B-minor mass, performed with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir and soloists
By Peter Alexander Feb. 4 at 7:15 p.m.
The COVID pandemic has left huge gaps in the classical musical calendar
Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis and the Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, unable to gather for the concerts they had hoped to present this month, decided to fill the gap with a streamed performance from their archives: a performance of J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor originally presented live in October, 2019.
The performance features Katsarelis with the Pro Musica orchestra, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, and a quartet of soloists: soprano Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, mezzo Julie Simson, tenor Derek Chester and bass-baritone Jeffrey Seppala.
A release announcing the broadcast explains, “The audio engineering is radio broadcast quality, however, the video is pre-pandemic archival. The video from the first half offers a view from the chorus and the second half offers a view from the balcony in audience.”
In a separate written announcement, Katsarelis stated that “Sharing the Bach seemed like a nice thing to do for a number of reasons, but most of all because of its capacity to bring healing. In addition to the terrible losses of people to COViD-19, I felt deeply traumatized by the event of January 6. For a week afterwards, about all I could do was play Bach on violin. Given that the February concert couldn’t proceed as planned, the Bach B-Minor Mass is our offering to healing and peace in this world.”
The streamed performance will be preceded by a pre-concert talk by Rebecca Maloy, a professor of musicology at CU, Boulder.
Anyone who purchased a ticket to the cancelled Feb. concert will have access to this performance from 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 14. Tickets may be purchased HERE.
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Special Online Broadcast Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor St. Martin’s Chamber Choir Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Julie Simson, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Jeffrey Seppala, bass-baritone
Pre-concert talk by CU Professor of Music Rebecca Malloy
J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor
Original performance from Oct., 2019 Streamed performance available from 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 14 Tickets HERE.
The hybrid season will offer livestream and limited in-person tickets.
By Izzy Fincher Oct. 7 at 4:50 p.m.
Amidst the turmoil of 2020, we can turn to music for comfort.
“Music has such a capacity to heal,” Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of Pro Musica Colorado, says. “It has the capacity to comfort. It has the capacity to connect us, to remind us of our humanity, and to remind us of who we are.”
Katsarelis planned Pro Musica’s 2020-2021 season in response to the grief and suffering of 2020, hoping to offer comfort and healing to the audience through music.
“Usually we program a year or more in advance,” Katsarelis says. “But now with this season we can respond to what is going on in the world. We decided this season needed works that were healing, comforting and joyful discoveries.”
Katsarelis’ original plans for the season dissolved mid-summer. To comply with COVID-19 social distancing requirements, she had to find repertoire for strings without winds or vocalists. This reduced her options and forced her to look for local soloists on short notice. At that time, she also decided to offer the season as both a virtual and limited in-person experience.
The December program, originally planned to be Handel’s Messiah with the Boulder Chorale, was scrapped in favor of an all-strings program and a new soloist—Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. Katsarelis decided to open the concert with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Novellette No. 1 for string orchestra,a lesser-known work for musical discovery, before moving to familiar works by Vivaldi, Corelli and Dvořák to heal.
For February’s concert, “Rainbow Valentine,” Katsarelis also wanted to begin the program with new discoveries. First, Pro Musica will premiere a new work by Jordan Holloway, the winner of CU-Boulder’s Composition Competition. Then they will play Joseph Bologne’s Violin Concerto No. 9 with soloist Harumi Rhodes, the second violinist of the Takács Quartet, and finish with the comforting Serenade for String Orchestra by Tchaikovsky.
Katsarelis is most excited for the Bologne violin concerto and feels grateful that Rhodes agreed to perform it on short notice. “This violin concerto is swashbuckling,” she says.
“Harumi sets the room on fire when she opens her violin case, let alone when the bow comes to the string. The combination of this swashbuckling concerto and Harumi will be electric. It will pass through the internet to all those tuned in.”
For the final concert in May, aptly named “Springtime,” Pro Musica will collaborate with Nicolò Spera, director of CU’s classical guitar program, on a concerto (currently TBA). The program will also include Carter Pann’s Three Secrets in Maine and the chamber version of Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Katsarelis feels the works by Pann and Copland are distinctly American and will offer familiar sounds as the season’s final comforting gesture.
“Appalachian Spring is such a quintessential American piece,” she says. “It’s a good piece to play at this time. It’s a piece that reminds us who we are. It is an American work that speaks to the best of American culture.”
For those listening to concerts virtually, Katsarelis recommends working on a high-quality audio setup.
