The Parker Quartet from Harvard will perform Sunday and Monday at CU

They will play in Grusin Hall as guests of CU’s Takacs Quartet

By Peter Alexander Nov. 17 at 5:20 p.m.

The Parker Quartet may be the only string quartet named for a hotel.

Formed when the original members were students at the New England Conservatory, they wanted a name that reflected their connection to Boston. “None of us is from Boston, but we call Boston home,” says Ken Hamao, the quartet’s second violinist. “To have a landmark from the city to name ourselves after was appropriate.”

Parker Quartet. Photo by Luke Ratray

Today the Parker Quartet members maintain their ties to Boston, as Blodgett Artists-in-residence and faculty at Harvard University’s department of music. 

The landmark is the Parker House, which you may recognize from dinner rolls but which was an important gathering place for America’s literary figures in the 19th century, including Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau, and later for politicians including presidents U.S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

The Parker Quartet will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, in Grusin Hall. They are appearing in the guest slot on the fall concert series of CU’s Takacs Quartet. Their eclectic program features the Lyric Suite by Alban Berg and the Third String Quartet of Robert Schumann, as well as shorter works by Adolphus Hailstork and György Kurtág.

Both in-person and digital tickets can be purchased from CU Presents. Masks are required in all indoor spaces in the CU campus, regardless of vaccination status.

Alban Berg

The central work on the program is Berg’s Lyric Suite, an emotionally and musically challenging work in six intense movements. It has always been seen as a dramatic and passionate piece of music, but more than 50 years after it was written in 1926, a secret “program” was found embedded in the score that explained the intensity of the music.

A combination of musical initials standing for the composer and his lover, multiple other musical symbols, the inclusion of Wagner’s Tristan chord and other musical references, all reflect Berg’s passionate and illicit affair with a married woman, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Even the movement titles suggest the subject: amoroso (lovingly), appassionato (passionately) and estatico (ecstatic).

But you don’t need to know the story to appreciate the music, Hamao says. “For us as performers, it helps us to get into the composer’s mindset, but on its own it’s just a very dynamic work, hugely expressive,” he says.

“We’ve been talking about performing it for many years, and after so many years you want to tell each other, ‘Let’s just go for it’. It’s really exciting (because) it has that drama, the very, very highs and the very, very lows of the affair. It did make sense (with) the Schumann as a companion piece. The Lyric Suite is as passionate as it also is desolate, while the Schumann is more uplifting.”

Calra Schumann. Portrait by Franz von Lenbach

Hamao describes the Schumann Third Quartet as representing a different kind of romantic love, that of the composer for his wife, Clara Schumann. “It’s just a love letter to his wife,” he says. “From the very first two notes that you hear, this Clara motive, he’s yearning for his wife. From the first page it’s a declaration of love.”

Hailstork’s Adagio is a piece that the quartet discovered more recently. “It was a piece that we fell in love with immediately and wanted to program it as soon as we can,” Hamao says. “In a program that can be as intense as the Lyric Suite can be, having this beautiful Adagio made a lot of sense to us.

“I think of it as an incredibly beautiful piece that kind of discovers itself throughout the whole piece. It’s definitely tonal but has what you might call notes that don’t quite belong to the scale. For a beautiful piece there’s a lot of surprises, but at the end of the day it’s a really gorgeous movement.”

Kurtág’s Aus der Ferne (From the distance) V is one of a group of pieces for different media. Two of are for string quartet—Aus der Ferne III and V. The Parker Quartet has worked directly with the composer in the past, and recently released a CD recording of his quartets, including those two miniatures. 

“Kurtág has an incredible ability to tap into the idea of drama,” Hamao says. “There is a sense of narrative. I don’t think there is an explicit one, but an abstract narrative. He’s able to pack a story into two minutes of music. [He has] this incredible ability to create a lot of expression through quite minimal means.”

Whatever narrative you discover will have to be “in each listener’s imagination,” Hamao says, but that is part of the reward for both performer and listener.

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Parker Quartet

  • Adolphus Hailstork: Adagio from String Quartet No. 1
  • György Kurtág: Aus der Ferne V (From the distance)
  • Alban Berg: Lyric Suite
  • Schumann: String Quartet No. 3, Op. 41 No. 3

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22
Grusin Recital Hall, CU Imig Music Building

In-person and Sunday live stream tickets available from CU Presents

Longmont Symphony embraces nostalgia in Saturday’s concert

Dvořák’s “New World” and Barber’s Knoxville paired for “American Nostalgia”

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 12:03 a.m.

Conductor Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony (LSO) will embrace “American Nostalgia” for their Masterworks Concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 13) at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The concert will feature one of the most overtly nostalgic works in the orchestral repertoire, Samuel Barber’s warmly reflective Knoxville: Summer of 1915, paired with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. Tickets for LSO concerts are available here.

All LSO musicians, staff and volunteers have been vaccinated. Audience members eligible for COVID vaccinations must show proof of vaccination or medical exemption to attend the performance, and must wear face masks inside the building.

Elliot Moore

Moore says that he chose the program for Saturday’s concert while reflecting on people’s need to connect to the past in difficult times. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for nostalgia,” he says. “There can be feelings that the world is changing so fast, I’ve never seen this before.

“Somebody said to me recently, all that’s keeping me alive right now is looking back. People need a sort of old Americana and that is certainly what I feel through Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”

Barber’s score is written for voice and orchestra and will be performed by soprano Leberta Lorál with the LSO. The text is taken from the eloquent prologue to James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. The text is suffused with Agee’s wistful childhood memories of his family, or as Barber wrote, “it expresses a child’s feelings of loneliness, wonder and lack of identity in that marginal world between twilight and sleep.”

A home in Knoxville in 1915

But beneath the nostalgic yearning for warm summer nights with the family there is also an undercurrent of foreboding in both text and music. Agee’s prologue takes place shortly before the tragic death of the book’s title, which is briefly referred to in the text and expressed in the music: “God bless my people . . . remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.”

We also know today that World War I was raging in Europe in 1915, and would soon pull Americans into the slaughter. And, Moore reminds us, “one could also say it’s before the Spanish flu”—something we all can relate to today.

Lorál has not sung the Barber before, but says she has loved getting into the score. “I’ve heard it but have never sung it before,” she says. “When I got approached about it, I looked at it and I was hooked on it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is right up my alley! I love this!’”

She likes the nostalgia and the sweetness of the text and music, but she also has a personal feeling for the final part of the text, in which Agee reflects on his innocence and incomplete identity as a child. “After a while, I am taken in and put to bed,” he writes. “Those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home . . . but will not ever tell me who I am.”

Leberta Lorál

“That line has really stuck with me,” Lorál says. “I know why it stuck with me. At birth I was adopted. I had a great relationship with my biological parents, and last month my birth mother passed, and I was there to see her.

“I was OK with whatever happened—that’s all good. So that last line, wow! It stuck with me. I took that and went back to the beginning to pull through the piece, all the way to the end.”

Moore wanted another work that reflects America’s past to go with Knoxville: Summer of 1915. “To tie that in with Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony, so that we can all feel something good—that’s important for a lot of people in today’s world, where we’re all facing so much,” he says.

The “New World” harkens back to what many Americans think of as a happier time in our history. Composed in the U.S. and premiered in Carnegie Hall in December 1893, the symphony is thematically linked with our culture. For example, scholars have shown that it was partly inspired by Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which Dvořák had read in Czech translation.

While in this country, Dvořák also showed great interest in Negro spirituals, which were sung to him by one of his pupils, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh’s singing is likely reflected in the slow movement, with its spiritual-like “Goin’ Home” melody. Dvořák himself believed the symphony expressed something about America, and once said he would never have written it “just so” had he not come here.

Moore finds meaning in both the nostalgia of the program, and in sharing it communally. “People need that,” he says. “That’s an experience not only that we can offer, but that we can offer to people all at the same time.

“People need that kind of shared, uplifting experience that we’ve missed.”

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“American Nostalgia”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Leberta Lorál, soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Tickets

Santa Fe Opera announces 2022 festival season

One world premiere, one company premiere, and three favorites

By Peter Alexander Nov. 5 at 11:40 p.m.

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) has announced their 65th summer festival season, scheduled for July 1 through Aug. 27, 2022.

