Pro Musica Colorado opens 2021–22 season

Both in-person and streaming options are available for the 2021-22 season

By Peter Alexander Oct. 6 at 12 noon

The Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra returns to the stage with “Rainbow Strings! A Concert of Hope,” Thursday, Oct. 7, in Longmont and Saturday, Oct. 9, in Boulder.

For their first in-person concert post-pandemic, music director Cynthia Katsarelis and the orchestra will be joined by violinist Harumi Rhodes for the Violin Concerto in G major of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges, the 18th-century mixed-race French-Caribbean violinist and fencing master sometimes referred to as “the Black Mozart.” Also on the program will be Dance Card by American composer Jennifer Higdon, and the much loved Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky.

Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Music Colorado Chamber Orchestra

Thursday’s performance will be at 7:15 p.m. in Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum, with tickets available from the museum. Saturday’s performance will be at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Boulder. Tickets for the concert are available through the Pro Musica Web page. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required for both in-person performances. Like other concerts in Boulder this fall, the program will be about an hour in length, with no intermission.

Digital access will also be available for anyone who prefers not to attend in person. Thursday’s performance in Stewart Auditorium will be recorded and streamed for digital access at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at the time of the Boulder performance. Access to digital streams of this and other Pro Musica concerts in the coming year is available here.

Like other conductors this fall, Katsarelis thought seriously about how she wanted to begin live performances after such a long layoff. One consideration is that she wanted music that connected to Pro Musica’s mission. “We really believe in celebrating great music, and bringing forth voices that deserve to be heard,” Katsarelis says. That specifically means lifting up composers and music from under-represented groups, she says, listing BIPOC (Saint Georges), women (Higdon), and members of the LGBTQ+ community (Higdon and Tchaikovsky) for this program.

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J.D. Scott

“Maybe you can’t hear [the color or sexual identity of the composer], but we can celebrate it,” she says. “I think that diversity, inclusion is about the tapestry of humanity. We want to experience all the parts of this tapestry and celebrate the difference, celebrate the identity, and celebrate the great music.”

Higdon’s Dance Card is particularly effective as a place to start because it is a fun and energetic piece. “It’s about the joy of being a string player,” Katsarelis says. “It has that rhythmic vitality that we associate with American music. Her music is very colorful in general, but her slow movements are impressionistic in an American way.

“It’s a fun piece to play. It’s a difficult piece, it’s a very tricky piece, but I think our players will sink their teeth deeply into it.”

Saint Georges is one of the most interesting composers of the 18th century. He was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, the child of a wealthy planter and a slave. He was educated in France, becoming both a virtuoso violinist and an accomplished swordsman. He played in and conducted an orchestra in Paris that commissioned and premiered the six “Paris” Symphonies of Joseph Haydn. After the revolution he fought for the French Republic as a colonel in the first all-Black regiment in Europe.

Chevalier de Saint Georges. Painting by Auguste Robineau.

Katsarelis and Rhodes had first planned to perform the concerto more than a year ago, but that performance was postponed due to COVID. “We didn’t want to cancel it, we really loved the piece,” Katsarelis says. “It’s got a lot of that style that you kind of expect around Mozart. It’s definitely that classical style, with a sort of French twist. And the virtuosity of string writing! I mean, it goes way up into the stratosphere. You can tell he was quite the virtuoso.

“When I hear his music, you can really see the Chevalier de Saint Georges with his sword. There’s a whole series of gestures that come with that. I can not hear that he’s black, but I believe that I can hear that he’s a champion fencer.”

The final work on the program was also chosen for this particular time, because it is a well loved and comforting piece for many listeners. The Serenade for strings is “a really heartfelt piece, one of Tchaikovsky’s favorites himself,” Katsarelis says. “He wrote it in the style of Mozart in terms of the form, but the emotional content is his. And the deeper I look into it [I find] how he goes from one place to another is not only genius and not only beautiful, but he’s found the way to be beautiful and at the same time his harmonies pull at the heart strings. 

“We call the concert ’Rainbow Strings,’ but it really could be ‘Heart Strings.’ The emotional content is really rich, deeply heartfelt, and I think very authentic. I thought it would be a great piece to hear, to experience, and for the players to play after the last year and a half of loss. 

“I think it’s going to be cathartic for us all.”

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“Rainbow Strings! A Concert of Hope”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra
Cynthia Katsarelis, Music Director and Conductor
Harumi Rhodes, violin 

  • Jennifer Higdon: Dance Card
  • Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges: Violin Concerto in G Major
    Harumi Rhodes, violin
  • Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings 

7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7
Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum
(Tickets available from the Longmont Museum)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9
First United Methodist Church, Boulder
In person and digital access tickets

FACULTY TUESDAYS CONTINUE FROM AN EMPTY GRUSIN HALL

Next Tuesday’s program offers works by Karol Szymanowski, György Kurtág and Fauré.

By Izzy Fincher Oct. 22 at 5:20 p.m.

CU-Boulder’s Grusin Hall is usually packed on Tuesday nights. Clusters of people gather, chatting and laughing, filling the hall with a pre-concert energy. 

They are here for Faculty Tuesdays, a free concert series featuring CU faculty, which runs from September to March.

Grusin Hall, empty as it now is on Tuesdays

Now on Tuesday nights, Grusin Hall sits mostly empty. But the Faculty Tuesdays series continues through livestreaming. Without an in-person audience, only the performers, a stagehand and the crew of audio technicians remain.

“At CU, we have this wonderful community of people who come to Faculty Tuesdays,” Alejandro Cremaschi, professor of piano pedagogy, says. “I hope that they feel like we are back together after not having live performances for a while. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than not having anything.”

Alejandro Cremaschi (Photo/Larry Harwood)

Cremaschi performed for the first Faculty Tuesdays concert on Sept. 1 with pianist Jéssica Pacheco. Their program featured female composers from the Americas.

Performing safely under social distancing protocols required flexibility. Pacheco and Cremaschi had to play four-hand works on two separate pianos, a challenging experience with fewer visual cues. For the livestream, with up-close cameras and mics rather than a distant live audience, Cremaschi had to tone down his loud announcement voice.

“I am used to speaking from the stage with a voice that projects,” Cremaschi says. “With the microphone, I was yelling so loud that the recording technicians changed the microphone to something that was less live.”

Yet, for Cremaschi, who hadn’t performed live since March at the time, his Faculty Tuesdays livestream was exciting.

“Even though we didn’t have an audience, we play differently when we are doing it for real,” Cremaschi says. “Jéssica loves being on stage, and I love that too. We sound better when we are playing for real. It was nice to have that feeling and energy coming from her. If I had been playing by myself, that would have been really hard.”

David Korevaar (Photo by Matthew Dine)

Pianist David Korevaar is also excited for his upcoming Faculty Tuesdays livestream. He will perform on the Oct. 27 concert, “Signs, Games + Messages,” which will feature works by Karol Szymanowski, György Kurtág and Fauré.

The performance of “Signs, Games + Messages” has been postponed for years. In 2016, Korevaar, David Requiro, Harumi Rhodes and Geraldine Walther, former violist of the Takács Quartet, planned to play this program for Faculty Tuesdays, but that concert fell through. 

Violist Richard O’Neill

Now in 2020, the concert will finally happen with three original collaborators, Korevaar, Requiro and Rhodes, plus Richard O’Neill, the Takács Quartet’s new violist in place of Walther. Korevaar calls it “long postponed, joyful music-making.” 

Korevaar will play on two of the three pieces: Szymanowski’s Mythes, op. 30, and Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, op. 45. Mythes is a virtuosic duet for violin and piano, filled with symbolism, extended tonalities and rich harmonies.

While isolated in Poland during World War I, Szymanowski turned to ancient Greek culture and drama for inspiration. Composed in 1915, Mythes shows this influence in the three movements: “I. La Fontaine d’Aréthuse,” “II. Narcisse” and “III. Dryades et Pan.”

Violinist Harumi Rhodes

“It’s an extraordinarily beautiful piece that isn’t done a lot in public because it is also extraordinarily difficult,” Korevaar says. “It’s a scary score to read, but it’s fun to play with a great musician. I am having a wonderful time.”

Korevaar also looks forward to Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2. The quartet, premiered in 1887, is a somber, complex work, marking a departure from Fauré’s First Piano Quartet, which was pleasantly simple and conventional. Cyclical themes, filled with rhythmic and melodic development, build and return throughout the later work. Aaron Copland described it as “mature work [that] shows the composer less carefree, less happy, more serious, more profound.”

For Korevaar, the rehearsal process has been largely the same as pre-COVID-19, though with increased distance between players. Masks are a bit more of a challenge—without facial expression cues, the musicians must rely on each other’s movements and gestures.

“(In chamber music,) we do a lot with eyes, with body motions, with the sense of breathing, which doesn’t mean we have to see the breathing apparatus,” Korevaar says. “It’s a whole-body thing.”

This will be Korevaar’s third livestream this fall, after a solo livestream and a duo livestream with violinist Charles Wetherbee in mid-October. He is still getting used to the experience. He says he feels more self-critical in front of cameras and misses the live audience’s energy. However, he finds the energy from other musicians makes the livestream more comfortable, and he looks forward to next Tuesday’s performance.

“It’s a new adventure,” Korevaar says. “In a livestream, you don’t have the opportunity to fix stuff, but you get the same self-consciousness about the bloopers. With chamber music, it’s easier because there is mutual energy, and everybody is working together.”

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Signs, Games + Messages
Harumi Rhodes, violin, Richard O’Neill, viola, David Requiro, cello, and David Korevaar, piano
Streamed from CU-Boulder’s Grusin Hall

Karol Szymanowski: Mythes, Op. 30
György Kurtág: Signs, Games and Messages
Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45

7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, on CU Presents 

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See all remaining Faculty Tuesday performances here.

PRO MUSICA COLORADO’S 2020-2021 SEASON FOCUSES ON HEALING, DIVERSITY

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.”

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with conductor Cynthia Katasarelis

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.”

Cynthia Katsarelis. Photo by Glenn Ross

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 Rhodes. Photo by
Michael Barnes

“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

*7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14,Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder

Springtime
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Nicolò Spera, classical guitar

Carter Pann: Three Secrets in Maine
Concerto TBA
Copland: Appalachian Spring (chamber version)

*7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 1, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield
2 p.m. Sunday, May 2, Mountain View United Methodist Church, Boulder.

*Livestreamed concerts

Purchase individual in-person or livestream tickets or 2020-21 season subscriptions for Pro Musica Colorado here.

Takacs Quartet presents campus series with new second violinist Harumi Rhodes

Programs from the heart of the chamber music repertoire

By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

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Takacs Quartet: Edward Dusinberre, Geraldine Walther, Harumi Rhodes, and András Fejér (L-R). Photo by Amanda Tipton

The Takacs Quartet launches their 2018–19 CU campus concert series, the first with new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, Sunday and Monday (Sept. 23–24).

Rhodes joined the quartet last spring, following the retirement of founding second violinist Károly Schranz. She has made one recording and toured with the quartet over the summer, but this will be her first year-long series as a member.

The program for the fall’s opening concerts features works by three great composers of chamber music for strings: Joseph Haydn, Schubert and Shostakovich. Two of the pieces are not well known, as they are not performed often—Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4, and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 4. In contrast, the third work on the program, Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, is one of the greatest and most beloved chamber works of the 19th century.

Cellist David Requiro, a member of the College of Music faculty, will join the members of Takacs for the Schubert’s Quintet.

The second concert of the fall semester is scheduled for Oct. 28 and 29. It will feature another piece by Haydn—the Quartet in D minor, op. 76—alongside works by Bartók and Brahms. Notably, both concerts feature composers considered to be the heart of the Classic-Romantic chamber music repertoire.

Takacs.Dusinberre.CUphoto-X2

Edward Dusinberre

You might think that changing members in a well tuned ensemble such as the Takacs Quartet would require difficult adjustments, but Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, says that has not been the case. “We feel very comfortable with her,” he says of Rhodes. “We’re having a great time. She’s got chamber music and string quartets in her blood.”

He also points out that playing in a string quartet is always a process of negotiation among the ensemble members, and Rhodes fits into the environment very well. “When you’re playing chamber music, every phrase is an adjustment,” he says. “She’s got a very strong artistic voice, and that’s one of the reasons we chose her.

“Within the group there are always three or four different opinions, so that doesn’t change. It’s not like she’s coming into a situation where three of us have a standardized view of how things should be played. It’s totally not like that, so (adding Rhodes) feels like continuing the good work.”

Rhodes1

Harumi Rhodes

The transition has been very positive for Rhodes, too. She was a unable to speak to me, but sent some written observations: “Everything about joining the Takacs has changed my life for the better,” she wrote. “As soon as I joined the Takacs, I assumed a new identity. Filling this role with pride and joy is what every bone in my body was made to do.”

She has played chamber music for many years, but she has found new pleasures in the Takacs. “The biggest surprise has been the luxury of performing the same piece many times. I’ve always enjoyed the process of rehearsing and performing. But the trajectory is completely different when you have a life-long relationship with this music in this way, a relationship that spans many concerts in one season. This is new to me.”

Her email to me concluded with great enthusiasm: “I look at the season ahead and can’t wait to dive in.”

Dusinberre says that whether the pieces are familiar or not, everything on the Sept. 23–24 concerts is music the quartet enjoys. “Haydn’s Op. 20 No. 4 is one of our favorite pieces,” he says. “It’s got a slow movement where the solos are very well distributed between the parts. The minuet is tremendously fun, sort of off-kilter—Haydn tricking his audience, tricking us sometimes!”

According to Dusinberre, the first movement is one of the places where quartet playing does require negotiation among the members. “It’s got a rather simple opening theme that comes back many times, in different ways. There’s different ways of bowing it, and it’s like opening a can of worms to find out what bowing we’re going to do. We’ve already had some entertaining rehearsals on that.”

David Requiro

Cellist David Requiro

The Shostakovich Fourth Quartet is actually one that the Takacs has not played before. “It’s quite fun because it’s new for all of us, and not just Harumi, and I think that’s quite nice, because it sort of levels the playing field,” he says. “It’s a wonderful piece (that has) a strong sense of folk melodies early in the piece, and then it turns into something a bit darker and more dramatic and more exciting.”

The Schubert Quintet in C major is part of larger plans by the quartet. “We’re playing (the quintet) on the road with David (Requiro), at the White Lights Festival at Lincoln Center in October,” Dusinberre says.

“He’s a wonderful player. We’re very excited to explore this piece with him.”

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Takacs Quartet
CU Fall Concerts

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Takacs Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24
Grusin Music Hall

Haydn: String Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4 in D Major, op. 83
Schubert: String Quintet in C Major, D956
With David Requiro, cello

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29
Grusin Music Hall

Haydn: String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, op. 76
Bartók: String Quartet No. 1
Brahms: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, op. 51

Tickets