“People might want to get in touch with their inner audiophile,” Katsarelis says. “If they haven’t experimented with connecting their computer to decent speakers, now is the time. It would really enhance the listening experience.”
Beyond the three concerts, Pro Musica will also stay engaged with the Boulder community, particularly in local elementary schools, during the season. They will collaborate with Boulder MUSE, a non-profit organization that provides free music lessons for underprivileged children. Pro Musica’s string quartet will perform music by diverse composers, especially composers of color, from their previous season for young musicians at Columbine Elementary School and University Hill Elementary School.
For Pro Musica, issues of diversity and representation have always been important. Since their conception in 2007, Pro Musica has aimed to share “new voices from ethnically and racially diverse cultures,” according to their mission statement. This perspective is important with 2020’s focus on diversity. This season includes works by two black composers, Coleridge-Taylor and Bologne.
For Katsarelis, diversity in classical music is personally important. She is currently the only female conductor of a professional orchestra in Colorado.
“This is something I have done my entire career, going back to the mid-1990s,” she says. “It’s not new for me or for Pro Musica. We have been presenting music by female composers, composers of color and underrepresented voices. We have a mission of bringing forward voices that have been silenced unjustly.
“Artistic grounds alone are enough to bring this music forward. This is great music that has a lot to say to us and can really speak to our hearts.”
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Pro Musica Colorado 2020-2021 Season Limited tickets available for live performances Live-stream tickets available for Saturday night of each program
“Holiday Moods” Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Novellette No. 1 Corelli: Christmas Concerto Vivaldi: “Fall” and “Winter” from The Four Seasons Dvořák: Serenade for Strings
*7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
“Rainbow Valentine” Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Harumi Rhodes, violin
Jordan Holloway (CU Composition Competition winner): World Premiere Joseph Bologne: Violin Concerto No. 9 Tchaikovsky: Serenade for String Orchestra
Messiah among “classics for small chamber orchestra” on the bill
By Peter Alexander June 10 at 9:10 p.m.
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra today addressed their plans for the 2020–21 season.
There is of course much that is not known about the conditions under which any performing arts organizations will be able or allowed to present performances in the coming year. The uncertainty is great enough that organizations local and world wide, from the Boulder Chorale to the New York Philharmonic, have announced that they do not plan to perform before January, 2021.
In that context, Pro Musica Colorado has said that they are planning a season that will be “flexible, resilient, and exercises good Colorado grit.” That statement comes from a letter sent out today over the signature of the group’s music director, Cynthia Katsarelis.
“We will observe the guidelines published by the CDC, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, the Boulder County Health Department, and the Musician’s Union work rules,” the letter says. In that spirit, performances may or may not be open to a limited public audience, but in either case they will be live streamed.
“We will work out ticketing, and perhaps offer a digital subscription. Some of this is still under construction, but Pro Musica Colorado will be present, making music and doing educational outreach in Boulder,” the letter promises.
Dates and details of repertoire will be announced at a later date. For now, the orchestra is planning to perform “classics for small chamber orchestra,” including Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
Katsarelis concludes her letter with a statement of aspirations and hopes. “Our souls long for sharing live music,” she wrote. “And frankly, I believe we have a collective yearning for inclusivity and equity as well.
“In a time of broken hearts, there is music that can help heal some of our collective heartache.”
Online teaching leads to at-home learning for the teacher
By Peter Alexander April 26 at 5:40 p.m.
Cynthia Katsarelis is in her happy place.
The music director of the Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra is speaking by Facetime from the basement of the home she shares with her wife, musicologist Rebecca Maloy. This is her office, where she is surrounded by her violin and her music and her books and her Roland digital piano.
“It’s really true, that saying that musicians either are practicing or should be practicing,” Katsarelis says. “I reflect on that almost daily. I’ve been practicing a great deal and making some terrific discoveries on the violin.”
Cynthia Katsarelis in her “happy place”
But she’s been doing much more than practicing her violin. She has been able to accelerate her work on a Doctor of Musica Arts degree, which she had expected to finish next December. “Perhaps I’ll finish in August or even July,” she says.
She is also “doing a lot of professional development stuff”—playing Bach chorales from open score, with each voice part in a different clef, and playing “figured bass,” Baroque-era keyboard parts where only the bass line is given with numbers to indicate the chords above the bass. “It’s like floss for the brain,” she says. “I figure if I’m not out and about and interacting with people, it keeps the brain lively, so that’s a good thing to do.”
Like a lot of musicians during the crisis, Katsarelis is teaching online. Since 2004 she has had a relationship with students in Haiti, through the Holy Trinity School of Music in Port-au-Prince, where she has regularly taught violin and guest conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinité.
“One of the things that I took up was asking Haitian students if they wanted [online] lessons,” she says. “The next thing I know I’ve got 45 Haitians who want lessons! That became huge really fast.”
It also took on a new dimension when a Haitian violinist that Katsarelis knows, Victoria Joseph, launched an etude challenge. “In addition to the online lessons, I’ve been making videos of how to practice certain etudes,” she explains. (You may see one of her etudes—with her apologies for her halting Haitian French—here.)
“I’ve tried to pick the etudes very, very strategically, to pick the kind of things that will really further their technique,” she says. “I pick etudes that work on a particular aspect of technique so they can explore it in greater depth and ideally things that they can do mostly on their own, with a little guidance.”
Katsarelis says that this project has been a learning experience for her as well as the Haitian students. As she has gone through her extensive collection of violin etudes, including ones she played as far back as middle school, she is looking at her own training with new eyes.
Katsarelis teaching online from her basement
“There’s something about revisiting that old stuff,” she says. “I went through all of my etudes from whenever, and I just see gobs of wisdom from these early etudes. I think, ‘Oh, that’s what my teacher was trying to teach me! I wish I had really absorbed the lesson,’ but also ‘How can I teach it to [my students]?’ That’s been really beneficial.
“And when I practice the advanced stuff, it reminds me how to teach the intermediate students so they can get to that advanced place. Sometimes you forget how you got there. So now I’ve been tracing the steps to success. So the next stage will be for me to work through how to get [my students] into the advanced stage.”
The result of going back through the etudes she has studied over so many years: “I’ll be a much better teacher. This could actually be helpful in [getting a job], but I’m doing it because it’s really beneficial right here and now, for the Haitian musicians and for my own playing.”
Katsarelis and Malloy have gotten their old turntable out and have been listening to some of the old vinyl recordings in their collection. This includes old Classical recordings, by artists including Zino Francescatti, Leon Fleischer and the Philadelphia Orchestra, but also 1960s and early ‘70s rock. Katsarelis says she favors the Beatles, while Maloy also has a collection of the Grateful Dead.
Even though there are no concerts, Katsarelis still has work to do as conductor of Pro Musica. She and the board have been hard at work already for the 2020-21 season. In addition to deciding the programs for next year, they have decided to drop the performances they have been giving in Denver, and to look into options for streaming their concerts.
“We worked things through and decided to focus our efforts in Boulder, and to put more energy into outreach,” she says. “And once the virus hit, I’ve been working on creating a season that has a smaller budget. I’m having a lot of fun, but I’m busy on pretty fulfilling stuff.”
“I keep really busy, but when I’m not busy I tend to worry about people. I want people to be healthy and happy—and listen to lots of music, because it really does help the time pass beautifully.
Colorado Pro Musica joins list of groups who have canceled performances
By Peter Alexander March 20 at 6:05 p.m.
Colorado Pro Music Chamber Orchestra has joined a growing list of music organizations in the bOulder area who have canceled planned performances due to the coronavirus/COVD-19.
A program titled “Composing Climate” was scheduled for March 20, 21 and 22 in Longmont, Denver and Boulder, respectively. However, in light of other cancelations occurring in the area—including all performances on the CU campus (see previous posts)—the decision has been made to cancel those concerts as well.
I will keep an ongoing list of known cancellations on the blog, as they come in. People who are holding tickets to canceled events are advised to check the Web pages of the presenting organizations to find out about their policies in this situation.
Program features three living composers, one African-American pioneer
By Peter Alexander Jan. 26 at 11:10 a.m.
Searching for diverse repertoire for the Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra, conductor Cynthia Katsarelis found works by three living composers and a pioneering African-American composer of the 20th century.
Their concert featuring those composers, titled “Diverse Voices,” will be Saturday in Denver and Sunday in Boulder (Feb 1 and 2). The three living composers are Jessie Montgomery, a New York violinist and composer who has been affiliated with the Sphinx Organization, which supports young African-American and Latinx string players; Rudy Perrault, a Haitian native who is director of orchestras at the University of Minnesota, Duluth; and Gabriela Lena Frank, a California-born composer who has mixed Peruvian, Chinese, and Lithuanian-Jewish heritage.
William Grant Still
William Grant Still, the fourth composer on the program, was associated with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, and later had a successful career arranging popular music as well as music for television and films. His Symphony No. 1 (“African-American Symphony”) was the first symphony by an African-American composer to be performed by a major orchestra.
On the all-string orchestra program, Pro Musica will perform his Danzas de Panama, Montgomery’s Starburst, Perrault’s Exodus and Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout. This program reflects Katsarelis’s personal commitment to diversity, meaning not only composers of color, which describes all four composer on the program, but also female as well as male composers (two of the four), and new music as well as recognized classics (three of the four).
“I think we come to a more healthy place if we’re inclusive of the different talent and the different voices that we have in the 21st century,” Katsarelis says. “Pro Musica has a mission of [performing] classic to cutting edge [music], and we also present works that were under-represented.”
Katsarelis includes new works among the “under-represented.” “Where the classics touch something universal in us, new music speaks to right now,” she says. “It may or may not last, but it has something to say to us today.”
The entire program is for string orchestra, which is where Katsarelis had to do some searching. “When I encounter a musician that I really respect and am really intrigued by, I go on a Sherlock Holmes-like hunt for music that is appropriate for Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra,” she says.
Jessie Montgomery. Photo by Jiang Chen
Needing music for strings alone, she found several pieces that are written for string quartet or string orchestra. The one exception is the opening work on the program, Montgomery’s Starburst, which was written for the Sphinx Virtuosi chamber orchestra. “It’s a great piece, really energetic, as you would expect a starburst to be,” Katsarelis says.
“It’s inspired by a cosmic phenomenon, and for her that involves rapidly changing musical colors. It’s only a three-minute piece, but you’re getting all these different colors that a string orchestra can produce. They’re playing on the bridge to get this eerie sound, they play harmonics, they have various kinds of pizzicato, and [Montgomery] combines them in various ways. It’s a musical burst as well as a starburst.”
Katsarelis met Perrault through her own work in Haiti. Since 2004 she has gone to Haiti every summer to teach at a music camp, and sometimes during the year as well. “It’s a very musical culture, and they’re always hungry for more,” she says. “It’s really rewarding to work there.”
Perrault’s Exodus was originally part of a piece for string quartet. It was inspired by and dedicated to people who have been forced to leave their homelands as refugees. “I hear a very strong musical personality,” Katsarelis says of the score.
“He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to use a wide range of musical language for the wrenching emotion that is part of the piece. I hear little hints of Bernstein and Shostakovich with a little bit of an island rhythm.”
Gabriela Elena Frank
Frank’s mixed heritage plays a very large role in her work. “Her mother was Peruvian-Japanese, and her father was Lithuanian Jewish,” Katsarelis explains. “She became a kind of musical anthropologist and explored her roots, and she was really captivated by Peru and the Andean music, the Andean instruments and genres and character—they’re all reflected in her piece.”
For example, she imitates the sound of Andean instruments—the panpipes, a heavy wooden flute called the tarka, guitars—in her writing for strings. Other movements depict the chaqui, a legendary runner who covered large distance to deliver messages from town to town, and the llorona, a professional crier hired to mourn at funerals.
Katsarelis often describes pieces of music as a journey, with a return to home providing closure. But in this case, she says, “Peru is part of Frank’s background, and in her exploration she finds another version of home. So we have a journey; home is just a little bit different.”
Cynthia Katsarelis. Photo by Glenn Ross
Thinking of her musical mission beyond the individual pieces she selected to illustrate diversity, Katsarelis says “I always thought that classical music could help bring world peace, so this is just one more step.” In addition to that lofty goal, she adds, “What I’m presenting is terrific music. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, it’s entertaining, it’s thought provoking and it engages the world today.
“I hope young people will come to the concert, because it’s part of what they’re growing into: a world that’s just so global, and so diverse.”
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Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Cynthia Katsarelis, music director
Jessie Montgomery: Starburst Rudy Perrault: Exodus William Grant Still: Danzas de Panama Gabriela Lena Frank: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout
7:30 p.m. Saturday Feb. 1, First Baptist Church of Denver
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder Tickets
Pro Musica brings musical and spiritual insights to Bach’s Mass in B Minor
By Peter Alexander Oct. 24 at 4:10 p.m.
J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor is one of the great works in the European musical tradition.
Photo courtesy of Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of the Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra describes it as “a cathedral in both sound and spirit.” She will conduct the Mass in B Minor Friday and Saturday (Oct. 25 and 26) in Denver and Boulder. In addition to Pro Musica, the performances will feature St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, directed by Tim Kreuger, and four soloists: soprano Jennifer Bird, tenor Derek Chester, mezzo-soprano Julie Simson, and baritone Jeffery Seppala.
“It’s certainly a bucket-list piece, for both me and Tim Kreuger,” Katsarelis says. “We’ve talked about this for years, and it was time. There’s something about Bach and particularly the choral masterpieces and the B-minor Mass in particular that is so universal and so touches the spirit and the soul, and connects us to our humanity.”
Katsarelis relates that perception of the Mass to an underlying theme for the current season of three concerts: Social conscience and the human condition. The second concert (Feb. 1 and 2) is titled “Diverse Voices” and will feature music by African-American composers William Grant Still and Gabriela Frank. In March they will present “Composing Climate,” featuring Gwyneth Walker’s Earth and Sky, which has texts from Native American leaders Chief Joseph and Chief Seattle, alongside words by Henry David Thoreau.
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Tim Kreuger, director
Jennifer Bird, soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; Julie Simson, mezzo-soprano; Jeffery Seppala, baritone
Music by J.S. Bach, Haydn, and world premiere by Max Wolpert
By Peter Alexander Feb. 21 at 4:45 p.m.
The next concert by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra will look backward, and forward, and outward.
Jory Vinikour. Photo by Peter Nuccio DiNuzzo.
The program, titled “Classical Evolution,” will be presented in Denver Friday (Feb. 22) and Boulder Saturday (Feb. 23) and, in a new venture for Pro Musica, in Longmont Sunday (Feb. 24).
The concert will feature works by J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn, and the world premiere of a new work by Boulder-based fiddler/composer Max Wolpert. Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct the concert, which will feature harpsichordist Jory Vinikour as soloist.
Bach’s piece on the program, the D minor Harpsichord Concerto, looks back in the sense that it probably derived from an earlier, but now lost, concerto for violin. Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No 22 (“The Philosopher)”) looks back by starting with a movement in an earlier style from the Baroque period, and forward in the later movements by anticipating styles of the composer’s later symphonies.
And Wolpert’s Baroque in Mirror, a concerto for harpsichord and small orchestra, looks back to some revered folk performers and composers from Baroque times, outward to music of different traditions, and forward by bringing them into a contemporary setting.
Pro Musica Colorado and Boulder Chamber Chorale combine for performances
By Peter Alexander Nov. 29 at 3 p.m .
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, with conductor Cynthia Katsarelis
It’s been 276 years, and people are still talking about Handel’s Messiah.
Of course, it’s one of the best known and best loved pieces ever written, but that does not make it immune to controversy. One thorny subject is that it has become the quintessential Christmas piece.
But Messiah was not written for Christmas, and only about a third of it has anything to do with Christmas. The rest takes the story through Easter and the Resurrection. The first performances were given in April, 1742, during Lent, and most performances in Handel’s lifetime followed that pattern.
Many people consider performances of the entire piece during the Christmas season inappropriate. Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis is one of those people, but she has found a way to reconcile Messiah’s popularity at Christmas with its content. With the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, the Boulder Chamber Chorale and soloists, she will lead performances Dec. 1 and 2 of what she calls “a Christmas version.”
“We’re doing the Christmas section, plus,” she explains. In addition to the full Part One, which is the Christmas portion of the oratorio, “we use elements from Part Two and Part Three that illuminate why this birth is so important.”
The Boulder performances will include a food drive for Community Food Share. Audience members are encouraged to bring non-perishable, packaged food items, such as canned goods, cereal and pasta to be collected at the performances.
Handel’s Messiah Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, artistic director
Jennifer Bird, soprano; Leah Creek Biesterfeld, alto; Stephen Soph, tenor; Adam Ewing, baritone
Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz is ”a great discovery”
By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.
“Women Among Men,” a concert by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, will feature a woman conductor, two women soloists, and a woman composer—and some male composers as well.
Cynthia Katsarelis. Photography by Glenn Ross.
The conductor is Cynthia Katsarelis, Pro Musica’s music director. The soloists are violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony, and soprano Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director of Seicento Baroque Ensemble. And the composer is Grazyna Bacewicz, who Katsarelis describes as “a great discovery.”
Other composers on the program are J.S. Bach, Joseph Haydn and Mozart. Performances will be Saturday in Denver and Sunday afternoon in Boulder (Sept. 22–23).