Robert Meya announcing the Santa Fe Opera’s 65th season

The festival will feature a world premiere and a company premiere, as well as three operatic favorites. The announcement was made by SFO general director Robert K. Meya on Thursday, Nov. 4. 

Following last year’s reduced season of four productions, the company returns to a full season of five different operas, played in repertoire throughout the summer.

The first of the operatic favorites to be performed in 2022 will be Bizet’s Carmen, opening the season on July 1. That will be followed by Rossini’s Barber of Seville on July 2 and Verdi’s Falstaff on July 16. A co-production with Scottish Opera, Falstaff will be presented in Sir David McVicar’s production, which is set in a wood structure resembling an Elizabethan theater of Shakespeare’s time.

Next in the summer’s rotation will be the company premiere of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. This will be the first piece by Wagner to be presented at the SFO since The Flying Dutchman in 1988, and the only Wagner to be presented other than Dutchman. Some performance start times at the SFO shift over the summer season, due to changing times of sunset, but due to length, all performances of Tristan und Isolde will begin at 8 p.m.

Rounding out the summer season will be SFO’s 18th world premiere, M. Butterfly, based on the 1988 Tony Award-winning play by David Henry Hwang, who is also the librettist, with music by Huang Rao. The play and opera were inspired by the true story of a French diplomat who carried on a 20-year affair with a star of the Peking Opera without discovering his lover’s remarkable secret. The production of this new work will recall the SFO’s productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the opera that has opened all three of the company’s theaters, in 1957, 1968 and 1998.

Promotional art for the Santa Fe Opera/Scottish Opera production of Verdi’s Falstaff

Further information and the full calendar of performances are available at the Santa Fe Opera Web page. Both season subscriptions and individual performance tickets are now on sale through that portal, or by calling the box office at 505-986-5900 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (toll-free 1-800-280-4654). Currently, the SFO plans to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for all patrons 12 or older. Full details of the SFO health and safety policies and any updates can be found here.

CORRECTIONS: Typos corrected 11/6.

Boulder Chorale will sing about ‘A World in Harmony’

Saturday’s concert features both solace and celebration

By Peter Alexander Nov. 4 at 10:54 p.m.

Vicki Burrichter dreams of a world in harmony. But as director of the Boulder Chorale, she not only dreams about it, she works to bring it about, one performance at a time.

The Chorale’s next concert, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7 at 4 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church in Boulder, is in fact titled “A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration.” An updating of a program originally planned before COVID struck, it will include music of solace and consolation, then transition to music of joy and celebration.

Boulder Chorale from a performance in 2019, pre-COVID

Tickets are available from the Boulder Chorale Web site. Audience members must have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for admission, and must wear a mask during the performance. All singers have been vaccinated, and will be wearing resonance masks during the performance.

“This program, with some tweaks and some edits, was the program that we were about to perform when we shut down (during) concert week back in March (2020),” Burrichter says. “The first half is going to be all meditative choral music, mostly a cappella. 

Vicki Burrichter

“I want people to be able to just think, meditate, breathe— whatever they want to do. And it’s not only to honor the 700,000 lost in COVID in this country, but also the victims of the King Sooper’s shooting.”

The concert will open with an instrumental performance of the theme from Schindler’s List, played by pianist Adam Waite and violinist Leena Waite. That will be followed by a setting of the Latin text Lux Aeterna (Eternal light), set to the music of the well known “Nimrod” variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a piece often chosen for moments of mourning or meditation.

Also on the first half of the program is “Underneath the Stars,” a piece about parting from friends that was performed by the British a capella vocal group Voces8. “I go a lot by feel when I program,” Burrichter says. “The feeling of this piece—the text is not literally about somebody dying, but the grief of losing somebody is really in the piece. It’s definitely about letting go of somebody that you don’t want to let go of.”

The final two pieces on the first half—“Alleluia” from Brazilian Psalms by Jean Berger and Jorge de Lima, and the “Gloria” from Missa Brevis in Honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis by Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite—were selected to form a transition to the more joyful second half of the concert. ”I really wanted to lift the mood a little bit,” Burrichter says. “I wanted to have these moments of transcendence and joy after the deep grief of the first few pieces.”

