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

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra presents Seasons from Italy and Argentina

Violinist Chloe Trevor plays music by Vivaldi and Piazzolla, Friday and Saturday

By Peter Alexander Nov. 29 at 9:25 p.m.

Violinist Chloe Trevor is above all true to herself.

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Violinist Chloe Trevor

This weekend she will play music by two very distinct and different composers in concerts with conductor Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. The program features portions of the well loved Four Seasons of Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, combined with the complete Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) by the innovative composer of the “New Tango,” Argentine Astor Piazzolla.

The concerts—Friday evening in Broomfield and Saturday evening in Boulder—will also include the Suite for Strings by Czech composer Leoš Janáček.

While both Vivaldi and Piazzolla represent distinct styles—the 18th-century string style of Baroque Italy, and the sensual tango of early 20th-century Argentina—Trevor does not feel that she has to create strict versions of either. “I’m playing it more in my style than anything else,” she says.

She’s not saying you can play any way you want, but once you understand a style, you should play what you believe in. “You learn the rules so that you’re aware of them,” is how she explains it. “Once you’ve gotten used to it, you say, ‘Now, I’m going to put my own spin on the whole thing.’ If you’re trying to do it a different way, it sounds like you’re trying too hard.”

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Astor Piazzola

Written as four separate pieces between 1965 and 1970, Piazzolla’s Seasons were originally composed for the composer’s own quintet. They were arranged for violin and orchestra as a companion to Vivaldi’s Seasons in the 1990s by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov. That version became something of a sensation in 1999 when violinist Gidon Kremer and his Kermerata Baltica ensemble recorded both the Vivaldi and the Piazzolla-Desyatnikov sets on a CD titled “Eight Seasons.”

“I got Kremer’s recording when it came out,” Trevor says. “I was in my early teens and I remember being completely fascinated by them. When I finally did get the first opportunity to perform it last year, I was just ecstatic.”

The Piazzolla Seasons are often performed separately, because putting the two sets together on one concert is a challenge. The Vivaldi set is four complete concertos, each comprising three movements, while each of the Piazzolla Seasons is a one-movement work in itself. Played together, both works complete would take at least an hour, which is certainly too long for a soloists’ portion of a standard orchestral concert.

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Chloe Trevor

Trevor’s solution is to play the Piazzolla pieces framed by individual movements from Vivaldi. When she first got the music, “I took a few weeks to figure out an order that I wanted,” she says.

“The way I picked it was, what I felt was best to start and end with. It makes the most sense to start with the first movement of Vivaldi’s Spring—it’s one everyone’s familiar with, so it’s the best opener. And I wanted to end with the last movement of Vivaldi’s Summer. That’s the most bombastic movement—it’s a flashy ending. Unfortunately, none of the Piazzolla Seasonshave a great ender.”

In between, she arranged Vivaldi movements around the Piazzolla pieces based on connections that made sense to her. Here is what she settled on: The fist movement from Vivaldi Spring; Piazzolla Spring; a movement of Vivaldi Autumn; Piazzolla Autumn; a movement of Vivaldi Winter; Piazzolla Winter; a movement of Vivaldi Summer; Piazzolla Summer; and ending with the final movement of Vivaldi Summer.

Trevor believes it all makes sense when you hear it. As for switching between Baroque and contemporary tango styles, she says “the pieces are written in such a way that it’s not difficult to go between one and the other. They (each) have their own energy, so you get caught up in that.”

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Bahman Saless

Saless noted that he has done music by Janáček before, but the Suite for Strings is harder than others he has done. “This is a difficult one,” he says.

“It has a lot of deep sentiment and you can tell he’s sort of experimenting with his own skill set as a string writer. But it’s got some absolutely gorgeous sonorities. It’s one of those pieces where you hear it and go, ‘Oh my God, why I have not heard that before?’”

Saless has often worked with Trevor’s father, conductor Kirk Trevor. Because of that, he has known Chloe since she was still a child studying with her mother, violinist Heidi Trevor, a member of the Dallas Symphony. Naturally, Saless and Chloe Trevor enjoy times when they can perform together.

“It’s always wonderful to work with Bahman,” Trevor says. “There’s a lot of dreams being realized. The (Vivaldi and Piazzolla Seasons) are such great pieces, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here and have a chance to play them again.”

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bconew_1.jpgThe Seasons
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Chloe Trevor, violin

Vivaldi/Piazzolla: Four Seasons
Janáček: Suite for Strings

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, Broomfield Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, Boulder Adventist Church

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Grace Notes: Brief news items from the classical music scene in Boulder

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By Peter Alexander Aug. 20 at 9:45 p.m.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra hires executive director—The Board of Directors of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra announced earlier this summer that Courtney Huffman has been appointed as the organization’s executive director.

The executive director’s responsibilities had been handled by Bahman Saless, founder and artistic director of the BCO. After 14 years, he is now ready to leave administrative duties to Huffman in order to focus on the music.

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Courtney Huffman

“I have loved and cherished very moment and I am ready to take a step back and lighten the administrative load knowing that the orchestra is in good hands,” he said in a news release.

Huffman first joined the BCO organization three years ago as managing director. She had left in 2017 to work for an educational non-profit organization in Denver, but returned to Boulder when offered the position with the BCO.

“I am beyond excited to be returning to Boulder to lead the orchestra,” she said in the BCO’s news release. “I have loved classical music since I was a little girl, and this organization feels like home to me. I am honored to be able to ring in the orchestra’s 15thseason.”

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MahlerFest also hires an executive director—Colorado MahlerFest recently hired its first executive director.

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Ethan Hecht

In a decision announced in July, MahlerFest hired Ethan Hecht as executive director after 31 seasons of performances. MahlerFest’s announcement notes that the festival has grown since the 2015 hiring of Kenneth Woods as the its second artistic director. The festival has added both workshops and a masterclass for young conductors, and introduced “festival artists” who are featured both in the MahlerFest orchestra and in chamber music performances during the festival.

According to the announcement from the festival, “the board looked to expand the administrative operations of the festival.” Hecht has performed at MahlerFest as the orchestra’s principal violist, and he has extensive administrative experience with Colorado Music Festival and Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra. He is currently executive director of the Boulder Chorale.

MahlerFest board president David Auerbach was quoted in the announcement of Hecht’s appointment: “This is a major investment in the future of the festival . . .We are very excited [Hecht] has joined the team.”

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Pro Music Colorado announces 2018–19 season—The Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra has announced their 2018–19 season, titled “Classical Evolution!”

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis

The central performance and likely audience favorite of the season will be Handel’s Messiah, to be presented Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, at Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place in Boulder. The performance under conductor Cynthia Katsarelis will feature guests soloists to be announced later and the Boulder Chamber Chorale with artistic director Vicki Burrichter.

Mountain View Methodist, which has ample on-site parking, has become the orchestra’s home base in Boulder. All three of the season’s programs will be presented there. In addition, their September concert will be performed in Denver at Central Presbyterian Church, and the season-closing concert in February will be performed at the First Baptist Church of Denver and at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont.

Here is the full 2018-19 season of Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra:

“Women Among Men”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, Central Presbyterian Church, Denver
2 pm. Sunday, Sept. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, Boulder
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin, and Amanda Balestrieri, soprano

Wolfgang A. Mozart: Serenade No. 6 for Orchestra in D major K. 239, Serenata notturna
Grazyna Bacewicz: Concerto for String Orchestra
Franz Joseph Haydn: Violin Concerto in C Major
Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde (The treasure of the world), aria from Cantata 204

Handel’s Messiah
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, and soloists tba.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, Mountain View Presbyterian Church, Boulder
3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, Mountain View Presbyterian Church, Boulder

“21st-Century Style”
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Jory Vinikour, harpsichord
7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, First Baptist Church of Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, Boulder
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont

Max Wolpert: Harpsichord Concerto No. 1, “Baroque in Mirror” (World Premiere)
Philip Glass: Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 22 (“The Philosopher”)

More information and tickets here.

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CU Faculty Tuesdays start Aug. 28—The CU College of Music’s “Faculty Tuesdays” series starts next week, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28, in Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building.

The first of the fall series of faculty recitals at CU will feature violinist Charles Wetherbee and pianist David Korevaar, performing three works: the Sonata for Violin and Piano in B minor of Ottorino Respighi; the Poeme op. 25 by Ernest Chausson; and one of the great masterpieces of violin repertoire, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A major op. 47, known as the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

You may check the full fall schedule for “Faculty Tuesdays” on the College of Music Web page. Note also that if you cannot make the trip to the CU campus for any of the performances, they are live-streamed every week through this Web page.

 

 

Bahman Saless is in a party mood for season-ending concert

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.

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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.”

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Kaori Uno-Jack

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.

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Joseph Haydn

“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.

Linz in a party mood

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

Tickets

Boulder Chamber Orchestra returns to Mozart’s Requiem with Boulder Chorale

Performance will be more transparent than before—and ‘happier’

By Peter Alexander March 29 at 10:15 p.m.

bconew_1Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra are returning to old territory and making new discoveries.

Friday and Saturday(March 30–31) Saless and the BCO are performing the Mozart Requiem, which they first performed in 2011. But there will be a number of differences from that earlier performance: then they performed with Ars Nova singers, now they will perform with the Boulder Chorale Chamber Choir under Vicki Burrichter. Then they had about 50 singers, now they will have 40 singers and a smaller orchestra.

Then Saless left the choral preparation and the coaching of the soloists entirely to Ars Nova’s conductor, Thomas Edward Morgan; now he is taking a larger role in both. And, he says, he performance will be more transparent and more polished.

He almost makes it sound like a different piece. But it’s not the piece that has changed; it’s Saless, who admits to having been intimidated by the work the first time.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Mozart: Requiem
Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chorale
Bahman Saless, conductor
With Ekaterina Kotcherguina, soprano; Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano; James Baumgardner, tenor; and Malcolm Ulbrick, bass

7:30p.m. Friday, March 30, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
8 p.m. Saturday, March 31, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Boulder

Tickets

 

Colored socks lead to Boulder Chamber Orchestra concert

Concerto by Hummel, incidental music by Beethoven on the program Feb. 23–24

By Peter Alexander Feb. 21 at 2:45 p.m.

The program for the next concert by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra began with a pair of socks.

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

There are two works on the program, both written in the 1810s and both just outside the central Classical repertoire. The first will be Beethoven’s complete incidental music for Goethe’s drama Egmont, composed in 1810—a less-known work by a major composer. The Third Piano Concerto of Beethoven’s younger contemporary Johann Nepomuk Hummel was written only a little later, in 1819—a major work by a less-known composer.

Joining conductor Bahman Saless and the BCO for the concert will be soprano Christie Conover to sing two arias from the Egmont music, and pianist Andrew Staupe for the Hummel Concerto. Performances will be Friday, Feb. 23, in Lone Tree, and Saturday, Feb 24, in Boulder.

But back to those socks.

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Pianist Andrew Staupe. His socks intrigued conductor Bahman Saless.

Saless first met pianist Andrew Staupe when he played with the Colorado Symphony. “He invited me to his concert, and I think he did Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto,” Saless says. “I met him there, and I was intrigued by his socks.”

His socks? “He wears colored, very obviously different socks on each leg, and he purposely wears shorter pants so you can see the socks. I liked this guy already!”

Thanks to those socks, Saless and Staupe became friends, and one day Staupe asked about playing the Hummel Third Concerto. It’s not performed often, partly because it is so difficult, but it was a piece he really wanted to do. “He knew I’m the kind of person who likes to do things that are not often played,” Saless explains.

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Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Painting after Möller. Original in the Goethemuseum, Düsseldorf.

Hummel lived in Vienna at the same time as Beethoven, and the two of them studied with the same teachers when they were starting their careers. An informal but mostly respectful rivalry developed between them as pianists, and Hummel wrote his concertos as virtuoso showpieces for his own performances.

As a result the Hummel piano concertos have the reputation of being extremely difficult to learn. Saless recalls talking to another pianist who said he might be able to learn one of them in two or three years.

The Third Concerto in particular is, Saless says, “a crazy piano marathon. I don’t know how anybody performs it. The soloist rarely stops playing, and it is unbelievably hard. It’s inhuman!” In fact, the piece is so rarely performed that there is no full score available; Saless will conduct from a two-piano score.

A link between the classical and Romantic periods, Hummel wrote in a highly decorative piano style that anticipated later composers. “The forecasting of Chopin is ridiculous,” Saless says. “So you hear Chopin, and you hear a little bit of Rossini here and there.”

Beethoven received a commission for music to accompany a performance of Goethe’s play Egmont, to be presented in the summer of 1810. The play, about a nobleman who was executed in the 16th century for resisting Spanish tyranny in the Netherlands, appealed to Beethoven’s own political idealism, and he wrote some of his most powerful music for the performance. The Overture is especially well known, and was associated with the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union.

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Soprano Christie Conover will sing two arias from Beethoven’s music for Goethe’s Egmont.

Beethoven wrote 10 pieces for the play, including the Overture, two songs for the character Klärchen, and dramatic entr’actes to be played between the five acts of the play. Because Egmont’s death leads to a victorious uprising, the final piece is titled “Victory Symphony.” Played as Egmont is led offstage to his execution, it repeats the final triumphant section of the Overture.

Saless first heard the complete music to Egmont at the Colorado Music Festival in 2003, and since the two composers knew one another, he thought it would be a good piece to share the program with Hummel. The entr’actes are more than just filler between acts, often being part of the drama as it unfolds. “Some are very theatrical, as you might guess,” Saless says

“A couple of movements are literally oboe concertos, following the theme of the previous aria by the soprano. Other movements are militaristic, with snare drum playing like soldiers marching.

“The arias are absolutely beautiful—very tuneful arias. Some of the movements have the sudden changes of mood that we’re so used to in Beethoven. He does such a good job [of telling the story].”

To make sure that the storytelling is not lost on the audience, Saless will provide projections to explain the drama as it unfolds in the music. Between Beethoven’s explicitly theatrical music and the challenges of Hummel’s “inhuman” concerto, it should be a dramatic concert. And Saless has some cogent advice for the audience:

“Pay attention to his socks!”

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Andrew Staupe, piano, and Christie Conover, soprano

Beethoven: Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Piano Concerto No. 3

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, Boulder Adventist Church, Boulder

Tickets

Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra celebrate all the holidays

Music from a Mexican beach and a crazy Brazilian conductor

By Peter Alexander

Conductor Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) have a couple of holiday traditions.

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Guitarist Chaconne Klaverenga will be featured soloist with the BCO

Every year they honor the December holidays as ecumenically as possible with a concert titled “A Gift of Music,” performed mid-month in Broomfield and Boulder. After that they present a New Year’s Eve concert in Lakewood featuring Viennese and other light classical selections.

This year’s “Gift of Music” doesn’t have any traditional holiday music on the program, “because we want it to be multi-denominational,” Saless says. Instead, the program reflects the holidays through music of lighthearted beauty and good cheer.

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Flutist Cobus du Toit is a member of the BCO

Saless selected three works for the program: the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo, featuring young guitar virtuoso Chaconne Klaverenga as soloist; Pastorale Suite for flute and strings by Gunnar de Frumerie, with the BCO’s Cobus du Toit as soloist; and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5.

With all the Nutcrackers, Messiahs and other traditional musical performances in December, New Year’s almost gets overlooked by classical musicians in this country. But in Europe, it is the focus of many performances, particularly the annual New Year’s Day concert of the Vienna Philharmonic.

It is that tradition that the BCO channels every year with its New Year’s Eve concert.

This year, Saless steps aside for guest conductor Claudio Cohen, director of the National Orchestra of Brasilia in Brazil. He and Saless are doing a “podium exchange,” with Cohen conducting here New Year’s Eve, and Saless traveling to Brazil in October.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra

The Gift of Music
Bahman Saless, conductor, with
Chaconne Klaverenga, guitar, and Cobus du Toit, flute
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, Boulder Adventist Church, Boulder

A New Year’s Eve Celebration
Claudio Cohen, guest conductor
6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 31, Lakewood Cultural Center, Lakewood

Information and tickets