Katsarelis points out that the program is filled cheerful pieces. Recent seasons have seen Pro Musica playing some pretty dark, serious works—musical reflections on death, the martyrdom of Joan of Arc, and a tragic shipwreck, for example. “I decided we should do a happy concert for once,” she says.
Bacewicz, Katsarelis’s “great discovery,” is likely better known to violinists than to the audience. She was a virtuoso violinist as well as composer, and she wrote a lot of music for the violin. “I’m going to get her violin sonatas and play those,” Katsarelis says. “I’m really enjoying her music!”
Born in Poland in 1909, Bacewicz lived and worked through the middle of the 20thcentury. The Concerto for String Orchestra was written in 1948, and reflects the clean and bracing neo-classical style of the era between the wars.
“Her aesthetic likes clarity and orchestration that has space,” Katsarelis says. “She didn’t like the giant, dense sound blocks, and in that respect she reminds me of Ravel.
“There are areas that have an impressionistic sound, there are areas that have a Stravinsky-like sound, and sometimes we get eastern European rhythms that are reminiscent of Shostakovich. She’s obviously aware of Bach, and the coloristic effects of Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, and Shostakovich. Without anything sounding derivative, it just sounds like she’s got a really wonderful broad palette.”
A word that Katsarelis uses to describe Bacewicz’s music is “lively,” but she also points out that it is not music that is difficult or unfriendly to audiences. “She knows how to drive a line, but it’s nothing intimidating or scary,” she says. “You can really take it in and enjoy it deeply.”
Katsarelis knew Hwang Williams before either moved to Colorado, when Hwang-Williams was principal second violin in the Cincinnati Symphony and Katsarelis was an apprentice conductor with the orchestra. Since they both settled in Colorado, Hwang-Williams has been a soloist with Pro Musica several times.
On this occasion, she is playing one of her favorite pieces, Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C major. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful, ebullient, joyful work,” she says. “I have loved this concerto for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to play it.”
Although it is not a big Romantic showpiece, Hwang-Williams says that the concerto has its own challenges. “There’s a lot of virtuosity,” she says. “It’s just a different kind of virtuosity. The challenge of playing classical repertoire well is that you have to have a lot of refinement in your playing. You need crystal clear intonation and articulation, so what you hear is the purity of the violin, in the tone and phrasing.”
Katsarelis says “It’s just a really wonderful piece, written around the time of his early to middle symphonies. It’s a mature work, from the beginning of his peak—which then lasted for 50 more years!”
The concerto will be followed by a piece that Katsarelis calls “a bonbon”: Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde (The riches of the world), an aria for soprano and violin with strings from Bach’s Cantata No. 204. “Yumi has been talking to me about the wonderful Bach arias that have violin solos,” she explains.
“The concert was a little bit short, so there would be room to do a wonderful bon-bon. The music is charming—and of course, Amanda Balestrieri is the perfect person for this, both because of her voice quality and her musical intelligence.”
The fourth piece on the program is Mozart’s Serenade in D major, K239, known as the “Serenata Notturna” (Nocturnal serenade). “When I was putting together the program, I was shuffling through pieces for string orchestra,” Katsarelis says. “I’d forgotten about this, except that it has two orchestras, the quartet of principals and the string orchestra with also timpani. I looked into it, and I was delighted by the piece right away!”
As Mozart would have done, Pro Musica will separate the two performing groups—”so that we get that aural, spatial surround sound,” Katsarelis says.
Mozart’s serenades, were usually written for celebrations of some kind. The occasion for the “Serenata Notturna” is not known, but was most likely a masked ball during Carnival season. Katsarelis happily suggests that “it’s not difficult to imagine intrigue going on while they were playing this at a masked ball—where you can get away with more than at a non-masked ball!”
Viennese masked ball
To add to the enjoyment of his Viennese audiences, Mozart incorporated some melodies hat would have been recognized at the time. “That would have added to their delight,” Katsarelis says. “But the music still carries that delight, even if we don’t know the songs.”
# # # # #
Women Among Men
with Violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams
Amanda Balestrieri, soprano
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 22 Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver
2 p.m. Sunday, September 23 Mountain View United Methodist, 355 Ponca Pl., Boulder
Mozart: Serenade in D major K. 239, Serenata notturna Grazyna Bacewicz: Concerto for String Orchestra
Haydn: Violin Concerto in C Major
J.S. Bach: Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde