Harpsichord recital features music by J.S. Bach and Rameau
By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 5:43 p.m.
The Boulder Bach Festival will present harpsichordist Jory Vinikour in a concert of pieces by J.S. Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau Saturday afternoon at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont (4 p.m. Oct. 15; details below).
The program, titled “Journey to France,” will comprise two works that reflect the French Baroque style—one of the three recognized national styles of the 18th century, along with those of Germany and Italy. Bach, who mastered many different styles, wrote his Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art (Overture in the French Style) as part of the second volume of his Clavier-Übung (Keyboard practice). It is a suite of 11 dances in the French style as Bach perceived it.
That will be followed in Vinikour’s concert by a virtuosic keyboard suite by Rameau, also in 11 movements. Each movement has a descriptive title, such as La Joyeuse (the joyous) and Les Tourbillons (the whirlwind).
Vinikour has performed throughout Europe and received a Grammy nomination for his recording of the complete harpsichord works of Rameau. He will introduce each piece with his own personal commentary.
# # # # #
“Journey to France” Jory Vinikour, harpsichord
J.S. Bach: Overture in the French Style, BWV 831 Jean-Philippe Rameau: Pièces de clavecin, 1724:Suite in D
4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
What is one thing COVID has not closed down this year? The flood of Holiday-themed concerts in December.
This is in stark contrast to last year, when there were virtually no live concerts anywhere. Holiday music-making, if any, was done online. But now Boulder has returned to near normal, and there is no space or time to give individual coverage to all the concerts. Here is a compilation of most local classical concerts, all of them available for live attendance and some with streaming as well (details and ticket information are below; check each group’s Web page for COVID requirements):
The Nutcracker returns to Longmont in performances by the Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet (Dec. 3–5). Performances of this perennial family favorite also include a sensory-friendly “Gentle” Nutcracker performance that will be under one hour with both dramatic and musical elements as well as lighting adapted for special needs children.
Boulder Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker almost had to be cancelled for the second year running, until supporters of the ballet and the symphony raised funds to support the performances. LSO executive director Catherine Beeson released a statement, saying “The thought of our communities having to miss a second year of this holiday tradition was too disappointing to consider. We are so grateful to Boulder Ballet and LSO patrons, supporters and sponsors who stepped up to fill the gap.”
The CU Holiday Festival (Dec. 3–5), featuring CU College of Music ensembles, is one of the oldest musical traditions in Boulder, dating back decades. Performing groups this year will be the Holiday Brass, the Holiday Festival Orchestra, Chamber Singers, Holiday Festival Choral Union, West African Highlife Ensemble, Holiday Festival Jazz, and the Magari Quartet.
There will be some very familiar Holiday music—“Ding, Dong Merrily on High,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the perennial favorite, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” But there will also be some unusual selections, including the Spanish villancico “Ríu, ríu, chíu,” the Gloria from the Misa Criolla (Creole Mass) by the Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez, and a Nigerian Christmas song, “Betelehemu” (Bethlehem). The program will conclude with the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
The Holiday Festival often sells out. That may be different this year, with COVID restriction still in place, but check availability before making plans.
There will be two performances of Handel’s Messiah in Boulder this year: One by conductor Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Chorale (Dec. 4), and one by conductor Zachary Carrettin and performers of the Boulder Bach Festival (Dec. 17 and 19).
Both organizations will present only the Christmas portion of Messiah; Pro Musica Colorado will add the “Hallelujah” chorus. Theirs will be the more traditional style of performance, with full chorus. The Boulder Bach Festival will present Messiah with only one on a part in both orchestra and chorus; in other words, the choral parts will all be sung by a quartet of vocal soloists rather than a traditional chorus.
The Ars Nova Singers will present their Holiday program, “Made Merry,” in Denver (Dec. 10), Longmont (Dec. 12) and Boulder (Dec. 16 and 17).
Under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan, the Ars Nova Singers will be joined by guest artist Kathryn Harms on harp. The program follows the usual pattern for Ars Nova Holiday concerts: a mix of new arrangements and recent compositions with more traditional tunes.
Featured works will include Variations on “Lo How a Rose” by Hugo Distler, a prominent composer of sacred music in early 20th century Germany, whose short life illustrates the tragedy of his times. Torn between his revulsion for the Nazi regime and the prominent positions he was granted, he took his own life in 1942 at the age of 34.
Other works on the program are Morgan’s arrangement of “What Child is This?,” Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of “In the Beak Midwinter,” Jeffrey Van’s arrangement of the Mexican carol “El Rorro” (The babe) and contemporary English composer Jonathan Dove’s setting of “The Three Kings” by Dorothy Sayers.
The Longmont Symphony’s annual Candlelight concert, this year titled “A Baroque Christmas,” will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19 at the Westview Presbyterian Church in Longmont. Elliot Moore will conduct, with soprano soloist Ekaterina Kotcherguina.
Music by familiar Baroque composers will comprise the majority of the program, including Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, known as the “Christmas Concerto” and J.S. Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Kotcherguina will sing arias from Handel’s Messiah, including “I know that my redeemer liveth” and “Rejoice Greatly.”
She will also sing “The Holy City,” a Victorian-era ballad that was extremely popular and widely performed around the turn of the 20th century, and that has been called “the most pirated piece prior to the internet.” Published under the name Stephen Adams, it was actually the work of English composer and singer Michael Maybrick.
According to legend, the song got a group of drunken prisoners released by a judge, it was mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and via a spiritual titled “Hosanna” its melody found its way into Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy. It continues to be performed, often under the title “Jerusalem.”
# # # # #
Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor With the Boulder Chamber Chorale and vocal soloists George Frideric Handel: Messiah
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
Tickets for in-person and live-streamed performance
Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor “Made Merry”
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, United Church of Christ, Longmont 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, First United Methodist Church, Boulder 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
Concert performance in Macky Auditorium will not be ‘historically informed’
By Peter Alexander Nov. 8 at 12:00 noon
Photo by Glenn Ross
Conductor Zachary Carrettin and the Boulder Bach Festival return to one of J.S. Bach’s masterworks of their repertoire on Sunday (Nov. 11), the Mass in B minor. But if you heard it the last time they performed the same work, in 2015, you should know this time will be different.
Then it was performed in intimate settings in Boulder and Denver; now it will be performed in Macky Auditorium. Then it was performed by a small chorus and orchestra; now the numbers will be greater. Then there were period instruments; now there are not. Then the soloists were early-music specialists; now they include operatic voices.
In fact, this will be very much a “modern” performance, with no self-consciously historical performance practices. Doing a deliberately non-historical performance seems unusual for an organization devoted to early music, but that decision was influenced both by the large concert hall where it will be presented and by Carrettin’s own philosophy.
“I firmly believe that the acoustic environment, the ensemble size, and the approach that we take with phrasing and tone production and balance should change from concert to concert,” he says.
Dance of Life: Mass in B Minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
Boulder Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Peter Scott Drackly, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone
Veterans’ Day and 100th Remembrance Day
2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 11
B-minor Mass will be performed on Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day Nov. 11
By Peter Alexander May 24 at 10:20 p.m.
The 38thconcert season of the Boulder Bach Festival, 2018–19, will include a performance of the B-minor mass, one of the great masterworks of European music, as well as a chamber concert, a guest appearance by conductor Nick Carthy from CU, a dance performance with electric instruments, and the unveiling of a new/old piano, manufactured in Paris in 1845.
Boulder Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
Also noteworthy will be the role of guest artists during the season, both as performers and as expert teachers of early musical performance styles, and the introduction of a Baroque orchestra and a Romantic orchestra as historically-informed performance ensembles.
The season was announced tonight (May 24) at the BBF’s final concert of the 2017–18 season. In a news release, the BBF’s director, Zachary Carrettin, commented: “The Boulder Bach Festival’s 38th season celebrates the influence of J.S. Bach across time and across cultures, and explores the musical dialogue with modern instruments, period instruments, electric instruments, and various vocal and choral forces. The guest artists contribute in performance, masterclasses, lectures, and more, adding to our rich cultural landscape.”
