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.

 

 

Three Classical Music groups announce seasons for 2018–19

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova and Boulder Opera set their schedules

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 1:45 p.m.

Three different classical musical organizations in Boulder—Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova Singers and Boulder Opera—have recently made public their planned season for the coming year. The full season for each group is listed below.

First out of the blocks will be the Boulder Opera Company, with a free concert in the Boulder Bandshell at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. The performance with piano, co-sponsored by the City of Boulder, will feature highlights from Puccini’s La Bohème and other popular operas.

Boulder Opera

Boulder Opera Company

Over the three days span Dec. 7–9, Boulder Opera will present the Colorado premiere of Little Red Riding Hood by Russian composer Cèsar Cui. All six matinee performances of this 35-minute work will be accompanied by piano and string quartet, and will offer the opportunity for children to sing ensemble parts. Part of Boulder Opera’s educational program, Little Red Rising Hood will also be taken to after-school programs and the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette.

The season will conclude May 3 through 12 with the paring of two one-act operas, the comedy Signor Deluso by Thomas Pastieri, sung in English; and the tragic Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni, sing in Italian with English titles.

In addition to these performances, Boulder Opera will present a public masterclass in Italian opera Tuesday, Aug. 14, and a fund-raising Gala Concert, featuring highlights from the season Friday, Oct. 12.

Executive/artistic director of Boulder Opera is Dianela Acosta. More information on Boulder Opera can be found here.

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Ars Nova Singers

Ars Nova Singers title their 2018–19 season “New Horizons.” Over four concerts the season covers a wide musical spectrum, from the opening concert of “Sacred Jazz” in October, featuring Will Todd’s Mass in Blue for soprano, choir and jazz ensemble, described as “religious doctrine meets funk”; to February’s program featuring the Renaissance “Earthquake Mass” of Antoine Brumel, which has been called “one of the true marvels of Renaissance choral writing.”

The annual Ars Nova Holiday concert in December will feature the Colorado premiere of The Consolation of Apollo by Kile Smith, a work celebrating the 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast by the crew of Apollo 8. The program will also include music for the holiday season.

Ars Nova will conclude the season with “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2.” The Arts Nova Web page describes this multi-disciplinary collaborative project: “In the summer of 2018, an online gallery of works by Colorado visual artists will be assembled. Then, poets from across the state will view the gallery and use the images as a basis for writing new poetry. This new poetry will be assembled into an anthology, and Arts Nova will commission four Colorado composers to use this anthology to create new music for chorus.”

The artistic director and conductor of Ars Nova is Thomas Edward Morgan. More information on Ars Nova Singers can be found here.

Boulder Chamber Orchestrawill present five full orchestral concerts during the year under music director Bahman Saless, plus a season-opening chamber music concert by violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her piano trio Take 3, with pianist Susan Boettger and cellist Lila Yang.

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Over the season, the BCO will feature several soloists from the CU faculty: pianist David Korevaar playing Mozart in December; violinist Edward Dusinberre, also playing Mozart in February; and violist Geraldine Walther playing an arrangement for viola and strings of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. Violinist Chloe Trevor will be a guest soloist in November, playing the Vivaldi Four Seasons concertos as well as the Piazzolla Four Season of Buenos Aires.

In addition to Mozart, the December program will include Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and settings of holiday carols. Among the latter will be one of the more unusual pieces of the BCO season, Weihnachtsmusik by Arnold Schoenberg, which is actually a little known but perfectly lovely setting of the familiar German Christmas hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (known as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming”).

The season will end in May with a concert featuring BCO members Cobus DuToit, flute, and Bridget Kibbey, harp, playing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Not on the schedule this year will be a New Year’s Eve concert, which BCO has made part of their season for several years. According to Saless, more and more orchestras are filling that slot in the calendar, so the BCO performance was no longer unique.

More information on the Boulder Chamber Orchestra can be found here.

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BOULDER OPERA
Dianela Acosta, artistic director
2018–19 season

Italian Opera Masterclass with Anthony Michaels-Moore
Congregation Nevei Kodesh, 1925 Glenwood Dr., Boulder
2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14

Opera in the Park
Boulder Bandshell
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Free

Gala Concert
The Studio, 3550 Frontier Avenue, Boulder
7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

Family Series
Cèsar Cui: Little Red Rising Hood
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
1 & 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
2 & 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
1 & 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Sung in English

Thomas Pastieri: Signor Deluso (Sung in English)
Pietro Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana (Sung in Italian with English titles)
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
3 p.m. Sunday, May 12

More information here

ARS NOVA SINGERS
Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director
2018–19 Season
“New Horizons”

Sacred Jazz
7:30 p.m. Friday, October 5, SJE (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oc.t 6, BLC (Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village)
Will Todd: Mass in Blue

In the Moon of Wintertime
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 9, SPDen (St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, SJE
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, FCC (First Congregational Church, Longmont)
Kile Smith: The Consolation of Apollo(Colorado premiere)
Holiday Music

Music of the Renaissance: The Earthquake Mass
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, SPDen
Antoine Brumel: Missa Et ecce terra motus (Mass “And behold the earth moved”)

A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, BLC
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, SJE
New works by Colorado composers

More information here

BOULDER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Bahman Saless, music director
2018–19 Season

Saturday October 6, SDA (Seventh Day Adventist Church)
Take 3: Susan Boettger, piano; Lindsay Deutsch, violin; and Lila Yang, cello

Friday Nov. 30, BA (Broomfield Auditorium); Sat. Dec. 1, SDA
Chloe Trevor, violin
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Piazzolla: Four Season of Buenos Aires
Janáček: Suite for strings

Friday Dec. 21, BA; Sat. Dec. 22, SDA
David Korevaar, piano
Mozart: Piano Concerto in B-flat Major, K595
Handel: Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 1
Corelli: Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, “Christmas Concerto”
Schoenberg: Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)
Selected Holiday Carols

Friday Feb. 1 (BA); Sat, Feb. 2, 2019 (Boulder)
Edward Dusinberre, Violin
Mozart: Violin Concerto in G major, K216
Sibelius: Suite Mignonne
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Friday March 29, (BA); Sat, March 30 (SDA)
Geraldine Walther, viola
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, arranged for viola and strings
Verdi: String Quartet, arranged for string orchestra

May 12 (SDA) (Sunday Matinee)
Cobus DuToit, flute; Bridget Kibbey harp
Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299/291c
Debussy: Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
Mozart: Symphony No. 33

More information here
Season tickets

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

 

Boulder Chamber Orchestra and soloists delight with rare, youthful works

Performances of music by Mendelssohn and Janáček were ‘charming and expressive’

By Peter Alexander

Last night (Nov. 10), Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra gave charming and expressive performances of two little known works: Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin and strings, written when the composer was 14; and Janáček’s Idyll for Strings, written when the composer was 24.

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

Both scores have been eclipsed by greater works that came later in the composers’ careers. But last night’s performances were refined and stylish, making a case for the Concerto and the Idyll.

The program and others this year mark a return to genuine chamber orchestra repertoire for the BCO, after an excursion into the large-symphony realm last year. This is a good decision: the BCO sounded better and more comfortably at home with these two works than ever. It is one the best concerts I have heard them give.

Zachary & Mina

Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

The soloists for the Mendelssohn, pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin, ripped through their often-virtuosic parts, tossing off Mendelssohn’s adolescent show-off riffs with aplomb. The young Mendelssohn was clearly drawing on classical models for structure and syntax, but he did not hesitate to use more dramatic Romantic gestures for the solo parts.

For example, the Concerto opens with a Mozartian introduction that would not be out of place in the catalog of any Classical composer. The piano then seems to drop in from another planet—call it the world of heroic soloists—entering with stentorian chords and flamboyant arpeggios. Gajić played with complete command, and was matched by Carrettin’s flourishes on the violin.

The mixture of styles is especially evident when Mendelssohn begins to develop his carefully balanced melodies, spinning off into unexpected keys and sudden changes of mood. Writing for himself to perform on piano with his violin teacher, he seems unable to resist showing everything he can do with the material.

Much of the slow movement is a Romanza for the two soloists, which provided some of the best moments. The Finale bounces between light-hearted jollity and stormy outbursts of passion, much as we can imagine the 14-year-old Mendelssohn doing with his own playing. Gajić and Carrettin followed Mendelssohn through every twist and turn, matching one another note-for-note through all the movement’s many scampering scales and runs.

bsaless.1.Keith Bobo

Bahman Saless: Czech in a former life?

Saless and the BCO came into their own with the Janáček Idyll, a suite of seven movements marked with the sweet melancholy and dance rhythms of Czech folk music. Saless spends part of every year in Prague and has said that he must have been Czech in a previous life.

If so, his performance of the Idyll was clear evidence of his identification with Czech culture. His interpretation was sensitive and deeply expressive throughout. Apart from an occasional muddiness in the lowest parts—likely due more to the venue than the players—the performance was exemplary. Though little known, the Idyll contains music of unexpected beauty.

The performance will be repeated, tonight at 7:30 in Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Both pieces are well worth hearing: the Mendelssohn is a delightful glimpse of a young genius at play, brought delightfully to life, and the Janáček is filled with wistful beauty, played with deep expression.

You can order your tickets here. You won’t be sorry.

Youthful works form the Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s program Nov. 10 & 11

Music by Mendelssohn and Janáček with soloists Mina Gajić and Zachary Carrettin

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) calls its current season “Fourteeners,” in honor of the their 14th season and their goal of “reaching new heights.”

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BCO and Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo.

It may or may not be a coincidence, then, that conductor Bahman Saless chose a piece by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn for the next concert, to be performed Friday in Broomfield and Saturday in Boulder (Nov. 10 and 11). The program features pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin playing Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin, and strings from 1823.

Joining the Mendelssohn on the program is another youthful piece, the Idyll for Strings by Leoš Janáček, written when the composer was 24—a relatively young age for someone who lived and worked into his 70s.

Mendelssohn’s concerto is a youthful work, but it should not, Saless maintains, be considered an immature piece. “It gives the audience the chance to see the charm that you find in early Mendelssohn, and quite frankly his genius at that age,” he says. “It’s a pretty fascinating snapshot of what he was able to do at the time, and what he will be doing later.”

Carrettin agrees. “It’s an early work, but not that early,” he says. “He wrote it at 14, but at 16 he wrote the String Octet, which is considered by all to be a complete, mature masterpiece. In these two years, Mendelssohn becomes a fully formed master composer.”

Zachary & Mina

Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

Gajić and Carrettin are known for their historically informed performances with the Boulder Bach festival, of which he is the artistic director. The performance with Saless and the BCO will be entirely on modern instruments, including the piano, but Gajić and Carrettin, who are married to one another, have been practicing the concerto at home with their own historical pianos and violin bows. Using instruments from Mendelssohn’s time, they have found, gives insights into the music.

One of the pianos that they rehearsed with dates from 1845, during Mendelssohn’s lifetime. “It’s just a whole world of colors and possibilities for phrasing that come naturally on an instrument like this,” Gajić explains. “Because they’re so related to the instrument’s nature, it’s revealing to look into special colors, timings, pedaling. It’s wonderful to see how certain pieces unlock themselves on a piano like this.”

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The 1845 piano that Gajic and Carrettin have used for rehearsals (photo by Peter Alexander)

“Every time we go back to the 1845 (piano) in rehearsal, it reveals something that the other pianos didn’t reveal,” Carrettin adds.

One difference using earlier pianos and bows is tempo. To Carrettin and Gajić it feels right to play faster on the older, lighter instruments. “For us, the later the instrument, the more resonance, the thicker the sound, the more we find that if we go just a couple of clicks slower, the sonorities make more sense with the character of the music,” he says.

That character, Carrettin explains, falls between the Classic and Romantic styles. “It has a little bit of tension between classical rhetoric and Romantic expression,” he says. “There’s a sense of walking between two worlds at a particular time in history, which I love.”

The score combines expressive melodies with virtuosic flourishes, all in a chamber music texture of exchange between soloists and orchestra. “It’s really exciting to bring the chamber music aspect into a concerto,” Gajić says. “We’ll have a great time performing with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.”

Saless is equally excited. “It’s always a pleasure and an honor to work with Zachary and Mina,” he says. “It’s a charming piece, and performing with a husband and wife couple also makes it intriguing, because it’s like the violin and piano could be one instrument.”

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Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo

Saless and the BCO played the Janáček Idyll before, and it’s a piece that he feels a special connection with. “The first time I conducted it was in the Czech Republic and I fell in love with it,” he says. “It’s such a [cultural] identity piece, especially the last movement that brings this absolute joy of Czech culture. I think if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was Czech in my last life!”

We think of Janáček as a 20th-century composer, because his best known works were composed after 1900, but the Idyll was written in 1878, more than 20 years before the new century. The first performance was heard by Dvořák, a friend of the younger composer who is often cited as an influence on the Idyll. But Saless isn’t sure about the influence.

“It’s hard to say if it’s Dvořák’s influence or just Czech influence,” he says. “Because it’s so Czech, it sounds like Dvořák.”

Some of Janáček’s later and better known pieces are fairly complex and spiky, but the Idyll is very straightforward. “It’s much more approachable,” Saless says. “It’s a suite of seven movements like folk songs, and that’s really all it is. It’s pretty simple.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to play, however. “There are some parts that are just impossibly hard,” Saless says. “There are some really hard cello parts. I’ve done quite a few Janáček pieces in the Czech Republic, and every orchestra complains how hard it is.”