“Then for the second half it’s going to be completely different, with the full band and soloists and everything. No one’s really been able to sing in public, and I wanted people to be able to sing with us and sing with the band and have a celebration.”

Christopher Hearns

The first four pieces after intermission will be well known pop songs, all arranged by Waite who has been Burrichter’s first-choice arranger for some time. “He and I are very much on the same page musically,” she says. “He’s really wonderful!”

There will be printed lyrics for the audience, and guest soloist Christopher Hearns will help lead the audience though the Kinks “You Really Got Me,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “September,” Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Hearns is best known as a gospel singer and is currently lead singer of the Confluence Band and director of music at Jordan Chapel Church in Denver.

“He’s quite an accomplished singer,” Burrichter says. “I’m looking forward to what he can do with the Kinks’ music.”

Following the sing-along, the concert will conclude with three pieces Burrichter selected to impart a message of hope for the audience. The first will be Toto’s “Africa,” which she originally planned to end the concert that was canceled last year. That will be followed by “All of Us” by Craig Hella Johnson, from the composer’s oratorio Considering Matthew Shepherd, and last will be “We are the Ones We Are Waiting For” by Sunny McHale. 

Johnson’s “All of Us” has “a message that is so powerful and really fits the moment,” Burrichter says. “And the last piece is the thing that we sang during our online sessions all this last year. We would end with it just as a reminder that we are still a community, and that we have the power to make change.

“I wanted to end the concert with those kinds of songs that tie into what we did in the Boulder community during COVID. I’m certain it will be a joyful noise!”

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“A World in Harmony: A Ceremony of Solace and Celebration”
Boulder Concert Chorale with Christopher Hearns, guest artist
Vicki Burrichter, conductor

4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

TICKETS

Seicento presents music from a lavish 16th-century wedding

Musical interludes from La Pellegrina were unmatched for splendor

By Peter Alexander Nov. 1 at 3:30 p.m.

It was the wedding of the century.

The marriage of Fernando I de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, with Christina of Lorraine was celebrated in Florence, Italy, in 1589 with all the pomp and splendor of which only the Medici were capable. And they made sure everyone knew it, too.

Fernando I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Christina of Lorraine

One of the grandest events of the month-long celebration was La Pellegrina (The pilgrim woman), a five-act play that was embellished by six elaborate intermedii—musical interludes—with music by by six different composers. Placed before, after, and between the acts of the  play, these interludes featured extravagant sets and costumes and virtuosic music, all designed to demonstrate the wealth and power of the Medici family.

The musical interludes have been recorded but are rarely performed live—and as far as research can tell, never in Boulder until now. Selections from five of the six intermedii will form the next program by Seicento Baroque Ensemble, with performances Friday through Sunday in Boulder, Arvada and Longmont (times and locations below), under the direction of Seicento’s artistic director, Amanda Balestrieri.

Bernardo Buontalenti, costume design for La Pellegrina

For this performance, Seicento will only have 12 singers rather than the usual 25, due to COVID, but this core group will be supplemented by an additional paid singer and a solo octet, plus two violins, two violas da gamba, a theorbo/lute/Baroque guitar player and harpsichord. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required of all audience members. Both in-person and virtual tickets are available through the Seicento Web page.

It would be hard to exaggerate the impact of the wedding celebration, which was more than a year in planning, and especially the intermedii. While La Pellegrina the play made no great impression then or since, the musical interludes were clearly the most brilliant star of the event, which included banquets, balls, and even a mock naval battle. 

For the play and its attendant interludes an entire new theater was constructed, offering the latest in theatrical capabilities. The elaborate settings were designed by Bernardo Buontalenti, who set the standards for late renaissance stage spectacles. Music was commissioned from the best known Italian composers of the time, including the Florentine court composer Luca Marenzio, plus the early pioneers of Baroque opera Giulio Caccini, Jacopo Peri and Emilio de Cavalieri—names all prominent in music history if not in most listeners’ experience. 

Bernardo Buontalenti, costume design for La Pellegrina

So successful was the theatrical spectacle of La Pellegrina that it became the model in both musical and theatrical style for early Baroque opera, which for many years excelled as a means for courts and kings to display their wealth. The splendor of the intermedii remains unsurpassed by any stage music of the era, and they represent one original source of the entire artform of opera.

Balestrieri chose these pieces specifically for Seicento’s post-Covid return to the stage. Not only is the resumption of live performances a cause for celebration, the year also marks the ensemble’s tenth anniversary season. “I wanted a grand piece of great beauty that is less well-known,” she wrote in a description of the program. “[I wanted the concert] to stand out and offer some relief from the funereal music performances emerging in late pandemic programming.”

In an intriguing coincidence, Seicento’s founding 10 years ago grew from another Colorado premiere, of music written only a few years after La Pellegrina. That performance of the Vespers composed in 1610 by Monteverdi led directly to the current Seicento ensemble.

Balestrieri explains how she arrived at the singers who will perform the music from La Pellegrina. “Our chorus is a volunteer chorus,” she writes. “Many singers decided to wait until the spring to sing with us again because of COVID, either for their own health or their children’s, since some have young children not yet eligible for the vaccine.

“Anticipating this, I hired one additional chorus tenor, making 13 total singers (for) the full chorus, plus eight chorister/soloists to make up the solo octet that will sing everything. A few of the full chorus will join the octet for a few numbers, the full chorus sings about four choruses, and the octet sings the rest of the numbers.”

She decided not to attempt the entire musical score, which runs more than 90 minutes, both because one venue asked Seicento to limit its performance to 60 minutes as a COVID precaution, and also because of limited rehearsal time for the singers. With a total time of about 50 minutes for the music, Balestrieri expects the entire performance to finish in about an hour, with no intermission.

Both the subjects and the social milieu of the intermedii are likely unfamiliar to most modern listeners, but Balestrieri has taken that fact into account. “The intermedii were originally elaborately costumed and staged tableaux representing both mythological stories well-known to the original audience and homage to the royal couple,” she writes in her notes to the performance. 

Bernardo Buontalenti, design for the final scene of La Pellegrina

 “The context will be explained in the program, and the texts and translations should do the rest.”

And so for the Seicento performance, there will be no royal couple. And no elaborate costumes, much less the lavish stage machinery of the original. But much of the splendor resides in the music, and that will be very much present.

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La Pellegrina: “An Italian Intermezzo” 
Music performed at the wedding of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in Florence in 1589
Seicento Baroque Ensemble and guests
Amanda Balestrieri, conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, United Methodist Church, 6750 Carr St., Arvada
3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

In person and virtual tickets available here.

Grace Notes: Reminders of two concerts this coming weekend

By Peter Alexander Oct. 28 at 9:50 p.m.

Boulder Phil presents “The Art of Jazz” Saturday at Mountain View Methodist

The Boulder Philharmonic will perform the second of their two short concerts scheduled for the month of October at 4 p.m Saturday, Oct. 30, in the Mountain View United Methodist  church in Boulder.

Tickets are available through the Boulder Phil Web page. Audience members will be required to present proof of vaccination and wear masks throughout the concert. The short program will be presented without intermission, to reduce interaction among audience members. You may read the orchestra’s full, up-to-date COVID protocols here.  

The program features three pieces for small orchestra that were influenced by American jazz: the Jazz Suite No. 1 by Shostakovich, Darius Milhaud’s Creation of the World, and Little Threepenny Music, an orchestral suite arranged from the music for Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Michael Butterman will conduct. You may read more about this performance in an earlier post on this blog.

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Takacs Quartet performs music by Mozart, Henri Dutilleux and Smatana

The Takacs Quartet will present the second of their 2021-22 campus concerts at 4 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, in Grusin Music Hall of the CU Imig Music Building.

Masks must be worn inside all buildings on the CU campus. Please note that online streaming tickets for Sunday’s performance are also available, and the stream will remain available for a full week following the Monday performance. Tickets for both in-person attendance at the streamed performance are available through CU Presents.

The quartet will play three works on the concert. One is a familiar part of the standard string quartet repertoire: Mozart’s String Quartet in D minor, K421/417b. The others are less familiar: Ainsi la suit by the French composer Henri Dutilleux, and the String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From my Life,” by Smetana. You may read more about this performance in an earlier post on this blog.