The season opens Sept. 13 with a chamber concert featuring harpsichordist Robert Hill, who teaches historical keyboards and performance practice at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, with Carrettin performing on Baroque violin and viola and the cello da spalla. The all-Bach program will include sonatas, a concerto, a suite, and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor BWV 903. (See details of all concerts below.
The BBF returns to CU Macky Auditorium for a performance of the B-minor Mass on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations and Veterans’ Day in the U.S. The performance by the Bach Festival Orchestra, Chorus and soloists will be under Carrettin’s direction. Audience members will be given poppies, since World War I a symbol of soldiers lost in battle, and given the opportunity to place them on the front of the stage.
Nicholas Carthy, music director of the CU Eklund Opera Program, will be guest conductor for performances Feb 14 and 16 by the BBF Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra. Titled “From London with Love,” the concert will feature Baroque music from England.
The BBF moves to the Dairy Arts Center April 5, 6 and 7 when the Venice on Fire electric Baroque instrument trio collaborates with 3rdLaw Dance/Theater to recreate “Obstinate Pearly,” first performed in 2014. Composers will include Barbara Strozzi, J.S. Bach and their contemporaries.
1845 Érard piano
For the season finale May 23, the BBF will present a Romantic-era period instrument chamber orchestra accompanying pianist Mina Gajićin Chopin’s Piano Concerto #2 in F Minor. Past performances have introduced Gajić’s 1895Érard piano, and in this concert she will play her earlier Érard grand from 1845, an instrument built during Chopin’s lifetime. The orchestra will also perform Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione,” and the Fellowship Artists Vocal Ensemble will perform a motet by Brahms.
# # # # #
Boulder Bach Festival
Zachary Carrettin with cello da spalla
Gala opening concert
Robert Hill, harpsichord, and Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violin, viola and cello da spalla
Solo and duo works by J.S. Bach
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sep. 13
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
Dance of Life: J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Abigail Nims, alto; Peter Scott Drackley, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11
From London With Love Songs of love and passionate concertos
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas Carthy, guest conductor
With Guy Fishman, cello; Szilvia Schranz, soprano; and Claire McCahan, mezzo-soprano
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, Broomfield Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
3rd Law Dance/Theater
Venice On Fire electric instrument trio with 3rd Law Dance/Theater
Zachary Carrettin, violin; Gal Faganel, cello; and Keith Barnhart, guitar
Katie Elliot, choreographer
Music by Barbara Strozzi, Robert de Visée, J.S. Bach and others
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2019
2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, 2019
7 p.m. Sunday, April 7, 2019
Dairy Arts Center
The Romantic Period Orchestra and Piano
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Chamber Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble
Zachary Carrettin violin/conductor, with Mina Gajic, piano
Colorado debut of 1845 Érard grand piano
Brahms: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione”
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor
Venice, “purveyor of exotic goods,” provides a point of reference
By Peter Alexander May 22 at 7:40 p.m.
Bouder Bach Festival orchestra and singers, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
The Boulder Bach Festival closes its season Thursday (7:30 p.m. Boulder Adventist Church) with a program of stunning variety, but festival director Zachary Carrettin sums it up in one sentence:
“We have this journey from lament to meditation to levity to blazing virtuosity, and finally to international dances at the hand of Johann Sebastian Bach.”
That’s as good a capsule description as one could make of a program that includes two settings of the Crucifixus from the Latin Mass by Antonio Lotti, a rousing street song by Tarquinio Merula, a tragic chorus by Giacomo Carissimi, a concerto by Vivaldi, and ending with an orchestral suite by J.S. Bach.
The program also sums up pretty nicely where the BBF stands today, because it introduces music by some of Bach’s predecessors that are not well known—one of the festival’s major goals. It features a number of guest artists from around the world, which is a priority. And those guests are serving as mentors to local musicians who are eager to learn more about early music performance, which fulfills an educational mission.