The difficulty of the string writing probably reflects Janáček’s training as a pianist and organist and not a string player. “My guess is that he was so young that he was writing more as a composer that was not so familiar with the limitations (of the instruments),” Saless says.

“Having said that, it’s just gorgeous. Don’t miss it!”

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BCO Logo 2016

Idyllic Mendelssohn
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Mina Gajić, piano, and Zachary Carrettin, violin

 

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10
Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Rd., Broomfield

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

PROGRAM

Mendelssohn: Concerto for piano, violin, and strings
Leoš Janáček: Idyll for Strings

Tickets

Protest precedes Boulder Chamber Orchestra performance

Corporate contribution attracts activists’ attention

By Peter Alexander

They started blowing their whistles about three minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin.

Last night (May 5) was one the biggest nights in the history of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO). Just before 7:30 p.m., the players were all on the Macky Auditorium stage, along with members of the Boulder Chorale, getting ready to perform Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony.

BCO November Concert 2009

Artistic director Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

It would be the climactic concert of their 13th season. The house was filling with a large audience.

Suddenly, several protesters—I saw three but it sounded like there were more—stood up and started blowing police whistles. The audience suddenly grew quiet. A woman near me stood up and started shouting, although her words were lost in the general din. Loud voices could be heard from other parts of the hall.

The woman hurried down the aisle, still blowing her whistle and talking to several audience members on the way. A man near the back was shouting, and raised a fist in protest; I saw one or two others rushing out of the auditorium. They made a quick exit from the building, leaving behind flyers headed “Community Alert.”

The protestors were from East Boulder County United (EBCU), an activist group that opposes fracking. The group’s Facebook page lists as one of its goals “to protect our community and neighbors from the dangers that oil and gas development poses to our health, the quality of our air and water, and our agricultural heritage.”

They had already stated their opposition to contributions the BCO received from Extraction Oil & Gas, which describes itself as “a domestic energy company focusing on the exploration and production of oil and gas reserves in the Rocky Mountains.” It is likely that EBCU alerted some of the media of the planned protest against Extraction, since the Boulder Daily Camera had a reporter and photographer at Macky before the performance.

As soon as the EBCU protesters had left the building, the concert continued as planned. Board chair Jessica Catlin spoke briefly from the stage, acknowledging the BCO’s supporters. Conductor Bahman Saless came onstage and talked about the program, as he often does. The performance took place without further incident.

There was no evidence that the musicians were rattled in any way. Their ardent performance received a boisterous standing ovation. With people on the main floor and in the balcony, this was likely the largest audience the BCO has played before.

After the performance, BCO board member Ari Rubin said that the board and orchestra had received no notice or threat of the protest. “It saddens me that they would choose to use this as an outlet rather than contact their elected officials,” he said.

The trouble between EBCU and the orchestra began about April 30, when the BCO posted a notice on their Facebook page that a gift from Extraction Oil & Gas would help pay the cost of free student tickets to the performance. EBCU responded with a message to supporters, asking them to “Please contact the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and call on them to end their partnership with Extraction Oil and Gas. . . . We are calling upon (the BCO) to immediately return all money you have taken from this lethal corporation and remove all promotion of them from your publications. Make music, not pollution.”

EBCU also posted protests on the BCO Facebook page. Those posts were taken down, and the BCO board issued a statement that read in part: “Organizations like ours have increasingly been forced to look towards private donations and corporations to help fund our mission to educate and expand the cultural fabric of our city. . . .Donations are necessary [for us] to survive and thrive as a nonprofit.”

The donations from Extraction was one of three gifts that provided free tickets to the performance for students from Boulder Valley School District, Jefferson County School District, and St. Vrain Valley School District. The University of Colorado, Boulder, and Excel Energy also contributed to this initiative. According to the board statement of May 2, “Students have responded eagerly to our offer, and we must honor our commitment to them.

“We understand corporate donations may present difficult and controversial issues, but we viewed the acceptance of funds as way of ensuring that some good can come from otherwise divisive issues surrounding corporate stewardship.”

Extraction Oil & Gas is one of 15 sponsors listed on the BCO Web page. Total corporate contributions, including Extraction and other local businesses, are reported as 17% of the BCO’s budget.

Regarding the larger controversy that ECBU has generated, Saless  and the BCO’s acting managing director, Nell Clothier, have declined to comment. Members of board have indicated that they prefer for the board’s written statement, posted May 2, to speak for itself.

UPDATE: According to a report published in the Boulder Daily Camera, EBCU member Kristin McLean said that there were seven activists who blew whistles in Macky Auditorium before the performance. She was also quoted saying that the group had paid $562 for their tickets to get into the auditorium.