Longmont Symphony announces 2022–23 season

Season includes Beethoven cycle, Handel’s Messiah, world premieres

By Peter Alexander June 8 at 1:54 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony recently announced their 2022–23 season of concerts. The season features six mainstage concerts, three chamber orchestra concerts, and a Messiah singalong during the Holiday season (Dec. 18; see full season listings below).

The Beethoven symphony cycle will continue with Symphony No. 8 (Oct. 22 and 23), and other familiar orchestral repertoire will be represented by works of Dvořák and Sibelius. There will also be works by less familiar composers, including two world premieres, adding up to a season with intriguing discoveries to be made on most programs.

Composer John Heineken

The first of the two world premieres is Symphony for the Great Return by American composer John Hennecken on the opening night of the new season, Oct. 8. With it on the same program are Dvořák’s familiar Cello Concerto, played by Naumburg Competition winner Clancy Newman, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and George Walker’s elegiac Lyric for Strings.

The next installment of the LSO’s Beethoven cycle will feature the Eighth Symphony, possibly the least familiar of the canonical nine symphonies (Oct. 22 and 23 in Stewart Auditorium). Sharing the same chamber orchestral program is a symphony by Anton Reicha, a contemporary and friend of Beethoven. An adventurous and experimental composer for his times, Reicha is little known today, but his work serves to fill in the context in which Beethoven worked.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

The major work on the November mainstage concert (Nov. 19) will be Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, a cheerful and upbeat piece that was written shortly before the composer’s 1892–93 visit to the United States. It will be preceded by three works that reflect the native American experience: Overture to the choral-orchestral Song of Hiawatha by the black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; American composer Michael Daugherty’s Trail of Tears for flute, strings and harp, inspired by the forced removal of Cherokees from their homeland; and Chokfi’ (Rabbit) for strings and percussion by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, a composer who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Flute soloist for Trail of Tears will be Brice Smith.

The LSO will celebrate the Holidays with a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 17), followed by an audience-participation truncated Messiah “singalong.”

Silvestre Revueltas

The new year begins with a family concert (“Painting the Orchestra,” Jan. 21, 2023), followed by an all-Sibelius program (Feb. 18, 2023). Sibelius is generally under-represented in orchestra repertoire now, so it’s good to have a complete concert of his music, even if the program sticks to his more familiar works—Finlandia, the Violin Concerto with soloist Judith Ingolfsson, and the Symphony No. 2 in D major.

March 18 and 19 will see the second concert of the “Made in America” series, opening with Alcancías (Penny banks) for chamber orchestra by the 20th-century Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. Jason Shafer, principal clarinet with the Colorado Symphony and a previous soloist with the LSO, returns to play Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. Completing the program are Gershwin’s Lullaby and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, written for piano as a tribute to the Baroque composer François Couperin and later transcribed for orchestra.

Tyler Harrison

The season’s second world premiere will be the Symphony No. 3 by pianist/composer and CU, Boulder, alumnus Tyler Harrison. It will be paired with Tchaikovsky’s brooding Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” in a program titled “Darkness and Light” (April 15).

The 2022–23 concert season wraps up May 6 with a lighter program, “LSO Goes to the Movies,” featuring music by John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer. Subscriptions are available through the LSO Web page. Tickets to individual concerts will go on sale Friday, July 29.

# # # # #

2022–23 Concert Season
Longmont Symphony Orhestra

Longmont Symphony and conductor Elliot Moore

“The Great Return”
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Clancy Newman, cello

  • Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
  • George Walker: Lyric For Strings
  • John Hennecken: Symphony for the Great Return (World premiere)
  • Dvořák: Cello Concerto

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
Vance brand Civic Auditorium

Beethoven Symphony Cycle
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Anton Reicha: Symphony in G
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

“Made in America,” Part 1
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Brice Smith, flute

  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Overture to Song of Hiawatha
  • Michael Daugherty: Trail of Tears
  • Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate: Chokfi’
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 in G major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Candlelight Concert
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Handel: Messiah

4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17
Westview Presbyterian Church

Messiah Singalong
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Handel: Messiah (selections)

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
Westview Presbyterian Church

”Painting the Orchestra!” Family Concert
Elliot Moore, conductor
Program includes:

  • Prokofiev: March from The Love for Three Oranges
  • John Williams: Nimbus 2000
  • Prokofiev: Cinderella Ballet Suite (selections)

4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“Sibelius: A Portrait”
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Judith Ingolfsson, violin

  • Sibelius: Finlandia
  • —Violin Concerto
  • —Symphony No. 2 in D major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“Made in America,” Part 2
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Jason Shafer, clarinet

  • Silvestre Revueltas: Alcancías
  • Copland: Clarinet Concerto
  • Gershwin: Lullaby
  • Ravel: L’Tombeau de Couperin

7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, 2023
4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, 2023
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

“Darkness and Light”
Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”
  • Tyler Harrison: Symphony No. 3 (World premiere)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 15, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

“LSO Goes to the Movies”
Elliot Moore, conductor
Program includes:

  • John Williams: Music from Star Wars and Harry Potter films
  • Ennio Morricone: Music from Cinema Paradiso
  • Hans Zimmer: Music from Pirates of the Caribbean

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, 2023
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Season tickets now available. Single-even tickets go on sale July 29.

LSO Premieres percussion showpiece

Longmont resident Michael Udow’s Ancient Echoes inspired by archaeological finds

 By Peter Alexander April 24 at 12:15 a.m.

NOTE: I usually do not review ensembles that are not fully professional. This performance by the semi-pro Longmont Symphony rates an exception because it includes a world premiere, which always deserve media attention.

Last night (April 23) the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) gave the first performance of a piece that was inspired by archaeological discoveries in the state of Colorado. Michael Udow’s  Ancient Echoes makes use of four stones discovered in Great Sand Dunes National Park and elsewhere in the San Luis Valley that archeologist Marilyn Mortorano discovered to be ancient lithophones, or musical instruments made of stone. (Read the full story here.)

