Boulder Phil concludes re-imagined season with all-strings program

Orchestra partners with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance 

By Peter Alexander April 22 at 4:12 p.m

Collaborations during a pandemic have to come in through the back door, as it were.

Frequent Flyers with the Boulder Philharmonic. Photo by
David Andrews

In the case of the Boulder Philharmonic and Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, who are joining together for the orchestra’s final concert of the 2020-21 season, the musicians recorded Korine Fujiwara’s Suite from Claudel in one venue, and then the dancers performed to the recorded music in another venue. The resulting performance will be shown online at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24.

Korine Fujiwara is also violist in the Carpe Diem String Quartet

It will remain available until Saturday, May 8. You may access the stream through the Boulder Phil Web page

Originally written for string quartet, the three movements of the Suite from Claudel were arranged for string orchestra by the composer. To simplify COVID precautions, Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman wanted to have an entire program for strings, who can wear masks while playing. 

In addition to Fujiwara’s Suite, the program features the Lyric for Strings by George Walker and an arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (known as the “Pastoral Symphony”) for string sextet.

Michael Butterman, music director of the Phil, noted that the orchestra has collaborated with Frequent Flyers several times in the past. “In this re-imagined season, I wanted to retain the community collaborations that have been a hallmark of our work as an orchestra,” he says.

Camille Claudel (l) at work in her studio

Fujiwara’s Claudel was originally a ballet celebrating the life and work of Camille Claudel, a pioneering woman sculptor of the early 20th century. Butterman identified three pieces from the larger ballet that he particularly liked, and asked the composer if she would arrange those movements for full string orchestra.

He also shared the music with Nancy Smith, artistic director of Frequent Flyers. She agreed to choreograph the suite, and decided to incorporate some elements of Claudel’s story. The three movements are titled “In the Woman’s Studio,” “Waltz” and “Age of Maturity”; the last two are taken from names of two of Claudel’s best-known works.

Butterman had hoped to record the entire piece together with the dancers, but that proved impractical under pandemic conditions. Instead, the Suite was recorded with the rest of the musical program at Mountain View Methodist Church, and several weeks later the dancers recorded their performance at the Dairy Center. Putting them together, along with the entire musical performance, is being engineered by Michael Quam of Quam Audio.

George Walker

Walker’s Lyric for Strings is one of the most performed string orchestra works of the 20th century. The first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize, Walker was also the father of former Boulder Phil Concertmaster Gregory Walker.

Also titled “Lament,” the Lyric for Strings was composed in 1946 and dedicated to the memory of the composer’s grandmother. “It is a deeply felt work,” Butterman says. 

“It’s a good connection with our current moment, elegiac but [with] a lot of consolation. There’s a lot of sorrow, but also hope and rays of optimism, so it seems like a piece that in addition to being beautiful to listen to, can say something to our current moment.”

For modern audiences, the most unusual piece on the program will be the sextet arrangement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. In Beethoven’s lifetime, arrangements of orchestral works for small ensembles were common. In a time when there were no recordings and orchestral concerts were infrequent, such arrangements were made and sold for home performances of music most people would otherwise not be able to hear.

The Sextet arrangement was made by M.G. Fischer, an organist and composer who was Beethoven’s contemporary. It was published in the composer’s lifetime by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, one of the most important European music publishers. That original edition has now been reprinted, for anyone who wants to try this at home. 

“A German orchestra shared this sextet version very early on in the pandemic,” Butterman explains. “Someone forwarded it to me and said, ‘Isn’t this great?’ And I thought it was.

“This captures quite well a work for full orchestra, but just with these six players. I wanted to have a masterwork or two on our season, and here’s a masterpiece of the full orchestral repertoire.”

Butterman says that the musicians enjoyed playing it, but found it challenging because they know it almost too well. “It’s kind of the same, but enough not that you really have to stay focused,” he says. “They’re busy all the time. They have to handle all of the things that they previously had to handle, but now they’re also given these other things to play, wind parts or whatever. It’s a tiring piece to play.”

Looking back over the past season, Butterman sees some good things that came out of the pandemic. “It’s been a year of experimentation and one that we’ve grown a lot in our understanding of how to share music with the public,” he says.

“There are some aspects that we’re going to take forward and continue to utilize in positive ways.”

# # # # #

Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

  • George Walker: Lyric for Strings
  • Korine Fujiwara: Suite from Claudel
    Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F Major, op. 68 (“Pastoral”), arr. M.G. Fischer

Stream available at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24
Pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m.

Tickets available here.

Note: Typos corrected 4/22/21.

Boulder Phil unveils new season, new motto, new logos

2019–20 season, labelled “Let’s play,” features pop elements throughout

By Peter Alexander April 7 at 3 p.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra—now officially aka “Boulder Phil”—unveiled their coming season, a new logo, and a new motto at an event for friends and supporters of orchestra Thursday evening, April 4.

B.Phil logoAcknowledging popular practice, the name “Boulder Phil” has been incorporated into the official logo. The logo itself is actually three related symbols, all of them playfully swirling swoops and curls. And in the same spirit, the new motto, for the orchestra and for the season, is “Let’s play.”

greenwood1800-1402682617

Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead

All of that reflects the 2019–20 season’s programming, which includes some familiar classical masterpieces and also elements popular in the culture at large and with Boulder audiences: Music by Jonny Greenwood of the alt-rock band Radiohead and by Jon Lord of Deep Purple; the return to the Boulder Phil of the piano duo Anderson & Roe, a Boulder audience favorite since their 2016 performance with the orchestra; a screening of the popular film Raiders of the Lost Ark with the John Williams score performed live onstage; and a concert of “The Music of Queen.”

The mixture of popular and classical ingredients is obvious from the very first concert, titled “Gritty/Pretty” (Oct. 12–13). Two of the works on the program are by Greenwood and Lord, two successful rock musicians who have turned to classical composition. Greenwood has written several orchestral scores for film, including the Academy Award-winning There will be Blood. The Phil will perform a suite from Greenwood’s score for the film, which suggested the “Gritty” part of the concert’s title.

Jon-Lord

Jon Lord

Lord, who was both a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and honorary Doctor of Music, was a composer of orchestral scores for more than 30 years, alongside his work with Deep Purple. Boulder Phil music director Michael Butterman says that he heard Lord’s To Notice Such Things, a six-movement suite for solo flute, piano and strings, while driving, and was so taken with the music that he stopped to find out what it was.

Not being up on rock performers, he admits that he thought “who?” when the piece was announced, but he went on to learn about Lord, and the piece, which was written in memory of one of Lord’s close friends. The Phil performance will feature the orchestra’s principal flutist, Elizabeth Sadilek-Labenski.

Also on the same program is Schubert’s Fifth Symphony which, along with Lord’s score, suggested the “Pretty” part of the title.

AndersonRoe+by+Ken+Schles

Anderson & Roe. Photo by Ken Schles.

Other nods to popular music in the program will be obvious: “Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert” (Oct. 27) and “The Music of Queen” (Feb. 15, 2020) from Windborne Music, the same organization that produced “The Music of David Bowie” for the current season (May 4). Not directly from the pop music canon, but certainly popular with Boulder audiences will be the return of the piano duo Anderson and Roe (Jan. 25), whose highly entertaining performance style captivated Boulder Phil audiences in 2016.

Two pieces on the program will be arrangements by Greg Anderson, half of the duo: Ragtime alla Turca, based on Mozart’s “Rondo all turca” for piano, and Danse macabre bacchanale, based on music by Saint-Saëns. The same program will see Butterman join Anderson and Roe for Mozart’s Concerto for Three pianos, and a performance of Mozart’s joyful “Haffner” Symphony.

Z.Bailey

Zuill Bailley

Other returning guest soloists during the season will be cellist Zuill Bailey, playing Michael Daugherty’s Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra (Feb. 22) and violinist Jennifer Koh, playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (April 25). The latter concert will feature two pieces with accompanying visuals. Circuits by Cindy McTee will have visuals by computer graphics artist Aleksi Moriarty; and Alan Hovhaness’ Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, will have visuals by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, whose compositions Gates of the Arctic and All the Songs that Nature Sings were premiered by the Boulder Phil in past seasons.

F.FLyers (2013)

Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance with the Boulder Phil (2013)

Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance will appear with the Boulder Phil for the first time since their joint performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 2017, providing aerial choreography for the Butterfly Lovers Concerto by Chinese composers He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. The violin solo will be played by the Phil’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee.

 

The concert—rather hopefully titled “Rebirth of Spring”—will be presented March 21 and 22. Other works on the program will be Resurrexit by Mason Bates, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird.

Lopez Gavilan

Aldo López Gavilan

“Latin Fire & Boléro,” the concert scheduled Nov. 3, will introduce a new soloist to Boulder audiences, Aldo López Gavilán. The Cuban-born composer/pianist will play his own Emporium, a concerto for piano and orchestra, on a program that also features two works by Argentinian composers: Astor Piazzolla’s Tangazo, and Alberto Ginastera’s virtuoso orchestral piece Variaciones concertantes, which assigns each of nine variations to a different solo instrument from the orchestra. Closing out the program will be Ravel’s Boléro.

Other events that will be part of the season will be the annual Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet, Nov. 29–Dec. 1; and a new Holiday concert, “Christmas with the Phil,” Dec. 21–23. The latter will feature the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah, and other seasonal music. Performances will be in more intimate venues than Macky Auditorium, including Boulder’s Mountain View United Methodist Church.

The full 2019–20 season of the Boulder Phil is listed below. Season tickets are currently on sale here.

# # # # #

Boulder Phil 2019–20 Season
All concerts at Macky Auditorium unless otherwise specified

B.Phil logo.3

“Gritty/Pretty”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Elizabeth Sadilek-Labenski, flute

Jonny Greenwood: Suite from There Will Be Blood
Jon Lord: To Notice Such Things
Schubert: Symphony No. 5

2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m. at Pinnacle PAC

51K8ouYrHeL._SY445_“Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert”
Film screening with live orchestral performance of John Williams’s score
Gary Lewis, conductor
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27

“Latin Fire & Boléro”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Aldo López Gavilán, piano

Astor Piazzolla: Tangazo
Aldo López Gavilán: Emporium
Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones concertantes
Ravel: Boléro

7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3

Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky
With Boulder Ballet
Gary Lewis, conductor

Photo-by-Eli-Akerstein

Boulder Ballet’s Nutcacker. Photo by Eli Akerstein

2 p.m. Friday, Nov.29
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30,
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1

“Christmas with the Phil”
Gary Lewis, conductor

Handel: Messiah (Part I: Christmas section) and other works

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek, Colo.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree, Colo.

“Anderson & Roe Return!”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, duo-pianists

Gabriel Fauré: Masques et Bergamasques
Mozart: Concerto for Three Pianos, K242
Mozart/Anderson: Ragtime alla Turca
Mozart: Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”)
Saint-Saëns/Anderson: Danse macabre bacchanale

Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m.

“The Music of Queen”
Brent Havens, conductor
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15

Daugherty-2

Michael Daugherty

“Hemingway Portraits & Sibelius”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Zuill Bailey, cello

Michael Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

Saturday, February 22, 7:30 p.m.

“Rebirth of Spring”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance and Charles Wetherbee, violin

bates-by-lydia-danmiller-3d0998aed443c4c236f4192ab8ecd0f0a1c27726-s800-c85

Mason Bates. Photo by Lydia Danmiller

Mason Bates: Resurrexit,
He Zhanhao and Chen Gang: Butterfly Lovers Concerto
Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21
2 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at Pinnacle PAC

“Beethoven & Beyond”
Michael Butterman, conductor, with Jennifer Koh, violin

B.Phil logo.2Cindy McTee: Circuits, with visuals by Aleksi Moriarty
Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, with visuals by Stephen Lias
Beethoven: Violin Concerto

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April

Tickets and more information: Five- and six-concert subscription packages are now available; click here or call 303-449-1343. Single tickets go on sale June 1, 2019.

 

The gold standard

Boulder Phil previews its Kennedy Center performance

By Peter Alexander

Creative programming, extensive community engagement and thoughtful collaborations have paid off for the Boulder Philharmonic.

AC-3-23-640x401

Boulder Phil with Frequent Flyers. Photo by Glenn Ross.

The big reward comes this week. Their next concert, Saturday, March 25, will be repeated Tuesday, March 28, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where they will be recognized as one of four orchestras, and the only regional orchestra, chosen for the inaugural Shift Festival of American Orchestras. 

The program for the two concerts reflects several of the Boulder Phil’s recent initiatives, particularly the theme of “Nature and Music” that has informed several recent seasons and the collaboration with other local arts organizations. The program opens with the premiere of a new work by Stephen Lias, All the Songs that Nature Sings, commissioned as part of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) “Imagine Your Parks” initiative and specifically celebrating Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other works on the program represent what Butterman calls “greatest hits of the last five years.” Jeff Midkin’s Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge” and Steve Heitzig’s Ghosts of the Grasslands were both introduced to Boulder audiences in the spring of 2014 and were highly successful with audiences. And the final work on the concert will reprise one of the orchestra’s most creative collaborations: their 2013 partnering with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance for Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

The combination of the Shift Festival and the “Imagine Your Parks” commission seemed tailor-made for the Boulder Phil. In fact, the Boulder Phil’s Executive Director Kevin Shuck says, “we had what in the words of the festival’s selection panel members was ‘the gold standard’ of what they were looking for.”

The festival will certainly put a national spotlight on the Boulder Phil, but the same activities that were the basis of the festival application have paid off locally as well. The programming of the past few years, community outreach, collaborations with Frequent Flyers and other arts groups, and educational programs have all helped build local audiences. Since 2009, overall ticket sales for the orchestra have risen 67 percent and subscription sales 44 percent. And Saturday’s concert is on track to be a sellout.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Nature & Music
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director

All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias (world premiere)
Mandolin Concert, From the Blue Ridge by Jeff Midkin
Jeff Midkin, mandolin
Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig
Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

2 p.m. Saturday, March 25
Free concert for community organizations

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Macky Auditorium
Tickets: 303-449-1343

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C.
Tickets: 202-467-4600