Colorado Music Festival announces Music Director and 2019 season

Peter Oundjian takes the helm for a season exploring Beethoven’s influence

By Peter Alexander Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.

Peter Oundjian, Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Dale Wilcox.

The Colorado Music Festival has announced that distinguished conductor and violinist Peter Oundjian will be the festival’s music director.

Oundjian, who served as the Artistic Advisor for the 2018 festival, becomes the fourth music director in CMF’s 42-year history. Previous music directors were Giora Bernstein (1977–2000), Michael Christie (2001–2013) and Jean-Marie Zeitouni (2015–2017). Oundjian will lead seven concert programs during the six-week summer season, which runs June 28 to Aug. 3.

Other conductors appearing with the CMF orchestra will be the former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni, for two concert programs; David Danzmayr, who appeared as guest conductor in 2018, for two concert programs; and Pittsburgh Symphony associate conductor Earl Lee, who will lead the family concert July 7 (see full schedule below).

The move to CMF marks a transition in Oundjian’s career. The former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet (1981–95), he recently concluded tenure as music director of the Toronto Symphony (2004–18) and the Scottish National Orchestra (2012–18). In a news release from the CMF, Oundjian is quoted: “After leading a number of orchestras year-round, this [summer festival] is an exciting change of pace.”

Elizabeth McGuire, the CMF’s executive director, said that Oundjian’s appearances at the festival in 2018 convinced the CMF board to offer him a contract. “His rapport with the audience is at a level that I’ve never experienced,” she says. “He makes each individual audience member feel as if he’s talking directly to them.”

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Peter Oundjioan with the CMF Festival Orchestra. Photo by Michael Quam.

She also praised his ability to make connections between different pieces and programs in a way that fits the Boulder audience. “He has a real depth of understanding of the history and the people and their lives, and he really makes deep connections between the pieces,” she says. “In 2018, that was one of the things that really appealed to us.

“Because he’s so knowledgeable, he’s able to extract details from that big picture and make connections between concerts that are really interesting and play into Boulder’s sense of highly-educated concertgoers. And despite his amazing talents as a performer, he’s very down to earth and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s what makes him good for Boulder.”

The 2019 festival continues the basic pattern of recent seasons: Festival Orchestra concerts on Thursday and Friday evenings, separate orchestral programs on Sunday evenings, and chamber concerts on Tuesdays. Four of the six Festival Orchestra concerts will be presented twice, as Thursday-Friday pairs. The season opens Thursday, June 27, and concludes with the “Season Finale” concert Saturday, Aug. 3. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. in Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium.

One theme of the 2019 season is the influence of Beethoven on the music of the 19thand 20thcenturies. This theme was developed by Oundjian in anticipation of the 250thanniversary of Beethoven’s birth, to be celebrated in 2020, and represents the kind of comprehensive season planning that McGuire likes. “We appreciated that he was able to conceive of an entire season with one underlying common denominator,” she says.

Jan-Swafford

Jan Swafford

This year many of the orchestral works include a work by Beethoven and works that are in some ways related to or influenced by Beethoven’s music. The season concludes with Mahler’s Third Symphony, which was heavily influenced by Beethoven, including references to Beethoven’s last string quartet in the symphony’s finale. As part of exploration of Beethoven’s influence on later generations, the scholar Jan Swafford, author of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (2014) will present an evening of discussion of the composer.

A two-concert mini-festival will be devoted to music by Mozart. Titled “Magnificent Mozart,” the concerts July 21 and 28 will feature works in several genres including symphonies, concertos and a divertimento.

The summer’s extensive list of guest artists features pianist Natasha Paremski, violinist James Ehnes, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, pianist Coco Ma, violinist Jan Vogler, violist Mira Wang, pianist Lilya Zilberstein; pianist Gabriela Montero, violinist Stefan Jackiw, cellist Kian Soltani, clarinetist Jörg Widmann, violinist Robert McDuffie, mezzo-soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, the ensemble Really Inventive Stuff, the St. Martin’s Festival Singers, and the Boulder Children’s Chorale.

Tickets to CMF performances can be purchased through the Chautauqua Box Office (303-440-7666). The box office is currently accepting renewals of previous CMF season subscriptions. New subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18.

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COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL
Schedule of Concerts, 2019 Season
All performances at the Chautauqua Concert Hall

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Chautauqua Auditorium. Photo by Jonathan B. Auerbach.

7:30 p.m. Thursday& Friday, June 27 & 28
OPENING NIGHT: BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO ROMANTICISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Natasha Paremski, piano

Paremski

Natasha Paremski

Beethoven: Egmont Overture
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
Verdi: La forza del destino Overture
Respighi: Pines of Rome

7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO MODERNISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with James Ehnes, violin

Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
R. Strauss: Wind Serenade
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2
BRAHMS & DVOŘÁK
CMF Chamber Players

Brahms: Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E-Flat Major
Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major

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Jon Kimura Parker

7:30 p.m. Friday July 5
REVOLUTION AND FREEDOM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Copland: Outdoor Overture
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F
Rossini: La gazza ladra Overture
Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812
Sousa: “Washington Post March”; “Liberty Bell March”; “Stars and Stripes Forever”

3 p.m. Sunday, July 7
FAMILY CONCERT “PETER AND THE WOLF”

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Earl Lee

Earl Lee, conductor, with Really Inventive Stuff ensemble

Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Sensory-friendly Performance

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9
STRINGS AT SUNSET
CMF Chamber Players

Mozart: String Trio in B Flat Major for Two Violins and Cello
Boccherini: String Trio No. 5 in G Minor
Dvořák: String Quintet in G Major

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday July 11 & 12, 7:30 PM
ROMANTIC DUOS
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Mira Wang, violin, and Jan Vogler, cello

Fauré: Pelleas et Mélisande Suite
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Violoncello
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture
Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO NEOCLASSICISM
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, with Lilya Zilberstein, piano

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
QUINTESSENTIAL HARP
CMF Chamber Players

Arnold Bax: Quintet for Harp and String Quartet
Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet
Ravel: String Quartet
Brahms: String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major

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Gabriela Montero. Photo by Colin Bell.

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 18 & 19
TCHAIKOVSKY’S SYMPHONY NO. 6 “PATHETIQUE”
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Gabriela Montero, piano

Golijov: Sidereus
Grieg: Piano Concerto
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”)

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21
MAGNIFICENT MOZART MINI-FESTIVAL I
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Stefan Jackiw, violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 32
Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”)
Overture from Don Giovanni
Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
RUSSIAN MASTERS
CMF Chamber Players

Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 1 in C Minor
Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A Minor

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 25 & 26
SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE
Peter Oundjian, conductor with Kian Soltani, cello

Vivian Fung: Dust Devils
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

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Jörg Widman. Photo by Marco Borggreve

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28
MAGNIFICENT MOZART MINI-FESTIVAL II
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Jörg Widmann, clarinet

Mozart: Divertimento in D Major
Clarinet Concerto in A major
Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter”

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO MINIMALISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”)
Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 1

Chandler-Eteme

Janice Chandler-Eteme

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
FESTIVAL FINALE
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo-soprano, St. Martin’s Festival Singers and the Boulder Children’s Chorale

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Each Thursday and Friday night orchestral concert will be preceded by a “Talk Under the Tent,” just outside the North doors to Chautauqua Auditorium. Talks will be presented by scholars, journalists, and CMF musicians.

Previous Subscription may currently be renewed. New subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18.
Purchase tickets through the Chautauqua Box Office HERE or by phone at 303-440-7666.

 

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Michelle DeYoung in an intimate voice-and-piano recital at CMF

World premiere of songs by Timothy Collins a highlight of the program

By Peter Alexander July 29 at 12:20 a.m.

Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, the 2018 SeiSolo artist-in-residence at the Colorado Music Festival, lent her impressive voice to an intimate song recital, last night (July 28) in the Chautauqua Auditorium. Performing with her was pianist Cody Garrison.

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Michelle DeYoung

The highlight of the recital was the world premiere of a cycle of songs written for DeYoung by Australian composer Timothy Collins. Earlier in the residency, DeYoung had given the world premiere of an orchestral song cycle by Collins, Buch des Sängers (The singer’s book), also composed for DeYoung.

Collins, himself a singer, clearly knows DeYoung’s voice. The four songs of the new cycle, Love’s Crusade, fit her strengths very well. Just as clearly, DeYoung also knows that; these were the most relaxed, the most natural performances of the evening.

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Timothy Collins

The texts of the four songs are taken from four very different sources: one a translation of a poem by German poet Friedrich Rückert; one a setting from Shakespeare; and two texts newly written by Collins. Of the four, the Rückert song (“If you love me”) was by far the sweetest, the most gently affecting. DeYoung sang with great conviction and unforced expression.

The final song, with Collins’ text, was inspired by DeYoung’s Wagnerian credentials. The composer introduced it by observing that she is “the ideal Brunnhilde.” Titled “Warrior Queen,” it is a Viking-like call to arms by a queen who defends her husband’s realm. I found the text rather conventional for this genre (“Lift your hearts, we ride together! . . . . For country! For the King!”). Dramatic as it is, this is the least interesting music of the cycle, static and declamatory. But unquestionably, DeYoung has the voice and the demeanor for this song, and the final cries “For the King!” rang clear and full throughout the large Chautauqua Auditorium.

The two central songs of the set—“Fear No More” on Shakespeare, and Collins’ “Kentucky Coffee Tree”—set the texts sensitively, and elicited expressive performances from DeYoung. The cycle as a whole is nicely varied, and received a warm response from the audience.

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Michelle DeYoung

Earlier on the program, DeYoung had presented sets of songs by Brahms, Strauss and Samuel Barber. The “ideal Brunnhilde” is not a natural lieder (art song) singer, and at times she was audibly restraining the power in her voice, as though her dramatic force might overflow at any moment. She was at her best in the more dramatic songs, where she could open up more.

The majority of the songs she selected were moderate to slow in tempo and melancholic in temperament. The darkness and natural richness of her voice fits these moods well, giving weight to the music. Nevertheless, the emotional sameness made the exceptions all the more enjoyable: Brahms’ “Mein Liebe ist grün” (My love is green) and Barber’s “Green Lowland of Pianos,” on a witty text by the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz.

After the premiere of the Collins cycle, DeYoung returned to sing as an encore an arrangement of another song written for her by Collins, one of the songs from Buch des Sängers. Completely at ease with music written to suit her individual voice, she sang comfortably and with expression. She was rewarded with cheers from the audience and the obligatory standing ovation.

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Pianist Cody Garrison

A multi-talented artist, Cody Garrison is staff accompanist at Metropolitan State University in Denver and the Boulder Symphony, and the principal collaborative pianist for the Boulder Music Institute, in addition to maintaining a dental practice in Denver. His performance with DeYoung was ever discreet and restrained. While attentive to the leading lines in his part, he never brought out more than necessary or pushed the soloist in any way.

DeYoung will perform one more time at CMF this summer, when she sings the “Abschied” movement from Mahler’s Lied von der Erde (Song of the earth) with conductor Peter Oundjian and the CMF orchestra tonight. Her recording of this deeply moving, elegiac piece is one of the best I have ever heard. Tickets are still available at the Chautauqua box office.

CMF concert has four highlights, each presented with great polish

Augustin Hadelich a soloist to remember in the Barber Violin Concerto.

