Concert with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra will be Saturday
By Peter Alexander Feb. 9 at 2:10 p.m.
“You know you’re going to want more later,” Bahman Saless says about the Brahms Violin Concerto.
“It’s like German chocolate cake. It’s heavy, it’s sweet, it’s filling—I love the entire piece!”
Saless will conduct this tasty concerto with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Feb. 11; details below) with violinist Edward Dusinberre of the Takács Quartet as soloist. Other works on the program will be Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”).
Dusinberre has especially warm feelings for the concerto, which he learned as a student at the Royal College of Music in London. “I first performed the piece with an amateur orchestra in northwest England,” he wrote in an email communication. “My grandfather was playing in the viola section.
“What I remember more than the actual concert was my Dad driving from many miles away, both to hear the concert and so that he could drive me south afterwards. I was . . . a bit insecure about how I had played. I cherish that memory of his reassuring presence as we drove late at night through the countryside.”
Dusinberre cherishes the concerto not only because of that memory, but also for its musical qualities. “I love the balance of drama and lyricism,” he wrote. “The first solo entrance and other sections are propulsive and intense, but the movement has moments of ethereal wonderment—those are some of my favorite passages in all music.”
Both Saless and Dusinberre singled out the slow movement for comment. “The slow movement is one of the greatest slow movements of any violin concerto,” the conductor says, while the soloist wrote that “after the serenity of the slow movement, the high-spirited, at times joking mood of the finale is a necessary foil and satisfying conclusion.”
Saless hopes that as they listen to the concerto, the audience will pay attention to how the violin and orchestra relate and interact. “Brahms wrote it as a piece of music where it isn’t necessarily always the orchestra that’s going to accompany the violin,” he explains.
“A lot of the melodic line is in the orchestra, which is fascinating. There are some incredible parts that require the listener to really listen to the orchestra.”
Saless chose to open the concert with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture because it is such an ideal program opener. “It’s so powerful and captivating that it’s like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in eight minutes,” he says. And “it’s a great piece, not only because of the quality of it, but as far as marketing is concerned there are a lot of people that know it.”
Following the drama of Beethoven and the deep beauty of the Brahms, the program switches gears for the final piece, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4. Known as the “Italian” Symphony, it was begun when Mendelssohn was visiting Italy as a young man and is full of the cheery liveliness so often associated with that country. “It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done,” Mendelssohn wrote to his sister.
“To me it definitely does show that joy and brightness of Italy, and the energy and life of Italian culture,” Saless says. “It’s one of these pieces that as soon as I start listening to it or singing it, it doesn’t stop. It’s a very fun piece that I thought would be good compliment to a relatively heavy Brahms and Beethoven half (of the concert). It’s kind of a lighter, brighter piece, and also we’ve got such a great string section I thought it would be a really good showcase for them.”
Once again Saless wants to draw attention to the slow movement. “It’s simplicity at it best, short, very simple,” he says. “It also has a tiny bit of Bach. Mendelssohn was a huge fan of Johann Sebastian Bach, and it’s almost like an homage to him with the way that the basses have this little walking bass part that reminds you of a lot of Bach pieces.”
Saless and Dusinberre are both pleased to have the opportunity to work together. “I’m honored to have Ed perform with us,” Saless says. “I’m really, really looking forward to this.”
As for Dusinberre, in addition to his busy world-wide concert schedule with the Takács Quartet, he is happy to play a favorite concerto with the local musicians of the BCO. “Every now and again it’s great to return to works that I played before I joined the Takács,” he wrote. “It’s a joy to perform with Bahman and the BCO, many of whose players are friends or former students. There’s an inspiring spirit of community in the orchestra.
“I feel grateful to be part of that.”
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Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Edward Dusinberre, violin
- Beethoven: Overture to Egmont
- Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major
- Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder