Performances will be on the Takács Quartet concert series, Sunday and Monday
By Peter Alexander Nov. 2 at 4:46valas p.m.
The Ivalas Quartet spent the years 2019-22 in residence at CU-Boulder, under the mentorship of the Takács Quartet. Now serving as the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School in New York, they have returned to the CU campus to perform as guests on the Takács’s concert series.
Their program, featuring the music of Beethoven, Eleanor Alberga and Osvaldo Golijov, will be performed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, in Grusin Music Hall of the Imig Music Building. Tickets to both live performances, and to a live stream that will be available from 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, though 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, are available from CU Presents.
The Ivalas Quartet has always been creative in the their programming. The group has stated a goal to “disrupt the classical music world by . . . spotlighting BIPOC composers.” Among the composers whose works they have presented is Eleanor Alberga, a Jamaican composer who currently lives and works in the United Kingdom.
Although not well known in the U.S, Alberga’s music has been performed throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Australia, China, South American and Canada. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2021. She has said that her First String Quartet was inspired by a lecture on physics, particularly the notion that our bodies are made of stardust.
Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov draw on both his Jewish heritage and his Latin American roots in works such as The Dream and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for klezmer clarinet and string quartet, and his opera Ainadamar. Golijov described Tenebrae as “the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript” that offers “a ‘beautiful’ surface” but with pain beneath that surface.
Compared to works by Alberga and Golijov, Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 130, is familiar to most classical music audiences. One of the composer’s late quartets, it was completed in 1826. The slow movement, titled “cavatina,” is considered the high point of the score and was included on the “Golden Record” sent on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.
# # # #
Eleanor Alberga: String Quartet No. 1
Osvaldo Golijov: Tenebrae
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op.130
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building
Tickets to both live performances and a live stream of the concert are available HERE.
CU Quartet in residence will play Grusin Hall Sept. 18–19 and October 30–31
By Peter Alexander Sept. 14 at 11:18 p.m.
It’s hard to keep up with the Takács Quartet.
The CU quartet-in-residence is celebrated worldwide, giving them access to the top classical festivals. Over the past summer, they played the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, the Tanglewood Festival in Lennox, Mass., the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh, England—a venue made prominent by composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears—and the Luberon Festival in France.
But now they are back in Boulder, and their local fans can look forward to their annual series of campus concerts, starting this weekend with an all-Beethoven program (4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 in Grusin Concert Hall). Other events during the fall semester will be concerts Oct. 30 and 31, featuring music by Britten, Bartók and Mozart; and concerts Nov. 6 and 7 by the Ivalas Quartet, who concluded a two-year residency with the Takács in May (program tba; other details and ticket information below).
Between the September and October concerts, the Takács will be touring in Japan and Korea. “We’re looking forward to that,” Takács cellist András Fejér says. “They always bring a special joy because they regard culture and classical music very highly, and they are treating us as such wonderful friends.”
Just this month the quartet released its latest recording, featuring works of Joseph Haydn. The CD, of quartets opp. 42, 77 nos. 1 and 2, and 103, was recorded in the Lone Tree, (Colo.) Arts Center. “We had probably the top American producer, Judy Sherman, and a wonderful, wonderful sound engineer, Mike Quam, whom we got to know at the Colorado Music Festival,” Fejér says.
In addition to working for the Colorado Music Festival, Quam lives and has a recording studio in Boulder. “He’s the most wonderful all-around sound man anywhere,” Fejér says. “We never met anyone like him, so we were very happy.”
In case you are wondering, in addition to the touring and recording and campus concerts, Fejér says “we always make time for (our students)! We have a wonderful new ensemble-in-residence and they are eager and hungry. That’s always a great encouragement for us, because teaching is wonderful!”
The Takács has of course played all of the Beethoven quartets, many times. In the case of the upcoming concert, the choice of an all-Beethoven program is partly from the exploration of familiar repertoire with the ensemble’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. “We need to re-learn the Beethoven with our new member,” Fejér says.
“He’s full of great ideas and he’s got an encyclopedic memory. He’s a great, great all-around artist, so we are very happy to be listening to new ideas, new solutions. It’s all a new dynamic, which I am enjoying tremendously.”