The concert is titled “La Venexiana,” meaning roughly ‘the one from Venice.’ (Note that in the Venetian dialect, the “x” is pronounced “tz”: “La Venetziana.”) Clearly, not all the composers are Venetian: Vivaldi and Lotti are, but the German Bach is not; Carissimi was from Rome and Merula from Cremona.
“For me, the theme doesn’t define the program,” Carrettin says.“One can choose a theme and adhere to it, or one can look at it as a point of reference. The final program should be an experience that I want us to present to the audience.”
The first half of he program mixes vocal and instrumental pieces, starting with two Crucifixus settings by Lotti, one for eight voices and one for six. Carrettin describes Lotti as one of Bach’s “contemporaries whose music is equally thrilling and ravishing. His use of suspension and resolution is exquisite. The successive chains of dissonances paint the idea of a crucifixion, and the resolutions are so poignant that one senses the promise of salvation.”
Balancing the serious works will be Su la certra amorosa by Tarquinio Merula, which Carrettin describes as “a fun piece, rhythmic and virtuosic.” Written for soprano and continuo, it will be performed by soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, a guest artist who has become a favorite of BBF audiences, accompanied by cello and Baroque guitar.
Between the vocal works will be two instrumental pieces designed as moments of reflection, a Sonata for Three Violins by Giovanni Gabrieli and a Ricercar for solo cello by Domenico Gabrielli (not related to Giovanni). The program’s first half concludes with the final recitative and chorus from the oratorio Jephte by Carissimi, a lament for Jephte’s daughter who must be sacrificed to the gods to fulfill a tragic vow.
Two instrumental pieces will be heard after intermission, Vivaldi’s Concerto for two violins in D minor and J.S. Bach’s Orchestra Suite in B minor for solo flute and strings. Although they are both in minor keys, they are by no means gloomy in mood. “This Vivaldi Concerto really is aggressive and brilliant and in some ways over the top,” Carrettin says.
The quintessential Venetian composer of the Baroque era, Vivaldi was famous enough to attract visitors to the city for his concerts. This fits Venice’s character, Carrettin says. “Even in the 17th and 18th centuries the number of residents paled in comparison to the sea trade and those visiting the city as an exotic place and purveyor of exotic goods”—including its music.
That international flavor ties Venice to the final piece by Bach, even though Bach never visited Venice. “In a way Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 has that international quality,” Carrettin says. “But the suite is as much programmed for its international flavor as it is to present Ysmael Reyes on the Baroque flute.
“Ismael has been a valued artist with the Boulder Bach Festival, and this is a great way to have him come back and share one of the great pieces for his instrument. He’s a wonderful person and a brilliant musician.”
Finally, Stoppelenburg and the other guest artists—violinist Adam LaMotte, concertmaster of Portland Baroque, and cellist Guy Fishman, principal cellist of Boston’s Handel-Haydn Society—will be doing more than performing. They will also be working with local musicians to share their expertise with Baroque musical styles.
In other words, the BBF has become much more than an organization that presents concerts; it is actively building a community of musicians. As such, Carrettin sees the BBF resting on three pillars.
BBF artist/mentor Guy Fishman
“One pillar is the guest artist/mentors,” he says. “Another pillar is the experienced early-music interpreters who already live in Colorado. And the third pillar is recent graduates here, professional musicians who want to have access to musicians in Amsterdam, Vienna, New York.
“We bring them all together. So we’re building a core of players, and merging this idea of professional development into our season finale. And we’ll continue this tradition next year.”
# # # # #
Boulder Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Singers
Zachary Carrettin, director and violin
With guest artists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Adam LaMotte, Baroque violin; Guy Fishman, Baroque cello.
Music by Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Domenico Gabrielli, Tarquinio Merula, Giacomo Carissimi, Vivaldi and J.S. Bach
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church
345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder
‘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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
# # # # #
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
# # # # #
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
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.
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.
The Boulder Bach Festival and Boulder Chorale have announced their 2017–18 seasons, with globe-trotting celebrations from “Bachtoberfest” to Brazil to Venice.
Of 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.
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, 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.
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.
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 seasonhere.
# # # # #
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.
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.
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.