CMF presents world premiere of major piece by Joan Tower

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein gives dedicated performance of A New Day

By Peter Alexander July 25 at 11:25 p.m.

The Colorado Music Festival presented a major new piece at their concert in Chautauqua Auditorium tonight (July 25).

The Festival Orchestra, conductor Peter Oundjian and cellist Alisa Weilerstein collaborated in the world premiere of A New Day, a cello concerto by Joan Tower that was a CMF commission. A strong and exciting piece, A New Day should quickly find its way into the repertoire. I have no hesitation recommending this powerful concerto to every cellist, conductor and orchestra that would consider taking it up.

Joan Tower. Photo by Bernie Mindrich

The all-Tower concert opened with four trumpeters playing her Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5. It was, as the program characterizes her style, “bold and energetic,” boldly and energetically played. The players nailed the cinematic brilliance of the fanfare, one of several responses by Tower to Copland’s World War II-era Fanfare for the Common Man.

Oundjian and Tower came onstage to introduce the next piece, one of Tower’s best known: the Grammy-winning Made in America. Premiered in 2005 and written for 68 orchestras in 50 states, Made in America reflects Tower’s feelings about her home country after living several years in South America. It uses the song “America the Beautiful” “inside the piece,” as Tower aptly described it: not really a set of variations, it returns to the song throughout.

As she also explained, the score reflects both positive and negative feelings about the country. There are many passages of darkness and anger, over which the central theme sometimes prevails. It is a well calculated score that propels the audience through many moods and transitions to an ending of great forcefulness. People around me were shouting “bravo,” “brava” and “bravi” all at once.

The CMF Orchestra, which gets better each week, managed the tricky transitions and sudden tempo changes of the score seamlessly under Oundjian’s leadership. Contrasts between delicate, gentle passages and violent, louder ones were well marked, and the slower crescendi flowed smoothly. Brass and percussion—favorite sounds in Tower’s arsenal—were especially impressive.

Next was Tower’s rarely heard Duets, a kind of concerto for orchestra that contrasts a series of duets within the orchestra with dramatic full orchestra outbursts. Tower said she was grateful to the CMF players for performing Duets, since they made her “like the piece again.“

I will not describe any part of this piece as “angry.” When Oundjian used that word from the stage, Tower firmly corrected him that she was not angry. But I will say that the dramatic full orchestral passages become musically very powerful at times.

CMF artistic director Peter Oundjian

That effect was abetted by nature, as a violent thunderstorm broke over the Chautauqua Auditorium during the performance, sometimes obscuring the players. It is a tribute to the orchestra’s range of dynamics that the most delicate passages could be drowned out by the rain, but elsewhere the storm was decisively covered by the orchestra. 

What will be most remembered from the performance will be the orchestral explosions rather than the duets of individual instruments. Once again it was the brass section, deftly handling all of their complex passagework, and above all the athletic work of the timpanist that most impressed. Alas, the weather covered some of the wind and string duets that I would have liked to have heard better.

To avoid that happening during the following world premiere, the intermission was extended until the storm had passed and the music could be well heard. This was a good decision, as A New Day is a piece worth hearing well.

The piece makes great use of the cello and its characteristic gestures—long slides, string crossings, rapid figuration, shifts to thumb position high on the cello’s top string. This will be a challenge to any cellist, all within an accessible frame that audiences will enjoy. Based on the stations of a single day, it has an expressive profile that reaches out to the listeners and invites them in.

There are four movements, titled “Day Break,” “Working Out” (with the many possible meanings implied), “Almost Alone” and “Into the Night.” Dedicated to her husband, the piece is in part a celebration of their years together.

Alisa Weilerstein. Photo by Paul Stewart

“Day Break” opens gently but has many shifts of mood. Driving fragments in the cello are reinforced by chugging motion in the orchestra. Every mood and musical idea leads to another transition, building in intensity or relaxing back into tranquility. “Working out” might refer as much to the performance of the soloist as any activities in the day of a person or a relationship. It is fast and at time brilliant, never casual.

“Almost alone” is a calm, lyrical cadenza for the cellist, sometimes supported by beautiful chords from the string sections. “Into the Night” provides a strong contrast to the preceding movement, starting almost frantically and maintaining a high pace for most of the movement. The end provides a return to tranquility, with the concerto ending as gently as it began—signifying, Tower says, “hope for another day with my 94-year-old husband.” Her generosity in sharing that hope with the audience was the most touching moment of all.

Weilerstein performed with a focus that was evident in both the intensity of her playing, and visually as she felt the complex passages of her part. This was virtuosity at a high level, a performance totally dedicated to the music at hand. Tower could not have wanted more effective advocates for her new work, either soloist, conductor, or orchestra.

It was good to hear the work of such a remarkable living composer at Chautauqua. Tower’s command of the orchestra is unequalled, her music is both vivid and accessible, and it is performed widely. It should be heard more often.

Indeed, the entire “Music of Today” series at CMF has been a sensational success. Oundjian and the festival are to be commended for their commitment to living musicians.

“Music of Today” at Colorado Music Festival

Music by two living composers and a piece by Beethoven, who “always will be alive”

By Peter Alexander July 23 at 1:10 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival celebrated the “Music of Today” last night (Jul. 22) with a premiere, a second piece by a living composer, and a new arrangement of music by a composer who, in the words of artistic director Peter Oundjian, “always will be alive”: Beethoven.

The premiere was Forestallings by Hannah Lash, originally planned as part of the 2020 Beethoven 250thanniversary celebration. A CMF co-commission, it was inspired by Beethoven’s Second Symphony.

Hannah Lash. Photo by Karjaka Studios.

Lash was introduced by Oundjian to speak about her piece before the performance. This represented a return to the festival, since Lash played the premiere of her Second Harp Concerto, a CMF “Click” Commission, here in 2016. Last night she chose to let her music speak for itself; she said little more than that she has loved the Beethoven Second since childhood.

Except for the dramatic opening gesture, Forestallings does not quote Beethoven directly. Instead, Lash says, the score has “moments of opening a window between me and Beethoven,” after which she very much goes her own way. That way is likely shaped by Beethoven, however; the music makes use of the classical sound world, and offers a relaxed clarity that is not often heard in more intense new pieces.

This makes the development of ideas easy to follow. Lash briefly returns to the opening Beethovenian gesture, after which the first movement doesn’t so much end as just cease. The second movement begins in a Romantic, almost Mahlerian mood. In spite of lush harmonies, the texture remains open and clear, so that you can hear through the entire orchestra from top to bottom. Here Lash’s lyrical writing is particularly ingratiating.

Oundjian and the CMF players revealed the clarity of the music and brought out the strong profile of the score with a careful, attentive performance. In all, Forestallings proved an enjoyable piece that may well go on to further performances.

The second work on the program, the Marimba Concerto of Kevin Puts, was no less enjoyable. Puts may be known to some in the audience who remember that former CMF music director Michael Christie conducted and recorded Puts’s Pulitzer Prize-wining opera Silent Night at the Minnesota Opera in 2011.

Like Forestallings, Puts’s concerto draws on classical models, in this case the piano concertos of Mozart. According to the composer, that influence is found in the near-equal relationship between soloist and orchestra, but attentive listeners will hear a suggestion of Mozartian lyricism. The very opening could almost be the beginning of a Mozart concerto before Puts, like Lash, goes his own way, into a pastoral world with twittering winds and murmuring strings.

There are moments of great loveliness and gentle beauty through the concerto, qualities that were emphasized by the strong string sound of the CMF players. The final movement becomes more virtuosic, opening with a brilliant, almost epic gesture and driving on to the very fast finish.

Ji Su Jung

The performance featured soloist Ji Su Jung, who is one of those true virtuosos who has the ability to make her performance look simple. (It’s not!) She flew through all the fireworks that Puts asks for, and maintained the greatest delicacy in the exquisitely controlled ending of the second movement. After the accelerating finale the audience, duly impressed, provided a standing ovation—which of course is routine at concerts today.

At Oundjian’s urging, Jung played an encore that turned out to be “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” This sudden change of direction showed Jung’s comfort with varied styles, playing an arrangement that has just enough of the lounge-pianist vibe to entertain. She handled the style with polish, and ended with a deft musical wink to the audience.

The second half of the concert was given over to Oundjian’s arrangement for string orchestra of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131. This is undoubtedly one of the great works for string quartet or any medium. Oundjian’s spoken introduction reflected insights gained from more than 150 performances of the quartet as a violinist, and showed the distance between program note analysis and the deep understanding gained inside a piece of music.

The piece, and the opportunity to conduct music he can no longer play, are clearly precious to Oundjian, but I have to admit mixed feelings about arrangements of this, or any string quartet for full string orchestra. In this case, there are definite gains, but also losses. Sometimes the extra heft of the full sections yields expressive rewards, but elsewhere the intimacy of the chamber ensemble captures things that the full orchestra cannot.

The very opening of Op. 131, a chromatic line permeated with despair, is more personal played by a quartet; by full sections, the despair becomes less intimate, a larger landscape of desolation. Is one better, or the other? Is it just different? Each listener must decide.

On the negative side of the ledger are details that get muddied in a full section sound, the rapid gestures than six players cannot play as cleanly as one. The transparency that a good quartet projects, particularly in contrapuntal passages, may get lost.

On the other hand, Beethoven’s stomping fury in the final movement definitely gains from the full section sound. That passage always sounds like it needs more in a quartet performance—although the straining of just four instruments has an expressive quality, too. Full section pianissimo has its own beauty and sense of suspense. The sections where Oundjian’s arrangement alternates solo passages with full section punctuation are very effective.

I have no doubt that every member of the CMF string sections has played this work—possibly excepting the basses—and it is rewarding to see and hear them joining together for something that they all revere. It would be harsh to deny Oundjian, the players and the audience the opportunity to share this performance.

And yet, I cannot escape the thought that the piece is even better played by a great quartet. 

Coming week at CMF will feature new music, commissions, premieres

Commissioned work by Hannah Lash July 22, all Joan Tower program July 25

By Peter Alexander July 20 at 12:10 a.m.

Hannah Lash always wanted to be a composer.

“One of my earliest memories was that the reason I wanted to take violin lessons was that I wanted to be a composer,” she says. “So I had that thought in my head from a very early age.”

Hannah Lash. Photo by Karjaka Studios

Mission accomplished. Lash started on Suzuki violin, later studied piano and harp, and now teaches composition at Yale. Her new piece Forestallings was co-commissioned by the Colorado Music Festival, where it will be premiered Thursday (July 22) by the Festival Orchestra and conductor Peter Oundjian.

The same program will feature Kevin Puts’s Concerto for Marimba with guest soloist Ji Su Jung and Oundjian’s arrangement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor. The Lash score matches well with Beethoven, since it was originally planned as part of the 2020 Beethoven bicentennial.

In fact, Forestallings was commissioned by CMF and the Indianapolis Symphony to accompany Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. “I was really happy about that, because I really like that symphony,” Lash says. “It’s underplayed, and I’m really happy when it’s performed. It was fun to find some way of having a relationship to (the symphony).” 

Her score does not quote Beethoven, but “gesturally it has touch points,” she says. “The first gesture of the first movement has a great deal to do with Beethoven. Then it goes in very different directions. These moments of opening a window between me and Beethoven were important to me.”

Ji Su Jung

Puts has written that his Concerto for Marimba “reflects my love for Mozart’s piano concertos,” with the influence “mostly in the relationship between the soloist and orchestra.” Listeners may also hear a strong kinship to lyrical moments of Mozart’s concertos.

Soloist Jung is a rare musician who started studying percussion as a young child. Born in South Korea, she later came to the United States to study at the Peabody Conservatory and Yale University. 

The Lash premiere is part of a concert series that CMF is calling “Music of Today.” The series opens with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Tuesday (July 20), playing the String Quartet No. 1 by American composer John Adams as well as works by Haydn and Debussy (see full programs below). Adams’s First Quartet was inspired by the St. Lawrence Quartet, to whom it is dedicated. “I was reminded how much the sound of the string quartet is like elevated human discourse,” he wrote. “It’s like speech brought to the highest level.”

Like the Lash, Adams’ quartet was influenced by Beethoven—in this case scherzo movements from two late quartets. While writing the quartet, Adams was also listening to the quartets of Ravel and Debussy, the latter of which closes the St. Lawrence program. 

Friday’s “Music of Today” concert (July 23), titled “Kaleidoscope,” comprises entirely music by living composers, with an emphasis on percussion. Jung will be featured again as soloist, along with pianist Christopher Taylor, along with CMF string players and percussionists. The diverse program ranges from the Piano Quintet No. 2 by William Bolcom to Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert (Part IIC), as well as several pieces for percussion 

The final event of “Music of Today” will be a concert on Sunday (July 25) devoted to the music of American composer Joan Tower, including the world premiere of A New Day for cello and orchestra. This program grew from Oundjian’s long friendship with Tower. “Joan is an old friend of mine,” Oundjian says. “She was really dying to write a cello concerto.” 

Joan Tower. Photo by Bernie Mindrich

To fulfill that wish, CMF commissioned the work that became A New Day, and chose for soloist Alisa Weilerstein, whom Oundjian has known virtually her entire life. Member of a musical family, and another child musician, Weilerstein started playing cello at the age of four. 

A New Day is in part an expression of Tower’s gratitude for every day of life. “As we get older, we begin to treasure and value every day that is given us,” she writes in program notes. “This feeling becomes even stronger when we are able to get past 90. I am not quite there yet, but my husband Jeff is and the closer I get to his passing, the more I treasure every new day.”

Other works on the all-Tower program will be No. 5 in her series of fanfares “For the Uncommon Woman”; Made in America, her setting of “America the Beautiful”; and Duets, an orchestral piece built on duets between individual players in the orchestra.

The next week  at CMF opens with a concert in the festival’s Robert Mann Chamber Music series. The program comprises two works by Beethoven, the Quintet for piano and winds and the Septet, played by members of the CMF Orchestra (Tuesday, July 27). 

Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, see the return of CMF resident artist Augustin Hadelich to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra. The program also features two works that are distinctly less known than the Beethoven concerto: Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to his magic opera Oberon, and the robust and engaging Dances of Galánta by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. Both are works I would welcome more often on orchestral programs.

Finally, the concert on Sunday, Aug. 1 will present more underplayed works, as well as two guests of significant interest. Saxophonist Steven Banks will play the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto and the Concertino da Camera for saxophone and 11 instruments by Jacques Ibert; and longtime CMF supporter and Boulder businessman Chris Christoffersen will narrate Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

Also on the program are Copland’s popular Fanfare for the Common Man, which inspired Tower’s fanfares; and Oundjian’s arrangement of a movement from the Second String Quartet of Florence Price, an important early 20th-century African-American composer who is being rediscovered today.

This concert is one of Oundjian’s favorites of the 2021 festival. “I love that program,” he says.

“Steven Banks is incredible. He’s a miraculous musician—honestly, every single note he plays, he’s really charismatic.”

# # # # #

Colorado Music Festival
Schedule July 20–Aug. 1
All concerts in Chautauqua Auditorium

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20
St. Lawrence String Quartet

  • Haydn: String Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4
  • John Adams: String Quartet No. 1
  • Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, op. 10

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Ji Su Jung, marimba

  • Hannah Lash: Forestallings (CMF Co-commission)
  • Kevin Puts: Concerto for Marimba
  • Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14, op. 131 (orchestrated by Peter Oundjian)

7:30 p.m. Friday, July 23
“Kaleidoscope”
CMF Orchestra strings and percussion, with 
Christopher Taylor, piano, and Ji Su Jung, marimba

  • Nebojsa Zivkovic: Trio per Uno
  • Nico Muhly: Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion
  • Peter Klatzow: Concert Marimba Etudes
  • Derek Bermel: Turning
  • Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (Part IIC)
  • Leigh Howard Stevens: Rhythmic Caprice
  • William Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 2

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 25
Music of Joan Tower
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Alisa Weilerstein, cello

  • Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5
  • Joan Tower: Made in America
  • Joan Tower: Duets
  • Joan Tower: A New Day for cello and orchestra (world premiere)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27
Colorado Music Festival Orchestra members

  • Beethoven: Quintet for piano and winds in E-flat major, op. 16
  • Beethoven: Septet in E-flat major, op. 20

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 30
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin

  • Carl Maria von Weber: Overture to Oberon 
  • Zoltán Kodály: Dances of Galánta
  • Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61

6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Steven Banks, saxophone, and
Chris Christoffersen, narrator

  • Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Florence Price: String Quartet No. 2 (Movement 2)
  • Alexander Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E-flat major, op. 109
  • Jacques Ibert: Concertino da Camera
  • Copland: Lincoln Portrait

The full calendar for the 2021 CMF season can be seen here. Tickets may be purchased through the Chautauqua Web page. Because health restrictions are subject to change over the summer, be sure to check the CMF 2021 tickets FAQ page.

Wonderfully modulated Mendelssohn is star of CMF opening night

Festival premieres a work for our times, gives a driven Beethoven performance

By Peter Alexander July 2 at 12:40 a.m.

The 2021 Colorado Music Festival got off to a splendid start last night (June 1).

After the two-year pause from the pandemic, both the audience and the players on the Chautauqua Auditorium stage were clearly thrilled to be sharing music together again. That joy was briefly expressed by CMF executive director Elizabeth McGuire, and then music director Peter Oundjian strode out to get back to business.

Peter Oundjian and the CMF Orchestra.

The concert opened with the world premiere of the strings, harp and timpani version of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Elegy (to those we’ve lost). Originally written for piano, the music came from a deep well of personal experience on the part of the composer, who contracted COVID-19 himself and lost several friends. (You may hear the piano version together with a film by Esther Shubinski here.)

Aaron Jay Kernis

Elegy is music of relative simplicity and comfort, one that recalls other pieces played for memorial occasions. It is consoling throughout except for a brief moment just before the end, when a tumultuous passage briefly evokes the anguish of the pandemic. Oundjian elicited a sweet and flexible performance that captured well the consoling nature of Kernis’s score which has all the ingredients of a work for these times. 

After Kernis took a bow with Oundjian, the conductor introduced violinist Augustin Hadelich for a performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor. An increasingly celebrated soloist, Hadelich does not overwhelm with volume or sheer flash, but rather with the beauty, precision and delicacy of his playing.

In a wonderfully modulated performance, Hadelich took an overtly Romantic approach to the concerto. He used tempo, dynamics and tone quality to evoke all the kaleidoscopic moods of the score, and he gave the most dramatic and magically captivating reading of the first movement cadenza I have heard. Throughout the concerto, he brought out the sweetness and delicacy of the solo part to an extraordinary degree. 

Augustin Hadelich

In the lyrical second movement, Hadelich showed his ability to sustain attention and the tension of the longest melodic lines. The finale was quite fast, with no loss of accuracy on the soloist’s part. There was one moment of imprecision with the wind players at the very beginning, but otherwise the movement was exceptionally brilliant, as is intended.

For an encore, Hadelich showed that his skills extend well beyond the Classical/Romantic repertoire, playing the “Louisiana Blues Strut” by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson with an idiomatic and raucous sense of fun that was well appreciated by the CMF orchestra as well as the audience.

The concert concluded with a driven performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony—a holdover from the planned 2020 festival that would have coincided with the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Wagner called the Seventh “the apotheosis of the dance,” and indeed every movement is based on strongly rhythmic ideas. Oundjian—conducting without a score—and the CMF orchestra gave a performance that was always bustling, even if it did not always quite dance.

The pace was brisk from the beginning of the slow introduction, which was precise and efficient, leading to a rushing allegro movement that happily observed the repeats Beethoven expected to hear, but that are often omitted today. Changes of volume or dynamics were used to great effect in the slow movement, although for my taste it has more suspense and pays off better at a slower tempo.

The same was true of the Scherzo and Finale, where the very fast tempos contributed to a loss of detail. Both would dance better with a slightly slower tempo and cleaner texture. The massive ritard in the middle of the Scherzo only emphasized how fast the rest of the movement was. The dynamics were well handled in these movements as well, with one exception. 

Near the end of the finale, for the first time ever Beethoven calls for three f’s in the orchestra, a moment underlined by the full brass section. Clearly intended as the climax of the entire symphony, this moment should startle with its impact. But Oundjian had driven the entire movement so powerfully that Beethoven’s triple-f was just more of the same.

This was an early-summer performance—great players coming together for the first time in nearly two years, playing with great skill and precision, but not yet quite coalescing into a totally polished product. Clearly, the audience caught the excitement of the fast tempos and the joy the players felt at being back on stage. With a little more time together, I expect even more.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the “Louisiana Blues Strut” is by the Black English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. That is incorrect. The composer is American Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

2021 CMF opening night marks return to live concerts

On the program: Beethoven, Kernis world premiere, Hadelich plays Mendelssohn

By Peter Alexander June 29 at 11:30 p.m.

There will be much to celebrate when the 2021 Colorado Music Festival gets underway Thursday and Friday (July 1 and 2) at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder.

Peter Oundjian and the CMF Festival Orchestra. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

The return to the stage of CMF music director Peter Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra would be special in any music lover’s calendar. Imagine, being at a concert again—in person! with live performers!—after the past 15 months. 

But there’s even more to love. There will be the world premiere of music in memory of those we lost to the pandemic, Elegy (to those we’ve lost) by Aaron Jay Kernis. And there will be a rising superstar performer, violinist Augustin Hadelich.

What more do you want?

Kernis wrote his Elegy, not from a commission but out of his own experience with COVID-19. CMF artistic director and conductor Peter Oundjian says, “He wrote to me and said ‘I’ve written this elegy to those we’ve lost.’ He got COVID and got pretty sick, and he lost friends. I said I’d love to open the festival with it, I think it’s just so perfect. It’s very beautiful, sad but in a way uplifting as well, because it’s so tender.”

The rest of the program will be Hadelich playing the much-loved Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, always among the top two or three orchestral works in popularity. 

Augustin Hadelich

Hadelich gets asked to play the Mendelssohn Concerto often, but he can’t imagine ever saying no “Mendelssohn is a concerto where the violinist is really in charge,” he says. “You start playing right away and it’s a very dramatic role. And also very virtuosic.

“I would say that the Mendelssohn is harder than people think it is. You can’t underestimate it, but it’s very much worth it. Mendelssohn wastes no time, not a single second. It’s just so compact, because it’s not that long as a piece, but every second there’s something exciting or very beautiful going on.”

The Seventh Symphony is the first of several Beethoven pieces on the summer’s program. Later Oundjian will conduct the Third (Aug. 5) and Fifth (Aug. 7) symphonies, there will be a program of Beethoven chamber music (Aug. 7) and Hadelich will return to play the Violin Concerto (July 29 and 30). Oundjian has contributed his own arrangement of the String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131, to the program on July 22.

Oundjian admits that Beethoven is hardly slighted by classical musicians around the world, but the celebration of his 250th birthday planned for 2020 was canceled by the pandemic. “Poor guy, he was going to have about a million performances last year, and they were all cancelled,” he says. Laughing, he adds “nobody knows who he is.

“But the truth is that he’s not 251 until December, so he’s still 250 this year.”

Between his two appearances, Hadelich will spend two weeks in Boulder as CMF artist-in-residence. Not all of his activities have been decided yet, but Hadelich says “I’m going to be doing whatever they have me doing—a masterclass and then some other activities. As long as I’m there I go wherever {the CMF] decides.”

He was in Boulder once before during the 2018 festival, and looks forward to having more time here. “It’s nice to come back and just enjoy for longer,” he says. “It’s a beautiful place, [and] I thought it was a wonderful hall. It sounds really good. I felt great on stage and I really enjoyed it.”

Several other events in the opening two weeks are noteworthy (see full listing below). One that is dear to Oundjian’s heart as a former violinist in the Tokyo String Quartet is the launching of a new Tuesday evening chamber music series named in honor of Robert Mann, founding violinist of the Juilliard Quartet. 

That concert series will open July 6 with a program of string quintets by Mozart and Brahms, played by members of he CMF orchestra, followed by the current iteration of the Juilliard Quartet on July 13. Other chamber performers will appear on Tuesdays through Aug. 3.

Pianist Olga Kern, always a CMF audience favorite, returns to play concertos by Haydn and Shostakovich, the latter also featuring CMF principal trumpet Jeffrey Work playing the prominent trumpet solos (July 15 and 16). Pianist Conrad Tao, scheduled for the cancelled 2020 festival and a soloist with the Boulder Philharmonic in 2015, will play a concerto on an all-Mozart program July 18.

But the collaboration between Oundjian and Hadelich would be the highlight of any season. “I’m thrilled, he’s absolutely remarkable on every level,” Oundjian says of the violinist. “He’s an inspiration, he really is. He’s so thoughtful and he’s also a wonderful teacher and very generous.”

Hadelich is equally complimentary to Oundjian. “I’m thrilled to come back,” he says. “I always love playing with Peter because he’s such a great collaborator and musician, and always so sensitive. He’s just such a great character. 

“I can’t wait to come to Boulder again.”

# # # # #

Colorado Music Festival
Schedule through July 18
All concerts in Chautauqua Auditorium

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 2
Opening Night
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin

  • Aaron Jay Kernis: Elegy (to those we’ve lost) (world premiere)
  • Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92

11 a.m. Saturday, July 3
Family Concert: The Story of Babar
Really Inventive Stuff, Erina Yashima, conductor

  • Leopold Mozart: Toy Symphony
  • Francis Poulenc: The story of Babar, the Little Elephant

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6
String Quintets
CMF Orchestra Members

  • Mozart: Viola Quintet in G minor, K516
  • Brahms: Viola Quintet in G major, op. 111

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 8 
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 9
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Stewart Goodyear, piano

  • Jessie Montgomery: Strum
  • Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 22
  • Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 11
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Angelo Xiang Yu, violin

  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Novelletten for string orchestra, nos. 3 and 4
  • Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K216
  • Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D major (“London”)
Juilliard Quartet. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 13
Juilliard String Quartet

  • Ravel: String Quartet in F major
  • Henri Dutilleux: Ainsi la Nuit (Thus the night)
  • Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 (“American”)

7:30 Thursday, July 15
6:30 Friday, July 16
Ludovic Morlot, conductor, with Olga Kern, piano

  • Dvořák: Legends, op. 59 (6, 7 and 9)
  • Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1, op. 25 (“Classical”)
  • Haydn: Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11
  • Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, op. 35

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 18
Ludovic Morlot, conductor, with Conrad Tao, piano

  • Mozart: Ballet Music from Idomeneo, K367
  • Mozart: Piano Concerto in A major, K488
  • Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550

The full calendar for the 2021 CMF season can be seen here. Tickets may be purchased through the Chautauqua Web page. Because health restrictions are subject to change over the summer, be sure to check the CMF 2021 tickets FAQ page.

2021 Colorado Music Festival will include in-person and live streaming options

Season will offer 22 performances at Chautauqua Auditorium July 1–­Aug. 7

By Peter Alexander March 29 at 10 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival’s 2021 summer season will include both live in-person performances at the Boulder Chautauqua Auditorium, and live streams you can view from home.

Chautauqua Auditorium

These will be the first in-person CMF performances at Chautauqua since the end of the 2019 season. Last year, the planned summer season was cancelled and replaced with a series of intimate performances featuring selected guest artists and interviews by the CMF Music Director, Peter Oundjian.

In a release from the festival, CMF executive director Elizabeth McGuire is quoted saying “After moving to a virtual festival in 2020, we look forward to offering safe, socially-distanced concerts, alongside streaming options for several of this season’s concerts. We want these performances to be available to as many people as possible.”

CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

Oundjian is quoted in the same news release: “In our 2021 season, we wish to commemorate the challenges of the pandemic, while celebrating the return to live, communal music-making.”

The summer’s schedule will parallel previous summers in many ways: Major orchestra concerts will be played on Thursdays at 7:30 (July 1–Aug. 5); four of the six Thursday concerts will be repeated on the following Friday, this year at 6:30 p.m.; chamber concerts featuring renowned guest artists and CMF musicians, will be Tuesday nights (July 6–Aug. 3); and there will be concerts on Sunday evenings featuring smaller orchestral forces (July 11–Aug. 1). 

The annual family concert, this year with Really Inventive Stuff performing Francis Poulenc’s Story of Babar, will be at 11 a.m. on the opening Saturday of the season, July 3. And the season will conclude at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Oundjian will lead orchestra concerts the first week of the festival, and weeks three through six, with guest conductors David Danzmayr and Ludovic Morlot picking up weeks two and three (see full schedule below).

Joan Tower. Photo by Bernie Mindich

There will be some notable innovations this year. The Tuesday chamber concerts will be known as the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series. Named for Robert Mann—composer, conductor, founding first violin of the Juilliard String Quartet and mentor to CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian—the series will feature CMF orchestra members, as well as three string quartets making their CMF debut appearances.

The first, on July 13, will be the Juilliard Quartet, which retains Mann’s legacy. The St. Lawrence String Quartet, once coached by Mann, will perform July 20, and the Danish String Quartet will present a strikingly original program, including a collection of dances, loosely modeled on the Baroque dance suites and assembled by the quartet from works by different composers, on Aug. 3.

The 2021 Festival will include four world premieres: commissions from Hannah Lash (July 22), Joan Tower (July 25) and Joel Thompson (Aug. 5), and a new work from Aaron Jay Kernis on opening night that will commemorate victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. The concert on July 25 will be devoted entirely to works by Tower, who plans to attend the performance.

Summer artist-in-residence will be violinist Augustin Hadelich, who appeared at the festival in 2018, and was scheduled for the 2020 Festival. When the latter was canceled, he made a solo appearance from Oundjian’s home as one of the summer’s online presentations. This year he will play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra on opening night, Thursday, July 1, and Friday, July 2; and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto Thursday, July 29, and Friday, July 30.

Olga Kern, pianist, photographed by Chris Lee at Steinway Hall.

There will be other Beethoven performances through the summer: Symphony No. 7 on the opening concert (July 1 and 2); an orchestration of String Quartet No. 14, op. 131 (July 22); the Quintet for piano and winds, op. 16 and the Septet, op. 20 (July 27); Symphony No. 3 (Aug. 5) and Symphony No. 5 on the final concert (Aug. 7). Other traditional Classical repertoire will be represented through works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms and Mendelssohn scattered through the summer.

Other solo artists during the summer will include CMF favorite Olga Kern (July 15–16), pianist Stewart Goodyear, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, pianist Conrad Tao, marimbist Ji Su Jung, pianist Christopher Taylor, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and saxophonist Steven Banks. Boulder resident and longtime CMF supporter Chris Christoffersen will narrate Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (Aug. 1).

Tickets for the 2021 season will be for sale on the CMF Web page beginning April 20. The CMF release also noted that “guidance for safe social distancing practices will be observed closely in the months to come and will most likely include limiting the number of orchestra members on stage.“The event’s venue, Chautauqua Auditorium, will implement a COVID-19 safety plan throughout the 2021 season, including the latest guidelines for spacing between seats, distance between performers and audience members, and mask requirements for all.” Information and updates to the Chautauqua safety plan will be posted on the venue’s Web site.

CMF is offering a remote viewing experience for the 2021 Colorado Music Festival with a selection of the performances available via live streaming. For a full list of live-streaming performances and to purchase tickets beginning April 20, click here.

# # # # #

Colorado Music Festival 2021
Season programs
All performances in the Chautauqua Auditorium

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 2
Opening Night
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin

Aaron Jay Kernis: Elegy (to those we’ve lost) (world premiere)
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92

11 a.m. Saturday, July 3
Family Concert: The Story of Babar
Really Inventive Stuff, Erina Yashima, conductor

Leopold Mozart: Toy Symphony
Francis Poulenc: The story of Babar, the Little Elephant

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6
String Quintets
CMF Orchestra Members

Mozart: Viola Quintet in G minor, K516
Brahms: Viola Quintet in G major, op. 111

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 8 
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 9
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Stewart Goodyear, piano

Jessie Montgomery: Strum
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 22
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 11
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Angelo Xiang Yu, violin

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Novelletten for string orchestra, nos. 3 and 4
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K216
Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D major (“London”)

Juilliard String Quartet

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 13
Juilliard String Quartet

Ravel: String Quartet in F major
Henri Dutilleux: Ainsi la Nuit (Thus the night)
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 (“American”)

7:30 Thursday, July 15
6:30 Friday, July 16
Ludovic Morlot, conductor, with Olga Kern, piano

Dvořák: Legends, op. 59 (6, 7 and 9)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1, op. 25 (“Classical”)
Haydn: Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, op. 35

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 18
Ludovic Morlot, conductor, with Conrad Tao, piano

Mozart: Ballet Music from Idomeneo, K367
Mozart: Piano Concerto in A major, K488
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20
St. Lawrence String Quartet

Haydn: String Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4
John Adams: String Quartet No. 1
Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, op. 10

Ji Su Jung

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Ji Su Jung, marimba

Hannah Lash: Forestallings (CMF Co-commission)
Kevin Puts: Concerto for Marimba
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14, op. 131 (orchestrated by Peter Oundjian)

7:30 p.m. Friday, July 23
“Kaleidoscope”
CMF Orchestra strings and percussion, with 
Christopher Taylor, piano, and Ji Su Jung, marimba

Nebojsa Zivkovic: Trio per Uno
Nico Muhly: Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion
Peter Klatzow: Concert Marimba Etudes
Derek Bermel: Turning
Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (Part IIC)
Leigh Howard Stevens: Rhythmic Caprice
William Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 2

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 25
Music of Joan Tower
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5
Joan Tower: Made in America
Joan Tower: Duets
Joan Tower: Cello Concerto (world premiere)

Augustin Hadelich

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27
Colorado Music Festival Orchestra members

Beethoven: Quintet for piano and winds in E-flat major, op. 16
Beethoven: Septet in E-flat major, op. 20

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 30
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Augustin Hadelich, violin

Carl Maria von Weber: Overture to Oberon 
Zoltán Kodály: Dances of Galánta
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61

6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Steven Banks, saxophone, and
Chris Christoffersen, narrator

Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Florence Price: String Quartet No. 2 (Movement 2)
Alexander Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E-flat major, op. 109
Jacques Ibert: Concertino da Camera
Copland: Lincoln Portrait

Brooklyn Rider

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3
Danish String Quartet
PROGRAM CHANGE: Due to COVID, the Danish String Quartet is unable to travel to the United States. This date will be filled by the Brooklyn Rider string quartet. Their program will be:

  • Carolyn Shaw: Schisma
  • Oswaldo Golijov: Tenebrae
  • Schubert: Styring Quartet No 14 (“Death and the Maiden”)

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5
Peter Oundjian, conductor

Joel Thompson: World Premiere commission
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7
Festival Finale
Peter Oundjian, conductor

Giovanni Gabrieli: Canzon septimi toni à 8, arr. R.P. Block
Dvořák: Serenade for Wind Instruments in D minor, op. 44
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67

Conductor Peter Oundjian with the CMF Orchestra (2019)

Tickets on sale beginning April 20 on the CMF Web page

CMF announces six virtual summer concerts, June 25–July 30

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.

CMF’s usual summer home, the Chautauqua Auditorium

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.

CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

“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.

Takács Quartet

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.

Sharon Isbin. Photo by J. Henry Fair.

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.

Ivalas Quartet

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

Colorado Music Festival announces 2020 summer season

Beethoven celebration, living composers, chamber music series are scheduled

By Peter Alexander Feb. 6 at 2 p.m.

chautauqua-boulder-colorado

Chautauqua Auditorium, site of Colorado Music Festival performances

The 2020 Colorado Music Festival (CMF) will include concerts celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, works by living composers throughout the summer, a chamber music series named in honor of Robert Mann, first violinist of the famed Juilliard String Quartet for more than 50 years, and two Sunday concerts devoted to the music of Mozart. (See the full summer schedule and programs below.)

1312 Credit Lisa-Marie Mazzucco low_res.

Juilliard String Quartet. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco.

The current Juilliard Quartet will launch the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, June 30. Other prominent guests during the summer will include composer John Adams, conducting his Third Piano Concerto Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes with pianist Jeremy Denk, July 19; the St. Lawrence String Quartet, July 7; the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, July 14; and 24-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, playing all of the Beethoven piano concertos on three concerts, July 23–26.

The season was unveiled to the festival contributors and board members Tuesday (Feb. 4). In introducing the concert schedule, the festival’s music director, Peter Oundjian, said “The festival is an inspiration to me. It’s been great fun putting together this season.”

Peter-Oundjian_SmallforWeb

CMF music director Peter Oundjian

This is Oundjian’s second year as music director. He noted that this was the first time that he could plan the entire festival from the very beginning. Consequently, the season reveals his vision for the festival, particularly the inclusion of music by living composers. The emphasis on chamber music reflects the fact that Oundjian was first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet for 14 years.

The attention to music by living composers includes two world premieres of works commissioned by the CMF. The first concert (June 25–26) will open with Forestallings by Hannah Lash, who was a CMF “Click Commission” composer in 2016, when she performed the premiere of her Second Harp Concerto. The second world premiere, a new work by Chinese-born American composer Wang Jie, will be performed by Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra July 16.

The opening concert combines two main themes from the summer: the Beethoven anniversary and music by living composers. Lash’s score was inspired by Beethoven’s Second Symphony. It will be followed by John Adams’ Absolute Jest, a score that quotes and reshapes music from Beethoven’s late quartets. The performance will feature Boulder’s and CU’s Takács Quartet as guest artists, with the Festival Orchestra. And officially launching the Beethoven celebration, the concert will end with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

At the opposite end of the season, the Festival Finale concert on Aug. 1 will feature a single work, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor. Oundjian will conduct.

John Adams.2 CREDIT Vern Evans

Composer John Adams. Photo by Vern Evans.

John Adams’ music will be heard throughout the festival. In addition to Absolute Jest on the opening concert and his appearance July 19 conducting Must the Devil Have all the Good Tunes, his String Quartet No. 2 will be played July 7 by the St. Lawrence String Quartet; and City Noir will be performed on a Festival Orchestra concert conducted by Oundjian July 16. Extending the Adams’ family presence in the festival, a Chamber Concerto by his son, Samuel Adams, will be performed July 16.

In a welcome contrast to previous years and most orchestras around the country, another trend that emerges from the festival program is the inclusion of women composers. As noted, the entire festival opens with a new piece by Hannah Lash.

BrooklynRider_1600x900-10-1120x630

Brooklyn Rider

The July 14 program by Brooklyn Rider includes works by no fewer than five women: Caroline Shaw, Gabriela Lena Frank, Du Yun, Matana Roberts and Reena Esmail. Wang Jie’s world premiere will be July 16; “Kaleidoscope,” an inventive program of unusual instrumental combinations will open with Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” No. 5 July 17; and the July 19 orchestra program will open with Tumblebird Contrails by Gabriella Smith.

Maintaining a pattern from previous festivals, major concerts by the Festival Orchestra will be Thursday nights. Three of those programs, including the Festival Opening Night June 25, will be repeated the following Friday. The second and third Festival Orchestra programs will be repeated as well: July 2 and 3, with guest conductor Andrew Grams, featuring guitarist Sharon Isbin and music by Aaron Copland; and July 9 and 10, a program of Russian Masters conducted by former music director and principal guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

IMG_6037

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

In addition to Oundjian and Zeitouni, two guest conductors will lead Festival Orchestra concerts during the summer: Andrew Grams, who has been part of the CMF in the past, July 2 and 3; and Gemma New, a young conductor from New Zealand, making her CMF debut July 5. Colorado Symphony associate conductor Christopher Dragon will lead the Family Concert July 11.

In addition to those already named, a number of guest soloists will appear during the summer. Some of them will be returning after previous performances at CMF, but others will be appearing at the festival for the first time. These guest artists are the piano duo of Christina and Michelle Naughton, June 28; pianist Conrad Tao July 5; pianist Nareh Arghamanyan July 9 and 10; violinist Angelo Xiang Yu and actor John de Lancie July 12; violinist Tessa Lark and saxophonist Timothy McAllister, July 16; pianist Christopher Taylor and marimbist Jisu Jang July 17; and violinist Augustin Hadelich, July 30.

Colorado Music Festival subscription renewals are now available for those who have subscribed in the past. Single tickets will go on sale Monday, March 16. For information on tickets, call 303-440-7666, or click here.

# # # # #

2020 Colorado Music Festival Schedule
All performances in the Chautauqua Auditorium
All performances at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise specified

CMF - Oundjian - credit Michael Quam EDIT

Photo by Michael Quam (2019)

Opening Night
Thursday, June 25, and Friday, June 26
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Takács Quartet

Hannah Lash: Forestallings (World premiere; Colorado Music Festival commission)
John Adams: Absolute Jest (2012)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

Sunday, June 28
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor

Naugthon_Piano_12

Christina and Michelle Naughton

Christina and Michelle Naughton, piano duo

Mozart: Overture to Così fan tutte
Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos, K365 (316a)
Mozart; Overture to The Magic Flute
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K425 (“Linz”)

Tuesday, June 30
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Juilliard String Quartet

Beethoven: String Quartet in F Major, op. 18 no. 1
Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No. 3
Brahms: String Quartet in A Minor, op. 51 no. 2

Isbin(c)J.HenryFair01

Sharon Isbin. Photo by Henry Fair.

Thursday, July 2, and Friday, July 3
Festival Orchestra, Andrew Grams, conductor
Sharon Isbin, guitar

Ravel: Alborada del gracioso
Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
Chris Brubeck: Affinity (2016)
Copland: “Buckaroo Holiday” from Rodeo
Copland: Suite from Our Town
Copland: “Party Scene” and “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land
Copland: “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo

Gemma New 3, credit-© Roy Cox (1)

Gemma New. Photo by Roy Cox.

Sunday, July 5
Festival Orchestra, Gemma New, guest conductor
Conrad Tao, piano

Mozart: Chaconne and Pas seul, ballet music from Idomeneo
Mozart: Piano Concerto in A Major, K488
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550

Tuesday, July 7
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: St. Lawrence String Quartet

Haydn: Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4
John Adams: String Quartet No. 2 (2014)
Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, op. 10

Thursday, July 9, and Friday, July 10
Russian Masters
Festival Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Nareh Arghamanyan, piano

Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major

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Christopher Dragon

Saturday July 11 at 11 a.m.
Family Concert
Christopher Dragon, guest conductor
Really Inventive Stuff, guest artists

Bizet: “Les Toreadors” from Carmen
Leopold Mozart: “Toy Symphony” (formerly attributed to Joseph Haydn)
Francis Poulenc: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

Sunday, July 12
Festival Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor
Angelo Xiang Yu, violin; John de Lancie, actor

György Ligeti: Concert Românesc (1951)
Ravel: Tzigane, Rapsodie de concert for violin and orchestra
Brahms: Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 6
Pablo de Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
Mendelssohn: Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Caroline Shaw 724 - credit Kait Moreno 2017

Caroline Shaw. Photo by Kate Moreno.

Tuesday, July 14
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Brooklyn Rider String Quartet

Caroline Shaw: Schisma (2018)
Gabriela Lena Frank: Kanto Kechua #2 (2018)
Du Yun: i am my own achilles’ heel, a form that would never shape (2018)
Matana Roberts: borderlands (2018)
Reena Esmail: Zeher (Poison) (2018)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, op. 132

Thursday, July 16
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Tesssa Lark, violin, and Timothy McAllister, saxophone

Wang Jie: World premiere (Colorado Music Festival commission)
Samuel Adams: Chamber Concerto (2017)
John Adams: City Noir (2009)

Jisu.Jung

Jisu Jung

Friday, July 17
“Kaleidoscope”
Festival Orchestra members, Christopher Taylor, piano, and Jisu Jung, marimba

Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5 (1993)
Nico Muhly: Big Time for string quartet and percussion (2012)
Eric Ewazen: Northern Lights (1989)
Derek Bermel: Turning (1995)
Nebojsa Zivkovic: Trio per Uno (1995/1990)
William Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 2 (2011)
Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (Part IIC) (1975)
Leigh Howard Stevens: Rhythmic Caprice (1989)

Sunday, July 19
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian and John Adams, conductors

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Jeremy Denk. Photo by Dennis Callahan.

Jeremy Denk, piano

Gabriella Smith: Tumblebird Contrails (2014)
John Adams: Piano Concerto No. 2,  Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (2019)
Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 6 (2019)

Tuesday, July 21
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Festival Orchestra members

Mozart: String Quintet in G minor, K516
Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, op. 111

Thursday, July 23
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: Overture to Fidelio
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, op. 19
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, op. 15

Friday, July 24
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, op. 62
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, op. 37
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, op. 58

Sunday, July 26
Beethoven Piano Concerto series
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

Beethoven: String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131 (arr. Peter Oundjian)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73

Tuesday, July 28
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Festival Orchestra members

Beethoven: Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, op. 16
Beethoven: Septet in E-flat Major, op. 20

AugustinHadelich2

Augustin Hadelich

Thursday, July 30
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
Augustin Hadelich, violin

Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67

Saturday, August 1
Festival Finale
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor

CMF Orchestra 2019-3

Peter Oundjian conducting the CMF Orchestra (2019)

 

CMF ends 2019 with spectacular performance

Sold out Chautauqua Auditorium cheers orchestra, conductor, choirs and soloist

By Peter Alexander Aug. 4 at 12:23 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival ended its 2019 season in spectacular fashion last night (Aug. 3).

Peter Oundjian 2017-18 - 3 - credit Malcolm Cook

Peter Oundjian

Music Director Peter Oundjian led the Festival Orchestra in a wonderful performance of a wonderful symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 for large orchestra, alto soloist, women’s chorus and children’s chorus. At the end of this very long work—about 100 minutes of music—the sold-out Chautauqua Auditorium was cheering, and no doubt already looking forward to Oundjian’s next season with the festival.

Many factors made this a splendid performance, but two in particular should be mentioned. The first was Oundjian’s management of the sprawling work. His control of sound and dynamics across long stretches of music gave impact to every climax of orchestral sound—and there are many. The performance was more than a series of splendid moments—though it could also be heard that way. More than that, it was a whole, each phrase driving to a destination and the whole driving to the end.

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Peter Oundjian. Photo by Sian Richards.

In particular, Oundjian and the players maintained near perfect balance among the parts across long crescendos, so that the orchestra swelled and subsided, bloomed and retracted as one. This is a specially great achievement since so many phrases started from near silence, with remarkably controlled pianissimo phrases that grew over long, long spans of time.

Particularly in the final movement, a long slow movement, he kept careful control as the sound grew to a high point, then fell back to near silence, ascended to an even higher point and fell back again, all with the goal of making the final cadence, with timpani pounding and brass sustaining almost to the point of collapse, the true destination and end point of the entire symphony.

Oundjian exercised a similar control of dynamics and tempo in the other movements, with their many moods from a dawn-like awakening, to a jubilant march, to a pastoral delicacy, The fourth movement’s portent of doom and the fifth movement’s simple joys were equally well achieved.

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Concertmaster Calin Lupanu

The second factor is the quality of the individual players in the orchestra, not only to play individual solos beautifully, but to give and take with others in chamber music fashion, and then to play in a section with unanimity of pitch and phrasing and dynamics. There were many wonderful solos, by trombone, by horn, by clarinet and piccolo and on through the wind sections, and including the concertmaster, Calin Lupanu.

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CMF Principal Trumpet Jeffrey Work

One solo needs special notice, the long offstage posthorn solo that lends a note of nostalgia and melancholy to the third movement. Principal trumpet Jeffrey Work floated the high notes beautifully, while shaping the individual phrases with exquisite control.

I should also mention the wonderful CMF percussion section, who were in my direct line of sight. Parts of the symphony were a masterclass in soft percussion playing. Everyone noticed the loud climaxes, but who knew that a bass drum could be heard at such a soft level, and make such a delicate musical effect?

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Janice Chamdler-Eteme

The outstanding vocal soloist for the fourth and fifth movements, Janice Chandler-Eteme, is generally billed as a lyric soprano, even though Maher asks for an alto. Clearly the lower range is no obstacle. She found the right sound and expressive palette for both movements, bringing an ominously dark tone to the fourth movement, appropriate for a text that begins “O Man! Take Heed!” And then her sound was enjoyably bright and more forward for the cheerful fifth movement.

The women of the St. Martin’s Festival Singers were solid in their small part, and the Boulder Children’s Chorale rang out bravely with their “Bimm Bamm” imitations of church bells.

But it is the final movement that is the key to the symphony. Under the title “What Love Tells Me,” it is one of Mahler’s longest and most beloved slow movements. Oundjian and the CMF orchestra achieved what everyone aims for, a long arc of sheer beauty leading to an overwhelming finish.

After that, what can we expect next year? You will have to wait for the announcement of the CMF 2020 season after the first of the year to answer that question. In the meantime, there are many fine musical groups in Boulder who would welcome your support.

Oundjian returns to CMF for memorable concert

Pieces by Shostakovich and Berlioz are not to be missed

By Peter Alexander July 26 at 12:30 a.m.

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Peter Oundjian with the CMF Orchestra. Photo by Michael Quam.

Music Director Peter Oundjian has been absent from the Colorado Music Festival podium for the past two weeks, but last night (July 25) he returned for a memorable concert with music by Shostakovich (Cello Concerto No. 1 with soloist Kian Soltani) and Berlioz (Symphonie Fantastique).

The concert will be repeated tonight. If you love those composers as I do, you will not want to miss it.

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Vivan Fung

The program began with a little known piece by Vivian Fung, a Canadian composer of mixed heritage who combines western and various Asian and other folk musical idioms. Dust Devils begins with bright, whirling sounds built from fragments and outbursts of sound that do indeed recall a progression of dust devils. A central section of static chords, marked by slowly changing colors and eerie wails rises to a clouded culmination in the brass.

This entertainingly descriptive piece was played with verve and energy by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, who were all smiles at the end. So were many in the audience.

Born in Austria to a family of Persian musicians, Soltani has recently risen to prominence as a soloist with Daniel Barenboim’s West Eastern Divan Orchestra. I had not heard him before, but Oundjian has described him as “an extraordinary talent and a very intense player,” which was evident in his performance of the Shostakovich Concerto.

One of the most demanding pieces in the cello repertoire, the concerto is far more powerful when heard live. The spatial element, separating the voices and putting the cellist full view of the audience, makes both the musical textures and the virtuoso demands of the concerto visible.

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Kian Zoltani. Photo by Juventino Mateo.

Soltani attacked the Concerto with confidence and élan from the very first solo introduction. His playing was full of fire when it needed to be, particularly throughout the intense first movement.

For the second movement Soltani, Oundjian and the orchestra slipped into an entirely different world—one of calm and beauty, with meditative moments bordering on melancholy. The warmth of the cello sound and the delicacy of Soltani’s phrasing made this a high point—at least until the written out cadenza of the third movement, where Soltani’s perfect sense of drama kept the audience rapt. Here the most delicate pianissimos drew the audience in, lest they miss a single nuance.

The finale went off in a burst of energy, ending with an almost shocking series of timpani strokes followed by silence. Soltani’s mastery of the Concerto’s demands was unmistakable throughout, and earned a standing ovation that for once seemed more than routine.

Parts of the Concerto, particularly in the first movement, are virtually a double concerto for cello and horn. Special mention should be made of the orchestra’s outstanding principal horn Catherine Turner, whose clarion calls rang out repeatedly. With no place to hide, she was splendid.

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Hector Berlioz

In introducing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Oundjian noted that it was written only three years after Beethoven’s death. What orchestra players in 1830 could have made of Berlioz’s psychedelic masterpiece with its revolutionary instrumental colors, its unprecedented demands on the players, its startling syncopations, the sheer buildup of orchestral sound, its fantastic story of love, death and insanity—much less how they could have played it—is hard to imagine.

The list of innovation in the score is long—violins using the wood of the bow, multiple timpani, two harps, enlarged wind sections, use of the piercing E-flat clarinet—and a testament to Berlioz’s unconstrained imagination. This is a work of staggering originality when it was premiered.

Whatever the players thought then, the Symphonie Fantastique is well within players’ experience and ability today, and I can only believe that Berlioz would have been thrilled with last night’s performance. To mention only a few high points, the introduction was beautifully dreamy and delicate, with Oundjian finding all the momentary outbursts of intensity that needed emphasis.

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Conductor Peter Oundjian

Once the movement got moving, the rhythmic momentum became irresistible, carrying everyone with it. Oundjian perfectly managed the flow and pauses of the second movement waltz. The solo oboe and English Horn of the third movement (“Scene in the country,” the movement with the most obvious precedents in its time) were played beautifully. Throughout the movement, the quietest and most delicate moments were carefully balanced and nuanced.

From the beginning of the “March to the Scaffold” through the following “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” the momentum grew inexorably to the final chord. Oundjian carefully controlled both volume and tempo, so that the final, culminating crescendo never became distorted and the final accelerando was achieved without loss of clarity or precision.

The program will be repeated tonight (July 26) at 7:30 p.m. at the Chautauqua Auditorium. Tickets are available though the Chautauqua Box Office.