Eklund Opera presents ‘the perfect Verdi Opera’

CU production of La traviata will be in Macky Auditorium Oct. 22–24

By Peter Alexander Oct. 22 at 11:43 a.m.

Nicholas Carthy describes La traviata as “the perfect Verdi opera.”

Certainly one of the best known and most loved operas, La traviata is a production of the CU Eklund Opera, to be presented in Macky Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22-23 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. As music director, Carthy will conduct the performances by student singers and the CU orchestra. Leigh Holman, director of Eklund Opera, is the stage director. 

The performances will be sung in Italian with projected titles in English. Tickets for all performances are available from the CU Presents Web page. Masks are required in all public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus, regardless of vaccination status.

The performances will be sung in Italian with projected titles in English. Tickets for all performances are available from cupresents.org/performances. Masks are required in all public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus, regardless of vaccination status.

Photo courtesy of Eklund Opera

Based on the 1848 novel by Alexandre Dumas the younger La Dame aux camélias (The lady of the camelias), La traviata tells the tragic story of Violetta, a high-society courtesan who falls in love with Alfredo, a young man from a respectable family. Alfredo and Violetta move together to the country in search of a quiet life together. 

Because of Violetta’s status as a social outcast, Alfredo’s father demands that she leave Alfredo, to clear the way for his younger daughter to have a respectable marriage. Under pressure, Violetta returns to her prior life in Paris, but she is suffering from tuberculosis, which took the lives of a quarter of the adult population of Europe in the 19th century.

The social issues of 19th-century Paris may seem remote, but Carthy says they are easy for today’s students to understand. “The idea of a disease that kills, and a family that disapproves is not terribly far away,” he says. 

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

All-Beethoven concert will celebrate the heroes battling COVID

Boulder Chamber Orchestra will present the “Eroica” Symphony Saturday

By Peter Alexander Oct. 21 at 4:40 p.m.

Bahman Saless says that performing Beethoven is like reciting Shakespeare. 

“There are so many ways to say something that it never ends,” he says. “You can say it 50 different ways, and the way you phrase everything will make it a little bit different.” In other words, Beethoven is so protean that every performance reveals something new.

Jennifer Hayghe will play Beethoven/ Fourth Piano Concerto Oct. 23

Saless is talking about the next concert he will conduct as music director of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 23), he and the orchestra will perform an all-Beethoven concert at the Boulder Seventh Day Adventist Church. Pianist Jennifer Hayghe from the CU Boulder College of Music will be the soloist for Beethoven‘s Fourth Piano Concerto, and the orchestra will perform the Third Symphony, known as the “Eroica.”

The in-person audience will be required to show either proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test in the past 72 hours before the concert. All audience members 2 and older will be required to wear a mask; children 2 to 12 will be admitted with proof of a negative COVID test. (See details here.) Tickets are available on the BCO Web page.

Saless said that Beethoven, and particularly the “Eroica” Symphony, were chosen to honor the heroes of the past year who worked on the front lines of the battle against COVID. The comparison to Shakespeare certainly illustrates the composer’s iconic stature: his music is often chosen for special occasions, such as the return to the stage after a pandemic.

Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto is not as well known as his Fifth—the “Emperor” Concerto—but it is equally esteemed by pianists and other musicians. “It is definitely the most intimate of Beethoven’s concertos, especially the first movement,” Saless says.

That intimacy is signaled at the very beginning as the concerto begins, not with the traditional orchestral introduction, but with a gentle chordal gesture by the piano that is answered by the orchestra, creating a pattern of intimate dialog for the rest of the concerto.

Bahman Saless

“Beethoven sets up a conversation, and literally the entire movement is the dialog between the orchestra and piano,” Saless says. “It’s very personal. It’s his softest first movement, I would say gentlest, and absolutely just gorgeous.

“The slow movement is the most intriguing movement of the three. It starts with the orchestra dominating the scene, and the piano has the meeker answer. Then gradually the piano takes over. It’s really an amazing piece of music.”

The “Eroica” is one of the best known works in the orchestral repertoire. But Saless wants you to know that this performance will have its own individual character. “You’re going to hear a chamber orchestra version, rather than a full symphonic version,” he says. 

