Grace Notes: Boulder’s Choral Groups’ 2022–23 Seasons

Ars Nova Singers, Boulder Chorale and Seicento lay out plans for 2022-23

By Peter Alexander Oct. 12 at 2:52 p.m.

The Ars Nova Singers, the Boulder Chorale and Seicento Baroque Ensemble—three of Boulder’s leading choral groups—have distinct qualities, in terms of repertoire and performance style. All three groups have now announced their concert schedules for the 2022–23 season:

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Under director Tom Morgan, Ars Nova generally avoids the historical middle of standard repertoire, preferring music either side of the 18th and 19th centuries—the Renaissance or the 20th and 21st centuries. Their concerts are challenging to the singers, and can be equally so to audiences, but they are always interesting as well.

On Nov. 4 they will be the first of the three to present a concert this season (see time and place below). Their opening program is devoted to one of the most fascinating figures of the late Renaissance. Carlo Gesualdo, the Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, was the composer of harmonically advanced, highly chromatic madrigals unlike anything else of their time. He was also known for having murdered his first wife and her lover when he found them together in bed, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in appreciation of his extreme music.

Performances of Gesualdo’s music are rare, as is often the case with Ars Nova programming, so this performance is worth noting.

One major event of the Ars Nova season will be the presentation in March of the world-touring British a cappella group Voces 8. Their two performances under Ars Nova’s auspices will be Wednesday March 1, 2023 in Macky Auditorium (7:30 p.m., details below) and Thursday, March 2, at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver (7:30 p.m.; tickets on sale Oct. 15). Please note that these are two separate programs. (details below).

Here is a full listing of the Ars Nova 2022–23 season:

“Wonder”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
With Sandra Wong, violin and nyckelharpa, and Ann Marie Morgan, viola da gamba
Carlo Gesualdo: Madrigals from Books 5 and 6

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4
    St. John Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov5
    Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum
  • 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6
    St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver 

“Solstice”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
With John Gunther, woodwinds
Music for the Winter Solstice and Christmas

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9
    First Congregational Church, 1500 9th Ave., Longmont
  • 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
    St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver

“Stardust”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb 10, 2023
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St, Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023
    Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver

“Choral Dances”
Voces 8
Music by Byrd, Bach, Britten and Berlin

  • 7:30 pm. Wednesday, March 1
    Macky Auditorium

TICKETS 

“Lux Aeterna”
Voces 8
Music by Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Monteverdi

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2
    St. John’s Cathedral, 1350 n. Washington St., Denver

TICKETS available Oct. 15

“Reflections”
Ars Nova Singers, Tom Morgan, director
Music by Mahler, Thomas Jennefelt and Caroline Shaw

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22
    Bethany Lutheran Church, 400 E. Hampden Ave. Cherry Hills Village
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3
    TANK Center for Sonic Arts, 233 County Rd. 46, Rangely, Colo

(This program will also be performed on tour in Colorado and New Mexico.)

See more information on the Ars Nova Web page

CORRECTION: The two programs by Voices 8 March 1 and March 2 were originally listed incorrectly. The correct information is “Choral Dances” on March 1 and “Lux Aeterna” on March 2, as now shown above.

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The Boulder Chorale is actually three different groups, and serves a role in music education as well as performance—in the words of the Web page, “for singers aged 5 to 85.” The Concert Chorale, the Chamber Chorale and the Children’s Chorale—the last divided by age into four different ensembles—perform separately as well as together. Under director Vicki Burrichter, the repertoire of the adult groups is eclectic, notably including world music, traditional styles from both European and non-European sources, and new works. As in the current season, their repertoire has often included work for chorus and orchestra.

Boulder Chorale opens their season Nov. 5, one day later than Ars Nova. Their opening weekends overlap, but you can easily plan to attend both. The chorale’s program is an example of their pursuit of world music. Titled “Origins: The Fertile Crescent,” the program highlights music from the Middle East and North Africa, including the Chorale’s own arrangements by Adam Waite of music from Israel, Afghanistan, Spain, Morocco and Syria.

Later in the year, the Chorale partners with the Longmont Symphony for performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 17) and a Messiah  singalong (Dec. 18; details below); and with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra for performances of Beethoven’s Mass in C.

Here is the full listing of the Boulder Chorale 2022–23 season through April 2023:

“Origins: The Fertile Crescent”
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, with Catrene Payan, vocalist, and Middle Eastern instrumental ensemble, David Hinojosa,leader

  • 4 pm. Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

“A Celtic Winter”
Boulder Chamber Chorale and Concert Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director, and Boulder Children’s Chorale, Nathan Wubbena, director

  • 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11
    First United Methodist Church, Boulder 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

Handel’s Messiah
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 4 p.m. Dec. 17
    Westview Presbyterian Church, 1500 Hover St., Longmont

“Hallelujah! A Messiah singalong”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 4 p.m. Dec. 18
    Westview Presbyterian Church, 1500 Hover St., Longmont

“A Nation of Immigrants
Boulder Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor

  • 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO

Beethoven Mass in C
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1
    Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

For more information on these and other concerts, visit the Boulder Chorale Web page.  

CORRECTION: The concert “Story of My life,“ previously listed here, was included by error. That is a performance by the Boulder Children’s Chorales, and has been removed from this listing. Also, clarification has been added as to which of the three chorales is performing in each of the concerts.

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Seicento specializes in Baroque music of the 17th (“Seicento” in Italian) and 18th centuries performed with, to use the currently accepted language, “historically informed” performance practice, including period instruments. Today they are directed by the group’s founder, Evanne Browne.

Founded in 2011, Seicento launches its second decade in December with “Nöel: Christmas in the late Renaissance and Early Baroque” (December 2–4), a program that includes carols still familiar today as well as little known choral works. The major event of the season will take place in May, when Seicento will be joined by an orchestra of historical instrument performers to present Colorado’s first historically informed performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion.

Here is the full listing of Seicento’s season:

“Nöel: Christmas in the late Renaissance and Early Baroque”
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Evanne Browne, conductor

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 2
    St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
    First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4
    First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1500 9th Ave., Longmont

J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (BWV 245)
Seicento Baroque Ensemble and historical instrument orchestra, Evanne Browne, conductor

  • 7 p.m. Friday, May 5
    Arvada United Methodist Church, 6750 Carr St., Arvada
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, May 6
    St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant St., Denver
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7
    Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder 

For more information, see Seicento’s Web page.  

Grace Notes: Three classical organizations announce 2022–23 seasons

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Pro Musica Colorado and Boulder Opera

By Peter Alexander Oct. 3 at 5:15 p.m.

With the 2022–23 concert season getting underway, Boulder’s many classical music organizations are getting their season schedules up on the Web. Here are three of the planned seasons for the coming year, from the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, starting Oct. 29; Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, starting Nov. 19; and Boulder Opera., starting Dec. 9.

While the seasons include some pretty standard repertoire, including Beethoven and Mendelssohn symphonies and two different renderings of Mozart’s early Symphony in A major, K201, it will also offer pieces that are not standard. These include Beethoven’s Mass in C by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Chorale, and music by Florence Price and Caroline Shaw by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra.

Here are the respective seasons:

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The Boulder Chamber Orchestra opens its season Oct. 29 without conductor Bahman Saless. Guest conductor Giancarlo De Lorenzo and violinist Loreto Gismondi, both from Italy, will perform a mostly Mozart concert featuring that composer’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K218, and Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201. Opening the concert will be Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from the oratorio Solomon. 

This concert is part of an exchange between De Lorenzo and Saless, who previously conducted the Italian orchestra with which De Lorenzo is affiliated.

Other orchestral concerts during the year will be “A Gift of Music” on Saturday, December 17, with soprano Szilvia Shrantz, BCO bassist Kevin Sylves and holiday selections; and a performance of music by Beethoven, Brahms and Mendlessohn with violinist Edward Dusinberre on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. The season concludes with a performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Boulder Chamber Chorale on Saturday, April 1. Saless will lead these performances.

Concerts by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra will take pace in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave. Here is the full season schedule:

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
Boulder Chamber Orchestra with guest conductor Giancarlo De Lorenzo and Loreto Gismondi, violin

  • Handel: “Arrival of Queen of Sheba” from Solomon
  • Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K218
  • Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with Szilvia Shrantz, soprano, and Kevin Sylves, double bass

  • Handel: Selected arias
  • Henry Eccles: Sonata in G minor for double bass and strings
  • J.S. Bach: Concerto in D minor for two violins and orchestra 

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb.11
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with Edward Dusinberre, violin

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

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with the Boulder Chamber Choir

Beethoven: Mass in C

TICKETS  

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The Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra will celebrate its “Sweet 16th” concert season with three programs, presented Nov. 19, Jan. 28, and April 29.

The programs feature several works by women composers, including a woman of color and two living composers, in addition to classic works by Mozart and Beethoven, and a major work of the early 20th century by Arnold Schoenberg. All three performances will be at 7:30 p.m. in Pro Musica’s musical home, Mountain View United Methodist Church at 355 Ponca Place Boulder.

Performances by Pro Musica Colorado will be under the direction of their music director, Cynthia Katsarelis. 

The opening concert will feature pianist Jennifer Hayghe, the chair of the Roser Piano and Keyboard Program at CU-Boulder, playing the Piano Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price. The first female African American composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, Price was well known in the 1930s and 1940s/ After fading from prominence, her name has recently been returning to concert programs.

Other soloists during the season will be cellist Meta Weiss, chamber music coordinator at CU-Boulder, and Takács Quartet members Harumi Rhodes, violin, and Richard O’Neiill, viola. Each concert will be preceded by a pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. Here is the full season’s schedule:

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19
“Apotheosis of the Dance”
Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Jennifer Hayghe, piano

  • Ben Morris: The Hill of Three Wishes
  • Florence Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023
“Through the Looking Glass”
Pro Musical 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, April 29
“Transfigured Night”
Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Harumi Rhodes, violin, and Richard O’Neill, viola

  • Jessie Lausé: World premiere
  • Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola in E-flat major, K364
  • Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht

TICKETS  

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Boulder Opera has announced their 11th season, featuring a family-themed production for the holiday season and a French Grand Opera early in 2023.

The first production of the season will be Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, which is a perennial holiday event for families with children in Germany and Austria. The Boulder opera production, scheduled for Dec. 9 through 18 at the Dairy Arts Center, will be presented in an abridged English version with narrator. 

Designed as an ideal introduction to opera, the performances will last only one hour, and include a Q&A session after each performance. The performance is suitable for children age three and up.

After the new year, Boulder Opera will present two performances of Manon by Jules Massenet, one of the classics of the French Grand Opera tradition. Performances will be Feb. 18 and 19 in the Dairy Arts Center. Here is the full schedule:

Engelbert Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel
Boulder Opera, stage directed by Michael Travis Risner
Aric Vihmeisterr, piano, and Mathieu D’Ordine, cello

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9
2 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 17
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
Grace Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center

TICKETS  

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

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19
Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center

TICKETS   

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Chorale present a Requiem for the Living

Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem Saturday at 8

By Peter Alexander March 31 at 11:35 p.m.

Howard Goodall

Howard Goodall wanted to write a Requiem for the living.

The English composer was not interested in creating a piece about the terrors of the last judgment that often feature heavily in older settings of the Latin Requiem. Instead, he composed a piece “intended to provide solace to the grieving,” he writes, comparing it in this respect to Brahms’s German Requiem.

Goodall’s 2008 work Eternal Light: A Requiem will be performed by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) and Boulder Chamber Chorale—probably a Colorado premiere—at 8 p.m. Saturday (April 2) at the Boulder Adventist Church. Bahman Saless will conduct.

Also on the program is one the BCO’s most popular pieces from past concerts, the Suite Antique by John Rutter. The performance will feature flutist Rachelle Crowell, a member of the BCO (full details below).

When Saless first heard Eternal Light, he was captivated by the piece for two reasons. For one, it is a contemporary piece that should have broad appeal. “The piece is so approachable and so beautiful,” he says. “It has beautiful melodies, gorgeous violin solos and arias, and I thought here’s a piece that we can bring to the world and say ‘Hey, look! There is something really awesome here! Listen!’”

Bahman Saless

The second reason was more personal. “(Goodall) uses poetry from England, and also brings Church of England hymn tunes into it,” Saless explains. “I went to high school in England, and every morning we had to get up and sing these beautiful hymn tunes. So a couple of the pieces hit me directly in my heart and in my past of being a schoolboy in England. That was another reason I fell in love with it.”

The inclusion of English poetry was part of Goodall’s aim of creating a Requiem that focuses on consolation for the grieving. “The writing of a Requiem is a special challenge for any composer,” he writes. “For me, a modern Requiem is one that acknowledges the unbearable loss and emptiness that accompanies the death of loved ones, a loss that is not easily ameliorated with platitudes about the joy awaiting us in the afterlife.”

Goodall’s solution was to create his own text for the Requiem, using English poetry to comment on the liturgical text, and adding movements not part of the usual liturgy. Some movements that juxtapose the Latin liturgical text with English poetry recall Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (“Kyrie: Close now thine eyes”). Other movements stick entirely to the Latin text—e.g., “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God). 

The “Dies Irae” (Day of wrath) movement drops the Latin text describing the agonies of the final judgment entirely, setting in its place John McCrae’s well known First World War-era poem “In Flanders Fields.” The “Lacrimosa” (Tearful) movement does the same, using the 17th-century poem by Phineas Fletcher “Drop, drop slow tears,” which was set by the Renaissance composer Orland Gibbons and used as a hymn text in the English church.

Another unusual aspect of the Requiem is that it was commissioned as a dance piece as well as a choral-orchestral piece. None of the movements are labelled as dances, but Saless notes that parts are “somewhat dance-y. It’s really a new concept,” he says.

The score calls for chorus and string orchestra, with other parts that can be handled with some flexibility. For the BCO performance, the strings will be supplemented by a piano and an electronic keyboard with harp and organ sounds.

Goodall’s compositional output marks him as a composer who can write accessible music for a broad audience. In addition to his choral works, he has composed musical theater pieces and music for film and television. These include the film Mr. Bean and the highly popular Mr. Bean television series, two of Goodall’s many collaborations with the actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson.

John Rutter

Saless decided to fill out the program with Rutter’s Suite Antique. BCO has performed the suite several times, and their YouTube video with flutist Cobus DuToit has received more than 77,000 hits. “This is our most popular YouTube video,” Saless says.

Flutist Rachelle Crowell

The score is nearly a flute concerto, with the instrument featured as soloist in each of the six movements. Scored for strings, harpsichord and flute, it is reminiscent of Baroque dance suites, with movements titled Prelude, Ostinato, Aria, Waltz, Chanson and Rondeau. The score adheres comfortably to Rutter’s usual accessible and unchallenging style.

“The other nice thing about the concert choice is that it’s basically a British composers concert,” Saless says. “And they’re both alive, so you can chalk that against performing contemporary music!”

Saless originally planned to perform Eternal Light two years ago, as a consoling musical gesture to audiences during the pandemic. “It’s been one of my goals to bring this to Boulder,” he says, but the original plans had to be postponed. Now that it finally will be performed, he says, “I’m really excited.”

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“Eternal Light”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Rachelle Crowell, flute, and Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, director

  • John Rutter: Suite Antique
  • Howard Goodall: Eternal Light: A Requiem

8 p.m. Saturday, April 2
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave.

TICKETS

Pianist Andrew Staupe brings two very different concertos to the BCO

Bahman Saless will conduct works by J.C Bach, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky

By Peter Alexander Jan. 26 at 10 p.m.

Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Conductor Bahman Saless will join with pianist Andrew Staupe and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra Saturday (7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Boulder Adventist Church) to present “Diversions from History,” a program that balances some diversions from the usual programming with one of the most familiar works from the Romantic era.

“That’s what you do when you do programming,” Saless says. “You go ‘well, we need something that brings the audience in.’”

“Something” in this case is the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, a piece that the often self-critical composer wrote “does not lack artistic worth.” It does not lack admirers, either, being one of the most performed of Tchaikovsky’s works. It has been heard in films, TV shows, and, remarkably, as the lead in to commercial breaks for an NFL playoff game.

If the Serenade provided the audience draw, the other two works on the program provided the concert’s title. And they are certainly a diversion from the standard repertoire: the Piano Concerto in E-flat, op 7 no. 5, by Johann Christian Bach, and the Concerto No. 1 for Piano by Shostakovich. 

Andrew Staupe

“Staupe wanted to do two small concertos,” Saless explained. This may have been a reaction to his last performance with Saless and the BCO in 2018, when he played the massive Piano Concerto No 3 of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a contemporary of Beethoven. “It’s crazy hard!” Saless says of that concerto, suggesting that Staupe wanted something different this time.

When they started looking for shorter concertos, Saless remembered conducting music by J.C. Bach in Europe. “I was fascinated,” he says. “Also, I read that he and another composer, (Carl Friedrich) Abel, wrote the first piano concertos, the way we know them, in terms of writing for piano rather than harpsichord.”

The youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian is known as “The London Bach” from having lived there for many years. He is important in history as a transitional figure between his father’s Baroque style and the high classic style of Mozart and Haydn, and for having taught the eight-year-old Mozart in London. In fact, the young Mozart’s first concertos were modeled on works by J.C. Bach.

At a distance of more than 150 years, Shostakovich stands at a long remove from J.C. Bach. “We’re basically playing the music by a composer from the beginning of piano concerto as we’re familiar with, to the end of piano concerto as we’re familiar with,” Saless says.

But there is a musical connection, in that Shostakovich ties his concerto to earlier eras in various ways. He uses contrapuntal textures that recall the Baroque era of the elder Bach in the concerto’s fast movements, and quotes themes by Beethoven, including the “Appassionata” Sonata at the very outset, and the so-called “Rage Over a Lost Penny” in the finale.

Derek McDonald

Shostakovich originally set out to write a trumpet concerto, but at some point he decided that the music needed a piano. As he continued to compose, the piano became more prominent, until he decided it was turning into a concerto for piano—with trumpet—although it is effectively a double concerto for the two instruments. The trumpet soloist will be Derek McDonald, the principal trumpet of the BCO.

The two soloists have their work cut out for them, Saless says. “The tempos are so wild! When it’s that fast, it’s a hard piece to put together. We’re going to have to practice a lot.”

Because of the fast tempos, “the pianist makes the decisions because the jumps in the left hand between the very end of the piano and the middle are ridiculous. Most of the tempos came from (Staupe) and (McDonald) is just making sure that he can play at the tempo that Andrew wants.”

In places it goes so fast that “the best thing (for the conductor) is not to get in the way,” Saless says. “You just conduct really small and let them do it. And you pray!”

Tchaikovsky wanted a large, lush string orchestra for the Serenade. The BCO is limited in numbers, due to COVID and the small stage space of the Adventist Church where they perform. “The problem is, how many people can we fit on that stage, and how many people do we WANT on the stage during the pandemic,” Saless says.

“But we’ve got 24 strings, so this is one of our bigger string sections. We have five cellos and two basses, which is pretty big for us. It’s going to be a nice, full sound.”

It’s not obvious, but the Serenade’s rich, Romantic score has a connection to the Classical elements of the other works on the program. Tchaikovsky was an ardent admirer of Mozart, to whom he intended a tribute in the Serenade’s first movement.

Whether you hear a connection with Mozart—and it is subtle—or hear the Beethoven quotations in Shostakovich, the program of three varied works is designed to appeal to varied tastes. And Saless hopes you will want to experience all three. “Come hear,” he says, suggesting a pun. 

“Come see. And listen!”

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“Diversions in History’
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Andrew Staupe, piano, and Derek McDonald, trumpet

  • Johann Christian Bach: Piano Concerto in E-flat major, op. 7 no. 5
  • Shostakovich: Concerto No. 1 for Piano
  • Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

TICKETS

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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Joining a growing trend, Boulder Chamber Orchestra plans return to the stage

2021-22 season will celebrate heroes and mourn victims of the past year

By Peter Alexander June 25 at 5:24 p.m.

Bahman Saless, music director of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO), can hardly wait to get back in front of a live audience

Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.

“Oh my god yes, I’m dying!” he says.

The BCO recently announced their 2021–22 season, which will feature a mix of orchestra concerts and mini-chamber concerts through the coming year—very much the pattern of previous seasons. “People want to feel that normalcy is back, and that was the whole plan,” Saless says. “We haven’t gone anywhere, we’re here, and we’re going to have a super season!”

For those who prefer to retain some social distancing in public situations, Saless points out that the current location of most of their concerts, Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church, had a large space that does not usually sell out. 

“We never filled all the seats, because Seventh Day Adventist is pretty big.” He says. “I think the same number of people will want to come back, in which case they would still be OK. They could occupy the entire place, sitting  every other seat. We’re all crossing our fingers that things will get even better and they will get back to normal by October. I’m pretty confident we should be OK.”

Saless says the programs were chosen to fit the timing, of opening up again after a pandemic. “We’re going to celebrate heroes, the people that were in the front line with COVID,” he says. “That’s the first concert, with the Beethoven “Eroica” (Symphony). And then (we remember) the victims, which is the last concert.”

Howard Goodall

The major piece on that closing concert is Eternal Light by British composer Howard Goodall, a piece that Saless says recalls his years in a British boarding school. “I was homesick for so long about English hymn tunes,” he says. “When I heard this piece I was like ‘Oh my God, this is what I’ve wanted to do!’ I thought it would be very fitting to dedicate that concert to the people who lost their lives to COVID. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Most of the rest of the season is music that Saless had originally planned for the “lost” season of 2020-21.

A discounted season ticket for the 2021–22 season is available here. You may purchase tickets to the individual concerts by clicking through from that page to the listing of each concert.

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Mini-Chamber Concert
Members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra performing string quintets

  • Dvorak: String Quintet, Op. 97
  • Mozart: String Quintet in G Minor, K. 515

8 PM, Sept. 23, 2021, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

“Celebrating the Heroes”: All-Beethoven Concert
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Jennifer Hayghe, piano

  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”)
  • Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 4 in G major

7:30 PM, Oct. 23, 2021, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Maxime Goulet

“A Gift of Music”: Celebrating the Season with BCO Stars
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Joey Howe, cello, and Kellan Toohey, clarinet

  • Maxime Goulet:  Symphonic Chocolates
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme
  • Mozart: Clarinet Concerto

7:30 PM, Dec. 11, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

“Diversions in History”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Andrew Staupe, piano, and Sam Dusinberre, trumpet

  • Johann Christian Bach: Concerto for Piano in E-flat
  • Dimitri Shostakovich: Concerto for Piano No. 1
  • Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings.

7:30 PM, Jan. 29, 2022, Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Mini-Chamber concert
Program TBA
Feb. 12, 2022.

“Eternal Light”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Boulder Chorale, directed by Vicki Burrichter

  • Vladimir Martynov: Come in! (Colorado premiere)
  • Howard Goodall: Requiem Eternal Light (in memory of the lives lost due to the pandemic; Colorado premiere)

8 PM. April 1, 2022, First United Methodist Church

Music by Luigi Cherubini, an often overlooked composer

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Chorale collaborate on Requiem

By Peter Alexander Feb. 13 at 11 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sara Davis Buechner

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

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

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

Chopin

Frédéric Chopin. Portrait by Maria Wodzinska.

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

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

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

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Beethoven. Portrait by Christian Horneman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CORRECTIONS: Minor typos corrected Oct. 23.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra performs concert of instrumental colors for Mother’s Day

“Earthly Delights” program includes music of Debussy, Ravel and Mozart

By Peter Alexander May 9, 2019, at 2 p.m.

The next concert by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra is titled “Earthly Delights,” but it’s not about the famous painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

“This is more of an atmosphere concert,” BCO conductor Bahman Saless says. “You’ve got Debussy and Ravel in a concert and their music conjures up impressions rather than emotions. So, I thought that was nice title to put there.”

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Cobus do Toit

The full program, to be performed Friday in Lone Tree and Sunday afternoon in Boulder (see details below), features Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Ravel’s Ma mere l’Oye (Mother Goose) Suite. Also on the program are Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Concerto for flute and harp, featuring BCO principal flutist Cobus du Toit and harpist Jennifer Ellis.

The keystone to the program is the Mozart concerto. “The main theme of the concert was the musical colors that are portrayed with harp and flute,” Saless says. “It’s not performed very often, and you have to have an excellent flautist and harp player. Then the question comes, what will I program it with?

“That’s really tough because you have to think, well, I’d better use the flute and harp maybe somewhere else. That’s where I decided that it might be good to putThe Afternoon of a Faun in there.”

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Jennifer Ellis

Even that did not solve all the problems, though. Debussy’s atmospheric score is usually performed by a large orchestra with two harps, but the BCO’s venues did not have space for that many players. Saless found a version with the two harp parts combined into one, and with that version and the players squeezed into a tight space, they can make it work.

Afternoon of the Faun has always been one of my ultimate pieces to conduct,” he says. Saless has never conducted a performance although it is, he says. “a staple of conducting aptitude tests,” and he has studied it in workshops. “If you can conduct The Afternoon of the Faun you are in a class of people that probably should say, ‘Hey, I conducted it.’”

“I’ve conducted it in workshops before, but I haven’t dared to do it in public,” he adds.

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Marurice Ravel

Ravel’s Ma mere l’Oye is another piece Saless learned in a conducting workshop “I really did not know anything about it until last summer, where I also got exposed to it in a workshop,” he says. “It’s one of the most delightful pieces that I know, and we’ve never performed Ravel. He doesn’t have many pieces you can perform with a chamber orchestra. This is one of them, and I’m totally excited about performing it.”

Apart from it’s musical pleasures, Saless chose Ravel’s score—“Mother Goose Suite”—in a punning tribute to Mother’s Day, the date of the Boulder performance. “It does have five movements that are like little stories that we know. It fits a family concert atmosphere, which I was planning to put out there for Mother’s Day. So I’m hoping that if mothers come with their kids, they will enjoy the ‘Mother Goose Suite’ as much as the mothers do.”

The five movements of Ma mere l’Oye, all derived from better or lesser known fairy tales, are “Pavane of Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,” “Empress of the Pagodas,” “Conversation of Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Fairy Garden.”

“The last movement is a gorgeous piece of music,” Saless says. “Ravel is an amazing composer, but he doesn’t usually touch you so deeply emotionally (as this movement), just because of the style of impressionist music. The last movement is just so beautiful!

“And the colors! The whole concert is colors. The conductor has the biggest challenge in that every few bars have to show a different color, and that’s just really fabulous.”

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“Earthly Delights”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Cobus do Toit, flute, and Jennifer Ellis, harp

Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Mozart: Concerto for flute and harp
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Ravel: Ma mere l’Oye (Mother Goose)

7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10, Jubilee Christian Church, Lone Tree
3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 12, Boulder Adventist Church

Tickets

Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s Gift of Music: “An adventure for the listener”

Mozart concerto, Handel, Corelli, and a kinder, gentler Schoenberg

By Peter Alexander

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Pianist David Korevaar

You know it’s an unusual Christmas concert when one of the composers is the fearsome atonal composer Arnold Schoenberg.

But conductor Bahman Saless, who has programmed the Schoenberg Christmas Music for concerts with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra Dec. 21 and 22, assures listeners it is thoroughly enjoyable, not written in the composer’s dissonant and fiercely intellectual style. Instead, it is a gentle fantasia on Praetorius’ familiar carol “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen” (Lo, how a rose e’er blooming).

“I think in in his spare time he wrote some stuff for fun,” Saless says. “He was probably tired of his own intellect.”

In addition to Schoenberg’s Christmas Music the program will feature Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in B-flat, known as the “Christmas Concerto”; another Concerto Grosso in B-flat by Handel; some regular Christmas carol arrangements; and pianist David Korevaar playing and conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B-flat, K595.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“The Gift of Music”
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With David Korevaar, piano

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major
Handel: Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op 3 no. 1
Arnold Schoenberg: Christmas Music
Corelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6 no. 8 (“Christmas Concerto”)
Holiday carols

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Rd., Broomfield
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets