Boulder Chamber Orchestra plays music by Haydn and Mozart, May 19–20
By Peter Alexander May 16 at 10:15 a.m.
It’s the end of the concert season, and Bahman Saless, conductor of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, has his mind on parties.
Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Bahman Saless are in a party mood.
The group’s final concert of the 2017–18 season, to be presented Saturday and Sunday (May 19–20) in Lone Tree and Boulder, features two symphonies where he hears party music: Haydn’s Symphony No. 95 in C minor and Mozart’s Symphony in C major K 425 (“Linz”). The program, titled “Papa Haydn and Wolfgang,” also includes Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major for violin, cello, oboe, bassoon and orchestra.
It was the last of those, the Sinfonia Concertante, that inspired Saless for this program. He had conducted it 12 years ago, in one of the BCO’s early seasons, but had not thought about it since then. “I hadn’t listened to it for a while, and I heard it on the radio,” he says.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to do this’! It’s such a great piece, one of his most refined pieces, and it’s a wonderful piece with an orchestra with good soloists.”
The four solo players are all section leaders in the BCO: violinist and concertmaster Annamaria Karacson, principal cellist Joseph Howe, principal oboist Max Soto, and co-principal bassoonist Kaori Uno-Jack. The first three have had several solos with the orchestra in the past, so Saless is particularly happy to feature Uno-Jack this time.
“One of the hidden gems in the orchestra is our bassoon section,” he says. “They are just ridiculously good bassoonists, and this gives a chance to Kaori to really shine.”
The Sinfonia Concertante was written in 1791, during the first of Haydn’s two visits to London. To gain audience support for his commercial concerts, he often featured soloists who were local favorites, which is probably the reason that he wrote a piece with four solo parts. It’s a hybrid piece, partly in the style of the classical symphony and partly a throwback to the Baroque-era Concerto Grosso style that matched a small group against a larger group.
“It’s a symphony in the sense that the soloists also play the [orchestra] parts,” Saless explains. “So it’s a symphony, but every once in a while the principals play solos, so it’s a cross between a symphony and a concerto. But it’s not a virtuoso piece—it’s an ensemble concerto.”
Symphony No. 95 was written in 1792, during the same visit to London. It is the only one of the 12 London symphonies written in a minor key. Less popular than the others at the time, it has also been somewhat neglected since then. “It’s one of those gems that is not played very often,” Saless says.
“It’s more Beethoven-esque, especially the first movement. The next two movements are really fabulous. The second is a theme and variations, which introduces a solo cello, and the third movement is probably the most powerful movement of the symphony. The entire trio is solo cello, and it’s very cool.”
But it’s the finale where Saless hears a party breaking out. “It’s just a huge crazy orgy of different motives, all entering and leaving,” he says.
And after that, another party springs up in the Mozart Symphony, written in 1783 when Mozart was visiting friends in the Austrian city of Linz. “I’ve been to Linz, so I was trying to figure out, is there imagery that comes with it?” Saless says.
Party time in downtown Linz
“The first movement is really cool, because it’s got this very regal introduction. It kind of starts slow and kind of curious, and then suddenly—it’s party time!
“Honestly, that’s how I saw Linz. First you cross a bridge and you enter the town. You’re kind of looking around, walking from block to block, and then suddenly when you get to the center, it really is a huge party town!”
Close study of the score doesn’t confirm that interpretation, but Saless is sticking with it. “That’s how I’m conducting it,” he says. But then he adds, with a laugh: “You should see the faces of my orchestra when I tell them crazy stuff like that.”
Crazy, but also an engaging way to think about a symphony and a town. “In fact,” Saless says, “a trip to Linz would be a great vacation after the season.”
If you want to find him next week, you know where to look.
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“Papa Haydn and Wolfgang”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
Haydn: Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major
Haydn: Symphony No. 95 in C minor
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 (“Linz”)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Lone Tree Arts Center
3 p.m. Sunday, May 20, Boulder Adventist Church