robert Schumann

4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum


Pro Musica Colorado goes “through the looking glass” Jan. 28

Music from “periods of change:” Haydn, Mozart and Caroline Shaw

By Peter Alexander Jan. 26 at 5:41 p.m.

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra celebrates their “Sweet Sixteen” anniversary Saturday (Jan. 28) with a nearly-new piece, a nearly-new soloist on the Boulder classical scene, and one piece from their very first concert.

The concert, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountain View Methodist Church, will open with Caroline Shaw’s nearly-new and entirely intriguing Entr’acte for strings. Cellist Meta Weiss, who joined the CU faculty in January 2019 but has had little opportunity to perform in Boulder due to the pandemic, will play Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major. The concert will conclude with Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201, a bright and cheerful piece that was on Pro Musica’s first concert.

Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct.

Caroline Shaw

In her program note for the score, Shaw wrote that the Entr’acte was inspired by the minuet from Haydn’s String Quartet in F major ,op. 77 no. 2, a piece that “suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass. The shift from light and prancing to smooth and graceful . . . is certainly a distinct step into an utterly new place.”

That sense of going “through the looking glass,” which also gave the concert program its title, is what Shaw aims to recreate, but in a contemporary style. “One of the things that I love about her music and this particular piece is its dialog with the past,” Katsarelis says.

“She has nostalgic references to tonality and then it moves along to stuff that’s more modern. She uses some special effects, and kind of melts from the quasi-tonal idea into these special effects, and it’s really cool how she does that. It’s a real dialog with the past.”

Katsarelis particularly enjoys a part of the piece where the players create an effect of whispering. “They rub the bows pitchlessly over the strings,” she explains. “It sounds like whispers, so when we’re taking about a piece that’s in dialog with the past, it’s like ‘I wonder what they’re talking about. Are they talking about Haydn?’”

Meta Weiss. Photo by Betty Kershner

From a piece that might be talking about Haydn the program moves to a piece by Haydn, the Cello Concerto in C. Written around 1765, it is one of Haydn’s earlier pieces, and one of the earliest concertos for cello with orchestra to enter the repertoire.

“It’s such a happy piece,” Weiss says. “It’s just a perfect piece of music, it has a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s just so delightful, and it’s delightful to play.”

She knows, because it was the very first concerto she learned, when she was nine years old and studying cello in the San Francisco Bay area. She had been inspired to take up the cello when she heard Yo You Ma perform when she was about three-and-a-half. She went on to study with Joan Jeanrenaud, former cellist of Kronos, and then at Rice University and Juilliard. She came to CU in 2019, after teaching in Australia.

“There is a youthful exuberance to (Haydn’s Concerto),” she says. “We don’t always get that in concertos as cellists. It’s really nice to be able to explore the other side of the cello. And one of the beauties of the piece is that it’s so well written for the cello. It’s so well orchestrated, it’s perfect.”

It’s not surprising that Mozart’s A major Symphony K201 is one of Katsarelis’ favorite pieces that she has conducted. “The amount of repertoire that I’ve repeated is pretty small,” she says. “This will be my third time for Mozart 29. It’s a sublimely beautiful piece that I love.”

Katsarelis mentions that Mozart wrote the symphony in Salzburg, shortly before he moved to Vienna but also right after a trip to Italy, where he studied counterpoint. “He comes home with a great sense of counterpoint,” she says. That counterpoint, she believes, led to the full classical style by adding depth and intensity to the simple melodies and routine accompaniments in style right after the Baroque period.

“To have independent lines, very singing, beautiful lines going on underneath the melody, is a fairly new thing,” she says. ”If you love to enjoy the melodies, fine. If you love the inner voices and interplay, you’ve got it. The counterpoint is doing different things. It’s delighting the ear, it’s setting the mood, it’s adding excitement and complexity. It’s really fantastic.”

And that’s just the first movement. Katsarelis has equal praise for the rest of the symphony. “The slow movement is very singing, and again the inner lines are nice. The minuet is frolicking, and the symphony ends with a wonderful allegro con spirito, nice and fast with more counterpoint answering back and forth, which is really fun. It’s just delightfully enjoyable from start to finish.”

Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra

Katsarelis thinks that the program is perfect for these days after COVID has started to recede. We are all still carrying memories of the pandemic, but thinking ahead to days with fewer restrictions.

“Through the looking glass,” she says. “I think that points to the fact that these pieces are all written during periods of change. That’s music looking backwards and forwards, at a time when we are all doing the same thing.”

# # # # # 

“Through the Looking Glass”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With Meta Weiss, cello

  • Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
  • Haydn: Cello Concerto in C major
  • Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28
Mountain View United Methodist Church


Colorado Music Festival announces 2023 concerts

Joshua Bell as artist-in-residence, John Corigliano composer-in-residence

By Peter Alexander Jan. 25 at 11 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) has announced their 2023 summer season at Chautauqua. 

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Geremy Kornreich

The formal announcement of the season was made last night (Jan, 24) at the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette, which is the sister organization of the CMF. The event was live streamed to the public.

Before the introduction of the concerts by music director Peter Oundjian, executive director Elizabeth McGuire announced that the CMF’s 2022 world premiere performance of Flying On the Scaly Backs of Our Mountains by Wang Jie had reached more than a million listeners world-wide through radio—“more than doubling the reach of the festival over its history with one performance,” she said.

Oundjian has written of the 2023 season, We are so fortunate to bring to you some of the greatest performers alive today, including artist-in-residence Joshua Bell, along with the extraordinary talents of eight of today’s brilliant composers. It is such a thrill to hear today’s voices alongside—and interacting with—groundbreaking voices from the past, giving us a unique window into centuries of the greatest in creativity.”

John Corigliano. Photo by J. Henry Fair

Since his appointment as music director in 2018, Oundjian has made the music of today a focus of the festival. Among the living composers whose music will be performed this summer is John Corigliano, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, four Grammies and an Academy Award. As composer-in-residence, Corigliano will be present at the festival for a concert devoted entirely to his music on July 13 (see full programs below).

Premieres will be presented of works by Jordan Holloway, CU faculty member Carter Pann, and Adolphus Hailstork. All three will be performed on July 16, as the culmination of a week of “Music of Today.” A preview of music by five other living composers will be offered by Bell, who has commissioned a five-movement suite for violin and orchestra from five different composers.

Joshua Bell. Photo by Phillip Knott

The suite, titled Elements, will have its official premiere later, but all five movements will be previewed over two concerts at CMF—the final two concerts of the season (Aug. 3 and 6). The composers who have contributed to Elements are among the most important composers working today: Jake Heggie, Jessie Montgomery, Edgar Meyer, Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts.

Bell will also be at CMF for the first week of the festival and will play Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor on the opening program, June 29 and 30.

A highlight of the 2023 festival will be two programs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (July 6–7 and July 9). Oundjian said that it seemed appropriate in 2023 to perform works composed outside Russia, many of them in the United States which was Rachmaninoff’s home in the later years of his life. These works include the Third and Fourth piano concertos, the beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and the rarely performed Symphony No. 3.

Michael Christie. Photo by Bradford Rogne

Another feature of the 2023 festival of which Oundjian is particularly proud is the continuation of the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, named for the founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet. In addition to performances by members of the Festival Orchestra, the four-concert series will also feature guest performances by the JACK Quartet, renowned for their performances of contemporary music, and the Brentano String Quartet.

The 2023 festival will also see the return of Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie to conduct concerts on July 20 and 21. Christie was the CMF music director 2000–13.

“Not only does the 2023 season promise to be artistically stunning, I know our audiences will appreciate the way the programming weaves so many diverse, timely, and relevant voices into the fabric of classical music,” executive director Elizabeth McGuire wrote.

Performances this summer will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. As in past years, Tuesdays will be devoted to chamber music, other days to Festival Orchestra performances. In response to comments from patrons, the Family Concert on Sunday, July 2, has been moved earlier in the day, to 10:30 a.m. Other updates to the festival this year include a new ticketing system through the Chautauqua Box Office, and meals available for pre-order through the ticketing system.

Subscription tickets for the 2023 festival are available here. Single-concert tickets go on sale March 7 through the CMF Web page, or by phone at the Chautauqua Box Office at 303-440-7666. New for 2023, CMF is offering $10 tickets for youth (ages 18 and under) and students with current school identification. More information can be found HERE.

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2023 Performance Schedule
All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium

7:30 p.m. Thursday June 29 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 30: Festival Opening Program
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • Carlos Simon: “Motherboxx Connection” from Tales: A Folklore Symphony for orchestra
  • Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
  • Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel)

Family Concert: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 2
Festival Orchestra, Kalena Bovell, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano, and Janae Burris, narrator

  • Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1
  • Eric Whitacre: Goodnight Moon
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: “Danse Nègre” from African Suite
  • Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6 and 6:30 p.m. Friday July 7
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Nicolai Lugansky, piano

  • Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor,
    —Symphony No. 3 in A Minor

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Nicolai Lugansky, piano

  • Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
    —Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor
    Symphonic Dances

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: JACK Quartet

  • Morton Feldman: Structures for String Quartet (1951)
  • Caleb Burhans: Contritus (2010) 
  • Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 5 (1991)
  • Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte (2011)
  • John Zorn: The Remedy of Fortune for String Quartet (2016)

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Timothy McAllister, saxophone

  • John Corigliano: Gazebo Dances (for orchestra) (1974)
    One Sweet Morning for voice and orchestra (2010)
    Triathlon for saxophone and orchestra (2020)

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16
World premieres: Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano, and Eric Owens, narrator

  • Jordan Holloway: Flatiron Escapades (world premiere commission)
  • Carter Pann: Dreams I Must Not Speak (world premiere commission)
  • Adolphus Hailstork: JFK: The Last Speech (world premiere)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 18
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Brentano String Quartet

  • Mozart: String Quartet in D Major, K499
  • James MacMillan: Memento for string quartet (1994)
    For Sonny for string quartet (2011)
  • Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op. 130

6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 21
Festival Orchestra, Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie, conductor
With Michelle Cann, piano

  • Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major
  • Florence Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, op. 36

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23
Festival Orchestra, François López-Ferrer, conductor
With Grace Park, violin

  • Mozart: Overture to The Impresario K486
    —Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K216
    —Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K546
    —Symphony No. 36 in C Major, (“Linz”) K425

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 25
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra

  • Benjamin Britten: Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings, op. 2
  • Francis Poulenc: Sextet in C Major for Piano and Winds
  • Brahms: String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, op. 36

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 28
Festival Orchestra: Eun Sun Kim, conductor
With Johannes Moser, cello

  • Mason Bates: The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs (2021)
  • Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, op. 107
  • Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, op. 73

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 30
Festival Orchestra, Hannu Lintu, conductor,
With Lise de la Salle, piano

  • Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus (1974)
  • Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor
  • Haydn: Symphony No. 96 in D Major (“Miracle”)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra

  • Beethoven: String Trio in C Minor, op. 9 no. 3
  • Debussy: Danses sacrée et profane (Sacred and profane dances)
  • Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, op. 81

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell)
    “Fire” by Jake Heggie
    “Ether” by Jessie Montgomery
    “Water” by Edgar Meyer
  • Debussy: La Mer

6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6: Festival Finale Concert
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell)
    “Air” by Jennifer Higdon
    “Earth” by Kevin Puts
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major (“Titan”)

Boulder Phil dedicates concert to the late violinist Chas Wetherbee

Performance will be Sunday at 4 p.m.

By Peter Alexander Jan. 19 at 9:25 p.m.

Chas Wetherbee, late concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic

The Boulder Philharmonic will dedicate its next performance to the memory of their late concertmaster, Charles “Chas” Wetherbee, who died Jan. 9.

The concert was to have featured Wetherbee as soloist, playing Mozart’s “Turkish” Violin Concerto. The program, which also includes Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, remains unchanged. Violinist Alex Gonzalez, who joined the CU College of Music faculty in August, will substitute for Wetherbee, both as soloist and as the orchestra’s concertmaster.

Titled “Afternoon with Bruckner,” the concert will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, in Macky Auditorium. This is a change from the orchestra’s usual schedule of Saturday evening concerts. The Phil’s music director, Michael Butterman, will conduct.

Butterman had always wanted to feature Wetherbee for this concert. In looking for a piece to pair with the Bruckner, which alone takes 70 minutes, he thought the relatively short and cheerful Mozart Concerto would be suitable.