By Peter Alexander July 27 at 1:15 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival presented a remarkable orchestra concert last night (July 26), even by their high standards, featuring four works composed in America, all of them worth hearing and all of them presented with great polish.

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CMF artist advisor Peter Oundjian (photo by Jaime Hogge)

The CMF orchestra was conducted by the festival’s artistic advisor, Peter Oundjian, who has devoted his programs this summer to music with American connections. Appearing with Oundjian was violinist Augustin Hadelich, whose performance of the Barber Violin Concerto would be a highlight on any program. But so were, each in their own way, the other three works on the concert.

Barber’s Concerto is unquestionably one of the greatest works by an American composer. No piece starts more enticingly, with music of seductive beauty. Hadelich was in command from the first note, playing with an incomparably sweet tone that easily carried to the back of the hall without a hint of harshness, then turning on a dime to skip through the concerto’s playful moments.

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Violinist Augustin Hadelich

The expressive beauty of his playing served him well in the second movement, a distillation of the late Romantic love of pure sound, with only occasional glimpses of the darker side of the 20th century. The finale, a famously virtuosic display of perpetual motion, went in a blaze of fireworks, zipping past without a single slip. In every facet of the concerto, Hadelich was a soloist to remember.

As if that were not enough, he came back for an encore, playing a Paganini Caprice just to show that no, his fingers are not tired. After the concerto, it was striking to hear the violin alone, every sound exposed. And it sounded just the way it looks on the page, every note right where it should be. The violinist who accompanied me to the concert whispered, “Perfect. That’s all you have to say.”

The concert opened with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, a boisterous and entertaining work that showcases just about every section of the orchestra, including percussion. Weber’s charming early-Romantic ideas are run through Hindemith’s late Romantic filter, adding a lot of instrumental color, a lot of variation, and an occasional harmonic twist to make an attractive, audience-friendly concert piece. Oundjian’s performance loved the orchestral colors of the score and let them shine. It was all great fun, as it is meant to be.

After intermission, the orchestra’s string section returned for George Walker’s Lyric for Strings. Like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which it resembles, this is a movement from a string quartet arranged for string orchestra. Walker uses the string instruments’ ability to sustain long musical lines, expand into a rich, deep texture, and play ethereal chords that drift into silence. The CMF players filled the hall with luxurious sounds.

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Gerald Finley as Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera

The final member of the quartet of fascinating pieces was the Doctor Atomic Symphony by John Adams, comprising music from Adams’ 2005 opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the first test of an atomic bomb in 1945. The opera compellingly captures the pressures and conflicts experienced by Oppenheimer and the other scientists of the Manhattan Project as the date of the first test approached, as well as the pressure felt and exerted by Gen. Leslie Groves, the Army’s commander for the project. (Doctor Atomic is currently being produced by the Santa Fe Opera. Learn more here.)

All of this is transferred into the Symphony, which contains music of ominous intensity. To my ears, this is one of the most dramatic, most powerful, and most effective new orchestral works I have heard in recent years, and it was played with great force and sheer virtuosity by the CMF orchestra. Individual solos—especially the trumpet’s eloquent interpretation of Oppenheimer’s aria from John Donne’s sonnet “Batter my heart, three person’d God”—were all played very well.

One of the central issues and greatest sources of conflict in the opera is weather, with thunderstorms threatening to cancel the long-awaited test. Perhaps it was coincidence, but the CMF performance was powerful enough that it seemed to stir up its own sudden thunderstorm that lasted beyond a long ovation.

Just like the actual test in 1945, the audience departure from the auditorium had to be delayed. But just as in 1945, the storm passed, and to all appearances the audience went home more than satisfied with what they heard.

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Zeitouni returns, bringing Romantic music, verve and excitement

Michelle DeYoung combines mezzo heft with soaring soprano

By Peter Alexander July 20 at 1 a.m.

Last night (July 19) Jean-Marie Zeitouni returned to the Colorado Music Festival, conducting a concert that had the same verve and excitement that marked so many of his performances when he was the music director.

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Michelle DeYoung

Joining Zeitouni and the Festival Orchestra on the first half of the concert was mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, this year’s SeiSolo artist-in-residence at CMF, who contributed a powerful soprano—going well above the usual mezzo range—to a performance of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Noted for a wide vocal range that opens the door to dramatic soprano roles as well as the deeper mezzo roles, DeYoung has earned a reputation as an outstanding Wagnerian singer. Onstage she has sung roles including Venus in Tannhäuser, Kundry in Parsifal and Brangäne in Tristan, among many others, and she often sings the heroic soprano excerpts including the Liebestod and Brunnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Gotterdämmerung in concert.

Her performance of the Liebestod had a Wagnerian heft as well as shimmering high notes—in effect, a mezzo sound in the lower range and a bright soprano sound up high. She could always be heard, even the middle of a massive orchestral texture. It was a performance few could match.

Zeitouni drew carefully controlled phrases and carefully shaped surges from the orchestra in the Prelude. Apart from imperfectly blended wind sounds once or twice, this was a consistently first-rate performance.

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

After Wagner, Zeitouni turned and addressed “my beloved CMF audience,” adding a touching personal note to the evening. He introduced composer Timothy Collins, whose song cycle Buch des Sängers (The singer’s book), written for DeYoung, received its world premiere next on the concert.

The vocal lines of Buch des Sängers fall squarely in DeYoung’s mezzo range, with only a few excursions into a higher, brighter range. The first song, “Loveliness,” is indeed as lovely as anything you will hear, with beautiful vocal lines cushioned in a warm blanket of orchestral sound.

That description could apply to most of the rest of the cycle, however. The orchestral sounds are consistently warm and flowing, almost always at a moderate tempo, with added sparkle from percussion and harp to provide highlights. It is all very pleasant, very welcoming to the audience, but greater variety of sound and tempo would command closer attention.

Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in Buch des Sängers, and DeYoung sang with a radiant conviction. This is music that audiences can embrace without difficulty. It is not hard to predict that other singers will want to take up this cycle, and that it will have many future performances.

The second half of the concert was devoted to an explosive and spectacular performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s most brilliant orchestral showpiece, Scheherazade. This is a piece that can display the best of any orchestra, and the CMF orchestra did not disappoint.

Never afraid of dramatic gestures, Zeitouni started the performance with a powerful call to attention, reminding us that the story the music is going to tell comes from the Arabian Nights. “Now we begin!” the lower voices declaim. This was immediately followed by one of many violin solos representing Scheherazade herself, played with a beautifully sweet sound and expressive rhythmic freedom by concertmaster Calin Lupanu.

In fact, the score is filled with individual instrumental solos, and one of the pleasures of the performance was hearing so many individual members of the orchestra have the opportunity to shine. In addition to Lupanu, there were solos for cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp—did I miss anyone?—all played with relish and artistry. Every one was a joy to hear.

The final movement was taken at a breakneck pace, about as fast as some parts can be played. It was almost all clean and clear, in spite of the speed, bringing the concert to a rousing close. Played with gusto, such Romantic warhorses can be great fun, and this one certainly was.

Scheherazade will be repeated tonight (July 20) at 6:30 as part of a “Fresh Fridays’ program. Zeitouni will also conduct the CMF Chamber Orchestra on Saturday in a program of Ravel and Beethoven. Purchase tickets here.

 

 

Jean-Marie Zeitouni and Michelle DeYoung return to CMF

Performances include world premieres, iconic masterpieces

By Peter Alexander July 19 at 10:42 a.m.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni is back in town and he feels like a new man.

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Currently principal guest conductor of the Colorado Music Festival, Zeitouni was the CMF’s music director through the end of last summer. He is here for the current week, conducting concerts tonight and Sunday (July 19 and 22). Over the past year he has had surgery to reconstruct some joints, and says “I have much more energy and much less pain.”

Although he took time off for the surgeries, Zeitouni had a very good year professionally. “I did a lot of European conducting,” he says. “I managed to spend four months in Europe doing three opera productions, all French operas. I did squeeze in a tour in Brazil with my chamber orchestra, and guest conducting engagements throughout North America.”

Also coming back to CMF is mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, who grew up in Colorado and sang at CMF last year. This year she is the SeiSolo Artist-in-Residence at the festival, which includes teaching a masterclass and three performances over eleven days.

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Michelle DeYoung

In that short span, she will perform two of the iconic masterpieces of the soprano and mezzo-soprano repertoires—her range is so great that she sings both—the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and the Abschied movement from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. As if that weren’t enough, she will also present two world premieres of music written for her by Australian composer Timothy Collins.

That all gets underway at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Chautauqua Auditorium, when Zeitouni, DeYoung and the CMF Festival Orchestra will collaborate on a program that features the Wagner, the premiere of Collins’s Buch des Sängers (The singer’s book), and one of the great orchestral showpieces, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

The program is built around the premiere. Collins and DeYoung have sung together, and he had written songs for her in the past. She asked him to write the orchestral pieces for her, asking that he find texts that had not been set before. His search led him to Goethe’s last poetry, contained in a large set of volumes known as the West-östlicher Divan (roughly translated as the West-Eastern Poetry Collection), which was inspired by translations of the 14th-century Persian poet Hafez. Goethe’s monumental collection actually comprises 12 books of poems, the first of which is titled Buch des Sängers. Collins set five of the poems from that volume.

All participants agree that the premiere is a special occasion. “I feel very lucky to partake in the creation of something that is so intimately connected with the performer,” Zeitouni says. “Usually, we try to fit the (performer to the) written music, but now the written music fits the performer. It’s like a glove around her voice. It fits her perfectly.

“It’s rare that we participate in this process, and I’m really honored.”

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Composer Timothy Collins

Collins feels both honored and challenged. “It’s a big responsibility, as well as a huge honor,” he says. “How many composers are asked to write for a Grammy Award-winning mezzo soprano? I just have to think a very great deal about trying to get it right for her voice to showcase what’s so unique about it.

“It’s not just any mezzo-soprano voice, because she has extra high notes, she has particular colors in certain parts of her voice. I just have to think a very great deal about trying to get it right for her voice to showcase what’s so unique about it.”

DeYoung returns the compliments. “He knows what the strengths and weaknesses of my voice are, so when he writes for me it really suits my voice—he highlights what I think is good about my voice. (The songs) are so beautiful that it’s an honor to sing them and to create them.”

Zeitouni wanted to build a program around the premier that would fit the occasion. Because she is known for singing Wagnerian roles, he thought there should be some Wagner in the program, and she had sung the Liebestod before. Then he added Scheherazade because it compliments the Goethe texts as another example of Eastern literature, the 1001 Nights, filtered through Western ears.

For Sunday’s concert with the Chamber Orchestra, Zeitouni says he wanted “to do a concert that is all orchestra, because I want the orchestra to be the gem. Basically we chose Mother Goose, the ballet, not the suite so it’s little longer, it’s a bit more developed, and (Beethoven’s) Eroica (Symphony).

The Beethoven of course is well known to the orchestral players and classical audiences alike, but Zeitouni says it is easy to make it new. “Each time I get a new score, I get fresh ideas, I imagine the people coming and hearing this the first time. How can we get tired of playing this?

“I’m not very old, but I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve done it almost every year. I’m still looking forward (to it) in the calendar. And I’m looking forward so much to do it here.”

De Young’s masterclass will be open to the public, at 2 p.m. Saturday (July 21) in the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette. She travels too much to have her own roster of students, but she often gives masterclasses. “I’m from Colorado, so it’s exciting to me,” she says of her role as SeiSolo Artist in Residence at the festival. “It’s a huge honor. If I can do anything to help or be involved, I want to do that.”

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Michelle DeYoung

The other premiere she will present will be part of her song recital the following Saturday (July 28) with pianist Cody Garrison from Denver. In addition to art songs by Brahms, Strauss and Barber, she will sing Collins’s Love’s Crusade, another piece that was written for her.

Love’s Crusade is a cycle of four songs, all taken from very different sources from Shakespeare to Collins’s own texts. “When I put these four songs together, it seemed that there was a common underlying theme of love, the struggle to protect love, and eternal love, so that’s where the title Love’s Crusade came from.

One song in particular Collins included because it fits DeYoung’s image as a Wagnerian soprano. Titled “Warrior Queen,” it tells of a Viking queen who leads the army to protect her husband’s realm. “I loved to present that role (of the) heroic woman who will lead the troops and that she’s the hero.

“I’m very excited to hear this for the first time in the flesh. They’re all very different.”

“That’s one thing that’s very interesting about his compositions,” DeYoung says. “In that cycle especially all four are so different. I always call him a melodist, because he writes such incredible melodies, and writes for (each individual) poem.”

DeYoung will finish her CMF residence fittingly, with the final movement of Mahler’s great song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Titled Abschied (Farewell), this is one of the great pieces written for mezzo-soprano. That performance will be on a program with conductor Peter Oundjian and the CMF chamber orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29.

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Colorado Music Festival
Events with Jean-Mari Zeitouni, conductor, and
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, SeiSolo Artist in Residence
July 19–29
All concerts in the Chautauqua Auditorium

Scheherazade
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (world premiere)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Fresh Fridays: Scheherazade
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
(Played without intermission)

Vocal Masterclass
2 p.m. Saturday ,July 21
Center for Musical Arts, 200 East Baseline Road, Lafayette
Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung
Free and open to the public

Beethoven’s “Eroica”
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Ravel: Mother Goose (full ballet)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

A Poetic Evening
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, and Cody Garrison, piano

Timothy Collins: Love’s Crusade (World Premiere)
Music by Brahms, Strauss and Barber

Made in America
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Joan Tower: Made in America
Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Maher: Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde

Tickets
Full CMF calendar

 

Oundjian debuts at CMF with stunning program, riveting performance

Pianist Yefim Bronfman adds luster to the evening

By Peter Alexander July 13 at 12:25 a.m.

Peter Oundjian, the current artistic advisor of the Colorado Music Festival, last night (July 12) made his first appearance leading the Festival Orchestra. He had selected a stunning program and delivered a vivid and riveting performance.

Peter Oundjian 2017-18 - 3 - credit Malcolm Cook

Peter Oundjian, artistic advisor to CMF

Oundjian and the orchestra opened with a brash, zesty performance of Leonard Bernstein’s well known Overture to Candide. This bustling overture won the audience from the first notes, as it always does, getting the concert started on a bright note.

Next on the program, Oundjian brought on a friend from his student days at Juilliard, the widely esteemed Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman, for a performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto in D minor. Oundjian explained the esoteric relationship to the Bernstein Overture: That Bernstein had given a speech before a notorious 1962 performance of the same concerto with pianist Glenn Gould, disavowing Gould’s interpretation while endorsing his right as a performer.

He reassured the audience, however, that he and Bronfman would not duplicate the conflict between Bernstein and Gould.

After Bernstein, the orchestra produced a noticeably darker sound for Brahms. From the very beginning, Oundjian established the contrast between the power of Brahms’ opening phrase and the lyrical sections that followed. In particular, he showed an ability to spin out melodies over a long musical span, a skill that Bronfman duplicated in his playing. Oundjian’s support for the soloist was exemplary.

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Pianist Yefim Bronfman

For his part, Bronfman demonstrated both the strength and the lyrical warmth that Brahms demands of the soloist, while producing a beautiful sound from the piano. His playing was carefully controlled, down to the most delicate passages. This is a killer concerto—Bronfman called it “terrifying”—but he more than survived; he conquered.

Bronfman has said that playing the second movement is almost a religious experience. He conveyed that depth of feeling throughout, once again elegantly spinning out phrase after long lyrical phrase.

The rousing finale wants to drain all of a performer’s energy, but Bronfman seemed to rise comfortably to the challenge—and then to prove the point, tossed off a muscular performance of Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude as encore. His grand virtuosity and musicianship added luster to the evening.

Is this the season for hijinks between movements? On both of his concerts earlier, guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger offered comments between movements of larger works. Last night, Bronfman acknowledged a scattering of applause after the admittedly virtuosic and impressive first movement with a quick bow from the bench. This elicited laughter, and in turn he and Oundjian—old pals—chatted briefly between themselves.

The concert closed with a work that is not well known, as I heard audience members saying on the way from the auditorium: Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The last work he completed, these fantastic dances (as Rachmaninoff initially proposed naming the work) are a sort of reflection on mortality. In fact, the last of the three includes the Gregorian Chant for the Requiem Mass, Dies Irae, a theme that Rachmaninoff brought into a number of his works.

The flighty beginning of the first dance was exquisitely played, and the vast contrasts of dynamics, rising from the slightest gestures to powerful climaxes and fading back into nothingness gave great drama to the music. Oundjian has said this is one of his favorite pieces, and as he performs it, finding all the expressive depth and beauty it contains, it is easy to see why.

The powerful performance showed just what the CMF orchestra is capable of. The score requires a rich string sound and great virtuosity from the winds, all within a musical fabric of great flexibility. It is a sure sign of Oundjian’s orchestra leadership that the performance succeeded at such a high level.

A special word should be said for the woodwind, horn and trumpet sections, in both Brahms and Rachmaninoff. I heard the delicate horn solos in the Brahms, the saxophone solo in the first Rachmaninoff dance, the exposed trumpet entrances, the rare (and no doubt relished) star turns by the bass clarinet, the bassoons and all the other woodwinds with great pleasure.

Last night’s program will be repeated tonight at the Chautauqua Auditorium. You may purchase tickets here.

NOTE: Edited for clarity July 13.

 

 

CMF artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead concerts with Bernstein theme

Principal guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni returns for the festival’s fourth week

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 12:25 p.m.

Peter Oundjian is the most distinguished musician to lead the Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in its 43 seasons.

http://www.jaimehogge.com

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Jaime Hogge.

Since Jean-Marie Zeitouni stepped down as music director at the end of last season, Oundjian — former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet and just-retired as music director of the Toronto Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestra — has been artistic advisor to the festival. This year he will conduct three weeks of orchestral concerts, starting the weekend of July 12–15.

Zeitouni, now CMF’s principal guest conductor, will lead the orchestral concerts the following week. Oundjian will return for the final two weeks, July 26–Aug. 4.

For his concerts, Oundjian has established a theme: “It’s all Bernstein-inspired,” he says, in honor of the 2018 centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. That means “things that influenced Bernstein, things Bernstein loved, things he was famous for, and by extension, music written on American soil.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado Music Festival
July 12–July 22
All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium

Two Peak Performances
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Yefim Bronfman, piano

Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, op. 45 

Octets at Altitude
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Stravinsky: Octet for Wind Instruments
Prokofiev: Two Pieces for String Octet
Mendelssohn: String Octet, op. 20

All-American
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin

Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Philip Glass: Concerto No. 2 for Violin, “American Four Seasons”

Scheherazade
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (world premiere)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Fresh Fridays: Scheherazade
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
(Played without intermission)

American Strings
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2 (“Company”)
Barber: String Quartet
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12, op. 96 (“American”)

Beethoven’s “Eroica”
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Ravel: Mother Goose
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

Full calendar

Tickets