Great Sand Dunes NP and the San Luis Valley. Photo by Peter Alexander

Under conductor Elliot Moore, the LSO gave a careful reading of Udow’s atmospheric score. Soloist Anthony Di Sanza, once Udow’s percussion student at the University of Michigan, was all over the front of the stage, switching among four different percussion setups that included the four ancient stones, a modern mallet instrument with tuned granite bars—Udow’s personal creation for this one piece—a vibraphone, drums from North Africa and Japan, German cowbells and temple gongs, among other instruments.

There can be no doubt that Udow knows the percussion instruments intimately that he writes for. They were all used effectively, and Di Sanza gave a virtuosic performance on all of them. It was clearly as much fun for him running from one setup to another, as it was for the audience watching and listening. 

Percussion soloist Anthony Di Sanza

The score opens with a dreamy, evocative passage that made good use of the quiet plinking sounds of the ancient stones. From there the score moves from one set of instruments to another, each representing a different culture or part of the world. The score is highly episodic, as each set of instruments brings forth its own musical style and mood. 

Udow used the orchestra well, but did not resist falling into Hollywood-style Orientalist cliches to support some of the instruments, and I am not sure that his series of musical vignettes adds up to more than the sum of its highly individual parts. But the result is certainly a showpiece for the soloist, and one that may prove irresistible to other percussionists in the future. 

Michael Udow with his granite lithophone, created for his score Ancient Echoes. Photo by Peter Alexander.

Udow’s modern granite lithophone is bound for a percussion collection in Indianapolis, where it will be available for Di Sanza and other professional percussionists who wish to perform Udow’s score. With it containing so many fun licks, I would not dare to guess where we will hear it next.

Following a standing ovation, Di Sanza and his former teacher Udow gave an energetic handclapping encore that was great fun, if perhaps a minute too long.

For the rest of the concert, Moore led the LSO in first Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and later to close the program Brahms’s Symphony No. 1. The Firebird performance had a strong expressive profile, capturing well the essence of each scene. There were some especially nice solos in the woodwinds, if a few issues of balance overall.

The Brahms was the least satisfying of the three pieces, needing better balance—again—and more rhythmic precision, especially within the string sections. In a modern concert hall and with modern winds, Brahms really needs a larger string section than most small-budget orchestras can provide, and that was the case here. But it should be noted that the LSO has grown in quality over Moore’e five years in Longmont, and Moore brought the symphony to an energetic conclusion. It was greeted warmly by the audience.

LSO will premiere music with 6,000-year history

Michael Udow’s Ancient Echoes on Saturday’s program with Stravinsky and Brahms

By Peter Alexander April 21 at 7:10 p.m.

It’s not often that an orchestra premieres a piece with roots that go back 6,000 years.

Saturday (April 23) the Longmont Symphony and conductor Elliot Moore will do just that when they give the first performance of Ancient Echoes, a score by percussionist/composer and Longmont resident Michael Udow (see concert details below; tickets are available here). 

Udow’s concerto for multiple percussion instruments will feature soloist Anthony Di Sanza playing instruments including one designed by Udow, based on ancient artifacts from Colorado that date back thousands of years. As part of the same piece, Di Sanza will play a variety of instruments from cultures around the world, including Indonesia, Japan and Korea. The concert program also includes Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where ancient lithophones have been found. Photo by Peter Alexander.

Udow’s piece has a long backstory—although not quite 6,000 years. In fact it started around 2000, when archaeologist Marilyn Mortorano was doing consulting work at Great Sand Dunes National Park. The museum at the park has a number of ground stone artifacts, shaped roughly like baguettes, up to a two feet long, in their collection. 

They had been found at archaeological sites throughout the park, including one that was standing up in the sand, and other sites in the San Luis Valley. In fact, Mortorano says, “Almost all the collectors (in the area) had them and they didn’t know what they were, and we didn’t either.”

Archaeologist Marilyn Mortorano with ancient lithophones found in Colorado. Photo by Peter Alexander.

They were carefully worked, but way too heavy to be used as grinding tools like the mano and metate sets found throughout the Southwest. But “somebody spent a lot of time making them,” Mortorano says. “It bothered me because I thought, why do we not know what these are?”

Then in 2013 she ran across a YouTube video from the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of man) in Paris, which had similar artifacts that French soldiers had brought back from Africa. At the time she had several of the Colorado stones for research purposes, so she was surprised when she learned that the stones in Paris produced a musical sound when tapped. (You can see and hear them here; narration in French.)

In fact a set of them was used for Paleomusique, written by French composer Philippe Fenelon. Those stones were used for a single series of performances in 2014, and then packed away for storage, never to be played again.

“I thought this is crazy,” Mortorano says, “but I’ll see if (the stones from Colorado) could be musical. My younger daughter is a percussionist, so she had a basket of mallets. I couldn’t believe it—they rang like bells!”

When Mortorano returned the stones to the museum at Great Sand Dunes the next day, she showed her discovery to Fred Bunch, the chief of resources. He was startled, and promised to support any further research that Mortorano could pursue with the stones. 

“We don’t know how these were used, because we don’t know the whole context,” Mortorano says. “But we know now from studying lithophones (musical instruments made of rocks), they’re all over the world. They’re in Africa, they’re in Asia, they’re in South America, they’re even in Hawaii.”

In the meantime, Mortorano had talked to Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner several years earlier, before she realized that the stones could be lithophones, who told her to let him know if she figured out what they were used for. She contacted him again after discovering their musical qualities and he did a new interview that was picked up by National Public Radio and noted on other national media.

Percussionist/composer Michael Udow

And this is where Udow enters the story. When he heard about Mortorano’s research and the Colorado stones, he wanted to see and hear them. When he contacted Mortorano, he discovered that she only lived about two blocks from his home in Longmont. He went over for a visit.

“Marilyn and (her husband) Sal had them set up beautifully on a long table with a hemp chord set at the nodes so they get maximum vibration,” Udow says. “I played them and I went home and thought, this is really important. It shows the musical side of the creative human spirit from 6,000 years ago, and wouldn’t it be interesting to compose a work!”

The Longmont Symphony had previously played two pieces by Udow, so his next step was to contact LSO director Elliot Moore and propose a new piece for orchestra using the stones. When he met Mortorano and heard the stones, Moore became interested in the project, and eventually got a commitment from the LSO board to support a new piece from Udow.

“What I really have the privilege of getting to do is putting this all together,” Moore says. “You can have the idea to write a piece of music and you can find these ancient stones, but until there’s an orchestra willing to premiere this, it’s theoretical. I feel lucky that when I presented it to the Longmont Symphony, everybody said, ‘Let’s do it!’”

Udow realized that the more or less random collection of stones that had been found was not really suitable for a piece all by themselves. He decided he needed to create a new instrument that as well as possible duplicated the nature and sound of the ancient ground stones: a modern lithophone that was tuned to play with a modern orchestra.

Michael Udow’s absolute black granite lithophone

This turned out to be a lengthy process, but one that paid off in the end. He visited granite quarries in Colorado, but none of them had stone that resonated well enough to be used in a musical instrument. He discovered that the best stone was absolute black granite from India, which fortunately he could get from Colorado manufacturers of granite countertops. 

He ended up purchasing two slabs of black granite, only one of which had good acoustical qualities. He was able to have that one cut into bars of varying length, which could be tuned by delicately cutting and grinding the stone, using a circular saw with a diamond blade.

In the end Udow estimates he spent about $5000 of his own money for the granite, the shop time to produce the bars, the frame that holds them and special cases to protect the bars. But he ended up with a playable instrtrument.

The completed score is virtually a concerto for multi percussion with orchestra. Udow’s lithophone will be featured, along with a number of other instruments: a marimba, a vibraphone, gongs from Korea, drums from Japan, a bamboo rattle from Java and German cowbells. For the one performance Saturday, the soloist will also briefly play four of the original ancient stones before they are returned to their museum collection.

Udow decided to use instruments from other cultures because in his travels as a percussionist, he had played instruments all over the world and he wanted to capture not only the timelessness of the original stones, but the universal quality of music. 

Percussion soloist Anthony Di Sanza

That also inspired Moore. “One of the main things that have kept me going is remembering that we’re bringing these things to life,” he says. “A fundamental human characteristic that we all share is, we love music. That’s been one of the great things about this whole process.”

The soloist for the performance, Anthony Di Sanza, is a former student of Udow who currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In fact, he will bring instruments that used to be Udow’s with him to fill out the solo percussion array. 

One issue that Di Sanza will have to deal with is the width of the bars on Udow’s new lithophone. It turns out that the bars have never been standardized by percussion makers. “Michael sent me all of the dimensions of the instrument, including the overall length and height, and also the bar width,” Di Sanza says. “The bar width (of other instruments) can vary to small increments or great increments, so we get used to making that adjustment.”

Di Sanza has had at least some of the music since last summer. Talking by phone from his home last week, he reported “I am at the stage now where I’m playing through the piece, listening to the midi (digital recording). That’s really fun because there are three-and-a half different physical setups on the stage. I start at one place, move to a different place for another part, come back for a different part, move to a third setup.

“A particularly challenging thing is as you move from one place to the next, knowing here’s where I’m going next! So that’s really fun, and fairly common with multiple percussion in the western classical tradition. And we thought a lot about how the instruments are grouped, to make sure the audience could see into the setups, and see what’s happening.”

LSO conductor Elliot Moore

Moore selected the rest of the program to go with Udow’s piece, with some very specific reasons for both the Stravinsky and the Brahms. “I thought that Stravinsky’s Firebird, with the idea of the rising phoenix, was something that could work well with this concerto,” he says. “It was the idea of matching Michael’s piece with the Stravinsky where I thought we had a winning program.

“And the other thing (is), I haven’t done a Brahms symphony (in Longmont). We have a wonderful cellist that retired pre-pandemic, Carmen Olguin, and as she was walking offstage with me for the retirement, she said, ‘Elliot, if you ever program a Brahms symphony, would you let me come back and play it?’ And I said ‘Sure.’

“I’ve always had in my mind this woman who wanted to play a Brahms symphony so bad, and I never programmed one, and I thought this was a good time to do it. So she joined us again, for her first rehearsal in probably three years.”

Brahms’s First Symphony is very standard orchestral repertoire, but Moore says the audience will hear some new things Saturday. “We are looking at this with fresh eyes and fresh ears, and I think it’s going to feel fresh. We’re taking a direction that is little bit leaner and a little bit closer to what the score indicates, not über Romantic.”

“People are going to be interested to hear it if for no other reason, that reason.”

In case you wonder about the new instrument, Di Sanza will take it back to Wisconsin, and eventually take it to a percussion museum in Indianapolis where he and others can use it for performances. Udow also hopes that some day, someone else might want to write music for it.

“That would be a hope of mine, to share it,” he says.

# # # # #

“Soundings: Past and Present”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Anthony Di Sanza, percussion

  • Michael Udow: Ancient Echoes (World Premiere)
  • Stravinsky: Firebird Suite (1919 version)
  • Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

TICKETS

NOTE: Effective immediately and until further notice, the Longmont Symphony no longer requires patrons to show proof of COVID vaccination, and masks will remain optional. This decision has been made with guidance from local, state, and federal officials.

LSO continues Beethoven cycle over next two programs

Symphonies Five, Six and Seven provide musical “comfort food”

By Peter Alexander Feb. 24 at 10:56 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and their conductor Elliot Moore continue their ongoing cycle of the nine Beethoven symphonies with their next two concert programs. 

Symphonies Five and Six will be performed Saturday, Feb. 26 (7:30 p.m., Vance Brand Auditorium), and the Seventh Symphony will be performed alongside works by Haydn and Mozart Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13 (7 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively, Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum; full programs below).

Beethoven. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

While Beethoven is just about the most frequently performed classical composer in the world, Moore points out that his symphonies have not often been performed in Longmont. When he first announced plans for the full cycle of all nine symphonies, he said “particularly the earlier symphonies of Beethoven have been underperformed here in Longmont. 

“I think it’s important to understand how the Beethoven symphonies helped bring the symphony into its current form.”

He has always been clear that this is part of the educational mission of the LSO as a community-based orchestra. He has named two groups that will benefit: “One is the orchestra, the other is the audience,” he says. “I want (both groups) to experience the freshness of the classical style.”

First up in this next round of the cycle will be Symphonies Five and Six, performed Saturday, Feb. 26, as part of a program titled “Beethoven: A Portrait.” The Fifth Symphony, with its progression from the ominous opening four-note motive to the triumphant finale, has been taken as a symbolic expression of the composer’s own triumph over his deafness.

Because of the uplifting narrative, it has become one of the most familiar orchestral works for audiences everywhere. It has been recorded countless times, by all the great orchestras and conductors, but Moore has no hesitation in having the LSO bring the symphony to its local audience.

“I think it’s important that we know how to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” he says of the orchestra. And of his opportunity to conduct a work that so may have led before him, he says “What allows me to feel OK is that I’ve spent so much time studying the score. That’s the only reason I have any right to get up in front of those people (in the orchestra).”

Beethoven: sketches for the Sixth Symphony

The Sixth Symphony is known as the “Pastoral” because it describes a day in the country, as the composer often experienced in his walks outside Vienna. The movement titles are “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside,” “Scene by the brook,” “Merry gathering of country folk,” “Thunderstorm,” and “Shepherd’s song: Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm.”

Some literal details are embedded in the music, including the sounds of bird songs and the rumbling of the thunder. But Moore sees more than a series of picturesque scenes in the score. “I think that it’s religious music,” he says.

“Beethoven believed in a higher power, which he found in nature, which the ‘Pastoral Symphony’ reflects. How we are rehearsing, how we are bringing out a sound that matches the intent of the work—that is proving very meaningful for the musicians, and hopefully will be meaningful for the audience.”

The program scheduled for March 12 and 13 is titled ““The First Viennese School,” which refers to the three great composers who lived in Vienna just before and after 1800: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Opening the program is Haydn’s Sinfonia, or Overture, to his opera L’incontro improvviso (The unexpected encounter). 

Moore expects this to be a fun piece to perform, because it is an example of a popular musical genre of the late 18th century, “Janissary music.” Based on the music of the Turkish military, Janissary music typically included drums, bells, cymbals, triangles and other percussion, which was not always fully written out.

Elliot Moore

“The conductor gets to work with the principal percussionist on what instruments are appropriate,” Moore says. “You have some freedom built in, so I think its going to be a lot of fun to come up with what’s in the style.”

Mozart is represented on the program with his Symphony No. 31 in D major, which was written in 1788 for the Concert Spirituel, a prominent concert series in Paris. At the time Mozart was hoping for a job in Paris, and so he made every effort to please the local audience. He incorporated a number of brilliant orchestral gestures that he knew would please the listeners. 

“The audience was quite carried away,” he wrote afterwards to his father. “There was a great outburst of applause!”

The program concludes with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, a work filled with driving rhythms that is one of the most energized works of the time. Among other things, Moore says, it includes “the first time a triple fortissimo arrives in the orchestral repertoire—certainly in Beethoven’s symphonies.” 

He believes that moment, near the end of the finale, should be the high point of the entire work. “You have to keep something in reserve for that moment,” he says.

Moore talks about another facet of the symphony that is not often described. “Beethoven wrote 179 British Isle folk tunes,” he points out. “I think that the folk songs played a pretty large role, especially for the finale of the Seventh Symphony. It sounds like a Scottish reel! I think that is reason that it has energy. It’s an extension of all the things that he had been doing.”

Moore has one more thought about performing so much music by a composer as familiar as Beethoven at this particular time. “There’s been so much trauma in the world in the past two years that I think there’s something about being comfortable,” he says.

“There’s a thing called comfort food, and I think that Beethoven is comforting.”

# # # # #

Elliot Moore with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra

“Beethoven: A Portrait”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”)
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26
Vance Brand Auditorium
TICKETS

“The First Viennese School”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor

  • Haydn: Sinfonia from L’incontro improvviso (The unexpected encounter)
  • Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D major (“Paris”)
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major

7 p.m. Saturday, March 12
4 p.m. Sunday, March 13
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
Live stream with ticket purchase, beginning Saturday, March 19
TICKETS

Holiday season brings a wide spectrum of musical celebrations

Two Messiah performances lead the local programs

By Peter Alexander Dec. 1 at 3:52 p.m.

What is one thing COVID has not closed down this year? The flood of Holiday-themed concerts in December.

This is in stark contrast to last year, when there were virtually no live concerts anywhere. Holiday music-making, if any, was done online. But now Boulder has returned to near normal, and there is no space or time to give individual coverage to all the concerts. Here is a compilation of most local classical concerts, all of them available for live attendance and some with streaming as well (details and ticket information are below; check each group’s Web page for COVID requirements):

Boulder Ballet Nutcracker (2018). Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

The Nutcracker returns to Longmont in performances by the Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet (Dec. 3–5). Performances of this perennial family favorite also include a sensory-friendly “Gentle” Nutcracker performance that will be under one hour with both dramatic and musical elements as well as lighting adapted for special needs children.

Boulder Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker almost had to be cancelled for the second year running, until supporters of the ballet and the symphony raised funds to support the performances. LSO executive director Catherine Beeson released a statement, saying “The thought of our communities having to miss a second year of this holiday tradition was too disappointing to consider. We are so grateful to Boulder Ballet and LSO patrons, supporters and sponsors who stepped up to fill the gap.”

The CU Holiday Festival (Dec. 3–5), featuring CU College of Music ensembles, is one of the oldest musical traditions in Boulder, dating back decades. Performing groups this year will be the Holiday Brass, the Holiday Festival Orchestra, Chamber Singers, Holiday Festival Choral Union, West African Highlife Ensemble, Holiday Festival Jazz, and the Magari Quartet.

The 2013 Holiday Concert put on by the College of Music in Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

There will be some very familiar Holiday music—“Ding, Dong Merrily on High,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the perennial favorite, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” But there will also be some unusual selections, including the Spanish villancico “Ríu, ríu, chíu,” the Gloria from the Misa Criolla (Creole Mass) by the Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez, and a Nigerian Christmas song, “Betelehemu” (Bethlehem). The program will conclude with the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

The Holiday Festival often sells out. That may be different this year, with COVID restriction still in place, but check availability before making plans.

There will be two performances of Handel’s Messiah  in Boulder this year: One by conductor Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Boulder Chamber Chorale (Dec. 4), and one by conductor Zachary Carrettin and performers of the Boulder Bach Festival (Dec. 17 and 19).

Both organizations will present only the Christmas portion of Messiah; Pro Musica Colorado will add the “Hallelujah” chorus. Theirs will be the more traditional style of performance, with full chorus. The Boulder Bach Festival will present Messiah with only one on a part in both orchestra and chorus; in other words, the choral parts will all be sung by a quartet of vocal soloists rather than a traditional chorus.

The Ars Nova Singers will present their Holiday program, “Made Merry,” in Denver (Dec. 10), Longmont (Dec. 12) and Boulder (Dec. 16 and 17).

Harpist Kathryn Harms

Under the direction of Thomas Edward Morgan, the Ars Nova Singers will be joined by guest artist Kathryn Harms on harp. The program follows the usual pattern for Ars Nova Holiday concerts: a mix of new arrangements and recent compositions with more traditional tunes. 

Featured works will include Variations on “Lo How a Rose” by Hugo Distler, a prominent composer of sacred music in early 20th century Germany, whose short life illustrates the tragedy of his times. Torn between his revulsion for the Nazi regime and the prominent positions he was granted, he took his own life in 1942 at the age of 34. 

Other works on the program are Morgan’s arrangement of “What Child is This?,” Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of “In the Beak Midwinter,” Jeffrey Van’s arrangement of the Mexican carol “El Rorro” (The babe) and contemporary English composer Jonathan Dove’s setting of “The Three Kings” by Dorothy Sayers.

The Longmont Symphony’s annual Candlelight concert, this year titled “A Baroque Christmas,” will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19 at the Westview Presbyterian Church in Longmont. Elliot Moore will conduct, with soprano soloist Ekaterina Kotcherguina.

Music by familiar Baroque composers will comprise the majority of the program, including Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, known as the “Christmas Concerto” and J.S. Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Kotcherguina will sing arias from Handel’s Messiah, including “I know that my redeemer liveth” and “Rejoice Greatly.”

She will also sing “The Holy City,” a Victorian-era ballad that was extremely popular and widely performed around the turn of the 20th century, and that has been called “the most pirated piece prior to the internet.” Published under the name Stephen Adams, it was actually the work of English composer and singer Michael Maybrick.

According to legend, the song got a group of drunken prisoners released by a judge, it was mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and via a spiritual titled “Hosanna” its melody found its way into Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy. It continues to be performed, often under the title “Jerusalem.”

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Longmont Symphony and Boulder Ballet
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 and 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4
1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5: “Gentle Nutcracker”
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Vance Brand Civic Auditorium
Tickets

CU College of Music ensembles
“Holiday Festival 2021”
Featuring College of Music faculty with student choirs, bands and orchestras

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

Macky Auditorium
Tickets

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With the Boulder Chamber Chorale and vocal soloists
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Tickets for in-person and live-streamed performance

Ars Nova Singers, Thomas Edward Morgan, conductor
“Made Merry”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, United Church of Christ, Longmont
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Tickets for in-person and streamed performances.

Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
George Frideric Handel: Messiah

7:30 pm. Friday, Dec. 17
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19

Broomfield Auditorium
Tickets

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
“Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas”

4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont

Tickets

Longmont Symphony embraces nostalgia in Saturday’s concert

Dvořák’s “New World” and Barber’s Knoxville paired for “American Nostalgia”

By Peter Alexander Nov. 12 at 12:03 a.m.

Conductor Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony (LSO) will embrace “American Nostalgia” for their Masterworks Concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 13) at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The concert will feature one of the most overtly nostalgic works in the orchestral repertoire, Samuel Barber’s warmly reflective Knoxville: Summer of 1915, paired with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. Tickets for LSO concerts are available here.

All LSO musicians, staff and volunteers have been vaccinated. Audience members eligible for COVID vaccinations must show proof of vaccination or medical exemption to attend the performance, and must wear face masks inside the building.

Elliot Moore

Moore says that he chose the program for Saturday’s concert while reflecting on people’s need to connect to the past in difficult times. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for nostalgia,” he says. “There can be feelings that the world is changing so fast, I’ve never seen this before.

“Somebody said to me recently, all that’s keeping me alive right now is looking back. People need a sort of old Americana and that is certainly what I feel through Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”

Barber’s score is written for voice and orchestra and will be performed by soprano Leberta Lorál with the LSO. The text is taken from the eloquent prologue to James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. The text is suffused with Agee’s wistful childhood memories of his family, or as Barber wrote, “it expresses a child’s feelings of loneliness, wonder and lack of identity in that marginal world between twilight and sleep.”

A home in Knoxville in 1915

But beneath the nostalgic yearning for warm summer nights with the family there is also an undercurrent of foreboding in both text and music. Agee’s prologue takes place shortly before the tragic death of the book’s title, which is briefly referred to in the text and expressed in the music: “God bless my people . . . remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.”

We also know today that World War I was raging in Europe in 1915, and would soon pull Americans into the slaughter. And, Moore reminds us, “one could also say it’s before the Spanish flu”—something we all can relate to today.

Lorál has not sung the Barber before, but says she has loved getting into the score. “I’ve heard it but have never sung it before,” she says. “When I got approached about it, I looked at it and I was hooked on it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is right up my alley! I love this!’”

She likes the nostalgia and the sweetness of the text and music, but she also has a personal feeling for the final part of the text, in which Agee reflects on his innocence and incomplete identity as a child. “After a while, I am taken in and put to bed,” he writes. “Those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home . . . but will not ever tell me who I am.”

Leberta Lorál

“That line has really stuck with me,” Lorál says. “I know why it stuck with me. At birth I was adopted. I had a great relationship with my biological parents, and last month my birth mother passed, and I was there to see her.

“I was OK with whatever happened—that’s all good. So that last line, wow! It stuck with me. I took that and went back to the beginning to pull through the piece, all the way to the end.”

Moore wanted another work that reflects America’s past to go with Knoxville: Summer of 1915. “To tie that in with Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony, so that we can all feel something good—that’s important for a lot of people in today’s world, where we’re all facing so much,” he says.

The “New World” harkens back to what many Americans think of as a happier time in our history. Composed in the U.S. and premiered in Carnegie Hall in December 1893, the symphony is thematically linked with our culture. For example, scholars have shown that it was partly inspired by Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which Dvořák had read in Czech translation.

While in this country, Dvořák also showed great interest in Negro spirituals, which were sung to him by one of his pupils, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh’s singing is likely reflected in the slow movement, with its spiritual-like “Goin’ Home” melody. Dvořák himself believed the symphony expressed something about America, and once said he would never have written it “just so” had he not come here.

Moore finds meaning in both the nostalgia of the program, and in sharing it communally. “People need that,” he says. “That’s an experience not only that we can offer, but that we can offer to people all at the same time.

“People need that kind of shared, uplifting experience that we’ve missed.”

# # # # #

“American Nostalgia”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Leberta Lorál, soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium

Tickets

Longmont Symphony visits Stewart Auditorium for concerts Oct. 16 & 17

Reduced orchestra will play works of Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Jessie Montgomery

By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 4 p.m.

Elliot Moore spent the pandemic listening to music. Many of us did, but Moore’s listening wasn’t just a way to pass the lonely hours. As conductor of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO), he was listening to symphonies by Joseph Haydn—not quite all 108 of them, but enough that he found the one that spoke to him.

That symphony—No. 96 in D major, known as “The Miracle”—will anchor the LSO’s next program, a concert for smaller orchestra to be presented in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17. In addition to Haydn’s symphony, the program will feature cellist Matthew Zalkind playing Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, “Starburst” by Jessie Montgomery, and Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Winds. Tickets for the concert can be purchased here

Haydn’s Symphony “just grabbed me,” Moore says. “I listened to countless of Haydn’s symphonies, just getting to know them, getting to know his orchestral world. First of all, I love it. What a creative symphonist! His level of creativity for the genre was astronomical. It blew me away.”

The Symphony No. 96 was given the name “Miracle” on the mistaken belief that it was the work by Haydn that was being played when a chandelier collapsed onto the floor during a concert the composer presented in London in 1791. It was actually another symphony, during a performance in 1795, where the audience dodged the chandelier when they all pressed forward to the edge of the stage. The name “Miracle” has stuck, and so Moore plans to celebrate a miracle of another sort with the performance.

Matthew Zalkind Courtesy photo

“When you’re just getting back to in-person performances—to me, that’s the miracle,” he says.

The other major anchor piece on the program will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, usually known as the Rococo Variations, for solo cello and orchestra. A graceful and lyrical piece, the variations are not really Rococo in style. As Moore explains it, Tchaikovsky “takes the Rococo, the gestalt of it, and puts it in a very Romantic, Russian sort of way.” In other words, there are subtle nods to the highly decorated Rococo style of the 18th century in the theme, but the overall feeling of the piece is pure 19th-century Romanticism.

Zalkind teaches cello at the Lamont School of Music in Denver. A graduate of Juilliard and the University of Michigan, he is co-artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival. He was awarded First Prize in the Washington International Competition, as well as top prizes in the Beijing International Cello Competition and Korea’s Isang Yun Gyeongnam International Competition.  

The concert will open with Montgomery’s “Starburst.” A violinist and composer, Montgomery has found her compositions for string orchestra featured in numerous performances over the past year. Written for a small ensemble, they proved ideal for streamed performances during the pandemic, and they have been popular with both players and audiences1.

“She’s a string player, and she writes for strings very well,” Moore says. “Starburst is something I’m looking forward to, something that’s got high energy [to] open the performance.” 

To balance the program by featuring the SLO’s winds as well as the strings, Moore chose Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments. Written when the composer was just 17, it is one of his earliest works. The score calls for four horns, reflecting the influence of the composer’s father, a noted horn player in the Munich court orchestra. The tuneful and generally lyrical single-movement Serenade also reflects the senior Strauss’ conservative musical tastes, which scarcely went beyond mid-period Beethoven.

# # # # #

Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, director
With Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: “Starburst”
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 (“The Miracle”)

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
TICKETS

Longmont and Boulder orchestras return to live performances for grateful audiences

Abbreviated concerts featured careful COVID protocols, no intermissions

By Peter Alexander Oct. 3 at 11:30 p.m.

For a short time this past weekend, you could have believed that concert life in Longmont and Boulder had returned to normal.

Of course, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. But both the Longmont Symphony and the Boulder Philharmonic presented their first in-person concerts in nearly two years, and sitting in the audience hearing live music was a welcome return to near-normal.

Longmont Symphony Saturday (Oct. 2) with soloist Hsing-ay Hsu and conductor Elliot Moore in Vance Brand Auditorium

Both concerts—the LSO at Vance Brand Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Boulder Phil at Mountain View Methodist Church at 4 p.m. Sunday—had restrictions that for now we might consider the “new normal.” In both cases, patrons were met outside by orchestra representatives checking proof of vaccination and ID, masks were required at all times, and seating was limited to less than full capacity of the respective venues. Conductors and orchestral string players wore masks for the performances as well. Both concerts were presented without intermission, so that the audience did not have the chance to mix and mingle. 

Both conductors, Elliot Moore with the LSO and Michael Butterman with the Boulder Phil, commented on how good it felt to be back, and both were greeted with enthusiasm. I would add that both concerts received standing ovations, but that has long since become normal, so it is not really anything new.

The Longmont Symphony began with a rousing performance of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture. In his introduction, Moore noted that in spite of its name, the overture is not really academic in nature, because it is actually based on student drinking songs of Brahms’s era. As Moore intended, it started the post-pandemic musical scene with infectious energy. 

Brahms was followed by Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major, K414, featuring soloist Hsing-ay Hsu. She introduced the concerto with heartfelt remarks about the opportunity to perform again before an audience, and played with solid confidence and sensitivity. The concert of orchestral repertory standards ended with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. Any minor lapses of intonation or ensemble were easily forgiven for musicians who had not played together for so many months. Shouts of “Bravo” were heard through the standing ovation.

Michael Butterman leads the Boulder Philharmonic in Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 at Mountain View Methodist Church

Butterman chose much less standard works for the Boulder Phil’s return to the stage. Two works by Haydn were featured, none of them among the composer’s better known symphonies or concertos. In fact, the concert started at the very beginning, one could say, with Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 of 1759. A three-movement work of about 12 minutes in length, it has the tunefulness and energy, if not the sophistication, of Haydn’s larger late Symphonies. “If you liked that piece,” Butterman quipped, “there are 100 more like it!” (For the record, current research has identified 108 symphonies by Haydn.)

The symphony was paired with Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante written for London in 1792, a larger and more mature work that features violin, oboe, cello and bassoon soloists with orchestra. The principal players from the orchestra played the solo parts with elan and polish. Using modern instruments, and heard in a church that has only a cement floor due to ongoing renovations, the orchestral sound struck me as a little on the thick side, not as transparent as Haydn would have expected.

Butterman’s final work for the program is one that he particularly loves, the Petite symphonie concertante by the 20th-century Swiss composer Frank Martin. It was a treat to hear this genuine rarity live in concert. It is scored for a double string orchestra with harpsichord, piano and harp soloists, creating an utterly unique sound world. Although written using 12-tone techniques, the music is often consonant, always enjoyable, and unlike any other piece I know. 

Butterman led the orchestra with obvious relish. The size and full-bodied sound of the Phil’s strings was ideal for a 20th-century work. In his analytical introduction to the score, Butterman said that he hoped that the audience would enjoy the Petite symphonie concertante as much as he does. I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but hearing a committed live performance of an intriguing rarity was the weekend’s highlight for me. 

Like both audiences, I was thrilled to hear live music again, and to be back in the hall with musicians who love what they are doing. More, please!

NOTE: Minor typos and editing errors corrected Monday, 10/4.

Longmont Symphony returns to live in-person performances Saturday

Program of music by Brahms, Mozart and Schumann launches 2021–22 season

By Peter Alexander Sept. 30 at 9:45 p.m.

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will return to the Vance Brand Auditorium stage for its first live, in-person performance in 20 months at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 2). The program will feature music by three of the most loved classical composers: Brahms, Mozart and Schumann.

Elliot Moore and the Longmont Symphony onstage at Vance Brand Auditorium

“This is an exceptional opportunity for the musicians of the Longmont Symphony to come together again,” LSO music director Elliot Moore says. “It’s an amazing thing we are able to gather and have a live audience. And it’s another amazing thing that we’re able to have a venue to rehearse in, and to perform in. 

“When you combine all of these elements, I think it’s really going to be a celebration that we are able to continue lifting people up through music.”

Securing Vance Brand Auditorium for the series of rehearsals and full orchestra concerts this year was complicated by several factors. For one, there were shifting COVID protocols that the St. Vrain Valley School District, who control the use of the facility, had to consider. Then there was new staff for both the school district and the LSO working together for the first time to make the schedule work. “I’d like to take my hat off to our new executive director, Catherine Beeson, for the exceptional work she did,” Moore says.

In addition to Saturday’s concert, the LSO will present a second Masterworks Concert during the fall, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, also in Vance Brand Auditorium. In between, there will be a concert for smaller orchestra in Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 17. The fall portion of the season will conclude with “A Baroque Christmas” Sunday, Dec. 19 (see full schedule and programs below).

LSO music director Elliot Moore

Moore wanted to select just the right piece to open the first concert after the pandemic. When he selected Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture he had two thoughts, one whimsical and one serious. “I did happen to think the Academic Festival Overture is really about drinking songs,” he admits, then adds more seriously that “it uses the largest orchestra that Brahms ever used. It gives us the most possibility to use all of our musicians, so that everybody plays together. This (program) is about being together and offering something to our community that is uplifting, engaging, fun, and creates a common experience.”

The overture, written for a German university that gave Brahms an honorary degree, uses a variety of spirited student songs of the time, ending with one that is treated in appropriately academic counterpoint. Whether or not one recognizes the songs, the mood is clearly one of good cheer.

Mozart began his career in Vienna as a piano virtuoso. Consequently, his piano concertos were mostly written for the composer himself to play. A few however were written with an eye to possible sales to the public as well, particularly three that were written in 1782, soon after Mozart had moved to the imperial capital. The Concertos K413, 414 and 415 were written so that they could be performed either with full orchestra or, in private homes with only a string quartet accompaniment. 

In a famous letter to his father, Mozart wrote that the concertos “are a happy medium between too heavy and too light. They are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being insipid. There are parts here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, albeit without knowing why.”

Pianist Hsing-ay Hsu

Soloist for the Mozart concerto will be pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, a Steinway Artist and winner of the William Kapell International Piano Competition, among other awards. A former member of the CU College of Music faculty, Hsu was also director of the Pendulum New Music Series at the college.

The concluding piece on Saturday’s concert will be Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. First completed in 1841, it was revised by the composer ten years later. That later version was published and is the form in which the symphony is usually performed today. However, that version has been criticized as too heavily orchestrated, even though it was preferred by Schumann’s widow Clara. Because Schumann was first of all pianist and not an orchestral player, conductors and others have often revised the scoring of his symphonies, aiming to make them lighter.

Moore admits that he too will make some slight changes. “I do alter a couple of things,” he says. “I change a couple of dynamics. I do it in the spirit of hopefully clarifying the musical discourse, not to put my own stamp on it.”

Moore also notes that while it numbered fourth among Schumann’s symphonies, based on the revised version, it was originally the second to be written. “His first symphony is glorious, (but) this one has darker overtones,” he says. “At the same time, to me, it still ends in joy and exuberance.

“Right now, I’m OK with a symphony that has some darkness in it and takes us into the light.”

# # # # #

Longmont Symphony Orchestra
Elliot Moore, music director
2021 fall season of concerts

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2
Vance Brand Auditorium

Hsing-ay Hsu, piano

  • Brahms: Academic Festival Overture
  • Mozart: Piano Concerto in A major, K414
  • Schumann: Symphony No. 4

7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Matthew Zalkind, cello

  • Jessie Montgomery: Starburst
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
  • Richard Strauss: Serenade for 13 Winds
  • Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle”

7:30 Saturday, Nov. 13
Vance Brand Auditorium

Leberta Lorál, mezzo-soprano

  • Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

Candlelight: A Baroque Christmas
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19
Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont

  • Archangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso Op. 6. No. 8. (“Christmas Concerto”)
  • Gustav Holst: “Christmas Day”
  • J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”
  • Ottorino Respighi: “Adoration of the Magi” from Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticelli pictures)

Season and individual LSO concert tickets are available through the LSO webpage

Moore and the Longmont Symphony present “A Portrait of Mozart”

Program ranges from one of Mozart’s earliest to one of his last works

By Peter Alexander April 13 at 10:10 p.m.

Elliot Moore says that he needs a little Mozart right now.

“It’s been such a terrible time,” he says of the past year. “Mozart’s music is what I need. This is important to who I am.”

Elliot Moore

As conductor of the Longmont Symphony (LSO), Moore is in a position to fill that need. And we can all benefit when the LSO presents “A Portrait of Mozart,” a concert featuring works from Mozart’s very earliest years until nearly the last work he wrote. The concert stream will be available at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17. You may purchase tickets here.

The program opens with the Overture to La finta semplice, K51, Mozart’s very first opera written when he was 12. That is followed by one of his very last completed works, the Clarinet Concerto, K622, featuring Colorado Symphony principal clarinetist Jason Shafer as soloist.

The program concludes with a symphony that falls between these works, the Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K183. Known as the “Little G-minor Symphony” to distinguish it from Mozart’s late Symphony in G minor, K550, it is the first of Mozart’s symphonies to find a permanent place on orchestral programs.

Moore has wrapped the concert into a larger project to make Mozart better known. In addition to the concert itself, there will be a pre-concert discussion about Mozart’s life on Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 15, that is open to concert ticketholders, and Moore has created a reading list for anyone who wants to go deeper into Mozart’s life. All the details of Moore’s “Mozart Mania” can be found on the LSO Web page

The concert and the project to explore Mozart’s life “is something that I feel is important to who I am,” Moore says. “It’s a way to have some kind of a shared experience that we have not had in over a year, and that’s part of the reason that I had the idea to do this.”

Mozart at age 12

The opera overture “is remarkable for a 12-year old,” Moore says. “I’m not sure it’s much more than that, but I think it’s extraordinary to see some of the first orchestral music a 12-year-old Mozart wrote.”

The overture also provides background to Mozart’s professional life. La finta semplice was written when the boy Mozart was visiting Vienna. His father, Leopold, hoped to have it produced by the court opera, but he made the mistake of overpromoting the work, which annoyed members of the royal family and some of the court musicians. Later the Empress Maria Theresa, who had relatives all over Europe, discouraged her family members from hiring Mozart, describing Leopold and other members of the family as “useless people.”

In other words, this opera, written he was 12, “set the tone for Mozart not being able to get a job” for the rest of his life, Moore says.

Moore chose K183, the “Little G-minor” Symphony, for two reasons. First, it is considered Mozart’s first fully mature symphony, and as such marks a milestone in the composer’s development. 

The other reason is more practical. “I needed to find a work where we could actually fit onstage,” Moore explains. Because Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum is limited in size, the orchestra had to be limited as well. Other symphonies he might have chosen required too many players. “It’s a very tricky balance to put on these kind performances in a pandemic!” Moore says.

Anton Stadler with 18th-century clarinet

Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto in October of 1791, a mere two months before his death. It was written for Anton Stadler, a friend of the composer for whom the concerto, the Clarinet Quintet, and obligato clarinet parts in Mozart’s last opera, La clemenza di Tito, were written. When Mozart rushed to Prague for the premiere of the opera in September 1791, Stadler travelled in the same carriage with the composer and his wife, Constanza.

Stadler was clearly a virtuoso player. The concerto is difficult enough to play well on modern instruments; on the clarinets of his day, it would be a supreme challenge.

It was most likely written for a “basset clarinet,” a clarinet with extended range. That was a custom-made instrument that Stadler owned and played. Few players today have a basset clarinet, but the concerto is well known in a version adapted to the standard modern instrument. 

“It’s a phenomenal piece,” Moore says. “There’s something about the second movement—I ask myself, did he know that this was going to be one of the last slow movements he wrote? I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer, but boy is it great to be onstage making music.”

Moore is delighted not only to be onstage performing Mozart, but also to share Mozart with the audience. “I have been drawn to Mozart since March 2020, because it makes me feel good,” he says. “If we can share that, and delve a little deeper into this man’s life, it will enrich all our lives.

“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”

# # # # #

Jason Shafer

“A Portrait of Mozart”
Longmont Symphony, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Jason Shafer, clarinet

Mozart: Overture to La finta semplice, K51 (46a)
Mozart: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, K622
Mozart: Symphony in G minor, K183

Stream available 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17

Tickets available here.

The concert will be preceded by a Pre-Concert Talk on Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 15 that is available to concert ticketholders. For details on this and other activities around the concert, visit the Longmont Symphony Web page