“Something about that combination (of Mozart and Bruckner) works,” he says. While not technically an overture, Butterman says he thinks of the concerto as “an aperitif” before the main course. “And a quick Google search revealed that I was not the first person to bring those (two composers) together,” he adds.

As both soloist and guest concertmaster, Gonzalez sees his role as honoring Wetherbee. “This concert is quite special, because I’m stepping in for Chas,” he says. “I want to honor him as much as I can.

Violinist Alex Gonzalez

“He was such a generous, open musician. Particularly In the Mozart I want to bring that feeling to the concerto, and bring the freshness and open-heartedness that I’m sure he would have brought. And the piece lends itself to that.”

Gonzalez says he will bring the same respect to his role as concertmaster. The music he has received has all of the bow markings that Wetherbee had planned for the Bruckner Symphony, which is a completely new piece for Gonzalez. Normally, as concertmaster he would make his own bow markings as he learned the music, but in this case he intends to keep Wetherbee’s choices.

“While I’m given permission (as concertmaster) to change what I need to, I’m hoping to facilitate more than to change much, just because of the circumstances of this performance,” he says. “I’m really interested in playing the concert as (Wetherbee) would have.”

While the Bruckner is new for Gonzalez, it’s not for Butterman. “It’s my favorite Bruckner symphony,” he says. “Most people tend to agree that this and maybe the Ninth are his best symphonies, if one can say such a thing.”

Like most of Bruckner’s music, the symphony moves at a leisurely pace that is different from the fast pace that characterizes our world today. “It’s a slow burn,” is how Butterman puts it. “It’s not for our short-attention-span world. It’s the perfect antidote for contemporary society. But if you can relax with it, it’s incredible rewarding.”

The first two movements are especially expansive and expressive. “I just love some of the glories of the first movement,” Butterman says. 

Michael Butterman. Photo by Jiah Kyun.

The second movement was written in homage to Richard Wagner, whom Brucker idolized and who died soon after the symphony was completed. Although not a literal funeral march—Wagner was still alive when it was written—Bruckner did intend it as a tribute and it has a definite elegiac quality.

One interesting feature is the inclusion of instruments known as “Wagner tubas”—a tenor instrument that Wagner commissioned for his Ring cycle of four music dramas to fill the gap in the brass section between French horns and trombones. Their inclusion may be another homage to Wagner’s music. The Phil borrowed instruments from the CU College of Music, since few people own Wagner tubas.

Several typical characteristics of Bruckner’s style are evident in the symphony. For one, it may be a sign of his training and career as an organist that the orchestra is often used in blocks, like changing stops on the organ. The music is often built from highly regular units of four or eight measures. This can be heard particularly in the third movement, a vigorous folk-dance, and the finale, a collection of energetic ideas that each seems to stand on its own. In contrast, the first two movements are much more expansive and flexible.

Because of their length and orchestral size, Bruckner symphonies have not often been heard in Boulder. “There were a number of reasons this was important to do,” Butterman says. “Not the least is that it’s a chance for the brass to play with a roundness and warmth, and more bloom to the sound.”

While playing a less familiar symphony provides challenges for the players, Butterman concedes that Bruckner poses him a challenge as well. “Just managing the rehearsal will be a challenge,” he says. “The first two movements are so long I have to be conscious of not getting too deep in the weeds and running out of time.

“That’s my challenge.”

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“Afternoon with Bruckner”
Dedicated to the memory of the orchestra’s late concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Alex Gonzalez, violin

  • Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K219 (“Turkish”)
  • Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22
Macky Auditorium


Grace Notes: Longmont Symphony’s Family Concert

Attorney Cameron A. Grant will narrate two favorites

By Peter Alexander Jan. 17 at 3:05 p.m.

Attorney Cameron A. Grant will join the Longmont Symphony (LSO) as narrator for their annual Family Concert. The concert, conducted by Elliot Moore, will be at 4 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 21) in the Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The program features two works that have been favorites in past family concert performances: Selections from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Lucas Richman’s Behold the Bold Umbrellephant. Both works use texts by the popular children’s author Jack Prelutsky, the first-ever U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate who personally read his poems when the LSO performed both works in 2018.

