Bernstein at 100 is celebrated by Boulder Phil and colleagues

West Side Story in Concert is sold out, but Monday’s tribute concert is not

By Peter Alexander April 20 at 4:30 p.m.

Leonard Bernstein has become the singular enduring icon of American concert music.

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Leonard Bernstein

His Broadway hit West Side Story, his leadership of the New York Philharmonic, his televised music education programs, his membership in the jet-set glitterati of the arts world, his famous performance of Beethoven’s Ninth on the site of the fallen Berlin wall—these made him the most recognizable classical musician in the world. As such, he was one of the most influential cultural figures of his time.

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Michael Butterman

“Composer, conductor, pianist, educator, advocate, communicator: he could do it all,” says Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Philharmonic. “I would say he was one of the most significant figures in 20th-century music, period.”

The 100thanniversary of Bernstein’s birth arrives in August of this year, and his centennial is being celebrated by virtually every orchestra in the country. That includes the Boulder Phil, whose sold-out concert performance of West Side Story leads local celebrations.

While that performance has gotten the most attention, another, more intimate concert will take place Monday evening that explores some lesser known corners of Bernstein’s creativity (7 p.m. April 23 in Boulder’s Jewish Community Center).

“Bernstein at 100: Leonard Bernstein in Concert” was put together by Eve Orenstein, the Phil’s director of development. Wanting to bring the larger community into the celebration, she contacted local musical organizations and musicians, assembling a program of solo and duo performances that will also include spoken tributes to Bernstein by Butterman, pianist Andrew Cooperstock from the CU College of Music, and Kathryn Bernheim, cultural arts director of the JCC.

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Charles Wetherbee

Two of the Phil’s musicians will perform: concertmaster Charles Wetherbee will play an arrangement of “Somewhere” from West Side Story and clarinetist Stephanie Zelnick will perform Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. Both will collaborate with Cooperstock, who has recorded Bernstein’s complete solo piano music. Cooperstock will also play two shorter solo pieces.

Tenor Eapen Leubner will perform “Maria” from West Side Story and “Two Love Songs on Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke” with pianist Mac Merchant. Also performing with Merchant, vocalist Faye Nepon will sing “So Pretty,” and “Lucky to be Me” from On the Town; and soprano Rose Sawvel will sing the “Simple Song” from Bernstein’s Mass, “La Bonne Cuisine,” and the showpiece “Glitter and be Gay” from Candide.

This diverse program ranges from the serious (Clarinet Sonata) to the more humorous (“La Bonne Cuisine”) to pure entertainment (“Glitter and be Gay”). As such, it complements the familiar West Side Story and gives audiences a chance to expand their musical horizons—which was the constant goal of Bernstein’s own teaching.

The performance of West Side Story itself is noteworthy. For one thing, the fact that it sold out ten days in advance shows both the draw of Bernstein’s show, some 61 years after its premiere in 1957, and the success of the Phil’s programming for the Boulder community. There have been a few sellouts in recent years, but none as far as 10 days in advance.

It is also noteworthy that the Boulder Phil is one of the first, if not the first regional orchestra to present West Side Story in concert. The Bernstein estate had not permitted concert performances until 2014, when conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony received their consent. Since then several orchestras have done the concert version, although it remains more popular to perform the music live with the 1961 film.

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Robert Neu

For Saturday’s performance, the orchestra will be seated on stage and the actors will be limited to the front apron and a single raised platform behind the players. In a score as complex as West Side Story, this could create challenges keeping orchestra and singers together, but stage director Robert Neu is not particularly worried.

“I’ve done a ton of concert performances of operas,” he says. “I’ve found two things. One is that there are plenty of easy ways to have it staged that somebody’s near the conductor and out of the corner of the eye catch a beat. And I’ve found that the force of that many musicians, the energy on stage, you can tell what’s happening behind you.”

A larger issue for Neu is that dancing, which creates so much energy, is only allowed in fully-staged productions. For concert performances the use of any choreography is forbidden.