The three quartets chosen for the September concerts span the major periods of Beethoven’s life: Op. 18 no. 5 from Beethoven’s very first set of six quartets published in 1801, in the sparkling key of A major; Op. 95 in the gloomier key of F minor, known as the “Serioso” Quartet, from 1810; and Op. 127 in E-flat major, from 1825.
“We love these pieces,” Fejér says. “They are wonderful pieces. Maybe the audience is not jumping on its feet because of the final effect, but it doesn’t take away from the overall greatness.”
The Quartet op. 127 provides unique challenges, Fejér explains. “Some ensembles might not program it because it’s not so spectacular. It’s so deep, and herein lies the difficulty. Its first and last movement are extremely soft, piano, pianissimo, very ethereal, up in the clouds. It takes work and rehearsing and it’s not easy to make it flow and make it light, ethereal and transparent.”
Fejér explains that the Takács usually has three main areas of work when they rehearse. First is “what we play on tour, which might be pieces we already played many times. And then there’s practicing and getting familiar with new or newish pieces, (and finally) the ones we are planning to record.”
What that means is that rehearsing the program for the October concert will mostly come a little later. About that program—Britten’s String Quartet No. 1, Bartók’s String Quartet No. 6 and Mozart’s String Quartet in D major, K499—Fejér declines to comment right now.
“I might refrain trying to be smart about Britten at this point,” he says. “We recorded (his quartets) eight or nine years ago, but we haven’t played them again. So basically now we’re relearning and discussing what’s new and what’s changed, and what we wish to be changed.
“What matters is how we feel about it today or the next week, so we can be even more convincing and find even more joy in bringing it together.”
# # # # #
Beethoven: String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 no. 5 —String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 —String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127
4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No.1
Bartók: String Quartet No. 6
Mozart: String Quartet in D major, K499
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building In person and live-stream tickets HERE
NOTE: Due to spell checker error “encyclopedic” first appeared as “encyclopedia.” Corrected on 9/15.
Programs include Haydn, Shostakovich, Dvořák, Schumann, Mendelssohn
By Peter Alexander March 4 at 1:25 p.m.
COVID-19 is, momentarily, receding, and the Takács Quartet is back to a full performing schedule.
They had to cancel several concert tours over the past two years, but not in 2022. “We just came home from Princeton, Berkeley and Los Angeles,” the group’s cellist, András Fejér, explains. “And now we will go to New York, Sarasota, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
Around and between those trips, they have their usual concerts on the CU campus: music by Haydn, Shostakovich and Dvořák March 6 and 7; and music by Schumann performed with pianist David Korevaar, and Mendelssohn with the CU graduate quartet in residence, the Ivalas Quartet, April 10 and 11 (see performance details below).
Except for the interruption caused by the pandemic, touring is a normal part of life for the Takács Quartet. “It’s a nice chugging-along routine,” Fejér says. “We just say we would love to tour, say, 10 days each month in the States, and that gives us enough time to rehearse and teach and rest a little.” They also make longer tours every year to Europe and Asia, all arranged through their agents.
Like the Takács now, Haydn had just returned from touring in 1796, in his case home to Vienna from two trips to London. Upon his return, an aristocratic patron commissioned a set of six quartets, published a few years later as Op. 76. These works are considered the pinnacle of Haydn’s quartet composition.
The Fourth Quartet of the set, known as the “Sunrise Quartet,” opens the Takacs’s March concerts—but Fejér wants you to know that Haydn is not “just a warmup piece” for the rest of the program. “I mean, the guy invented the (string quartet)!” he says. “We are just in awe—(playing his music) is a constant wonderment. Even familiar pieces, we try to dig deeper. We always try to give his music justice.”
Likewise, Dvořák wrote his G major String Quartet, the final piece on the program, soon after returning home from his years in America. It is considered one of the composer’s most profoundly expressive quartets, particularly the meditative slow movement.
The quartet has enjoyed exploring Dvořák ‘s score. “It’s fascinating for us,” Fejér says. “Its scope is unprecedented, in length and orchestration. Most of the time it sounds totally symphonic. He goes left and right and returns—just totally unpredictable and delightful. We love it.”
Between Haydn and Dvořák, the Takács will play Shostakovich’s Eleventh Quartet. Written in memory of a violinist with the Beethoven Quartet, which was long associated with Shostakovich’s music, the Eleventh Quartet is an austere work that uses the instruments sparingly. It’s seven movements are anything but cheerful, but as Fejér says, with Shostakovich “cheerful is not the first description which would come to mind.
“I’m always amazed about the simplicity of his motifs. How such simple notes can work in mysterious ways on the audience is unbelievable. You cannot put together a more simple music and somehow the effect on audiences is mesmerizing. I notice it every time.”
For the April concerts the quartet has programmed two pieces, each of which includes invited guests. First they will be joined by pianist David Korevaar to perform Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet. Written in 1842 and dedicated by the composer to his wife, Clara, it is the first major quintet written for piano and string quartet.
Schumann alternates between intimate passages that feature conversational exchanges among the five instruments, and nearly symphonic passages that feature the four strings together against the piano. At a time when chamber performances were first moving into the concert hall, Schumann helped create the model for the quintets that followed by Brahms, Dvořák and Franck, all destined for the concert hall.
The April program concludes with another piece that had no precedent, the Octet for Strings, which the Takács will play with the members of the Ivalas Quartet. Like the Schumann Quintet, the combination of instruments was unprecedented when Mendelssohn wrote the Octet at the age of 17, and it’s one of the most magical pieces to come out of the Romantic era. “It’s such an adrenalin rush (to play it),” Fejér says.
“It’s wonderful and makes you humble all over again. Comparing what most of us had been doing at 17, it’s even more impressive.”
Fejér gives two reasons that he is looking forward to playing the Octet. First, he says, “we love playing with additional people because the function of our individual instruments is different from a string quartet. I’m not playing as much bass line as I usually do, (and) I enjoy the different role very much.”
The second reason is the opportunity to share the stage with the their students in the Ivalas Quartet. “It is their final month in April at CU of their three years, and we loved working with them,” Fejér says.
“We look forward very much to have fun with capital letters with this Mendelssohn Octet!”
# # # # #
Haydn: String Quartet in B-flat Major. op.76 no. 4 (“Sunrise”)
Shostakovich: String Quartet Nr.11, op.122
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 13 in G-major, op.106
4 p.m. Sunday, March 6 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 7 Grusin Music Hall
Program features works by Haydn, Bartók and Carlos Simon
By Peter Alexander Nov. 19 at 10:45 a.m.
The Ivalas Quartet, the graduate quartet-in-residence at the CU College of Music, will be featured in a performance at the Museum of Boulder at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.
The performance will take place in one of the museum’s galleries. Chairs will be set up in the gallery for the audience, with a capacity of around 40 listeners. Tickets are available from Eventbrite and include admission to the museum. Masks are required for anyone ages two and up.
Formed at the University of Michigan in 2016, the Ivalas Quartet came to CU in the fall of 2019 to study with the members of the Takács Quartet. Since their initial performances on campus they have changed their second violinist, but the quartet remains dedicated to the ideal of inclusion, in both repertoire and membership.
That ideal is central to the quartet’s identity as stated on their Web page: “The Ivalas Quartet was formed after a conversation about a feeling of absence we share—how we rarely saw our faces and cultures in classical music. As members of Black and Latinx communities, we saw a lack of representation, of celebration, and of classical music-making from our own communities and to our own communities.”
Their repertoire often includes works by underrepresented BIPOC composers alongside works from the standard classical canon. They have worked actively to advance their goals, working with El Sistema Colorado and presenting educational programming through Sphinx—a social justice organization that stresses the power of diversity in the arts—engaging with schools with Black and Latinx students in Detroit.
Sunday’s concert is characteristic of Ivala’s programming, featuring Haydn’s last String Quartet, op. 77 no. 2; the Third String Quartet of Bartók; and Warmth of Other Suns by African-American composer Carlos Simon. Commissioned by the Sphinx Organization, Warmth of Other Suns was inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s book of the same title that chronicled the “Great Migration” of African Americans out of the South in the years 1916–70.
A native of Atlanta, Ga., Simon is composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and recently received the Sphinx Organization’s Medal of Excellence. He has received commissions from major performing groups including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Washington National Opera and the American Composers Orchestra, among many others.
The performance will be hosted by the Altius Collective, a project founded by former members of the Altius Quartet, a prior graduate quartet-in-residence at the CU College of Music. It is one of a planned ongoing series of chamber music concerts, both at the Museum of Boulder and in other communities in the region.
# # # # #
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet op. 77 no. 2 in F major
Carlos Simon: Warmth of Other Suns
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 3
6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21 Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center
Performance with Ivalas Quartet will be available online to prior Takács subscribers
By Peter Alexander Oct. 2 at 3:20 p.m.
The Takács Quartet will be entering familiar territory Sunday (Oct. 4) when they step onstage in Grusin Music Hall for one of their campus concerts.
But there won’t be an audience in the hall. The concert, and one scheduled for Nov. 1, will be streamed live for prior Takács season ticket holders. The concert will feature the Takács Quartet playing alone; the Ivalas Quartet, the current graduate quartet-in-residence at CU, playing alone; and the Takács and Ivalas players joining together as a string octet.
This will be only the Takács’s second campus concert since Richard O’Neill joined the quartet as violist, replacing the retired Geraldine Walther.
The program opens with the Takács playing Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a piece they have not played before. The Ivalas Quartet will play several short numbers: Strum by Jessie Montgomery; An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon; and two movements from Daniel Bernard Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks.” Concluding the program will be a string octet arrangement of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No.9.
The most notable feature of the program is the ethnic and racial diversity of the composers: African-English—Coleridge-Taylor; African-American—Montgomery and Simon; Haitian-American—Roumain; and Spanish-Brazilian— Villa-Lobos.
In this regard, the program also reflects the diversity of the Ivalas Quartet. One violinist is of mixed Danish/German and Ethiopian heritage and grew up in Des Moines, Iowa; the other violinist has American and French-Caribbean/African ancestors and grew up in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma; the cellist is Venezuelan; and the violist is from Southern California but has an Argentinian mother.
Members of the Takács Quartet are busy working to pull the program together, but first violinist Ed Dusinberre shared his thoughts by email. “This has been a time of reflection for us,” he wrote. “Over the summer we’ve been exploring works such as Coleridge Taylor’s extraordinary Fantasiestücke that to our shame we didn’t know previously.
“We always like to showcase our graduate quartet in different ways throughout their residency here. We can’t wait to play the Villa Lobos together and to hear Ivalas perform a variety of wonderful works that they feel passionately about.”
Not widely known today, Coleridge-Taylor was prominent in English musical life early in the last century. Known in the U.S. as “The African Mahler,” he had several successful tours of the U.S. before he died at 37.
In his program notes, Simon wrote that A Cry from the Grave, written in 2015, “is an artistic reflection dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.”
Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5 is dedicated to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus set off the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1956. Roumain, whose Haitian parents lived through the Civil Right movement in the U.S, wrote that he created the quartet “as a musical portrait of Rosa Parks’ struggle, survival and legacy. The music is a direct reflection of a dignified resistance.”
The Bachianas brasileiras are a series of nine suites by Villa-Lobos written for varying performance media. Each work aims to join Baroque compositional techniques to Brazilian musical material. Most of then are not well known in this country, although No. 5, for soprano and eight cellos, has achieved widespread popularity with classical audiences. The ninth of the series was originally written for chorus and string orchestra, and will be performed in an arrangement for string octet.
Performing into an empty hall might seem discomfiting, but Dusinberre says it is not that difficult for the players. “Of course it is an adjustment but compared with the challenges most people face during the pandemic, we feel very fortunate to have projects to work on at all,” he wrote. “We have become experienced at recording CDs over the years and to creating performance energy without a present audience.
“We hope our audience are staying safe. We are extremely grateful to CU Presents in being both sensible and innovative to find means by which we can still communicate with our loyal audience here.”
# # # # #
Takacs and Ivalas string quartets Full program
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5 I. Prelude II. Serenade III. Humoresque IV. Minuet V. Dance
Jessie Montgomery: Strum Carlos Simon: An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave Daniel Bernard Roumain: String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks” I. “I made up my mind not to move.” II. Klap Ur Handz
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileiras No.9, W449, arranged for string octet I. Preludio, Vagaroso e Mistico II. Fuga (Pouco apressando)
Takács Quartet and Ivalas Quartet
The shared Takács/Ivalas concert will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, and will remain available through 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. A second all-Mendelssohn program by the Takács alone will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, and will be available through 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9. These performance will be available online only to prior Takács subscribers. A decision is pending on Takács Quartet performance arrangements for the spring. ——————— NOTE: Subhead changed 10/3 to include Ivalas Quartet.
Compilation orchestra performances and composers from marginalized communities
By Peter Alexander June 19 at 2 p.m.
The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) announced a series of six virtual, online concerts, featuring the Takács Quartet and other guest artists, members of the CMF orchestra, and music director Peter Oundjian.
The performances will be presented free of charge, on demand through the CMF Website. The performances will be made available at 7:30 p.m. on six consecutive Thursday evenings, June 25 through July 30. Each performance will be available for some time after the time they are first posted.
A letter from CMF music director Peter Oundjian places the virtual festival in the current times, and particularly issues of racial justice in the United States. “It is no secret to any of us that the story of this country is riddled with the murder and mistreatment of non-white races,” Oundjian writes. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this festival an instrumental platform for musicians who come from marginalized communities.
“This summer’s festival will include only a fraction of what our programming will look like next summer, and the summers that follow. We will be featuring the music of a number of composers, both living and deceased, who come from different marginalized communities all across the country and the world.
“This is just the beginning.”
For the abbreviated 2020 virtual festival, the inclusion of minority and marginalized musicians includes works by, among others, Florence Price, Agustin Barrios Mangoré, Keith Jarrett, Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery and George Walker. The festival will conclude with performances by the current quartet-in-residence at CU Boulder, the Ivalas Quartet, a multi-cultural group with members from Hispanic and Black communities.
The six performances and their full programs will be:
June 25: Festival Orchestra and the Takács Quartet, featuring the debut of the quartet’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. The program will feature a previous Festival Orchestra performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide; and the Takács Quartet on the Chautauqua stage playing Schobert’s Quartettsatz and movements from Florence Price’s String Quartet No. 2; Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op. 59 no. 3.
July 2: A celebration of women in music. Guitarist Sharon Isbin will play works by Enrique Granados, Antonio Lauro, Leo Brouwer, Nanomi Shemer and Agustin Barrios Mangoré. Percussionist Jisu Jung will play works by Howard Stevens and Keith Jarrett. Framing their performances, CMF musicians will play virtual compilation performances of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and two marches by John Philip Sousa.
July 9: Violinist Augustin Hadelich will join Oundjian in his home to perform music by J.S. Bach, Eugène Ysaÿe and Francisco Tarrega.
July 16: Pianist Jan Lisiecki will perform cadenzas from the Beethoven piano concertos nos. 1 through 4, and join Oundjian in a discussion of those pieces.
July 23: Brooklyn Rider string quartet will share a performance from their “Healing Modes” repertoire, which features works by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank and Kinan Azmeh. The program will open with a virtual compilation of Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5, performed by members of the CMF Orchestra brass section.
July 30: CU’s Ivalas Quartet will perform movements from quartets by Joseph Haydn and Jessie Montgomery, and the piano duo of twin sisters Michelle and Christina Naughton will perform music by Ravel, Debussy, George Walker, Rachmaninoff, and Conlon Nancarrow. CMF orchestra members will open the program with Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, and close the virtual festival with the second and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
Except for the Overture from Candide, all the performances by CMF orchestra musicians will be virtual compilation performances, assembled from separate videos submitted by the players. These individual video will be compiled by the festival’s recording and sound engineer Michael Quam and CMF staff.
Other performances will be recorded in advance for broadcast at the stated program times.
You may register for the virtual festival performances here.
New CU Graduate Quartet in Residence will play free concert
By Peter Alexander Nov. 7 at 11:40 a.m.
The Ivalas Quartet only recently arrived in Colorado, but if you follow classical music you will be hearing about them soon.
Ivalas Quartet: L-R Anita Dumar, Reuben Kebede, Pedro Sanchéz, Aimée McAnulty, rehearsing at the CU College of Music. Photo by Peter Alexander.
That’s because they are the new graduate string quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado College of Music, studying with the Takács Quartet. And they are very good — but don’t take my word for it. They will play their first full concert program in Boulder at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church. The performance is free and open to the public.
Their program fits the standard format for student recitals — or, for that matter, most professional string quartet concerts: A classical period quartet (in this case, Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2); a 19th century quartet (Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2, the “Second Razumovksy” Quartet); and one work that is more recent or less known (the First String Quartet by 20th century American composer George Walker).