MahlerFest XXXII offers two orchestral concerts in expanded schedule

Arrangements, by Mahler and of Mahler, are part of the program

By Peter Alexander  May 16, 2019, at 2:35 p.m.

Colorado MahlerFest is growing.

Orchestra from Keith Bobo

Director Kenneth Woods with the MahlerFest Orchestra

This year, the 32nd edition of the festival will feature more repertoire than ever, including two separate orchestra programs in Macky Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday of the festival weekend (May 18–19), and a chamber music concert Friday evening (May 17).

The Festival started in Boulder in 1988 as an opportunity to hear Mahler’s symphonies, which were then not often performed. For many years the orchestra program, featuring one of the symphonies, was performed Saturday and Sunday. That has now changed, with a chamber orchestra concert on Saturday and the large orchestra concert, this year featuring Symphony No. 1, on Sunday.

MahlerFest has gone through nearly the entire symphonic cycle three times. The fourth cycle that starts this year will be the first full cycle under conductor Kenneth Woods, who succeeded festival founder Robert Olsen as director in 2016.

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Colorado MahlerFest XXXII

2 p.m. Friday, May 17, at The Academy
Chamber music Concert

Hans Krása: Tanec
Hans Krása: Passacaglia and Fugue for String Trio
Anton Bruckner: String Quintet in F Major

Free

9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Buildering, CU Boulder

Program
Free

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, Macky Auditorium
Colorado MahlerFest Chamber Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conducting
With Joshua DeVane, baritone

Johann Strauss, Jr., arr. Arnold Schoenberg: The Emperor Waltz
Mahler, arr. Schoenberg: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen(Songs of a wayfarer)
Viktor Ullmann, arr. Kenneth Woods: Chamber Symphony (String Quartet No. 3)
Beethoven, arr. Mahler: Quartet in F Minor, op 95 (“Serioso”)

3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19, Macky Auditorium
Stan Ruttenberg Memorial Concert
Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor
With Zoë Byers, violin

Beethoven, orchestrated by Mahler: LeonoreOverture No. 3
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major. World Premiere of new critical edition
Mahler: “Blumine” Symphonic Fragment. World Premiere of new critical edition
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto

Tickets
Full schedule for Colorado MahlerFest XXXII here.

Grace Notes: Brief news items from the classical music scene in Boulder

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By Peter Alexander Aug. 20 at 9:45 p.m.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra hires executive director—The Board of Directors of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra announced earlier this summer that Courtney Huffman has been appointed as the organization’s executive director.

The executive director’s responsibilities had been handled by Bahman Saless, founder and artistic director of the BCO. After 14 years, he is now ready to leave administrative duties to Huffman in order to focus on the music.

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Courtney Huffman

“I have loved and cherished very moment and I am ready to take a step back and lighten the administrative load knowing that the orchestra is in good hands,” he said in a news release.

Huffman first joined the BCO organization three years ago as managing director. She had left in 2017 to work for an educational non-profit organization in Denver, but returned to Boulder when offered the position with the BCO.

“I am beyond excited to be returning to Boulder to lead the orchestra,” she said in the BCO’s news release. “I have loved classical music since I was a little girl, and this organization feels like home to me. I am honored to be able to ring in the orchestra’s 15thseason.”

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MahlerFest also hires an executive director—Colorado MahlerFest recently hired its first executive director.

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Ethan Hecht

In a decision announced in July, MahlerFest hired Ethan Hecht as executive director after 31 seasons of performances. MahlerFest’s announcement notes that the festival has grown since the 2015 hiring of Kenneth Woods as the its second artistic director. The festival has added both workshops and a masterclass for young conductors, and introduced “festival artists” who are featured both in the MahlerFest orchestra and in chamber music performances during the festival.

According to the announcement from the festival, “the board looked to expand the administrative operations of the festival.” Hecht has performed at MahlerFest as the orchestra’s principal violist, and he has extensive administrative experience with Colorado Music Festival and Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra. He is currently executive director of the Boulder Chorale.

MahlerFest board president David Auerbach was quoted in the announcement of Hecht’s appointment: “This is a major investment in the future of the festival . . .We are very excited [Hecht] has joined the team.”

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Pro Music Colorado announces 2018–19 season—The Pro Musical Colorado Chamber Orchestra has announced their 2018–19 season, titled “Classical Evolution!”

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis

The central performance and likely audience favorite of the season will be Handel’s Messiah, to be presented Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, at Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place in Boulder. The performance under conductor Cynthia Katsarelis will feature guests soloists to be announced later and the Boulder Chamber Chorale with artistic director Vicki Burrichter.

Mountain View Methodist, which has ample on-site parking, has become the orchestra’s home base in Boulder. All three of the season’s programs will be presented there. In addition, their September concert will be performed in Denver at Central Presbyterian Church, and the season-closing concert in February will be performed at the First Baptist Church of Denver and at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont.

Here is the full 2018-19 season of Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra:

“Women Among Men”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, Central Presbyterian Church, Denver
2 pm. Sunday, Sept. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, Boulder
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin, and Amanda Balestrieri, soprano

Wolfgang A. Mozart: Serenade No. 6 for Orchestra in D major K. 239, Serenata notturna
Grazyna Bacewicz: Concerto for String Orchestra
Franz Joseph Haydn: Violin Concerto in C Major
Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde (The treasure of the world), aria from Cantata 204

Handel’s Messiah
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with the Boulder Chamber Chorale, Vicki Burrichter, conductor, and soloists tba.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, Mountain View Presbyterian Church, Boulder
3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, Mountain View Presbyterian Church, Boulder

“21st-Century Style”
Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor, with Jory Vinikour, harpsichord
7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, First Baptist Church of Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, Boulder
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont

Max Wolpert: Harpsichord Concerto No. 1, “Baroque in Mirror” (World Premiere)
Philip Glass: Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 22 (“The Philosopher”)

More information and tickets here.

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CU Faculty Tuesdays start Aug. 28—The CU College of Music’s “Faculty Tuesdays” series starts next week, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28, in Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building.

The first of the fall series of faculty recitals at CU will feature violinist Charles Wetherbee and pianist David Korevaar, performing three works: the Sonata for Violin and Piano in B minor of Ottorino Respighi; the Poeme op. 25 by Ernest Chausson; and one of the great masterpieces of violin repertoire, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A major op. 47, known as the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

You may check the full fall schedule for “Faculty Tuesdays” on the College of Music Web page. Note also that if you cannot make the trip to the CU campus for any of the performances, they are live-streamed every week through this Web page.

 

 

Music by Mahler and Sibelius headline MahlerFest XXXI

Festival includes chamber and orchestra concerts with a focus on late works

By Peter Alexander May 11 at 2:10 p.m.

The 31stMahlerFest is all about late artistic transformations.

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Kenneth Woods with the MahlerFest orchestra (Photo courtesy of MahlerFest)

The 2018 festival begins Monday, May 14, and culminates Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, with concerts in Macky Auditorium featuring one of Mahler’s major orchestral works, Das Lied von der Erde (The song of the earth). It will be paired with the Seventh Symphony of Jean Sibelius.

Both works represent a farewell in music: Sibelius because he did not write another symphony in the remaining 24 years of his life, and Mahler because Das Lied von der Erde ends with a movement titled “The Farewell.”

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Kenneth Woods (Photo by Christ Stock)

Beyond the orchestra concerts, the festival week includes other events, among them two chamber music concerts: a ticketed concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Dairy Center and a free concert at 2 p.m. Friday in the Academy Chapel. Other events open to the public include rehearsals, a scholarly symposium, and pre-concert lectures. (See the full schedule and list of performers here).

Kenneth Woods, the festival artistic director,says that the expansion of MahlerFest is a result of Mahler’s increasing popularity. “At first, MahlerFest may have been the only place in the Rocky Mountain region where a Mahler symphony was being done,” he says. “Now it’s not the rarity it once was. It’s nice to expand that wheel outward to other composers.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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MahlerFest XXXI

Chamber Concert I
Daniel Silver, clarinet, and festival artists
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16
Dairy Center for the Arts

Chamber Concert II
Karen Bentley Pollick, violin; Parry Karp, cello; and Jennifer Hayghe, piano
2 p.m. Friday, May 18
The Academy Chapel (FREE)

Orchestra Concert
Sibelius: Symphony No. 7
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
MahlerFest Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor
Stacey Rishoi, mezzo-soprano, and Brennen Guillory, tenor

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20
Macky Auditorium

Full schedule and tickets here.

Kenneth Woods is “very excited” to be stepping into MahlerFest

The festival’s new music director looks forward to the music and the mountains

By Peter Alexander

Kenneth Woods. Photo by  Benjamin Ealovega.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

I spoke to Kenneth Woods, the incoming music director of Colorado MahlerFest, by phone recently. We talked about his vision and plans for the future of the festival, as well as a few personal details that will help introduce Woods to the Boulder audience. (For more on Woods, I highly recommend his blog, A View from the Podium.) Here is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation:

PA: You are clearly well aware of MahlerFest. Have you attended a performance before, or do you know of the festival by reputation? Have you met Robert Olson?

KW: I’ve never been able to attend a MahlerFest in the past, and I’ve never met Bob (Olson) in person. The degrees of separation between me and Bob, and me and the festival, are very few. I think I first became aware of it through an email listserv called Mahler List, which a lot of Mahler conductors and scholars and aficionados are on. And Colorado MahlerFest has always been a great gathering point for people on that list.

I can remember joining in back in the late ‘90s or early 2000s and everyone would be gearing up for Colorado MahlerFest, talking about what papers were presented, and what repertoire was played. So I became very aware of it then, and the sort of footprint of people who’d come through as speakers and lecturers is pretty astounding. There’s a lot of really interesting debate about key aspects of Mahler scholarship and performance that has come out of people who have spoken there, and the papers presented there, so there has been a lot of real great interest on the musicological side of the festival over the years. It’s a very small world, and particularly so when you get into Mahler. So I’m very excited to be stepping into that.

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Näher.

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Näher.

Mahler seems to attract a kind of devotion that other composers don’t—such as people traveling halfway around the world to go to a festival in Boulder. Why do you think that is?

I think part of it comes out of the historical way in which Mahler came into the repertoire. Even when I was growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s the music was more written about than heard and performed. A performance of it was a rarity—back then you could come across the First and Fourth symphonies sometimes. But a piece like the Sixth or the Seventh or the Ninth was a real rarity.

My understanding is that one of the reasons Bob set up the festival, and one of the things that helped get it going initially, is that the music was not very often performed. For people who love it, there weren’t that many chances to perform it. That’s really changed in the past 15 years. It used to be considered something that only orchestras with the largest base of players and the biggest budgets would ever dare tackle. Of course, nowadays all sorts of youth orchestras and community orchestras play it. But I think for people who grew up in that age, that sense of advocacy and immersion and curiosity sticks with us.

For me working through the symphonies as a listener as a young musician, you had to order the record and wait for it to show up. You had to go looking for it. And the idea that you can go on YouTube now and instantaneously access dozens and dozens of Mahler performances these days—it’s a totally different world! And in that sense, I think MahlerFest means something very different that it probably did 28 years ago. That sense of discovery and immersion is really important. And to have a place that is all about Mahler, where you come and really focus on it for a week, I think is a really important thing for this music.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Stephanie Yao/The Oregonian.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Stephanie Yao/The Oregonian.

Do you think the fact that Mahler performances are much more common now than 28 years ago presents a challenge to the festival going forward?

The music is always going to be special and exciting and have great appeal to audiences. Staking out our territory as a place that really owns Mahler, that cares about Mahler—that’s not something that every conductor and every orchestra is well suited to. So it’s good to have a place where we can get back to first principles of Mahler, and really immerse ourselves in it. In terms of contextualizing the music, we’ve only sort of scratched the surface there, so I’m not worried about running out of things to do, anytime in my lifetime at least.

It’s almost a reverse of the paradigm of 30 years ago. At one point MahlerFest was needed because there was nowhere else to go to play and hear the music. Now it’s needed because we need a place where the music isn’t taken for granted, or just a piece that’s good for box office. In that respect, the festival is a very important institution, and one that I think makes a strong claim to being essential to the music.

Do you have any thoughts about next year? Do you expect to continue cycling through the major works, or have you even had time to think about that?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and nothing is set or announced. The big question is whether we finish the cycle that Bob has been working on the past several years, which is not quite complete yet, or start over from scratch with the First Symphony next year. I’m somewhat inclined to finish with the two symphonies that he hasn’t done in this cycle, which is Seven and Ten, in the next two years, for a couple of reasons.

The festival has never done the Deryck Cooke version of the Tenth Symphony [which the composer never finished], which was the first and in many ways the most influential. I think that would be a wonderful thing to add to the repertoire of the festival—it’s such an important moment in Mahler scholarship. And I also like the idea of getting to know each other, finding out what possibilities and the strengths and weaknesses are before we start on the next cycle.

Mahler's autograph score of Symphony No. 7.

Mahler’s autograph score of Symphony No. 7.

It could very well be that we start with Seven next year, which is one of my favorites in the cycle and not that often done generally. And then the Tenth Symphony the following year, and then start a fresh cycle in the third year, from the First Symphony onwards.

You did not mention the Eighth Symphony, which has not been done as part of this cycle.

I was a little unclear about where that had fit in the last run of things. I would love to do the Eighth, and it might be that we would do that in the third year. That’s a particularly ambitious one logistically.

From what you’ve seen so far, what do you think is the greatest strength of this festival that you would want to build on?

I think there’s two. The combination of live concert giving with idea sharing is really potent and something that the festival does better than the vast majority. And I think it’s something that can really be built on.

And the other thing is the community spirit that seems to exist within the orchestra and within the festival itself that Bob has obviously nurtured very carefully in terms of this volunteer band with very high standards, high aspirations. People really doing it together as a team out of a sense of shared purpose is something to really build on.

Have you thought about expanding the repertoire to people who were important for Mahler, or were influenced by him, as ways of giving audiences new perspectives on Mahler the composer?

Mahler hiking in the Austrian alps.

Mahler hiking in the Austrian alps.

Yes, absolutely. These things are already on discussion—whether it’s hearing, say, Mahler 1 with Beethoven 4 where there’s an obvious modeling at work between the two pieces, or pairing the Mahler 7 with the Schoenberg First Chamber Symphony, where there’s thematic borrowing between the two pieces.

It would be nice to get into some commissioning over the next two years. I was involved with a festival at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester a few years ago where they commissioned a new work to go with Mahler symphonies in a new cycle, and I thought that worked really, really well. Not all the pieces were masterpieces, but three of four of them were sensational. It was really interesting to hear Mahler in a context alongside music that was written to comment on it or reflect it in some way. It would be nice to see some of that kind of work at the MahlerFest. At the end of the day, commissioning is what becomes the legacy of any artistic institution.

I know you have spent time in Colorado before. Do you know Boulder at all?

I spent a couple of summers in Aspen back in my student days. And I did a chamber music festival way out in the opposite corner of the state, in Durango, maybe 2006 or ‘07?

I do know Boulder quite well. I’ve got a lot of friends that teach at Rocky Ridge up at Estes Park, so I know that part of the world quite well. I’ve done a lot of skiing in Colorado too, but that won’t be happening in May.

There are ski areas that are still open through May, up at the higher elevations.

True. I could come a week early and ski, then do Mahler. That sounds very alpine.

Two things that people in Boulder really care about, aside from music of course, are outdoor recreation and food. Do you have preferences in those areas?

The thing I miss most when I’m in Britain is American beer, so I’m always happy to come back. Fat Tire was always the official beer of Aspen when I was there in past years, so I’ll be happy to catch up with a nice cold Fat Tire once I get to Colorado.

My favorite Colorado food is the Mexican green chili that no other state in the USA does as well, so I’ll be looking forward to that, assuming I can still find it there.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by  Chris Stock.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Chris Stock.

As far as the outdoor stuff, my parents got my sister and me started with backpacking in the Rocky Mountains when I was about 5 or 6. We spent half of my summers at least in Colorado hiking as a kid. I will very much be looking forward to getting up in the mountains and doing some hiking while I’m out there. And my summers in Aspen I did a lot of road biking. Once you’re in shape, there’s nothing more satisfying than biking up to something like Independence Pass and riding back down. I’ll be looking forward to bringing with or borrowing a bike while I’m there and getting on some hills. It will be humbling the first couple of times, but it’s so spectacular there.

Colorado MahlerFest announces new music director

Kenneth Woods will be second permanent director in festival history

By Peter Alexander

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

Colorado MahlerFest has announced the hiring of Kenneth Woods to succeed the festival’s founding director Robert Olson as music director and conductor.

Olson conducted his final performances, powerful and moving interpretations of Mahler’s elegiac Symphony No. 9, Saturday and Sunday (May 16 and 17) in Mackey Auditorium, as the culmination of the 28th festival. Woods’ appointment as only the second director in the festival’s history was announced at the performances.

Woods will direct the 29th MahlerFest in 2016, with performances scheduled for May 21 and 22 in Boulder.

Artistic director and principal conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra located in Worcester and Worcestershire, England, Woods has been an enthusiastic advocate of Mahler’s music. In addition to conducting and recording versions of Mahler’s music, he has participated in panel discussions of Mahler’s music for the BBC and NPR.

Woods commented, “I’m thrilled and humbled to be invited to steer the festival’s ongoing exploration of one of the greatest composers of all time. I’ve always been impressed by the sophistication of MahlerFest’s programming and presentation, not to mention the musical standards attained by its participants.

Robert Olson, founding director of Colorado MahlerFest. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Robert Olson, founding director of Colorado MahlerFest. Photo by Keith Bobo.

“I must extend enormous congratulations to Bob Olson for everything he has achieved. The complexity and scale of some tasks can only be fully appreciated once you’ve done them yourself, and as someone who has put together a few crazy Mahler projects of my own over the years, I know something about the kind of heroic effort Bob has made to build and sustain this festival. I take very seriously my responsibility to keep the torch he has lit blazing brightly for many years to come.”

Olson noted that “It wasn’t easy for me to wrap my brain around turning this over to somebody else. For obvious reasons, I would want someone who had the same dedication and passion to the music that I hope I bring to it. I’m just thrilled to say I will be supporting (Woods) 100%. I think he will be terrific for the festival.”

Olson started Colorado MahlerFest in 1988 with an all-volunteer, unpaid orchestra performing Mahler’s First Symphony. Since then, he has guided the festival through three nearly complete cycles of Mahler’s 10 symphonies and other major works, all the while recruiting outstanding players and singers for the festival and maintaining the volunteer character of the orchestra and chorus. Today players come from all across the U.S. at their own expense for the opportunity to play in the festival orchestra.

For the third full cycle of Mahler’s major works, only symphonies Seven, Eight and Ten, and the complete Lied von der Erde, remain unperformed. Programming for the 2016 festival has not yet been announced, but Woods said that completing the third cycle is a possible goal for his first years with the festival.

[NOTE: I will be posting an interview with Woods in a few days. In the meantime, readers who wish to get acquainted with him may read his blog, A View from the Podium.]

A perfect piece for Robert Olson’s final MahlerFest

By Peter Alexander

Robert Olson with the MahlerFest orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Robert Olson with the MahlerFest orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Robert Olson’s final concerts with the Colorado MahlerFest will be memorable occasions — for Boulder audiences, for the festival’s world-wide fans and for Olson himself.

Olson will lead his final two concerts with the festival that he nurtured from the merest of ideas 28 years ago to an event recognized around the world today, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 16 and 17. He will conduct Mahler’s Ninth Symphony — the last of the composer’s completed symphonies — which he says is “not only the most perfect piece to end on, but may be one of the most perfect pieces, period.”

The festival will also include film showings at the Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Center, at 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 14 and 15; and a free public symposium on the University of Colorado Boulder campus Saturday, May 16.

Apart from the opportunity to hear one of Mahler’s less frequently performed masterpieces, this year’s concerts will be memorable for audiences because Olson’s appearances at MahlerFest have become a familiar part of the Boulder musical landscape. After these concerts, that landscape changes. It will be memorable for Mahler fans around the world who have come to Boulder over the years because many of them will return to hear Olson conduct one last time. And it will be memorable for Olson for many reasons.

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado MahlerFest XXVIII

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Näher.

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Nähr.

MahlerFest Orchestra, Robert Olson, artistic director and conductor
Mahler: Symphony No. 9
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16
3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17
Mackey Auditorium
Tickets

Film:
For Love of Mahler: The Inspired Life of Henry-Louis de la Grange (World Premiere)
2 p.m. Friday, May 15 SOLD OUT
The Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Center,

Symposium:
8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16
Morning session: Imig Music Building, Room C-199
Afternoon session: ATLAS 102
University of Colorado, Boulder campus
Free and open to the public