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 

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Violinist Sarah Chang visits Boulder on a rare solo recital tour

Program includes music she loves, but she’d still like to talk about her dog

By Peter Alexander Nov. 14 at 10:40 p.m.

Violinist Sarah Chang, a celebrated concerto soloist, comes to Boulder on Friday, Nov. 16, for a rare solo recital, but she would rather talk about her dog.

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Sarah Chang. Photo by Colin Bell, under license to EI Classics

“I wish people would ask me more about my dog,” she says. “He’s the number one thing in my life, and everybody always asks me about music.”

Of course it is the music that brings her to Boulder, and she agrees to talk about that, too. Her program features three works from the late 19th-, early-20th-century era of great violin playing: Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D minor and the imposing Franck Sonata in A Major.

“What I love about this program is that you have the exotic Bartók, which is so unique in its own way,” she says. “And then you have the Brahms which is so noble and so beautiful, and then you have the Franck which is just a masterpiece and probably one of the most well known sonatas for any instrument.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Sarah Chang, violin, and Julio Elizalde, piano
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, Macky Auditorium

Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances
Brahms: Sonata No. 3 in D minor
Franck: Sonata in A Major

Tickets

From Venice to Boulder: Music of “The Red Priest”

Vivaldi dominates program by Venice Baroque Orchestra

By Peter Alexander Oct. 31 at 10 p.m.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra with recorder soloist Anna Fusek. Photo courtesy of CU Presents.

No composer represents the Baroque era in music better than “Il Prete Rosso” (The red priest), Antonio Vivaldi.

Known for his fiery red hair, he wrote almost countless concertos—more than 500—for just about every possible instrument of his day, including Le quattro stagioni (The four seasons) for violin, four of the most popular and famous of all Baroque concertos. Covering wide realms of genres, he wrote sacred music, still performed, and more than 40 operas, hugely successful in his lifetime but not often performed today.

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Antonio Vivaldi

His music was known and studied by Bach, who wrote pieces based on some of Vivaldi’s concertos, which still stand as examples of Baroque form, technique and style.

Vivaldi was born and lived most of his life in Venice, so it is no surprise that the Venice Baroque Orchestra (VBO), playing Friday evening (Nov. 2) in Macky Auditorium, brings a lot of Vivaldi’s music with them. In fact, their program is almost entirely music by Vivaldi—concertos and opera overtures, or “sinfonias”—except for a single concerto grosso by Francesco Geminiani, who was a native of Lucca, on the opposite side of Italy from Venice.

Alessandra DiVicenzo, a violist and member of the VBO since it was founded 21 years ago, wrote about the concert from Santa Fe, where the orchestra was on tour earlier this week. “For us Vivaldi has always a place in our programs, since the freshness of his style makes his music very natural and easy to play for us,” she writes.

“Living, or just spending most of the time in Venice could have helped us develop a sensibility about how Venetian and Vivaldi’s music could sound. When you are in Venice you realize that light and water are two elements that give Venice a special touch, so it is easy to think that Vivaldi is like water, light and clear, always changeable and never still.”

The Venice Baroque Orchestra is known for their energetic and brilliant style in playing Vivaldi’s music. This has distinguished them from some of their more staid predecessors in the Baroque performance world, and in particular providees an individual sense of personality to each work they perform.

“To us it seems natural to bring excitement to the playing of Vivaldi’s music,” DiVicenzo writes. “Everything of this can be found in his scores, which are spontaneous, rich of vitality, rhythmic, sometimes nervous, and offering sudden changes of mood—like he surely was!”

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Francesco Geminiani

As for the non-Venetian on the program, DiVicenzo writes: “Geminiani is a very interesting composer. Maybe today his name is not so famous to a wide audience, but during the 18thcentury he was a VIP, one of the most acclaimed composers and violin virtuosos.

“He has an energy and vitality very similar to Vivaldi. All audiences appreciate it, so I’m sure Boulder’s audience will like it.”

DiVicenzo wants to call the audience’s attention to some specific aspects of the program, and of Vivaldi’s legacy. “One thing the audience could realize is that Vivaldi played a very important role in the development of the technique of many instruments, including violin, cello and flute. His solo concertos are very demanding for any performer.

“One example is the Violin Concerto in E minor, in which the soloist has very difficult passages for both right and left hand. Also the double concerto for violin and cello requires two soloists with outstanding technique. The breathtaking third movement lets the soloists show all their skill! And the program ends with the recorder concerto “Il Gardellino” (The goldfinch), one of many examples of Vivaldi’s skill in imitating nature by music.”

The concert is the second visit to Macky Auditorium by the VBO. Their previous performance here was in 2014, at which time DiVicenzo commented that the orchestra members travelled with some of the food from home. I asked her if Italians still balked at drinking American coffee.

“American espresso improved enough that Italians drink it,” she wrote. “At the San Francisco airport I heard some of us appreciating the one-shot espresso they were sipping. But nothing has changed in VBO’s equipment.

”The coffee machine continues to travel with us all over the world.”

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Venice-1Venice Baroque Orchestra

Program of Baroque Concertos by Vivaldi and Geminiani
With Anna Fusek, recorder; Gianpiero Zanocco, violin;
Massimo Raccanelli and Federico Tiffany, cellos
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Macky Auditorium

Full Program

Tickets

 

CU Presents Update: Eklund Opera will present ‘West Side Story’ Oct. 26–28

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 5:40 p.m.

When first announced as part of the coming 2018–19 CU Presents season, Eklund Opera’s major fall production was listed somewhat mysteriously as Title TBA, music by Leonard Bernstein.

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Art by Janalee Robison for CU Presents

In case you haven’t guessed, the title, which can NBA (now be announced), is West Side Story. As noted previously, contractual arrangements did not allow for the title to be revealed until May 1.

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Leonard Bernstein

The production will be part of the year-long, globe-spanning celebration of of the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth. Boulder has already seen a sold-out concert performance of West Side Story presented by the Boulder Philharmonic and Central City Opera (April 28).

Later this month the Colorado Symphony will present music by Bernstein paired with one of his favorite composers, Gustav Mahler (May 25–27),  and several Bernstein works will be featured as part of this summer’s Colorado Music Festival. It is not difficult to find other Bernstein tributes at summer festivals around the country, including Bravo! Vail and the Aspen Music Festival.

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Scene from the original 1957 production of ‘West Side Story’ with Jerome Robbins’ landmark choreography

When it first appeared in 1957, West Side Story was truly genre-changing for Broadway. A New York-based updating of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the show did not shy away from  serious social issues or a tragic ending. Its book, lyrics, music and dance were conceived not as separate pieces but as a unified work of art, which therefore required a cast equally skilled as actors, dancers and singers. Bernstein’s music was unusually complex and difficult for both players and singers, and Jerome Robbins’ choreography set a new standard for singer-dancers.

With the combined team of Bernstein, Robbins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is certainly one of the most influential musicals in the history of Broadway. It has also become one of the most loved Broadway shows in history, revived by theaters and opera companies world wide. And be warned: it often sells out.

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West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Based on a concept by Jerome Robbins
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium

Subscription tickets 2018–19 CU Presents performances, including West Side Story and other Eklund Opera performances, are available here.

Tickets to individual performances will be available starting Aug. 20.
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Edited 5/1 to replace generic West Side Story poster image with art created for CU Presents by Janalee Robison.

Quicksilver Baroque brings ‘Strange and Wonderful Music’ to Macky

‘Rock stars’ of the early music scene explore the music of the 17th century

By Peter Alexander April 19 at 4:45 p.m.

How many pieces of chamber music for two violins, trombone, bassoon and lute can you name?

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Quicksilver Baroque. Photo by Jan Gates.

None? Meet Quicksilver, a Baroque ensemble specializing in the music of the 17th century: They can not only name them, they play them.

Quicksilver brings that combination, plus pieces that call for viola da gamba, harpsichord, organ and lute to Macky Auditorium on Friday, April 20 for the CU Presents Artists Series. Their program, titled “Strange and Wonderful Music of the 17th Century,” includes pieces by composers you have probably never heard of, including Dario Castello, Antonio Bertali, Massimiliano Neri, Johann Schmeltzer, Matthias Weckmann and Johan Rosenmüller.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Stile Moderno: Strange and Wonderful Music from the 17thCentury”
Quicksilver Baroque Ensemble

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

 

CU Presents Artists Series 2018–19 features Venice Baroque, Sarah Chang, Tafelmusik

Dates announced for Takács Quartet, Eklund Opera performances, other events

By Peter Alexander April 1 at 11:40 p.m.

CU Presents has announced its 2018–19 season of music, dance and theater, including significant classical music performances by guest artists and CU organizations.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra

The return of the Venice Baroque Orchestra to Macky Auditorium  will lead off the schedule of classical guest artists Nov. 2. Violinist Sarah Chang will present a solo recital Nov. 16, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto-based historical-performance group, will present “The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House” March 4.

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Sarah Chang. Photo by Colin Bell for EMI

There is also good news for those interested in world music. The Silkroad Ensemble, founded 20 years ago by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will perform in Macky Jan. 31, and the remarkable Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo is scheduled for Feb. 16.

Boulder audiences have long relished the world-renowned Takács Quartet. With new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, they will present two performances each of five programs September through April. The Carpe Diem Quartet, featuring CU assistant prof. and Boulder Philharmonic concertmaster Charles Wetherbee as first violinist, will appear on another pair of concerts on the Takács series in November.

Finally, the Eklund opera program will feature two Macky Auditorium productions—a work celebrating the Leonard Bernstein centennial Oct. 26–28, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin March 15–17—and Benjamin Britten’s setting of Henry James’s creepy ghost story Turn of the Screw in the Imig Music Building Music Theatre April 25–28.

The full listing of classical music events is below. Season ticket sales begin at 10 a.m. Monday, April 2, and single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 20. A listing of all CU Presents events, including theater and dance, popular attractions, and Holiday performances, can be found at the CU Presents Web page.

Tickets are available here,  or by phone at 303-942-8008.

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CU Presents Classical Guest Artists 2018–19
Performances in Macky Auditorium

Venice Baroque Orchestra
With Anna Fusek, recorder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2

Sarah Chang, violin
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16

Tafelmusik
“The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House”
7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4

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Tafelmusik. Photo by Sian Richards.

Takács Quartet
Sundays sold out by subscription; Mondays have limited availability
All performances in Grusin Music Hall

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept 24

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

Sunday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m. (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26 (featuring the Carpe Diem String Quartet)

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

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

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

Eklund Opera Program

Title TBA*
Music by Leonard Bernstein
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium
*Due to contractual obligations, the title of this production will not be announced until May 1, 2018

Eugene Onegin
By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16
2 p.m. Sunday, March 17
Macky Auditorium

The Turn of the Screw
By Benjamin Britten
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25; Friday, April 26; and Saturday, April 27
2 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Music Theatre, Imig Music Building

World Music Events

Silkroad Ensemble
7:30 p.m.. Thursday, Jan. 31
Macky Auditorium

Kodo
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Macky Auditorium

Macky concert by violinist Josh Bell and pianist Sam Haywood is sold out

Program featuring Mozart, Schubert and Richard Strauss provides food for thought

By Peter Alexander Feb. 4, 12:05 a.m.

Superstars—and there are some in the classical music world—sell out concerts on the basis their names alone.

Josh Bell byRichard Ascroft

Josh Bell. Photo by Richard Ascroft.

A year ago, it was Yo-Yo Ma, who sold out a recital in 2000-seat-plus Macky Auditorium long before the performance. This year, Josh Bell has done the same for his upcoming performance with pianist Sam Haywood (7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9). Even though you can no longer get tickets, the program and the event itself are still worth thinking about. I recently spoke with Haywood for his perspective on various aspects of the performance.

Although Bell came to fame as a teen prodigy, Haywood didn’t know him then. Of course he’s aware of Bell’s history, and he see vestiges of that experience in Bell’s playing still. “He manages to keep the freshness and the vitality of that early period (of his life),” he says. “The energy is very much there, and it’s certainly a great pleasure to work with him.”

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Sam Haywood

Bell and Haywood work together not as star and accompanist but as chamber music collaborators. For example. they often discuss potential concert programs together. “Because he’s so super busy, it has fit in practically, it has to be something that he has time to work on,” Haywood says.

On the other hand, the Strauss Sonata on the Boulder concert was originally something Haywood wanted to play. “We played the Strauss before, and I think the first time was at my suggestion,” he explains. “I always wanted to play the Strauss (because) there’s not a great deal of solo piano music by him.”

Of course Haywood understands that the audience is likely to think of Josh Bell as the star, especially since the concert is billed that way: “Joshua Bell” in large type (no instrument listing necessary), followed by “with Sam Haywood, piano” in small type. But he resists being stereotyped in a subsidiary role.

For the audience “to approach it as if they’re coming to hear a great star with background piano—they will only get 50% of the music,” he says. “I think that’s a shame, because how you prepare yourself to listen is always important. When we play at Carnegie Hall they have us in equal billing. I think when people see that, they think, ‘Aha! We’re going to see a duo performing!’”

It is useful to know that Haywood does far more than tour with Josh Bell and other solo artists. His career includes solo recitals as well as chamber music, he has founded a music festival in England and composed a children’s opera, among other works. He is fascinated with historical keyboard instruments, and has recorded a CD of music by Chopin on the composer’s Pleyel piano (available through Amazon UK).

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Sam Haywood playing Chopin’s Pleyel piano.

YouTube videos of Haywood playing historical instruments can be seen here and here.

“I’m very conscious of not wanting to be pigeon-holed,” he says. “I’m just a musician, a music lover, and I love to play all kinds of different repertoire. I was just playing some Wolf lieder with a wonderful soprano, and it’s all just wonderful music to be able to immerse ourselves in.”

One fascinating aspect of the program that Bell and Haywood are playing in Boulder is the way it illustrates the changing character of music for violin and piano over about a century, including a shift in the relationship between the two players.

When Mozart wrote his Sonata in B-flat major in 1784, music for that pairing of instruments was often described as an “accompanied piano sonata,” with the violin in the secondary role. This reflected the fact that Mozart and other composers of the time were first and foremost keyboard players who might perform with students and amateurs who played violin.

Schubert’s Fantasie in C major was written to be performed privately among friends—in a salon, for something like a house concert. Although the piece definitely has some strong, expressive moments, it was largely intended for intimate music-making between friends who would have been on equal footing as players.

The Strauss Sonata, on the other hand, is much more of a concert piece. By the time it was written in 1888, touring virtuosos were common, and Strauss would have expected it to be performed for a public audience, in a concert hall. This music comes closer to being for soloist with accompaniment, although Haywood points out that the sonata is “a lot to get your teeth into” for the pianist. “It’s very orchestral. The textures, the colors, they’re all very vivid. It works very well in a large hall.”

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Josh Bell. Photo by Marc Hom.

Which is the final issue we talked about. With the Mozart and the Schubert, music written for small spaces has been taken into a very large hall. That significantly changes the relationship between the performers and the audience.

“It’s very, very difficult,” Haywood says. “ I think you approach the piece in a slightly different way, because you’ve got to think of the poor people right in the back. They’ve got to hear it as well. You’ve got to really be conscious of projecting and painting in quite bright colors.”

He also noted that he has “learned a lot about playing in large halls through playing with Joshua. When we first started to play (together) I hadn’t played in the 2,000-seater (halls) before, and he has this wonderful way of projecting his sound and his personality, with such intensity that he can hold a large number of people.

“That’s something I’ve learned from him.”

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Joshua Bell, violin, and Sam Haywood, piano

Mozart: Violin Sonata No. 32 in B-flat Major, K.454
R. Strauss: Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18
Schubert: Fantasie in C Major, D.934
Additional works to be announced from the stage

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
Macky Auditorium
SOLD OUT