Cameron A. Grant

Prelutsky’s book Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a set of poems about fanciful creatures that are part animals and part inanimate objects, such as the umbrellaphant, the panthermometer and the clocktopus. Richman’s music takes eager advantage of all the musical hints in the poems. Every piece has its own character, across a wide variety of styles and musical types. The Umbrellaphant features horn calls that recall elephants’ trumpeting, while the Panthermometer is a cool cat who can tell you the temperature.

With it’s musical portraits of lions, donkeys, fossils and swans, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals is widely performed today, but it was unknown during the composer’s lifetime. Saint-Saëns had prohibited public performances, thinking that such frivolous music would damage his reputation. It was not published until 1922, the year after the composer’s death, and it has been one of his best known and most popular works since.

The American humorous poet Ogden Nash had written a set of poems to accompany The Carnival of the Animals in the 1940s, but Prelutsky’s publisher, considering Nash’s poems to be outdated, wanted new texts. He called Prelutsky and asked him to write poems to go along with Saint-Saëns’ music. Originally reluctant, Prelutsky quickly turned out a new set of poems.

Grant is a prominent attorney in Longmont, where he is a managing shareholder in the firm Lyons & Gaddis, but he is also familiar with the performing world. He holds an undergraduate degree in English and vocal music performance from Colorado College, and attended the Aspen Opera Theater Center. He has been an active member of the local community, including a spell as president of the Longmont Council for the Arts.

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Family Concert
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Cameron A. Grant, narrator

  • Saint-Saéns: Selections from Carnival of the Animals
  • Lucas Richman: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21
Vance Brand Civic auditorium


Grace Notes: The familiar and unfamiliar from Boulder orchestras

World premiere from Boulder Symphony, chamber music from BCO

By Peter Alexander Jan. 12 at 3:10 p.m.

The Boulder Symphony and conductor Devin Patrick Hughes will start the new year with a new piece—the world premiere of the Oboe Concerto by CU graduate John Clay Allen.

John Clay Allen

The premiere will be included on concerts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Jan. 13 and 14) in the Gordon Gamm Theater of the Dairy Arts Center. Other works on the same program are the much loved “New World” Symphony of Dvořák, the Overture to The Song of Hiawatha by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and music from the film Jurassic Park by John Williams.

Allen, who received his DMA in composition in 2019, has been active as a pianist and conductor in addition to his work as a composer. The soloist for the concerto will be the Boulder Symphony’s principal oboist, Ingrid Anderson.

One of the most familiar works in the symphony repertoire, the “New World” Symphony includes music inspired by Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. The poem was familiar to Dvořák, who once planned an opera on the subject. That connection is highlighted by the inclusion of Coleridge-Taylor’s Overture to his trio of cantatas, The Song of Hiawatha.

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Boulder Symphony, Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor
With Ingrid Anderson, oboe

  • John Clay Allen: Oboe Concert (World premiere)
  • John Williams: Themes from Jurassic Park
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Overture to The Song of Hiawatha
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13 and 14
Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center


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David Korevaar. Photo by Matthew Dine

Pianist David Korevaar returns for the second of two chamber music concerts with members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 14) at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Boulder.

The program comprises two sextets for piano and woodwind quintet, one by the obscure composer Ludwig Thuille and one by the much more familiar Francis Poulenc. The third and final concert of Korevaar’s chamber series with the BCO, comprising quintets for piano with winds, will be April 8.

Thuille “is even more obscure than (his teacher) Rheinberger, which is saying something,” Korevaar says. Apart from the Sextet, his music is very rarely performed.

“The piece is wonderful, but it sounds very much of its time and place. (It represents) a nice late-Romantic idiom, with some occasional adventurous harmonies, (but) it doesn’t push boundaries in any way.

Poulenc’s Sextet is very popular with players and audiences alike. “It’s a classic,” Korevaar says. “If you think of one piece for piano and wind quintet, this is the piece you’ll think of. it’s very popular for good reason, filled with good infectious Poulenc-ey tunes, and the writing is brilliant for all the instruments. It’s just a marvelous, successful piece.”

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David Korevaar, piano, with members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

  • Ludwig Thuille: Sextet in B-flat major for piano and wind quintet, op 6
  • Francis Poulenc: Sextet for piano and wind quintet

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder