Boulder Bach Festival returns to its central mission with four choral works

‘Four of the greatest soloists’ will be featured March 15

By Peter Alexander March 8, 4:40 p.m.

It will be back to basics for the Boulder Bach Festival.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Zachary Carrettin leading the Boulder Bach Festival orchestra and chorus. Photo courtesy of the Boulder Bach Festival.

Its next concert will return to the original focus of the festival by presenting choral works by J.S. Bach with soloists and orchestra. After several concerts featuring music by composers before and after Bach, and introducing various performance styles, the program will comprise four of Bach’s church cantatas: No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden; No. 50, Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft; No. 61, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland; and No. 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

“All of these works have great arias, beautiful duets, riveting choruses and gorgeous orchestral writing,” Zachary Carrettin, the festival’s artistic director, says. “I love these four works, and I thought they would be fabulous on one program.”

Carrettin will conduct the Boulder Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra, with soloists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass. “These are four of the greatest soloists we’ve programmed,” he says. “I couldn’t think of a better quartet of individuals to collaborate with our chorus and orchestra.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Eternal Spirit”
Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus\
Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano
Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano
Derek Chester, tenor
Ashraf Sewailam, bass

Four cantatas by J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Tickets

 

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2017: The Year in Classical Music

Some outstanding concerts, and some changes of leadership in Boulder

By Peter Alexander

With the year drawing to a close, it is time to look back at 2017. It has been a tumultuous year in many realms, including some aspects of Classical music. But before that, it is good to remember the outstanding musical experiences of 2017 here in the Boulder area.

Pro Musica

The year began on an expressive high point when Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, conductor Cynthia Katsarelis and soloists Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano, and Ashraf Sewailam, bass, presented Shostakovich’s rarely-heard Symphony No. 14.

I wrote at the time: “This somewhat gloomy meditation on death is not often given live, partly because of the difficult assignments facing the soprano and bass soloists, but mostly because of the difficult subject matter. But it is a major statement from a great composer—what Katsarelis calls ‘a piece that needs to be heard’—and so the rare performances are to be treasured.”

The February visit of Deborah (Call Me Debbie) Voigt to Macky Auditorium will be a cherished memory for fans of the classical voice. Voigt Lessons, the superstar soprano’s candid retelling of her struggles with relationships, substances, and weight that clouded her career not only showed some realities of life at the top of the opera world, it also revealed the very human person beneath the superstar image. For both reasons, this was a meaningful event.

Takasce SQ

Takacs Quartet

The Takacs Quartet always provides some of the year’s best performances. It’s hard to chose just one, but for 2017 I would single out their February concert including Beethoven’s Quartet in G major, op. 18 no. 2—performed while the Takacs was in the midst of a full Beethoven cycle at several venues—and CU music faculty Daniel Silver, clarinet, playing the Brahms Quintet in B minor, op. 115. An especially beautiful rendering of this beautiful work had at least one audience member in tears by the end.

March saw the arrival of another superstar in Boulder when Sir James Galway played at Macky Auditorium, and the departure of an important member of Boulder’s classical music community when Evanne Browne gave her farewell concert with Seicento Baroque Ensemble, the organization she founded in 2011.

BPhil.onstage

Boulder Phil at Kennedy Center

One of the biggest events of the year for Boulder performing arts was the visit in March of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Michael Butterman and Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Company to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the first annual Shift Festival of American Orchestras. The Phil repeated a concert they had given in Boulder a few days earlier, including the world premiere of All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias and Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed with Frequent Flyers.

An audience favorite of the festival, the Boulder Phil played to a sold out house. Butterman wrote the next day, “It was a peak experience for me, and, I think, for all of us at the Phil. . . . To be there with our orchestra, with that crowd and with that repertoire—it was something I shall never forget. We had a great sense of pride in representing our hometown.”

Several important changes of personnel were announced for Boulder classical scene in the spring. In April, Jean-Marie Zeitouni announced that he was stepping down as music director of the Colorado Music Festival. He will remain with CMF as principal guest conductor, and conductor/violinist Peter Oundjian will serve as artistic advisor for the 2018 season. Later the same month, James Bailey left his position as music curator of the Dairy Arts Center, to be replaced by Sharon Park.

Elliot Moore at Lake McIntosh - credit - Photography Maestro (1)

Elliott Moore

In May, Seicento Baroque Ensemble announced the appointment of Kevin T. Padworksi as artistic director, succeeding Browne, and the Longmont Symphony announced the appointment of Elliot Moore to succeed long-time music director Robert Olson.

The same month, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra wrapped up its 2016–17 season with its largest performance to date, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony presented in Macky Auditorium. The performance under conductor Bahman Saless was unfortunately the occasion of a protest by the anti-fracking group East Boulder County United. Seven members of EBCU blew whistles, shouted slogans and left flyers before the concert to voice their opposition to the orchestra having accepted a contribution from Extraction Oil & Gas.

Olga Kern

Olga Kern, photographed by Chris Lee at Steinway Hall.

Zeitouni proved to be anything but a lame duck conductor at the Colorado Music Festival. The 2017 season started at the end of June with an all-Russian program featuring exciting performances of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. On the same concert, one of Boulder’s favorite guest artists, pianist Olga Kern, gave scintillating performances of Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Other high points over the summer included the return of CMF’s founding director Giora Bernstein to lead a concert of Mozart, Zeitouni conducting Beethoven’s Ninth as the CMF centerpiece, and the visit of violinist Gil Shaham at the end of the summer season. Up in the mountains, Central City Opera’s Downton-Abbey-inspired Victorian-era production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte was one of the year’s highlights for opera lovers.

Another delight for the opera crowd came in the fall, with the CU Eklund Opera Program’s serio-comic production of Lehar’s Merry Widow. In November, Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra returned to its core repertoire with a lively concert featuring two youthful works for smaller ensemble: the Concerto for piano, violin and strings by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn, with violinist Zachary Carrettin and pianist Mina Gajić, and Janáček’s Idyll for Strings.

Zachary & Mina

Carrettin and Gajic

Carrettin and Gajić were featured performers in December when the Boulder Bach Festival gave one of its most intriguing and adventurous concerts in its increasingly adventurous schedule. With guest artist Richie Hawley, the program offered insight into the instruments and performance practices of the early 20th century, performed on Hawley’s 1919 Buffet clarinet, Gajić’s 1895 Érard piano, and Carrettin’s violin set up with strings typical of the period.

 

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For the classical music world outside of Boulder, the biggest news was certainly the intrusion of a long-overdue reckoning for sexual misconduct that is going on in our society generally. The first bombshell, not unexpected by people in the business but a bombshell nonetheless, landed Dec. 3 with the suspension of conductor James Levine from the Metropolitan Opera and other organizations, including the Boston Symphony and the Ravinia Festival. Accusations against Charles Dutoit, artistic director and principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, surfaced later in the month.

levine

James Levine

Both conductors are in the twilight of long careers. Rumors about Levine have been widely known in the classical music world; indeed I first heard them in the 1980s. Every music journalist I know has heard the same stories, but so far as I am aware, no one who experienced Levine’s assaults was previously willing to speak publicly. In the case of Dutoit, I had not heard the rumors, but I do know one of the women who spoke publicly about what happened to her, and I believe her unquestioningly.

As the controversy has swirled about the subject of sexual abuse, harassment and assault in classical music, several critics have written powerfully about the subject: Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, Jennifer Johnson of the Guardian, Andrew Riddles of Classical Ottawa to name three. Singer Susanne Mentzer has written about her personal experiences in the opera world for the Huffington Post, as has Dan Kempson for Medium.

There are certain to be more revelations. One major journalist has more first-hand information, with names including some of the of the most famous classical artists, and is preparing an article. I have no doubt that several men are nervously awaiting that story, or some other revelation that reveals past misdeeds.

Will this tidal wave reach Boulder?

It’s hard to say with certainty. I have spoken with many on the classical scene here, and the only rumor I have heard, from several sources, has been of inappropriate comments and behavior by one person, none of which reached the level of abuse or assault. “He might not have been hired today,” one person speculated, but as so often happens, the people who heard the comments preferred not to make an issue of it.

Another person told me he had never heard any rumor from the College of Music, so Boulder may escape the worst of this necessary but unhappy process. In the meantime, it is my wish for 2018 that society in general and the music world specifically create a safe environment, where powerful men do not feel free to behave like adolescent boys.

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Edited for clarity 12.31.17

Bach Festival’s ‘World Transformed’ features historical perspectives on familiar instruments

Piano, clarinet and violin in music of the early 20th century

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival enters a new realm Saturday (Dec. 9), performing music from the early 20th century while demonstrating unusual historical perspectives on three familiar instruments: the piano, the clarinet and the violin.

old interior

Mina Gajic’s historical piano from 1895

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium (tickets). It will not be repeated elsewhere.

Each of the three will be subtly different from modern instruments, and each will be only one example of the many variations on the same instrument that have been heard, at different times and in different locations. So the concert will be both a musical program and a demonstration of the relationship between the music of a particular era and the instruments on which it is played.

Comprising seven pieces from the 20th– and 21st-centuries, the program reflects the BBF’s goal of “navigating the waters of music history with J.S. Bach as our compass.” It will follow several distinct threads from the early 20th century to works by living composers. Using different combinations of the three players, the program will be:

—Alban Berg’s Four Pieces for clarinet and piano (1913);
—Berg’s Piano Sonata (1908);
—George Antheil’s Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1923);
—Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances (1915, later arranged for violin and piano);
—William Bolcom’s “Graceful Ghost Rag” (1970, also arranged later for violin and piano);
—Charles Ives’s Largo for violin, clarinet and piano (1902); and
—The world premiere of “Prelude and Hardboiled Fugue” by Arthur Gottschalk, written for this specific trio of players.

zacharycarrettin_boulderbachfestival_crop

Zachary Carrettin

“There’s no piece longer than 10 minutes on the program,” Carrettin says. “I really wanted to tell short stories, each one being distinct in its tonal language, in its rhythmic drive and its abstraction, so that we could focus on the special qualities of each instrument.”

It was Hawley’s clarinet that inspired the concert. “A year ago I was judging the Art of the Duo Competition (in Boulder),” Hawley says. “We were talking about (Gajic’s) Érard piano and what music would go with it. I said, ‘I would love to hear some of the music that was written for the clarinet, with the instrument of the time and the piano of the time.’”

That idea led to Saturday’s concert, which will be Hawley’s first public performance on his vintage clarinet.

Hawley

Richie Hawley with a modern clarinet

Hawley found the clarinet 27 years ago when he was a student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He was looking for old clarinet mouthpieces, which often have qualities that he likes. He found an old instrument in an estate sale and bought it for $35 in order to get the mouthpiece. But when he opened the case, he was disappointed to see that the mouthpiece looked new.

It was his teacher, Donald Montanaro of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who realized what Hawley had. “He said, ‘No, that’s a vintage mouthpiece from the ‘20s and it’s never been played!’” Hawley explains. “He said ‘‘This clarinet is brand new.’ So someone had this amazing professional clarinet, top of the line from 1919, and never played on it.”

He had the clarinet restored to playing condition, but never found much use for it until he realized how well it would match the 1895 piano. “The fingerings are the same as now, but the sound is dramatically different,” Hawley says. “It has a very dense, compact, small sound, and it doesn’t project like the modern instrument.”

He has not had a chance to play with Gajic on her 1895 piano, or with Carrettin, until this week. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like to hear these instruments together,” Hawley says. “It’s going to be a very, very steep, yet mandatorily fast learning curve.”

Erard piano.3

Parallel strings in the Érard piano

This will not be the first time Gajic has brought her piano to Longmont for a BBF concert. Because the instrument is straight strung—meaning all the stings run parallel, unlike modern pianos that have bass strings that cross over the others—it has a very clear, transparent sound that is subtly different in different registers. This matches well with the clarinet’s compact sound. (Read more about the piano here.)

Carrettin explains that there were several different types of violin strings available before the 1960s, when the nylon core string was developed. These included pure gut, gut wound with metal alloy, and steel, all of which are available today from specialist string makers.

“There are a lot of options in a historical setup,” he says. Depending on the type chosen for each of the four strings, “violinists had the option of treating each string as a voice, or having two registers, perhaps and alto and tenor if you want to think about it that way, with two strings in each register.

ZCFiddle.3gut.1steel

From left: Three wound gut and one steel string on Carrettin’s violin

“The string choices on different violins will determine how homogenous the tone is across the four strings, or how much the registers are distinct from one another. What I have chosen to do is three strings with a gut core wound in an alloy, and then a top string of steel.”

Carrettin sees several themes that run through the program. With the inclusion of the Bartók Romanian Folk Dances and the modern rags, one of those is dance., which is the basis of much of the music of Bach and other Baroque composers. “I wanted to have some very obvious dance music on this program that did not come out of the Baroque,” he says.

Ragtime is also connected to the music of Antheil, “an American in Paris in the 1920s hanging out with Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. The reason I thought of adding the ‘Graceful Ghost Rag,’ which is tonal and beautiful and melodic, was to connect to these abstract ragtime moments in the Antheil.”

Another theme is the connection among teacher and student in Carrettin’s own life. Gottschalk, whose world premiere will close the concert, was Carrettin’s composition teacher, and a student of Bolcom. What’s more, the violin-piano version of “Graceful Ghost” was written for one of Carrettin’s violin teachers, and an earlier version of Gottschalk’s was written for another.

“There’s a lot of personal connections for me here in my life, as a student and as a musician,” he says. But more important is the kaleidoscopic variety of the program he has put together.

“As we program more and more chamber music on the Bach Festival, my goal is to offer programs that are distinct,” Carrettin says. “I’m hoping that (this concert has) something for everyone. It has consonance, dissonance, abstraction, melody, surrealism. It has dance, it has song, it has banging on the piano, and it even has drums at one point.

“It’s kind of got everything, and that was the idea.”

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A World Transformed
Boulder Bach Festival
Mina Gajic, 1895 Érard piano; Richie Hawley, 1919 Buffet clarinet; and
Zachary Carrettin, gut-string violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont

Tickets

 

 

‘Bachtoberfest’ concerts are all about Bach, not beer

Boulder Bach Festival embarks on a new season of adventures

By Peter Alexander

Boulder’s ever-adventurous Bach Festival embarks on a new season of exploration, with concerts in Boulder Oct. 12 and Longmont Oct. 14.

AC-Elizabeth-Blumenstock-photo-by-David-Tayler

Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock for the Juilliard School and Philharmonia Baroque will be a guest artists with the Boulder Bach Festival. Photo by David Tayler.

Boulder Bach Festival music director Zachary Carretin explains, “We spent recent years talking about Bach as our compass, and that gives us liberty to explore in any direction, across time, across cultures. So exploration is certainly a theme (this year), and presenting music the festival has never presented before.”

Not that Bach has been forgotten. “Every program does connect to the music of J.S. Bach,” he says, “sometimes in more direct ways, sometimes with six degrees of separation.”

That description applies to the opening program, which features chamber works with and without voice by Bach and composers associated with him: Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, his student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and his son Johann Christian Bach, known as “The London Bach.” Featured performers are Carretin and Elizabeth Blumenstock on violin; cellist Guy Fishman; keyboardist Christopher Holman; and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Bachtoberfest”
Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carretin, artistic director
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Guy Fishman, cello; Christopher, Holman, keyboards; and Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road, Longmont

Tickets

 

From ‘Bachtoberfest’ to Carnival in Brazil, Boulder’s musicians plan celebrations

Boulder Bach Festival, Boulder Chorale announce 2017–18 seasons

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival and Boulder Chorale have announced their 2017–18 seasons, with globe-trotting celebrations from “Bachtoberfest” to Brazil to Venice.

imageOf the two, the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF) gets underway first with the “Bachtoberfest” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday , Oct. 12 in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium.

Stoppelenburg

Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg

The concert—which actually has nothing to do with beer—will feature four guest soloists: violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock from the faculty of the Juilliard School; Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Handel-Haydn Society of Boston; Chris Holman, historical keyboardist of the Bach Society in Houston; and Dutch soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, who has appeared with the BBF several times in the past.

Violinist Zachary Carrettin, artistic director of the BBF will also play on the concert of 18th-century chamber music. The program includes trio sonatas and arias by Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and Telemann.

A particularly interesting item on the program that continues the BBF’s exploration of historical rarities is listed as a “Keyboard Concerto in G major” by Johann Christian Bach, arranged by Mozart. Known as “The London Bach” for having had a very successful musical career in that city, Johann Christian was the youngest of J.S. Bach’s sons. Mozart visited London while on tour with his family during the years 1763–66, when he was seven to 10 years old. He became friends with Bach, around 30 at the time.

Johann_Christian_Bach_by_Thomas_Gainsborough

Johann Christian Bach, portrait by Thomas Gainsborough

In order to learn how to write concertos, the young Mozart arranged three of Bach’s solo sonatas as concertos by adding passages for orchestra. These arrangements were originally included in Mozart’s works under the listing K107 nos. 1–3; the Concerto in G major is the second of the three. Rarely performed, because they are not strictly “by” either J.C. Bach or Mozart, they are nonetheless fascinating historical documents, revealing the young composer’s learning process.

There are two new scheduling features for BBF’s 2017–18 season: Boulder performances will all be on Thursdays, to avoid conflicts with other performing organizations; and the performances will be split between Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. Some concerts will be presented in both venues, and others only in one or the other.

Erard@Stewart

1895 Érard piano

For example, the second event on the season, a concert titled “A World Transformed,” will only be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, in the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont. The performance will feature Mina Gajić performing on her 1895 Érard grand piano together with Richie Hawley performing on a 1919 Parisian clarinet and Carrettin playing a  gut-string violin. They will play music of the early 20th century by Bartók, Ives, Berg and Antheil.

Likewise, the major Bach performance of the year will only be presented once, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. Titled “The Eternal Spirit,” the program comprises four of Bach’s great sacred cantatas. Zachary Carrettin will lead the BBF Chorus and Orchestra with vocal soloists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone.

SONY DSC

Flutist Ismael Reyes

The final concert of the season will honor the musical heritage of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, with music by  prominent Venetian Baroque composers: Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Tarquino Merulo and Antonio Vivaldi. The concert will end the season with one more piece by J.S. Bach, the Orchestral Suite in B minor with Ysmael Reyes playing the flute solos.

You can see the full Boulder Bach Festival season here.

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Dec-2014-BC-adults

The Boulder Chorale (BC) opens its 52nd season with “Carnival Brazil,” at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. Titled “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” this will be BC’s ninth season combined with the Boulder Children’s Chorale and the third with artistic director Vicki Burrichter.

Graffiti-Wall-1.2

Ginga

Carnival Brazil (Oct. 28) will see the BC sharing the stage with the Brazilian-music band Ginga and the Bateria Alegria, the percussion ensemble of the Boulder Samba School. That is only the beginning of the collaborative performances in a season that the BC is describing as “an adventurous exploration of different genres.”

The BC will be joined by JAMkeyJAM, a duo of Nepalese musicians who aim to combine ancient traditional music with contemporary sounds, March 10 and 11. The joint program, “Between Heaven and Earth,” will include a performance of Eliza’s Gilkyson’s Requiem, written in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Vicki Burrichter

Later the same month, the chorale will appear with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem (March 30 in Broomfield and 31 in Boulder), and they will close out the season May 19 and 20 with Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, performed with a jazz combo.

 

The full Boulder Chorale season, including ticket information and performances by the Boulder Children’s Chorale not mentioned in this article, can be found here.

NOTE: Typos corrected 9.8.17

 

 

 

Bach Festival 2017–18 Season will avoid busy Fridays and Saturdays in Boulder

Long-range plan: an historical-instrument ensemble for Boulder

By Peter Alexander

newBBFLogoSquareWebsiteThe Boulder Bach Festival has announced its 2017–18 season of five concerts, three to be presented in both Boulder and Longmont.

Of the other two, one will be presented only at the festival’s Boulder home, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and the other in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. In a significant change, the concerts have been scheduled to avoid the busy weekends in Boulder.

“Boulder is saturated,” Bach Festival director Zachary Carrettin says. “We have so many wonderful music presenters and organizations for such a small community, so I’ve put us on Thursday nights in Boulder and Saturday nights in Longmont. That’s my contribution to the scheduling madness we’re experiencing in Boulder.” (See the full schedule below.)

Carrettin is confident that having performances on Thursday nights will not limit the audience as much as the scheduling conflicts might. “We have a very specific audience,” he says. “They want to hear the particular, distinct programs and artists that we offer. And I think by and large, it doesn’t matter to them which night of the week (the concerts are presented).”

zc-conducting

Zachary Carrettin

Rather than build a season around a single theme, Carrettin looks for connections across seasons, from year to year. ”Each time we finish one season, I ask, where did we start to go?” he says. “What doors did we open? What happens next?”

 

One example is that the festival has programmed music from Venice, one of the musical centers that influenced Bach and others of his generation. In 2016, it was a program titled “Venice on Fire,” featuring chamber music that Carrettin called “the rock ‘n’ roll of the Baroque.” And the 2017–­18 season will close with “La Venexiana,” a concert of music from Venice for orchestra, soloists and chorus (May 24 & 26, 2018).

That concert also represents the beginning of a new long-range project of the Bach Festival: the establishment of a standing Baroque orchestra. Carrettin’s goal is to establish in Boulder a center for historical instrument performance, much as exists in New York, Boston, Amsterdam, and other cities around the world.

“We are introducing concert by concert, season by season, our own in-house Baroque orchestra, on historical instruments,” he says. “Due to the generosity of some donors, we have decided to fill in some of the gaps on the front range by purchasing instruments, three instruments a year for the next three years. You’ll see more (orchestral) concerts each season, and a larger and larger Baroque orchestra.”

The Boulder Bach Festival is partnering with CU Boulder and other musical organizations for this project. “We are working with doctoral students and recent graduates of CU who want to have a world-class international experience with historical instruments here on the front range,” Carrettin explains. “We are offering them access to luminaries in the field—our guest artists—access to the instruments, access to master classes, lessons and reading sessions, so that they can explore the world of early music.”

That project reflects a major thread that connects one season of the Bach Festival with another: the exploration of the many aspects of historical performance practice. “Next year we are engaging even more in the dialog of original instruments, or historical instruments,” Carrettin says. “That dialog is one that I hope results in some unexpected delights.”

In the festival’s recent seasons, the dialog around historical instruments has expanded from Bach and the Baroque era to the late 19th century, where questions of historical performance are not as obvious, but are still significant. “We play Bach with harpsichord and with chamber organ, then why would we not pay Brahms with the straight-strung 19th-century piano?” Carrettin asks. “When the Boulder Bach festival started doing that two seasons ago, our artists were able to work with a piano that has very different properties than today’s concert grand.”

Erard piano.1

Mina Gajic’s historic 1895 Érard piano.

That piano was manufactured in Paris in 1895 by Érard and belongs to pianist Mina Gajic, the festival’s director of education and outreach. (Further information on the straight-strung Érard is here.) It was used in a concert of music by Bach and Brahms presented in 2016 that included the Brahms Horn Trio played on a 19th-century-style natural horn (without valves) and a violin with natural gut strings.

The Érard will return in the coming season for “A World Transformed,” a program the encompasses the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Dec. 9, Longmont). “We are opening a new door in the 36-year history of the Bach Festival,” Carrettin says of the program. Opening with some late Romantic music by Brahms the program will move on to works by Bartók, Ives, Enescu and Berg. Gajic and her historic Érard piano will be joined for the program by Carrettin, on violin and clarinetist Richie Hawley, playing a clarinet manufactured in 1919.

zachary+carrettin

Zachary Carrettin

“What we’re looking at is an early 20th-century clarinet, a violin set up in the manner of the time with silk and gut strings and the piano from the period as well,” Carrettin says. “We are performing (the pieces on the program) as they would have been heard at that time.”

Historical instruments will also be featured on the seasons opening concert, “BachtoberFest,” a concert of chamber music by Bach, Handel, and their contemporaries (Oct. 12 Boulder, Oct. 14 Longmont); and Baroque orchestra concert that closes the season, “La Venexiana” (May 24, 2018 in Boulder, May 26 in Longmont).

For the Bach devotees in the festival audience, the culminating concert of the year may well be on March 15, in Boulder only. Titled “Eternal Spirit,” the program features four of Bach’s best known cantatas: No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden; No. 50, Nun is das Heil und die Kraft; No. 61, Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland; and No. 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

“These works are chosen because of their musical content,” Carrettin says. “The four masterworks represent different periods of Bach’s life, from 1707 to the 1720s. Liturgically they come from different parts of the church year. One special work on the program is Cantata 50, which is a single movement double chorus, based on the chorale Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland.

 “This work has trumpets and timpani and orchestra, and where we connect season to season is that last October we did three different settings of that chorale, for organ and choir and strings. And now we bring back that chorale in a rarely performed masterwork of Bach.”

 

Boulder Bach Festival
Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
2017–18 Season

Bachtoberfest
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont
—Program of chamber music by Bach, Händel and other Baroque composers performed on historical instruments

A World Transformed
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries performed on historical instruments

Schwartz-Bournaki in Recital
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—A recital by the New York- based duo of Julian Schwartz, cello, and Marika Bournaki, piano, winners of the 2016 first Boulder International Chamber Music Competition.

Eternal Spirit
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
—Four Bach cantatas performed buy the Boulder Bach Festival Chorus, orchestra and soloists.

La Venexiana
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 26, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Vocal and instrumental music from Venice, including works of Giovanni Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Merulo and Vivaldi, plus the Bach Orchestral Suite in B minor.

All-access passes available at (720) 507-5052.

Priests, thugs and pickpockets all part of the program for Boulder Bach Festival

Concerts in Boulder, Denver and Longmont explore music from Spain and the Americas

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival has become an explorer through the history of music.

That is the work of artistic director Zachary Carrettin, who has led the festival since the fall of 2013. A Baroque violinist, electric violinist and conductor of broad tastes, he has played early music and various styles of chamber music around the world, but also shared the stage with Yanni, Ray Charles and Cake. And as director of the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF), he wants to broaden audiences’ knowledge of the music of the past and all the ways it can be experienced.

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Zachary Carrettin. Photo by Courtney Lee.

The festival’s next program, to be presented Thursday through Saturday in Boulder, Denver and Longmont (see below) is a case in point. Titled “Spain and the Americas,” it will not include a single piece by Bach. It will, however, bring to light a repertoire from just before and during Bach’s lifetime that is little known today. And like most performances Carrettin has presented with the BBF, it will explore ways the music can be presented, using both guitar and lute with the bass part and different combinations of instruments with solo voice.

“It is part of my personal mission that we examine performance practices, but not only with the mission of authenticity, or bringing back to life old practices,” Carrettin says. “Also I’m engaging in a dialog about the various instruments then and now, and how they influence our approach to the various musics we play and sing.”

This particular program is a collaboration between Carrettin and Richard Savino, a lutenist and guitarist who also directs El Mundo, a Renaissance and Baroque performance ensemble. Carrettin has played on concerts and recordings with Savino and El Mundo, and he invited Savino to appear with the BBF for this concert.

“I always enjoyed playing with (Savino and El Mundo),” Carrettin says. “His style of playing is so full of life and imagination that it influences everybody else in the band.”

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Richard Savino

Savino will play both Spanish guitar and lute on the concert, and Carrettin will be one of two Baroque violinists. A second violinist will be Adam LaMotte, concertmaster of the Portland Baroque Orchestra who has known Carrettin since they were both high school freshmen. The cello/continuo will be played by Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society and a member of the Colorado Music Festival orchestra in the summers.

Vocal soloist for the concert will be mezzo-soprano Clea Huston, an artist-in-residence for the BBF this season. A native of Denver, Huston has sung a diverse repertoire, including music by Wagner, Verdi, Mozart, Handel and Bach.

The music for the BBF concert comes partly from one of Savino’s recordings with El Mundo, The Kingdoms of Castile, but it also reflects Savino’s long-time interest in the music of Spain and the Spanish colonies in the New World. “It’s an area of work that I’ve been researching since the mid-‘90s,” he says.

“Growing up a guitar player you’re always fascinated with Spanish music. Somewhere in the 1990s I became more and more interested in the colonial repertory of the 16th through the 19th centuries, and the music that emanated from the different missions, cathedrals, convents and court environments in Latin America.”

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Mezzo-soprano Clea Huston

The program includes music by composers from Mexico, Guatemala and Spain, as well as composers from southern Italy, which was under Spanish rule in the Baroque era. Surprisingly, there is also a piece by Handel. Although he was certainly not a Spanish composer, Handel lived for a while in Naples, the seat of the Spanish Viceroy, where he wrote a song in Spanish.

“It’s his only work in Spanish, and it says specifically on the title page ‘con chitarra Espagnola’ (with Spanish guitar),” Savino says. “He basically adopts every Spanish characteristic for it. He’s the great chameleon—he can do it all.”

Savino singles out one of the composers on the program as a favorite. “Jose Marin is a fascinating character,” he says. “He was a Catholic priest, and he was also a thug—I mean like a Tony Soprano thug. He was convicted in some kind of extortion scheme, was defrocked and run out of Madrid. He was caught trying to sneak back in, and then was implicated in a murder scheme.

“But his songs are stunningly beautiful.”

Carrettin shares Savino’s regard for Marin’s music. “We’re ending the first half with a duo by Marin, and it is just sublime,” he says. “It’s so special and intimate, it’s probably my favorite piece on the program.”

A contrasting piece is a Xacara (or Jácara), a type of lively Spanish dance song that was somehow associated with pickpockets. Oygan una Xacarilla was composed by Rafael Castellano, the chapel master at the cathedral in Guatemala City. “It’s a funky pop tune,” Savino says. “It’s great!”

Other works on the program include a set of pieces for guitar alone, by Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz; a two-part piece that opens with a slow, reserved chorale section celebrating the birth of Jesus, followed by a guaracha, a style of Cuban dance that Savino again describes as a “pop tune”; and several instrumental pieces for two violins with cello and guitar continuo.

Savino believes that the most important thing to listen for on the program is an unmistakable Hispanic, or Latino, element to the music. “There is a discernible lineage to Hispanic music that you can hear from the 16th through the 20th century,” he says.

“When you hear Tito Puente, for example, and then you hear a 17th-century guaracha, there’s a connection, and you know that they both are derived from Hispanic musical practices. You can put it together right away.

“And it’s a vibrant repertory.”

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Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, director
With Richard Savino, guitar and lutes
Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano
Adam LaMotte and Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violins
Guy Fishman, cello

7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, Grace Lutheran Church, 1001 13th St., Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church,2015 Glenarm St., Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road Longmont

Tickets