“The hardest thing about semi-staging this piece is that the dancing is so iconic and we’re not doing any dancing at all,” Neu says. “The dance music is so descriptive that if you set up the action before and after satisfactorily, the music helps to tell the story. (The action) is told by the music in such a specific way that you can still follow the story.”

West Side Story has become so familiar that it is easy to overlook how revolutionary it was in 1957. “I’m reminded of how tightly constructed it is, the way that themes are introduced at various times in a very subtle and foreshadowing, or backward looking, way,” Butterman says. “This is the sort of thing that opera composers do all the time, but not as often encountered in Broadway musicals.”

The complexity of the music was particularly startling in 1957, when most musicals did not have complicated ensembles like “Tonight,” or quite such virtuosic orchestral lead parts. “It was a genre-changing piece,” Neu says. “I would love to have been there in 1957 at that first orchestra read, when the principal trumpet and the percussionist were first seeing the parts, going, ‘say what?’”

The complexity and difficulty of the music is still a challenge, 61 years later. The Boulder Phil will bring in a few brass players who are specialists in the jazz-inflected style of the score. “Some of the brass playing is incredibly virtuosic and very, very, much like a big band,” Butterman says. “In spite of the fact that the tunes are familiar, it’s complex. It’s difficult, it’s relentless.”

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Leonard Bernstein

Amidst all the celebration, we should remember that Bernstein’s impact continues today, present in much of the musical activity around us. Butterman talks about having conducted the Rochester Philharmonic, an orchestra that Bernstein once led, and having found a lingering “ethos that Bernstein then displayed when he was music director of the New York Philharmonic.”

I shook Bernstein’s hand and collected his autograph once when I was in high school. Many of us in the musical world had such brief or tangential contacts with him. But his influence on our national musical life is far greater than any individual’s near or remote degree of separation. “Because of the breadth of what he did, he became larger than life,” Butterman says.

“He left an amazing legacy for anyone involved in orchestral music. It’s important to celebrate his music, which is the most long-lasting legacy he left to the world, at the same time remembering the work he did to bring classical music to as many people as possible. I see him as an inspiration.”

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Bernstein at 100: Leonard Bernstein Tribute Concert
Presented by the Boulder Philharmonic with musicians from CU College of Music, Central City Opera, Colorado Music Festival, and Opera Fort Collins

7 p.m. Monday, April 23
Levin Hall of the Boulder Jewish Community Center, 6007 Oreg Ave, Boulder

Tickets

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West Side Story in Concert: SOLD OUT
Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman conductor, and Robert Neu, stage director
In collaboration with Central City Opera

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28
Macky Auditorium

NOTE: Corrected for typos 4/20/18

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Boulder Phil sells out West Side Story 10 days in advance

Orchestra ends 60th-anniversary season on a high April 28

By Peter Alexander April 18 at 10:40 a.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic has announced that their concert performance of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story on Saturday, April 28, has sold out 10 days in advance.

westsidestoryThe orchestra’s 60th-anniversary season has already been a success at the box office, leading to a modest expansion of next year’s season. When announcing the 2018–19 season April 6, Katherine Lehman, the Boulder Phil’s executive director, observed that “We have been extremely successful with ticket sales, and we’re ending the year particularly well this year.”

The sellout of West Side Story adds success to success. “This is thrilling news for us,” Lehman says today. “We can’t imagine a better way to bring our 60th-anniversary season to a close than to share West Side Story with a sell-out crowd!”

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Michael Butterman will conduct the sold-out West Side Story in Concert with the Boulder Phil

Boulder Phil has sold out a few performance in Macky Auditorium in recent years. Besides the Sunday Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet, these include several performances with Cirque de la Symphonie. Another sellout was the Boulder performance of the “Nature and Music” concert in March, 2017, that was subsequently performed in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Performances by the orchestra with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukaro in 2017 and violinist Sarah Chang in 2013 both sold out the day of the performance. The current production of West Side Story marks the first time in recent years that Boulder Phil has sold out a concert 10 days in advance.

The performance, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth, is a presentation of the Boulder Phil in collaboration with Central City Opera. Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman is conducting, with stage direction by Robert Neu, and a cast selected in audition by Butterman, Neu, and Central City Opera artistic director Pelham Pearce. The orchestra will be seated onstage, with action occurring on the front apron of the stage, and on a platform erected behind one side of the orchestra.

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San Francisco Symphony: West Side Story in Concert (photo by Stefan Cohen)

A few years ago, this performance would not have been possible. It has been popular for many years for orchestras to perform live with a screening of the film, but rights were not given for concert performances until 2014, when the San Francisco Symphony gave the first live in concert performances. Their performance was subsequently released on CD.

There have a been a few other orchestras who have performed West Side Story in concert, but the Boulder Phil is one of the first, if not the first, regional orchestra to do so.

Pops series, soloists and women composers highlight ‘18–19 Boulder Phil season

“Open Space” season opens with Star Wars and ends with “Space Oddity”

By Peter Alexander April 6 at 6 a.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic is booming.

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Conductor Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

That is one of the messages of the 2018–19 season, titled “Open Space,” which the orchestra is announcing today. There will be a new series of three pops concerts over the course of the season, which will run from Sept. 29 to May 5—longer than in past years. (See the entire season below.)

The additional series means more performances—six Main Series concerts, three Pops Series concerts, plus the annual Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet in November. And more performances means an expanding budget—a sign of the Phil’s success.

“It’s a modest expansion of what we’ve done in the past, and it reflects our desire to serve the community in a somewhat more expansive way,” Katie Lehman, the orchestra’s executive director, says.

pixarinconcert_previewThe concerts of the Pops Series will be “A Tribute to John Williams” on Sept. 29, with music from some of Williams’ most popular film scores; “Pixar in Concert,” an event with family appeal featuring music from some of Pixar Animation Studio’s films including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and others; and “The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil,” an event presented by Windborne Productions featuring singer Tony Vincent that will be a combination rock concert and orchestra performance.

The pops series is not the only newsworthy part of the season. The roster of soloists will include two genuine classical superstars, starting in November with violinist Midori, who has chosen the Phil as a recipient of her Orchestra Residency Program grant. She will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Phil Nov. 4, and perform with the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras (GBYO) the following day.

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Midori. Photo by Timothy Greenfield Sanders.

While in Boulder Midori will present master classes and participate in neighborhood outreach activities, school events, civic presentations, and the Boulder Phil’s annual gala Nov. 3. The Nov. 5 concert by the GBYO will include the world premiere of a work for violin and string orchestra by CU assoc. prof. of composition Daniel Kellogg.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson will return to Boulder for the first time in many years to perform Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto with the Phil on Jan. 19. Ohlsson, who rose to fame when he won the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, played at the Colorado Music Festival several times in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Other soloists during the season will be soprano Mary Wilson, singing Samuel Barber’s nostalgic Knoxville, Summer of 1915 and Mahler’s elegiac Fourth Symphony with the orchestra Feb. 9; and cellist Astrid Schween of the Juilliard String Quartet and the Juilliard School faculty, performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto March 2.

amadeus-webThe main series will conclude with a collaboration with the CU Department of Theatre and Dance, with the orchestra playing onstage during a performance of Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus April 27. While the Phil has done performances with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in the past, this will be the first theatrical collaboration in several years.

Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s music director, explains that the performance will include virtually the entire play, with extended musical interludes. “The play indicates places where music is to be played,” he says. “At the beginnings and ends of the two acts we have more extended pieces, so it becomes about 50-50 in terms of play and concert.”

New for the 2018–­19 season will be the Encore Concert, a community engagement event that gives amateur musicians the opportunity to play side by side with members of the Boulder Phil. The performance will be Sunday, Sept. 30, in Macky Auditorium. (The full schedule of activities will be announced later.)

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Boulder native Kristin Kuster

The season will notably include five pieces by living composers, three of them women: Circuits by Cindy McTee and Celestial Suite by James Stephenson Oct. 13 and 14; Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds by Tan Dun Nov. 4; Starburst by Jessie Montgomery Feb. 9; and Dune Acres by Boulder native Kristin Kuster March 2.

The number of women composers is particularly noteworthy. The world of classical music has been heavily criticized for the male-dominated repertoire in the year of #MeToo and #Time’sUp. Specifically, the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra together had a total of zero women composers—in seasons far longer than that of the Boulder Phil—and the New York Philharmonic included only one. (One of many articles on this issue can be seen here.)

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Michael Butterman

Butterman identified a couple of other “subthemes” to the season. “There’s some substantial stuff for the orchestra to dig into,” he said, speaking of large orchestral works that will appeal to the traditional classical audience. These include Holst’s Planets Oct. 13 and 14; Brahms Third Symphony Nov. 4; Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony Jan. 19 and 20; and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony Feb. 9.

The world of technology shows up in various ways, including McTee’s Circuits. Tan Dun’s Secret of the Wind and Birds calls for both orchestra and audience to play previously downloaded musical passages on their cell phones—“hopefully in a way that is intentional,” Butterman says. In a similar vein, the pops concert “Pixar in Concert” celebrates the world of computer animation.

The theme of “Open Spaces” continues the Boulder Phil’s history of seasonal themes around the community’s relationship to the outdoors, and it implies the extension of that vision into outer space. Thus, the first program of the season, the pops program on Sept. 29, includes Williams’ music from Star Wars and E.T., and the final program May 5 includes Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

The Main Series opens Oct. 13 and 14 with “Infinite Space,” a concert featuring Stephenson’s Celestial Suite and Holst’s Planets. The rest of the season is sprinkled with pieces that suggest either “Open Spaces” or outer space, including Alexander Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia Jan. 19 and 20; and Montgomery’s Starburst and Mahler’s vision of heaven in the Fourth Symphony, Feb. 9.

But the most significant aspect of the upcoming season is the way recent success has led to an expanded presence for the orchestra. “We have been extremely successful with ticket sales, and we’re ending the year particularly well this year,” Lehman says.

She stresses that the expansion not only gives more choices to the public, it benefits the orchestra’s musicians as well. “We are very interested in building the loyalty of our core orchestra, our most talented, exciting musicians, and to that end we want to be able to offer them more work,” she says. “We want to offer them more projects that they have more input into, because the best orchestra is going to be the one that wants to be on the stage.

“For us, building the loyalty of musicians that we really love to have with us means giving them what they want.”

The bottom line, she says, is responding to what both the musicians and the public want and will respond to: “We are in the process of doing a careful job of listening to our people and our city, and thinking about ways that we can move into the future.”

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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra 2018-19 Season-at-a-Glance
Except as noted all concerts are in Macky Auditorium on the CU campus.

 

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John Williams

A Tribute to John Williams—Pops Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Program includes music from Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Schindler’s List
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

Encore Concert (Community Side-by-Side)­­
Michael Butterman and members of the Boulder Philharmonic with amateur musicians.
Sunday, September 30, time TBA

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Cindy McTee

Infinite Space­—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Cindy McTee: Circuits
James Stephenson: Celestial Suite
Gustav Holst: The Planets with women’s chorus
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
2 p.m. Sunday, October 14 (Pinnacle PAC, 1001 W. 84th Avenue, Denver, without video)

Midori Plays Sibelius—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Midori, violin
Tan Dun: Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 3
7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71
2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, Saturday, Nov. 24,  and Sunday, Nov. 25
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24

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Garrick Ohlsson. Photo by Dario Acosta

Ohlsson Plays Rachmaninoff—Main Series
Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1
Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 (Pinnacle PAC)

The Heavenly Life—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Mary Wilson, soprano
Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
Samuel Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Saturday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.

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Astrid Schween. Photo by Steve Sherman.

Elgar & Beethoven—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Astrid Schween, cello
Kristin Kuster: Dune Acres
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2

Pixar in Concert—Pops Series
Gary Lewis, conductor
Program includes music from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23

Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus—Main Series
Michael Butterman, conductor
Directed by Bud Coleman, with the CU Department of Theatre & Dance and choir
Music from Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, “Haffner” Symphony, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Gran Partita, Requiem, and more
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27

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Tony Vincent in ‘The Music of David Bowie’

The Music of David Bowie with the Boulder Phil—Pops Series
Brent Havens, conductor, with Tony Vincent, vocalist
David Bowie hits including Space Oddity, Changes, Under Pressure, Heroes, Fame, and China Girl
7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5

Tickets and more information: Five- and six-concert main series packages are on sale now. New subscribers save 50% off single ticket prices. Pops series subscribers receive 10% off three concerts. Click here or call 303-449-1343.

Single tickets go on sale June 4, 2018.

 

Boulder Phil collaborates with Cleo Parker Robinson for ‘Lark Ascending’

Emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw plays Prokofiev on the same program

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 5:50 p.m.

“The idea of connecting orchestral music with other art forms has been very much on my mind.”

That statement from Michael Butterman, conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic, is clearly reflected in the orchestra’s recent seasons. Concerts have included projected visual images, and there have been collaborations with Boulder Ballet, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance and Central City Opera.

 

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Dancers from the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Now you can add Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble to the list, with Robinson’s original choreography for Vaughan Williams’s Lark-Ascending for Saturday’s concert (April 7). The performance will feature the orchestra’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee, playing the solo violin part, with the dancers arrayed on the front of the stage.

Two other works will complete the concert program: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5, and the emerging superstar violinist Stefan Jackiw playing Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

The collaboration with Robinson is one that Butterman has been planning for some time. “I wanted to work with Cleo’s company since I first came to Boulder,” he says. “It was just a question of (finding) something that would be a good fit for them and for us.”

The Lark Ascending came to mind as a suitable piece. “I thought it was a captivating piece of music, and it certainly has a sensibility that invited storytelling and choreography,” Butterman says. “So I approached Cleo about coming up with her own approach to this.”

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Cleo Parker Robinson

Robinson loves the celebrated choreography that Alvin Ailey created for the piece, but she had no trouble finding her own interpretation. She was inspired in part by the writing of Maya Angelou, she says: “As soon as I began to hear the music and think about the theme, (I remembered that) she wrote ‘I know why the caged bird sings.’

“I had seen choreography with the lark being female, but I shifted it, (because) we’re seeing so many young people incarcerated. Usually it’s young Black men, brown men, and those without resources. I was overwhelmed with this.”

Robinson visualized a piece that was universal at the same time that it portrays an unjustly imprisoned Black man. “Who do people listen to once they are in such a dark place?” she asks. Her answer involves a quartet of dancers: the prisoner and three women.

“We have the mother coming to him as a voice of compassion,” she explains. “Then his sister comes to him as a voice of hope. And the woman that he loves comes to him as a voice of love, sharing that she carries his child. Their child, if nothing else, (gives him) a purpose to live.”

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Michael Butterman. Photo:  Jiah Kyun

The Fifth will be the first Sibelius symphony that Butterman has performed with the Phil. “It seems like time to do one,” he says. “If you’re doing the Fifth you naturally think of the association of the last movement with swans. Sibelius wrote about being on the edge of a lake when an assemblage of swans flew overhead. He wanted to somehow capture that moment in the last movement.”

That beautiful tune he wrote to represent the flight of swans has made the symphony popular, but in other ways, Butterman says, Sibelius can be difficult for performers and audience both. “Many composers present a theme in its fully formed state, take it apart in what we would call the development section, then put it back together,” he says. “We don’t have that overview in most of Sibelius.

“His approach is to present a series of ideas, not apparently related, over the course of a movement or an entire symphony. He begins to put the pieces together, and we then see the big picture toward the end. It’s like uncovering puzzle pieces or little glimpses of an idea, maybe excavating something and over time you’re able to reveal the treasure underneath.”

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto was written around the same time as the composer’s popular ballet Romeo and Juliet, and on the surface it has some of the same lyrical, accessible qualities as the ballet. Jackiw, however, hears darker elements below the surface.

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Violinist Stefan Jackiw

“There are certainly lyrical moments, like the second theme of the first movement,” he says. “And the second movement is one of the most beautiful things Prokofiev ever wrote. But I wouldn’t say that the piece on the whole is genial. I think actually there’s a lot of menace and nihilism as well.”

Jackiw points particularly to the opening theme for solo violin, which is flowing and lyrical but written in a five-beat pattern, and to the following orchestral entrance, which is tonally disorienting. These together, he says, “contribute to a sense of un-moored-ness and ungrounded-ness and discomfort. There’s a lot of this eerie quality in the first movement.

“The third movement also has the sense of throwing the performers and the listeners off kilter. It starts as a wild dance, and the road of the piece is a descent into madness. So while there are sweet moments, there’s a lot of demonic chaos.”

But the combination of sweetness and chaos, Jackiw believes, is what makes the concerto worthwhile. “A lot of this piece is about the dramatic tension between darkness and light, despair and hope,” he says.

“Listening out for that dramatic tension and seeing how that arc travels throughout the piece—that’s really what this is about, and a big part of what makes this piece special.”

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Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

“A Song for Swans”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
With Charles Wetherbee, violin, and the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
With Stefan Jackiw, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Cirque de la Symphonie makes fourth appearance with Boulder Phil

‘World’s Only Aerial Violinist’ Janice Martin performs with the company

By Peter Alexander Feb. 1 at 11:30 a.m.

The circus is coming back to town, and this time they’re bringing a fiddler.

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Aerial violinist Janice Martin

The circus is the acrobatic troupe Cirque de la Symphonie, returning to perform with the Boulder Philharmonic in a program titled Cirque Goes to the Movies. And the fiddler is Janice Martin, “The World’s Only Acrobatic Aerial Violinist,” who will play the theme from Cinema Paradiso and two movements of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Seasons while performing an aerial act above the stage.

A company of acrobats, dancers, aerialists, jugglers and other cirque artists, Cirque de la Symphonie has performed three times before with the Boulder Phil. The current production of Cirque Goes to the Movies features acts performing to film music played live by the orchestra.

Selections will be from movies including Superman, Star Wars, Titanic, West Side Story and Mission: Impossible. The Boulder Phil, under music director Michael Butterman, will also present concert performances of music from Gone With the Wind, Pirates of the Caribbean and other films.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Cirque Goes to the Movies”
Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, conductor
Cirque de la Symphonie with Janice Martin, Aerial Violinist

2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Simone Dinnerstein brings performance magic and a new piece to Boulder

Concerto by Philip Glass receives standing ovation at Macky Auditorium

By Peter Alexander

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Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein brought her deep sensitivity and considerable magic to Macky Auditorium last night, performing a remarkable new piano concerto by Philip Glass with the string sections of the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman.

Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was written for Dinnerstein, and her Boulder performance was part of the world premiere tour of the concerto. It is a major work that should achieve considerable success with audiences in the years to come, as it did last night in Macky.

Glass’s characteristic gestures are easily found in the score, but they have been transfigured. His usual pulsing rhythms are more gentle, serving and supporting melody and harmony. The music has an emotional immediacy throughout, and the third movement in particular has moments of seductive beauty. The ending is extended, creating a hypnotic, almost ritualistic quality around lovely bits of melody. The slow unfolding of these final thoughts quietly recalls compelling passages from Glass’s previous works.

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Philip Glass

At 80, Glass is entitled to write with a more valedictory and consoling tone, but there are likely two specific reasons for the nature of this piece. First, it was written for Dinnerstein. When she told Glass how much it fit her playing and her personality, he said “Well, I wrote it for you.” It’s hard to know how her influence manifests itself, but I heard a deep poeticism and introspective lyricism, qualities associated with Dinnerstein’s playing that also mark many moments in the concerto.

The other reason is the influence of J.S. Bach, a composer Dinnerstein is renowned for playing and whose Keyboard Concerto in G minor will be paired with the Glass on the current tour. There are no quotes or direct echoes of that specific piece in the Glass score, but I found it notable that the music is shaped largely by harmonic patterns, as if it were based on a Bach-like chorale, but one that wanders into unpredictable turns and paths.

Dinnerstein had both the notes and the inner life of the piece well under her fingers. Playing with evident love for the concerto, she found depths of expression in the music, including some of the simpler moments technically. Her playing was ably supported by Butterman and the Phil.

Not everyone loves Glass, but for me the performance was deeply moving, revealing both the quiet humanity of the composer and the commitment of the soloist. Standing ovations are de rigueur in Boulder, but this one seemed especially heartfelt.

The rest of the program was musically fascinating—a symphony by C.P.E., son of J.S. Bach, and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) on the fist half, and J.S. Bach’s G minor Concerto preceding the Glass. However, all three works, calling for only strings, suffered the same fate of being swallowed by Macky Auditorium’s unforgiving acoustics. Small ensembles, and strings in particular, invariably sound distant and a little cold in the hall.

The C.P.E. Bach Symphony received a refined performance, with transparent textures, and a smooth transition between the first two movements. But the characteristics of C.P.E. Bach’s mid-18th-century Rococo style, the use of sudden and shocking harmonic jolts and unexpected stops and starts, lost the larger share of its impact in the hall. The more’s the pity: C.P.E. Bach is a fascinating composer who should spice up any program—but only if the effects land with the audience.

Butterman introduced Schoenberg’s piece with a useful listener’s guide to the main ideas of the music, and how they are laid out in the score. One of the great musical/emotional outpourings of the late Romantic musical style, Verklärte Nacht portrays a passionate story of forgiveness and redemption, in which a dark and gloomy forest path is transfigured into a glittering scene of starlit beauty by the power of love.

The audience is meant to be enveloped in the lush harmonies of the score, and indeed I could see that the orchestra was playing with great intensity. Alas, the sound again was swallowed by the hall. It was well conducted and well played by the orchestra, but from Row U, it sounded all too polite and restrained to fit a story of passion.

The performance of J.S. Bach’s G-minor Concerto was a little cotton-woolish in the orchestra when more lean muscle would serve the music better, but likely this is another manifestation of Macky’s acoustics. Dinnerstein played with a clear sense of line and overall form. With a Steinway grand and modern string instruments, this was not a historically-informed performance, but Bach’s music is so ideal in conception that it does not depend on the medium.

All other issues aside, Dinnerstein, Butterman and the Boulder Phil scored a great success with the Glass Concerto. It’s only January, but that should be on any list of the year’s highlights.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein returns to the Boulder Phil for new concerto

Philip Glass wrote his Third Piano Concerto for his former young fan

By Peter Alexander

The first time Simone Dinnerstein attended a concert alone she was 12, and she heard music by Philip Glass.

Simone.D.by Lisa-Marie Mazzocco

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Marie Mazzocco.

Dinnerstein has since become an internationally known concert pianist and Glass has turned 80. And remarkably, he has now written a new piano concerto for his former young fan, which she will play Jan 13 and 14 for her return to the Boulder Phil.

“It’s exciting when you discover music as a young person, and it’s your own music that has not been shown to you by a parent or a teacher,” Dinnerstein says. “So there is something kind of surreal about having him write something for me! And the fact that he wrote something as magnificent as this piano concerto is really an incredible honor.

“I can’t quite digest the fact that he wrote that for me.”

Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 will be on a program titled “Bach Transfigured.” The concert, featuring the orchestra’s strings under music director Michael Butterman, will also feature the Symphony in C Major by C.P.E. Bach, Transfigured Night by Arnold Schoenberg, and J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in G minor.

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“Bach Transfigured”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Simone Dinnerstein, piano

C.P.E. BACH  Symphony in C Major, Wq 183, no.. 3
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG  Transfigured Night
J.S. BACH  Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 1058
PHILIP GLASS  Piano Concerto No. 3
     Colorado premiere, a Boulder Phil co-commission

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, Macky Auditorium
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, Pinnacle Performing Arts Complex, Denver

Tickets