CU Faculty Member wins “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” Grammy

Violist Richard O’Neill, newest member of the Takacs Quartet, wins first Grammy award

By Peter Alexander March 22 at 3:51 p.m.

Violist Richard O’Neill, member of the CU College of Music faculty and the Takacs Quartet, has won the Grammy award for “Best Classical Instrumental Solo.”

His recording of Christopher Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra with David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony (Albany Records TROY1816, released August 2020) was nominated along with these recordings: 
• pianist Kirill Gerstein playing the Thomas Adès Piano Concerto, with Adès and the Boston Symphony; 
• pianist Igor Levit playing the complete Beethoven piano sonatas; 
• violinist Augustin Hadelich playing “Bohemian Tales,” a collection of music by Dvořák, Janáček and Josef Suk, with Jakub Hrůša and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; and
• pianist Daniil Trifonov playing the Second and Fourth piano concertos of Rachmaninov with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

O’Neill was caught by surprise last year when the nominees were announced. This time, of course he knew that he was in the running for the award and when the awards would be announced, but he nearly got caught by surprise again. For one thing, he looked at the distinguished list of other nominees, and thought, ‘OK, we’re going to lose’.”

For another, the streamed Grammy ceremony was held Sunday, March 14, the same day that Boulder was under a heavy blanket of snow. O’Neill had arranged to attend the ceremony online, but Sunday morning his internet kept going out. “I was like, ‘How am I going to be able to Zoom if I don’t have internet?’” he says. He even planned to walk to his studio in the CU Imig Music Building if he had to—since he couldn’t get out of his driveway.

Finally, the internet came back on just in time, but the ceremony was running ahead of schedule. “There was supposed to be 30 minutes buffer, and then you’re on,” he says. “I tuned in and it was basically five minutes to go! So I was like, ‘Holy, bleep!’ 

“And when they said ‘the Grammy goes to,’ I almost burst into tears. I just wasn’t expecting it.”

Richard O’Neill

To keep the ceremony on schedule, each recipient is allowed just 30 seconds to thank everyone. “There’s a very conspicuous clock, and it started right as they announced my name. Basically, they’ll just cut you off! It’s very, very short, but I tried my best to get everybody thanked. It was a really great, great moment, and then my phone was going crazy with all my friends who were watching.”

After than, O’Neill was asked to enter the virtual press room to take questions, and later he had several interviews with press from South Korea, where he is very well known. He took a quick break to step outside and gather his thoughts and chat with his neighbors, who were all out clearing their driveways and had no idea that he had just won a Grammy.

This was O’Neill’s third nomination for a Grammy and his first win. He also has won an Emmy Award and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. He has an extensive record of working with living composers, including the premieres of works written for him. Theofanidis’s Concerto was written for the distinguished violist Kim Kashkashian in 2002 and revised for O’Neill in preparation of his performances and recording.

O’Neill joined the Takacs Quartet in June of 2020, replacing Geraldine Walther as the group’s violist. He has appeared in streamed performances by the quartet, and in a handful of concerts before small, distanced audiences, but has not yet appeared onstage before a live Boulder audience.

Reflecting on the past year, O’Neill says it has been tough. He moved to Boulder, he joined the Takacs Quartet and the CU faculty, planned tours as solo artist and with the Takacs were interrupted by the pandemic, and his mother has had breast cancer—“This has been a long haul,” he says. 

“It feels good to have something nice happen.”

‘Exploring Cultural Identities’: Mosaic or Melting Pot?

March 9 CU Faculty Tuesday performance takes a look at identity in music

By Izzy Fincher March 4 at 11:55 p.m.

Is our cultural identity more of a mosaic or a melting pot?

With a cultural mosaic, individuals retain their distinct ethnic identities, while coexisting as a greater whole. With a melting pot, ethnic identities mix together, assimilating to create a singular culture.

Alexandra Nguyễn

In “Exploring Cultural Identities,” three CU Boulder professors, pianist Alexandra Nguyen, violinist Claude Sim and cellist David Requiro, will tackle this dichotomy of cultural representation versus assimilation by exploring Asian and Slavic cultural identities in classical music. The program will include compositions by Zoltan Kodaly from Hungary, Alexina Louie from Canada and Antonín Dvořák from Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic).

“Exploring Cultural Identities” will be streamed on CU Presents at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9, as part of CU Boulder’s Faculty Tuesday concert series.

“Presenting music through the lens of cultural identity is a fascinating exploration,” Sim says. “I believe that we truly play as we are. In other words, our artistry is a result of our diverse backgrounds, heritage and upbringing.”

Nguyen curated the program for “Exploring Cultural Identities” to pay tribute to her diverse heritage, later choosing her collaborators Sim and Requiro. As a Vietnamese Canadian, Nguyen often doesn’t see her identity reflected in the music she plays. 

“As an Asian woman, I am playing music by dead white men a majority of the time,” Nguyen says. “How can I relate to this music?”

To represent her own cultural identity, Nguyen has decided to champion Asian composers, particularly Louie, a Chinese Canadian. She feels very connected to Louie, who shares her Asian-Canadian heritage.

Alexina Louie

“In Canada, your heritage is a substantial part of your identity,” Nguyen says. “But in the U.S., the approach is very different. You want to blend in. No one wants to be the ‘other’.”

Nguyen will be playing Louie’s most famous work for solo piano, Scenes from a Jade Terrace, written in 1988, as the second piece on the program. The suite is filled with references to Chinese culture and folklore, while the harmonic language is colorful and complex, similar to contemporary composers George Crumb and Olivier Messiaen. 

David Requiro

Overall, the suite is aggressive in its texture and timbre. The first movement, “Warrior,” depicts the ghost of an ancient warrior and combines aggressive virtuosity with vulnerability. The second movement, ”Memories in an Ancient Garden,” feels eerily peaceful. Louie’s written direction on the score reflects this poetic, dreamy feeling, as she tells the performer “to play as if intoxicated by the scent of a thousand blossoms.” In the final movement, “Southern Sky,” the music depicts a dynamic starry night, as fast notes explode from the piano with sudden dynamic changes and intense dissonances. 

To complement Louie’s suite, Nguyen wanted to pivot toward exploring cultural identity through a European lens. She decided to program chamber music written by two Slavic composers, Kodaly and Dvořák, and to explore the role of Slavic nationalism in 19th and 20th century classical music. “Kodaly and Dvořák are two composers who felt strongly about their cultural identity and national heritage and (wanted to) reflect it in their music,” Nguyen says. 

Claude Sim

The program will begin with Nguyen and Requiro performing Kodaly’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 4, which incorporates harmonies and dance forms from Hungarian folk music. To finish the concert, Requiro and Sim join Nguyen for Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4, Op. 90, nicknamed the “Dumky.” The trio uses elements of Bohemian folk music. The six-movement work is a “dumka,” a form used by Slavic composers to indicate a brooding, contemplative lament interspersed with cheerful, rhythmic, dance-like moments.

For her next Faculty Tuesday concert, Nguyen aims to go even further with her exploration of cultural identities with an all-Asian program with Asian performers. She wants to represent distinct cultural mosaics in CU Boulder’s concert hall, as her personal contribution to more diversity and inclusivity in classical music.  

“If we want to represent all voices, then we have to perform all those voices,” Nguyen says. “If we want to respect all voices, then we have to hear them all.” 

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“Exploring Cultural Identities”
Alexandra Nguyen, piano; Claude Sim, violin; and David Requiro, cello 

Zoltan Kodaly: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 4
Alexina Louie: Scenes from a Jade Terrace
Dvořák: Piano Trio No. 4, Op. 90 (“Dumky Trio”)

Streamed here at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 9 

Free or pay what you can.

Takács Quartet will play “Three Bs” plus one

Beethoven, Bartok, Beach and Barber part of the varied spring concert series

By Peter Alexander Jan. 10 at 11:30 a.m.

The Takács String Quartet is offering music by “Three Bs” for their spring concert series in Boulder — in fact, “Three Bs” plus one.

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Takács Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

These are not the traditional “Three Bs” of music history, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Beethoven is there, but alongside him will be the Hungarian Béla Bartók, the remarkable American composer Amy Beach, and another American, Samuel Barber.

These composers and others will be featured across three different concert programs, performed on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening pairs: Jan. 13–14, Feb. 10–11 and April 28–29. As they often do, the quartet has invited colleagues from the CU College of Music to join them on two of the programs; pianist Jennifer Hayghe in January and baritone Andrew Garland in February.

The guests bring with them pieces from outside the quartet repertoire. With Hayghe the quartet will play the Quintet for piano and strings by Beach in January. With Garland, the February program will feature songs with string quartet by Barber (Dover Beach) and Ned Rorem (Mourning Scene).

Beyond those pieces, the bulk of the music on the three programs will comprise six works from the quartet repertoire, two each by Haydn, Beethoven and Bartók, and the less known Edvard Grieg String Quartet.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Takács String Quartet
All performances in Grusin Music Hall, Imig Music Building

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14

Haydn: String Quartet in G major, op. 76 no. 1
Beethoven: String Quartet in F major, op. 135
Amy Beach: Piano Quintet in F-sharp minor, op. 67
With Jennifer Hayghe, piano

Sold out

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11

Samuel Barber: Dover Beach, op. 3
Ned Rorem: Mourning Scene
With Andrew Garland, baritone
Bartók: String Quartet No. 6
Grieg: String Quartet in G minor, op. 27

Limited seats available

4 p.m. Sunday, April 28 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29

Haydn: String Quartet in C major, op. 33 no. 3
Bartók: String Quartet No. 5
Beethoven: String Quartet in C major, op. 59 no. 3

Limited seats available

Tickets 

CU professor’s book is for musicians, administrators, patrons and board members

Jeffrey Nytch: The Entrepreneurial Muse

By Peter Alexander Jan. 4 at 4:20 p.m.

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Jeffrey Nytch

Jeffrey Nytch is a composer, an associate professor at the CU College of Music, director of the CU Entrepreneurship Center for Music, author of a text book—and sometimes a translator.

What he translates is the language of business. He translates it into language that anyone can easily grasp, and he does it through teaching as well as through his recently published book, The Entrepreneurial Muse: Inspiring Your Career in Classical Music.

“I feel like I’m a translator taking concepts that are well established in business but foreign to people in the arts,” he says. “It’s being able to say, let’s take ‘opportunity recognition.’ Let me explain to you what that means—translate it such that it demystifies it and helps the artist see that it is relevant to what they do.”

Written as a text book for classes such as “Building Your Music Career,” one of the courses he teaches through the College of Music, The Entrepreneurial Muse also aims at a larger audience. “It’s something that we talked a lot about in the conceptual stage of the book,” he says. “Oxford University Press is an academic press. They know how to market to educational institutions, so it’s been a little bit tricky in that regard.”

Nevertheless, he says, “I do think of a broader readership. I tried to write it in a conversational way, [with] the personal stories that are woven into it. Yes it’s a text book, but I wanted it to be a good read too.”

nytch.museMaking it “a good read” starts at the very beginning, with a personal experience we can all understand, what Nytch calls “The Popcorn Epiphany” (Prologue, p. xv; but you’ll have to read it for yourself). Those kinds of informal, accessible anecdotes can be found throughout the book.

Of course, it necessarily reads like a textbook in some chapters. Nytch is careful to lay the groundwork, explain the concepts, define the terms—in other words, translate the business language for his audience of musicians and music administrators.

One thing that makes the book understandable is that lot of what Nytch describes—concepts like latent and inchoate demand, and long-tail markets—are things that musicians and audiences will intuitively recognize, even if they don’t know the vocabulary. And as you move into the book, it becomes more and more fascinating to anyone who is active in the world of music, as a performer, professional administrator, supporter or consumer. Insights abound.

Music entrepreneurship has emerged as an important field over the past 20–30 years. CU created the first entrepreneurship program in the arts in 1999, and Nytch came to CU as head of the program in 2009. “Now, [the field] has really started to take off,” he says.

“In the last 20 years the numbers of [music students] have continued to grow and there are no longer the jobs for all of those students. Performing arts schools in general and music schools in particular began to recognize that we need to prepare our graduates for professional lives beyond just preparing them to be performers.”

Nytch himself came into the field of music entrepreneurship almost accidentally. Before taking the job at CU he had received a doctorate in composition, managed the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and co-founded a non-profit service organization. As he explains it, “I did not recognize that I was laying the groundwork for this new career. I was just trying to figure out how to keep music in my life and make a living.”

ecmmusicThen in 2008 he heard about the job opening at CU. “I’m reading the job description,” he recalls. “I’ve got a DMA in music, I have 15 years as a freelance composer, I’d run a small arts organization and my day job for six years was being the operations director for a small business. Basically, I checked every box that they were looking for. I read that job description, and I knew it was for me.”

The textbook emerged from his experience teaching entrepreneurship. “The educators, my colleagues in the arts entrepreneurship field, need resources for their own teaching,” Nytch says. In addition, “there are music students, there are individual musicians who are out in the world, especially folks that are in the earlier stages of their career.

“Entrepreneurship is also useful for traditional art management programs. A lot of arts organizations, symphony orchestras and opera companies and chamber music societies, they could benefit from learning to think entrepreneurially as well.”

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Jeffrey Nytch teaching at the Entrepreneurship Center for Music

One part of the music world in particular gets Nytch’s attention: the amateurs who support professional organizations, as patrons or contributors or board embers. “Those folks are invested in the future of their organizations, but they may not have the mechanism to think about options in a strategic way.

“A lot of boards end up doing what I call shucking peanuts. They say ‘We ought to do this,’ and ‘Actually, we ought to do this,’ or ‘Maybe we could try this.’ You go around the table and you spend two hours shucking peanuts. Some of those might be good ideas, some of them might be terrible ideas. But if there’s no way to evaluate them, then you’re never going to get any further than shucking peanuts. So thereis an audience who would find [the book] useful.”

In other words: If you are a musician in the early stages of your career, you should read this book; if you know a musician, buy it for them. If you are an arts administrator, you should read this book; if you know an arts administrator, buy it for them. If you are a board member of an arts organization, you should read this book; if you know a board member, buy it for them.

More concisely, I recommend this unique and valuable book to anyone who makes, supports or listens to music. It fills a unique and important space in the music world, and it does it extremely well.

The Entrepreneurial Muse: Inspiring Your Career in Classical Music by Jeffrey Nytch. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. 240 pages. ISBN: 9780190630980 $24.99 (paperback; also available in hardback and E-book formats)

Can also be purchased from Amazon.

Edited 1/5/19 to update top photo of Jeffrey Nytch.

 

 

 

Prominent guests come to CU to join Bernstein celebration

Composer’s daughter, former NY Phil concertmaster, scholar visit College of Music

By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 12:25 p.m.

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Jamie Bernstein. Photo by Steven J. Sherman.

The University of Colorado College of Music has joined the rest of the musical world to celebrate the centennial of the unique American composer, conductor, teacher, writer, lecturer and humanitarian Leonard Bernstein.

Just about the entire College of Music is represented in the months-long festival, from individual faculty members to the University Symphony, the Eklund Opera Program and even the Marching Band.

The celebration gains an extra dimension starting Monday, Sept. 24, with the arrival on campus of three prominent guests: Jamie Bernstein, the composer’s daughter and author of the recently released memoir Famous Father Girl; violinist Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 34 years who played many performances Bernstein conducted; and Carol Oja, William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard University and one of the leading Bernstein scholars.

The three guests will open the week with a joint appearance Monday afternoon. Oja will present a keynote address for the celebration, followed by a public discussion moderated by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center. Each of the guests will then participate in individual events during the rest of the week.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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CU Bernstein at 100
Events featuring guest artists
All events are free and open to the public

Public Talk with Jamie Bernstein, Glenn Dicterow and Carol Oja
Moderated by Susan Thomas, director of the CM American Research Center
4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24
Grusin Music Hall

Faculty Tuesday
Chamber Music of Leonard Bernstein, narrated by Jamie Bernstein
CU Faculty and Student performers
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25
Grusin Music Hall

“Citizen, Conductor, Composer: The Continuing Legacy of Leonard Bernstein”
Conversation with Carol Oja, presented by The Entrepreneurship Center for Music
5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept.. 24
Chamber Hall (C199), Imig Music Building

CU Symphony Orchestra
Gary Lewis, conductor, with Glenn Dicterow, violin
Jamie Bernstein, narrator
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27
Mackey Auditorium

Bernstein: Overture from Candide
Bernstein: Suite from On the Waterfront
Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto

Master Class with Glenn Dicterow, violin
3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28
Grusin Music Hall

Composer Lowell Liebermann will have residency at CU Boulder College of Music

Public performances Oct. 18 & 19 provide an introduction to his music

By Peter Alexander

If you don’t know the music of American composer Lowell Liebermann, the coming week is your opportunity.

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Composer Lowell Lieberman. Photo by Christian Steiner

Actually, if you do know his music, the coming week is an opportunity, too. The composer of accessible, intriguing, and often surprising works in many different genres, Liebermann will be in residence at the CU College of Music through Thursday (Oct. 19). The residency includes two full programs of Liebermann’s music—at noon Wednesday at the Dairy Arts Center and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Grusin Concert Hall. (See the schedule below for details and admission information.)

A Roser Visiting Artist at CU, Liebermann was invited by Peter and Helen Weil Prof. of Piano David Korevaar, who met Liebermann when they were both undergraduates at Juilliard. “We’ve known each other since we were, dare I say, still teenagers!” Korevaar says. “And I’ve been interested in his music ever since.”

Korevaar has been playing some of Liebermann’s pieces in concerts over the past year, and just completed a recording of his music. “I was thinking very much about Lowell,” he says, “so I thought it would be great to have him come. [CU composition professor] Dan Kellogg was very supportive and together we applied for funding from the Roser Visiting Artist’s Fund.”

As part of the Roser fund’s support, Liebermann will be meeting with many different groups of CU students this week. Activities include masterclasses with piano and flute students, coachings with all the performers of his works being presented during the residency, and extensive work with composition students.

Korevaar

David Korevaar

For those who may not know Liebermann’s music, Korevaar explains that it’s “accessible in the best sense. Often very lyrical, often dramatic. There’s a lot of variety— what he’s got first of all is an amazing craft. He can write anything, and for anything. He also has a great imagination, but he manages to integrate everything so well.

“His music, especially what he wrote in the 1990s, tended to have a lot of very, shall we say, nominally pleasant and familiar sounds. And some of it is not pleasant—one of the things that Lowell can do is really create some nightmarish sounds. He’ll do that by twisting your expectations, but he balances it well. He knows how to balance things, as any good composer does.”

Korevaar, who has been very busy with performances lately, from Beethoven with the Boulder Philharmonic to several Faculty Tuesday recitals and a Brahms concerto on tour, will be part of several of the performances. In spite of everything on his plate, he likes Liebermann’s music so much that he was unable to resist joining in.

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Jennifer Hayghe

“My original plan when I put this whole thing together was I wasn’t going to do any of the playing,” he says. “But how can I not put myself in? Lowell has some recent chamber pieces that he was particularly interested having done, plus there was the Sonata for Two Pianos, and I thought that would be a great piece for me to finally get to play with Jennifer Hayghe.”

The performances during the coming week will feature Korevaar and other CU faculty, students and alumni. Several of the piano pieces are included, played by different artists, including Liebermann himself Wednesday at the Dairy.

A number of chamber pieces are also included in the two concerts, among them the Flute Sonata—probably Liebermann’s best known work—performed by flutist Joshua Hall and pianist Cecilia Kao, and the Sonata for Two Pianos by Korevaar and Hayghe.

Another that Korevaar thinks is especially impressive to hear is the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, which he will play with clarinetist Daniel Silver and violist Ericka Eckert. (The full program for both concerts is listed below.) There will also be a talk-back with the composer following the Wednesday performance at the Dairy.

If you need one more reason to attend the concerts, Korevaar points out that there will plenty of flash and dazzle on display, including the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano. “I think one of the reasons that Lowell’s music has been very successful is that he also understands instrumental virtuosity, and there’s plenty of that,” he says.

“His music can be very brilliant and very showy.”

# # # # #

Lowell Liebermann Residency
CU Boulder College of Music

Public events:

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Liebermann

2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, Grusin Concert Hall
Piano class, with CU students playing works by Lowell Liebermann

3:30 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 17, Room NB59, Imig Music Building
Flute Class, Christian Jennings Studio

12 noon Wednesday, Oct. 18, Dairy Arts Center
Soundscape at the Dairy: Music of Lowell Liebermann

—Piano Quartet: Sharon Park, violin; Stephanie Mientka, viola; Zachary Reaves, cello; Sarah Rushing, piano
—Elegy for Clarinet and Piano: Emily Wrangler, clarinet; Adam Coleman, piano
—Nocturne No. 2: Ryan Grippo, piano
—Nocturne No. 7: Sophia Zervas, piano
—Nocturne No. 10: Lowell Liebermann, piano
—Trio for clarinet, viola and piano: Daniel Silver, clarinet; Ericka Eckert, viola; David Korevaar, piano
—Post-concert talkback with Lowell Liebermann, David Korevaar, and Sharon Park

Tickets

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, Grusin Concert Hall
Faculty/student recital of music by Lowell Liebermann

—Flute Sonata: Joshua Hall, flute, and Cecilia Kao, piano
—Nocturne No. 8: Maria Wietrzynska, piano
—Piano Trio No. 3: Charles Wetherbee, violin; David Requiro, cello; David Korevaar, piano
—Violin Sonata: William Terwilliger, violin, and Andrew Cooperstock, piano
—Sonata for Two Pianos: Jennifer Hayghe and David Korevaar
—Daydream and Nightmare for two pianos, eight hands: Sarah Rushing, Jonathan Morris, Nathália Kato, and Barbara Noyes

Free and open to the public.
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Edited 10.16 to correct the names of performers due to last-minute schedule changes.