He points out two things to listen for in the chamber orchestra performance. The first is that the winds will be more prominent than with a larger string section. “They will be a lot more prominent, and they have a much bigger role,” he says. Where they “have the really important parts, we’re going to make sure that you can hear all the detail.”

The other is that as a smaller and more agile orchestra, the BCO can come closer to the fast tempos that Beethoven marked in his score. Those tempos are regarded as so extreme that they are rarely observed, but “we’re going to try to take the first movement close to Beethoven’s tempo marking,” Saless says. 

“It’s going to be really fun. And it’s scary! It’s very scary to do this symphony. The ‘Eroica’ is a Titanic, but [the players and I] have a bond when it comes to Beethoven. I know the orchestra is looking forward to it, and they are aware of what it means to me.”

Saless is happy to be returning to live performances after the past two years. In fact, the experience of the pandemic has led him, like many musicians, to be reflective about returning to the music he loves. 

“After COVID, you know that we could be dead tomorrow,” he says. “When you’re doing the Beethoven Third, you have to realize this could be the last time you’re dong it. You need to be really thankful that you can be up there and present this work of art to the public. There’s nothing like it. It’s the ultimate experience.

“I’m the luckiest person alive.”

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra
Bahman Saless, music director
Fall 2021 concerts

“Celebrating the Heroes:” All-Beethoven Concert

  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)
  • —Concerto for Piano No. 4 in G major, op. 58
    Jennifer Hayghe, piano

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

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“A Gift of Music:” Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars.

  • Maxime Goulet: Symphonic Chocolates
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme
    Joey Howe, cello
  • Mozart: Concerto in A for clarinet and orchestra
    Kellan Toohey, clarinet

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec.11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

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Ars Nova Singers present music “Made Perfect” Oct. 15–16

Concert features music of Renaissance composer Palestrina

By Peter Alexander Oct. 14 at 5:35 p.m.

The music of Renaissance composer Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina was regarded as having been “made perfect” by the generations that followed him.

Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina

Boulder’s Are Nova Singers will present a concert devoted largely to Palestrina’s perfectly made music, along with a piece by the contemporary English composer John Tavener, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15 at St. Pauls’ Community of Faith in Denver, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in First United Methodist Church in Boulder. Tickets are available for both in-person attendance, and also for an online audience for the Oct. 15 performance, on the Ars Nova Web page.

Proof of vaccination must be shown for admission, and masks must be worn indoors throughout the concert.

The leading composer of sacred music in the 16th century, Palestrina spent his entire life in or near Rome, having been born just outside the city. He served for many years as director of the Capella Giulia, the papal choir at St. Peter’s Basilica. His reputation then and later was so great that he was long and falsely credited with having “saved” polyphonic (multi-voice) sacred choral music during the Council of Trent, which was tasked with purging and clarifying church doctrine as part of the 16th-century Counter-Reformation.

It was Palestrina’s mastery of counterpoint that was so widely admired by musicians and theorists. The teaching of counterpoint for several generations after was based on his works, which were characterized by the smooth movement of voices, with very few leaps between notes, and careful control of dissonance. In fact, his style is still taught today as “Renaissance polyphony.” It has been the verdict of history that he was the greatest composer of sacred music of his generation.

Palestrina wrote at least 104 polyphonic settings of the mass, more than 300 motets, 35 magnificats, and 140 madrigals, among other works. From this vast output, Are Nova will perform a Missa Brevis (short mass), a movement from another setting of the mass, and three motets. 

John Tavener

Twentieth/twenty-first century composer John Tavener (1944-2013) was also known for his extensive output of sacred choral music. His “Song for Athene” became particularly well known when it was performed in 1997 at the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales. The “Exhortation” is written for double chorus. It was commissioned for the 2003 Festival of Remembrance in London’s Royal Albert Hall and is based on the poem “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, which begins “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.”

Like much of Tavener’s music, “Exhortation” conveys both serenity and a mystical quality that seems related to his extensive spiritual exploration by means of Russian and Greek orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Tavener described himself as “essentially Orthodox,” which became an important aspect of his musical identity.

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Ars Nova Singers
Thomas Morgan, director
2021–22 Season

“Made Perfect”

  • Palestrina: Missa Brevis
  • Surge amica mea
  • Diffusa est gratis
  • Accepit Jesus calicem
  • Agnus Dei (Missa Benedicta es)
  • John Tavener: Exhortation

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15
St. Paul’s Community of Faith
1600 Grant St, Denver

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16
First United Methodist Church,
1421 Spruce St, Boulder

In-person and livestream TICKETS

“Made Merry”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10
St. Paul’s Community of Faith, Denver

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12
United Church of Christ, Longmont

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder

7:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 17
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

“Made Fragile”

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022
St. Paul’s Community of Faith, Denver

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022
First United Methodist Church, Boulder

“Made Light”
With Sandra Wong, nyckelharpa and violin; Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba

Regional tour: March 24, Pueblo, Colo.
March 25, Albuquerque, N.M.
March 26, Santa Fe, N.M.

April 1: Central Presbyterian Church, Denver
April 2: First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Longmont Symphony visits Stewart Auditorium for concerts Oct. 16 & 17

Reduced orchestra will play works of Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Jessie Montgomery

By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 4 p.m.

Elliot Moore spent the pandemic listening to music. Many of us did, but Moore’s listening wasn’t just a way to pass the lonely hours. As conductor of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO), he was listening to symphonies by Joseph Haydn—not quite all 108 of them, but enough that he found the one that spoke to him.

That symphony—No. 96 in D major, known as “The Miracle”—will anchor the LSO’s next program, a concert for smaller orchestra to be presented in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17. In addition to Haydn’s symphony, the program will feature cellist Matthew Zalkind playing Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, “Starburst” by Jessie Montgomery, and Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Winds. Tickets for the concert can be purchased here

Haydn’s Symphony “just grabbed me,” Moore says. “I listened to countless of Haydn’s symphonies, just getting to know them, getting to know his orchestral world. First of all, I love it. What a creative symphonist! His level of creativity for the genre was astronomical. It blew me away.”

The Symphony No. 96 was given the name “Miracle” on the mistaken belief that it was the work by Haydn that was being played when a chandelier collapsed onto the floor during a concert the composer presented in London in 1791. It was actually another symphony, during a performance in 1795, where the audience dodged the chandelier when they all pressed forward to the edge of the stage. The name “Miracle” has stuck, and so Moore plans to celebrate a miracle of another sort with the performance.

Matthew Zalkind Courtesy photo

“When you’re just getting back to in-person performances—to me, that’s the miracle,” he says.

The other major anchor piece on the program will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, usually known as the Rococo Variations, for solo cello and orchestra. A graceful and lyrical piece, the variations are not really Rococo in style. As Moore explains it, Tchaikovsky “takes the Rococo, the gestalt of it, and puts it in a very Romantic, Russian sort of way.” In other words, there are subtle nods to the highly decorated Rococo style of the 18th century in the theme, but the overall feeling of the piece is pure 19th-century Romanticism.

Zalkind teaches cello at the Lamont School of Music in Denver. A graduate of Juilliard and the University of Michigan, he is co-artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival. He was awarded First Prize in the Washington International Competition, as well as top prizes in the Beijing International Cello Competition and Korea’s Isang Yun Gyeongnam International Competition.  

The concert will open with Montgomery’s “Starburst.” A violinist and composer, Montgomery has found her compositions for string orchestra featured in numerous performances over the past year. Written for a small ensemble, they proved ideal for streamed performances during the pandemic, and they have been popular with both players and audiences1.

“She’s a string player, and she writes for strings very well,” Moore says. “Starburst is something I’m looking forward to, something that’s got high energy [to] open the performance.” 

To balance the program by featuring the SLO’s winds as well as the strings, Moore chose Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments. Written when the composer was just 17, it is one of his earliest works. The score calls for four horns, reflecting the influence of the composer’s father, a noted horn player in the Munich court orchestra. The tuneful and generally lyrical single-movement Serenade also reflects the senior Strauss’ conservative musical tastes, which scarcely went beyond mid-period Beethoven.

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Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: “Starburst”
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 (“The Miracle”)

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
TICKETS