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.

CMF: Jazz, pizzazz, patriotism and a lot of fun

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker performs Gershwin, plus Billy Joel

By Peter Alexander July 6 at 12:25 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival offered a concert titled “Revolution and Freedom” for its not-quite-the-Fourth of July concert last night (July 5). The program offered equal bits of jazz, pizzazz and patriotism, and a whole lot of fun.

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Peter Oundjian

After starting with a brisk performance of the National Anthem, conductor Peter Oundjian and the Festival Orchestra took up the more serious parts of the program, starting with Aaron Copland’s Outdoor Overture. The performance was bright and forceful, with more vigor than clarity in the opening section. The following lyrical passages were enhanced by lovely solos from flute and clarinet.

Oundjian delineated the contrasting sections well, and brought precision and a welcome energy to the performance. Though Canadian-English-Scottish by ancestry, Oundjian shows that he understands American styles of music—or at least how to unleash an American orchestra.

The American theme continued with Gershwin’s Concerto in F for piano and orchestra, with the assured and spirited Jon Kimura Parker as soloist. From the very beginning, he made the concerto his with a strong and sure interpretation. Listening, you might think, “This is what Gershwin wanted his Concerto to sound like!”

Oundjian was an attentive accompanist, finding both playful moments and powerful climaxes in the score. He maintained a truly precise connection between soloist and orchestra: I did not hear a single moment when they were not right together. Several times he and Parker—friends since their student days at Juilliard—exchanged beaming smiles.

The bluesy second movement offers its own challenge. The CMF performance was nicer than real blues—but was it a cautious interpretation, or Gershwin’s desire to write concert music that created that result? It was atmospheric, expressive, but stayed well away from anything that could be mistaken for dirty blues.

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Jon Kimura Parker. Courtesy of Colorado Music Festival.

The final movement was all energy and (that word again!) precision. Parker commanded attention with every entrance, driving the performance as a soloist should. After a rapturous ovation, he played a virtuosic version of Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” as an encore, while a beaming Oundjian stood beside the piano.

The second half of the concert was all dessert, starting with a bouncy and bumptious Overture to La Gazza Ladra by Rossini. From the multiple snare drums trading off the solos that open the overture, it was all a good show, with great individual playing through the wind sections—horns, piccolo, and clarinet being especially noticeable—and as loud as it needed to be at climaxes. It was all, Rossini would agree, “stupendo!”

If any piece in the repertoire can be called a potboiler, it is Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Played for Independence Day concerts everywhere, it is an easy piece for orchestras and conductors to toss off thoughtlessly, but Oundjian took pains to say that it is “always a joy to play this piece! It is remarkable and beautiful, even before the canons come in.”

His interpretation lived up that statement. He showed great attention to musical details from the very opening hymn played by solo cellos and violas through to the end. While parts of it were “very noisy,” as the composer himself once said, with occasional blare in the brass sound, it was never less than thrilling.

The remainder of the program comprised three marches by John Philip Sousa, Washington Post, The Liberty Bell  and of course, Stars and Stripes Forever. All were spirited and great fun to hear in the concert hall, if a little toned down from the best band performances. Stars and Stripes was faster than I am used to hearing it, but did not suffer from the tempo.

A word about the central march: Oundjian selected an enthusiastic audience member from the back of the hall, to conduct The Liberty Bell. A young percussionist with some band experience, the impromptu conductor showed that he had played the piece before. He gave appropriate cues throughout, including offbeat chimes near the end, and got the orchestra to follow a dramatically slower tempo for the very final strain.

Loud cheers followed the final, conclusive “stinger.” Did I say it was a lot of fun? Clearly a good time was had by all. What more could you want for a holiday concert?

Colorado Music Festival gets off to a festive beginning

First concert has everything you could want for opening night

By Peter Alexander June 28 at 12:25 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival got off to a genuinely festive start last night (June 27).

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CMF Festival Orchestra—photo by Michael Quam

The opening night concert, conducted by Peter Oundjian with pianist Natasha Paremski as soloist, had everything you could want for opening night: spectacular orchestral fireworks, a virtuosic concerto with a virtuoso soloist, and not one but two exciting overtures.

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CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

To judge by the performance, Oundjian is not afraid to let loose the horses—meaning the impressively solid and forceful brass section of the CMF Festival Orchestra—when called for. More on that later, but the entire orchestra made a very strong impression. Let us hope that Oundjian has steadied the festival after several awkward transitions, and will carry CMF forward on a consistent and high artistic level.

The program, which will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. tonight (June 28) in the Chautauqua Auditorium, began with a clean, solid performance of Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont. Oundjian paced the performance well, bringing out the contrasts of dynamics and tempo leading to a powerful “Victory Symphony” to end the overture.

Egmont’s presence on the program reflects the summer’s theme, “Beethoven’s Path to the Future,” wherein many of the concerts will include a work by Beethoven, and then pieces that in some way reflect Beethoven’s foreshadowing of later musical developments.

The meaning of that theme was best described by Oundjian in his remarks at the concert. It’s not that Beethoven directly influenced every composer that came after him; rather, he said, “Beethoven gave license to future composers” to follow their inspiration in unexpected directions.

The short overture was followed by a very long break while the piano was brought on stage and chairs repositioned for Paremski and the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto. The break was too long; however awkward it might look, I would prefer to have the piano onstage during the overture, with the lid down, than to have so much dead time between pieces.

As a great and much-loved Romantic concerto, the Rachmaninoff Second fit this program’s theme, “Beethoven’s Path to Romanticism.” Paremski played with an appropriately big sound without crossing into an abrasive tone quality, and from the very beginning was in total command of the score. Oundjian brought out the surging orchestral climaxes, although there were moments when the pianist’s efforts were more seen than heard.

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Natasha Paremski

Best of all was the second movement, especially the chamber-like passages, including some lovely woodwind solos that are essentially accompanied by rippling arpeggios in the piano. All the shifting moods of the Romantic palette were effectively expressed in this movement, and Paremski’s fleet passagework and sparkling trills were the icing on a very fine cake.

The finale was impressive from pianist and orchestra, fast, exciting and well controlled. Once again the CMF horses came blazing out of the corral, this time without obscuring the soloist, and the brilliant ending garnered the expected ovation.

After intermission, the orchestra returned for the Overture to Verdi’s melodramatic opera La forza del destino (The force of destiny). Oundjian steered the orchestra successfully through the overture’s many shifting moods. All the drama, pathos and nervous energy of the highly episodic piece were present and well expressed. This overture is not often heard in the concert hall, so it was a real pleasure to hear it so well performed by Oundjian and the CMF players.

Respighi’s Pines of Rome, which ended the concert, is the perfect piece to show off the Festival Orchestra’s strengths. The scintillating first movement (Pines of the Villa Borghese) was a brilliant explosion of orchestral colors. The second and third movements (portraying pines near a catacomb and on the Janiculum, respectively) featured beautiful solo wind playing—a haunting, lyrical trumpet in the second, a delicate and utterly exposed clarinet, along with flute, and oboe plus a solo cello in the third.

But it is the final movement, the grand and forceful crescendo of the Pines of the Appian Way, portraying the inexorable advance of a Roman Legion, that everyone remembers from Respighi’s colorful score. Here it was relentless and loud and utterly exciting—just what is wanted to start a season. You have one more chance to hear this program: don’t miss it.

Tickets to tonight’s concert are available through the Chautauqua Box Office.

 

“Beethoven’s Path to Romanticism” opens CMF June 27

First two weeks, June 27–July 9, set the pattern for the summer festival

By Peter Alexander June 27 at 4 p.m.

The Colorado Music Festival opens its 2019 season tonight (Thursday, June 27) with Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont, followed by a series of works that form a bridge forward into the Romantic era.

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Natasha Paremski will play Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Photo by Clarence Chan

CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian will conduct the Festival Orchestra, and Russian-American pianist Natasha Paremski will perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. The program, also featuring Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destinoand Respighi’s Pines of Rome, will be repeated Friday (June 28).

 

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Peter Oundjian. Photo by Sian Richards

Under the title “Beethoven’s Path to Romanticism,” the program sets a pattern for other orchestra concerts during the summer: a keystone work by Beethoven, with other pieces that share a stylistic affinity. These programs and others fit into the summer’s overarching theme, “Beethoven’s Path to the Future.”

 

“The idea is to create beautiful programs with a general theme,” Oundjian says. “Obviously, every composer after Beethoven was in some way in his shadow. I don’t want to suggest that all (of them) were influenced by Beethoven. I just wanted to give a journey through each program.”

The festival opens its Sunday chamber orchestra series June 30 with Oundjian conducting a concert titled “Beethoven’s Path to Modernism,” and the annual CMF Family Concert will be Sunday, July 7

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado Music Festival: Opening Weeks
June 27–­July 9

7:30 p.m. Thursday& Friday, June 27 & 28
OPENING NIGHT: BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO ROMANTICISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Natasha Paremski, piano

Beethoven:Egmont Overture
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
Verdi: Overture to La forza del destino
Respighi: Pines of Rome

7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO MODERNISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with James Ehnes, violin

Berlioz:Roman Carnival Overture
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
R. Strauss: Wind Serenade
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2
BRAHMS & DVOŘÁK
CMF Chamber Players

Brahms: Trio for horn, violin and piano in E-Flat Major
Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major

7:30 p.m. Friday July 5
REVOLUTION AND FREEDOM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Copland: Outdoor Overture
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F
Rossini: Overture to La gazza ladra
Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812
Sousa: “Washington Post,” “Liberty Bell,” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”

3 p.m. Sunday, July 7
FAMILY CONCERT “PETER AND THE WOLF”

Earl Lee, conductor, with Really Inventive Stuff ensemble

Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Sensory-friendly Performance

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9
STRINGS AT SUNSET
CMF Chamber Players

Mozart: String Trio in B Flat Major for Two Violins and Cello
Boccherini: String Trio No. 5 in G Minor
Dvořák: String Quintet in G Major

All performances in Chautauqua Auditorium
Tickets from the Chautauqua Box office

 

Peter Oundjian wants Colorado Music Festival to be dynamic, “exciting, a celebration”

First year as Music Director will be ‘about consolidating, preparing’ for the future

By Peter Alexander June 6 at  3:15 p.m.

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Peter Oundjian

Violinist/conductor Peter Oundjian served as artistic advisor of the Colorado Music Festival for the 2018 season, a position halfway between giving advice and being responsible for the season’s programming. He conducted three of the six weeks of orchestral concerts and invited some of the guest artists, in a season that featured works by American composers.

Now, he has been appointed the CMF’s fourth-ever music director, making 2019, in a way, “his” festival. “I guess you’re right,” he says thoughtfully about that observation, and then goes on talk in general terms about what he would like CMF to be under his direction.

“A festival should be a celebration,” he says. “I want it to be really dynamic, really exciting, with artists from all over the world., making concerts really appealing and building larger audiences.”

He is still conducting about half of the orchestral concerts, but he has shaped the programming of the entire 2019 festival and given the orchestra series an explicit theme. In anticipation with the 250thanniversary in 2020 of Beethoven’s birth, the 2019 season is an exploration of Beethoven’s influence on music that came after him, from the 19ththrough the 20thcenturies.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

The full summer schedule and ticket information for the 2019 Colorado Music Festival may be found here.

Colorado Music Festival announces Music Director and 2019 season

Peter Oundjian takes the helm for a season exploring Beethoven’s influence

By Peter Alexander Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.

Peter Oundjian, Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Dale Wilcox.

The Colorado Music Festival has announced that distinguished conductor and violinist Peter Oundjian will be the festival’s music director.

Oundjian, who served as the Artistic Advisor for the 2018 festival, becomes the fourth music director in CMF’s 42-year history. Previous music directors were Giora Bernstein (1977–2000), Michael Christie (2001–2013) and Jean-Marie Zeitouni (2015–2017). Oundjian will lead seven concert programs during the six-week summer season, which runs June 28 to Aug. 3.

Other conductors appearing with the CMF orchestra will be the former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni, for two concert programs; David Danzmayr, who appeared as guest conductor in 2018, for two concert programs; and Pittsburgh Symphony associate conductor Earl Lee, who will lead the family concert July 7 (see full schedule below).

The move to CMF marks a transition in Oundjian’s career. The former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet (1981–95), he recently concluded tenure as music director of the Toronto Symphony (2004–18) and the Scottish National Orchestra (2012–18). In a news release from the CMF, Oundjian is quoted: “After leading a number of orchestras year-round, this [summer festival] is an exciting change of pace.”

Elizabeth McGuire, the CMF’s executive director, said that Oundjian’s appearances at the festival in 2018 convinced the CMF board to offer him a contract. “His rapport with the audience is at a level that I’ve never experienced,” she says. “He makes each individual audience member feel as if he’s talking directly to them.”

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Peter Oundjioan with the CMF Festival Orchestra. Photo by Michael Quam.

She also praised his ability to make connections between different pieces and programs in a way that fits the Boulder audience. “He has a real depth of understanding of the history and the people and their lives, and he really makes deep connections between the pieces,” she says. “In 2018, that was one of the things that really appealed to us.

“Because he’s so knowledgeable, he’s able to extract details from that big picture and make connections between concerts that are really interesting and play into Boulder’s sense of highly-educated concertgoers. And despite his amazing talents as a performer, he’s very down to earth and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s what makes him good for Boulder.”

The 2019 festival continues the basic pattern of recent seasons: Festival Orchestra concerts on Thursday and Friday evenings, separate orchestral programs on Sunday evenings, and chamber concerts on Tuesdays. Four of the six Festival Orchestra concerts will be presented twice, as Thursday-Friday pairs. The season opens Thursday, June 27, and concludes with the “Season Finale” concert Saturday, Aug. 3. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. in Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium.

One theme of the 2019 season is the influence of Beethoven on the music of the 19thand 20thcenturies. This theme was developed by Oundjian in anticipation of the 250thanniversary of Beethoven’s birth, to be celebrated in 2020, and represents the kind of comprehensive season planning that McGuire likes. “We appreciated that he was able to conceive of an entire season with one underlying common denominator,” she says.

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Jan Swafford

This year many of the orchestral works include a work by Beethoven and works that are in some ways related to or influenced by Beethoven’s music. The season concludes with Mahler’s Third Symphony, which was heavily influenced by Beethoven, including references to Beethoven’s last string quartet in the symphony’s finale. As part of exploration of Beethoven’s influence on later generations, the scholar Jan Swafford, author of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (2014) will present an evening of discussion of the composer.

A two-concert mini-festival will be devoted to music by Mozart. Titled “Magnificent Mozart,” the concerts July 21 and 28 will feature works in several genres including symphonies, concertos and a divertimento.

The summer’s extensive list of guest artists features pianist Natasha Paremski, violinist James Ehnes, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, pianist Coco Ma, violinist Jan Vogler, violist Mira Wang, pianist Lilya Zilberstein; pianist Gabriela Montero, violinist Stefan Jackiw, cellist Kian Soltani, clarinetist Jörg Widmann, violinist Robert McDuffie, mezzo-soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, the ensemble Really Inventive Stuff, the St. Martin’s Festival Singers, and the Boulder Children’s Chorale.

Tickets to CMF performances can be purchased through the Chautauqua Box Office (303-440-7666). The box office is currently accepting renewals of previous CMF season subscriptions. New subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18.

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COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL
Schedule of Concerts, 2019 Season
All performances at the Chautauqua Concert Hall

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Chautauqua Auditorium. Photo by Jonathan B. Auerbach.

7:30 p.m. Thursday& Friday, June 27 & 28
OPENING NIGHT: BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO ROMANTICISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Natasha Paremski, piano

Paremski

Natasha Paremski

Beethoven: Egmont Overture
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
Verdi: La forza del destino Overture
Respighi: Pines of Rome

7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO MODERNISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with James Ehnes, violin

Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
R. Strauss: Wind Serenade
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2
BRAHMS & DVOŘÁK
CMF Chamber Players

Brahms: Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E-Flat Major
Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major

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Jon Kimura Parker

7:30 p.m. Friday July 5
REVOLUTION AND FREEDOM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Copland: Outdoor Overture
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F
Rossini: La gazza ladra Overture
Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812
Sousa: “Washington Post March”; “Liberty Bell March”; “Stars and Stripes Forever”

3 p.m. Sunday, July 7
FAMILY CONCERT “PETER AND THE WOLF”

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Earl Lee

Earl Lee, conductor, with Really Inventive Stuff ensemble

Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Sensory-friendly Performance

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9
STRINGS AT SUNSET
CMF Chamber Players

Mozart: String Trio in B Flat Major for Two Violins and Cello
Boccherini: String Trio No. 5 in G Minor
Dvořák: String Quintet in G Major

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday July 11 & 12, 7:30 PM
ROMANTIC DUOS
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Mira Wang, violin, and Jan Vogler, cello

Fauré: Pelleas et Mélisande Suite
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Violoncello
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture
Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO NEOCLASSICISM
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, with Lilya Zilberstein, piano

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
QUINTESSENTIAL HARP
CMF Chamber Players

Arnold Bax: Quintet for Harp and String Quartet
Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet
Ravel: String Quartet
Brahms: String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major

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Gabriela Montero. Photo by Colin Bell.

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 18 & 19
TCHAIKOVSKY’S SYMPHONY NO. 6 “PATHETIQUE”
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Gabriela Montero, piano

Golijov: Sidereus
Grieg: Piano Concerto
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”)

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21
MAGNIFICENT MOZART MINI-FESTIVAL I
David Danzmayr, conductor, with Stefan Jackiw, violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 32
Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”)
Overture from Don Giovanni
Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
RUSSIAN MASTERS
CMF Chamber Players

Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 1 in C Minor
Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A Minor

7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 25 & 26
SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE
Peter Oundjian, conductor with Kian Soltani, cello

Vivian Fung: Dust Devils
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

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Jörg Widman. Photo by Marco Borggreve

7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28
MAGNIFICENT MOZART MINI-FESTIVAL II
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Jörg Widmann, clarinet

Mozart: Divertimento in D Major
Clarinet Concerto in A major
Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter”

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1
BEETHOVEN’S PATH TO MINIMALISM
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”)
Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 1

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Janice Chandler-Eteme

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
FESTIVAL FINALE
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo-soprano, St. Martin’s Festival Singers and the Boulder Children’s Chorale

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Each Thursday and Friday night orchestral concert will be preceded by a “Talk Under the Tent,” just outside the North doors to Chautauqua Auditorium. Talks will be presented by scholars, journalists, and CMF musicians.

Previous Subscription may currently be renewed. New subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 18.
Purchase tickets through the Chautauqua Box Office HERE or by phone at 303-440-7666.

 

CMF concert has four highlights, each presented with great polish

Augustin Hadelich a soloist to remember in the Barber Violin Concerto.

By Peter Alexander July 27 at 1:15 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival presented a remarkable orchestra concert last night (July 26), even by their high standards, featuring four works composed in America, all of them worth hearing and all of them presented with great polish.

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CMF artist advisor Peter Oundjian (photo by Jaime Hogge)

The CMF orchestra was conducted by the festival’s artistic advisor, Peter Oundjian, who has devoted his programs this summer to music with American connections. Appearing with Oundjian was violinist Augustin Hadelich, whose performance of the Barber Violin Concerto would be a highlight on any program. But so were, each in their own way, the other three works on the concert.

Barber’s Concerto is unquestionably one of the greatest works by an American composer. No piece starts more enticingly, with music of seductive beauty. Hadelich was in command from the first note, playing with an incomparably sweet tone that easily carried to the back of the hall without a hint of harshness, then turning on a dime to skip through the concerto’s playful moments.

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Violinist Augustin Hadelich

The expressive beauty of his playing served him well in the second movement, a distillation of the late Romantic love of pure sound, with only occasional glimpses of the darker side of the 20th century. The finale, a famously virtuosic display of perpetual motion, went in a blaze of fireworks, zipping past without a single slip. In every facet of the concerto, Hadelich was a soloist to remember.

As if that were not enough, he came back for an encore, playing a Paganini Caprice just to show that no, his fingers are not tired. After the concerto, it was striking to hear the violin alone, every sound exposed. And it sounded just the way it looks on the page, every note right where it should be. The violinist who accompanied me to the concert whispered, “Perfect. That’s all you have to say.”

The concert opened with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, a boisterous and entertaining work that showcases just about every section of the orchestra, including percussion. Weber’s charming early-Romantic ideas are run through Hindemith’s late Romantic filter, adding a lot of instrumental color, a lot of variation, and an occasional harmonic twist to make an attractive, audience-friendly concert piece. Oundjian’s performance loved the orchestral colors of the score and let them shine. It was all great fun, as it is meant to be.

After intermission, the orchestra’s string section returned for George Walker’s Lyric for Strings. Like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which it resembles, this is a movement from a string quartet arranged for string orchestra. Walker uses the string instruments’ ability to sustain long musical lines, expand into a rich, deep texture, and play ethereal chords that drift into silence. The CMF players filled the hall with luxurious sounds.

Dr. Atomic Met

Gerald Finley as Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera

The final member of the quartet of fascinating pieces was the Doctor Atomic Symphony by John Adams, comprising music from Adams’ 2005 opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the first test of an atomic bomb in 1945. The opera compellingly captures the pressures and conflicts experienced by Oppenheimer and the other scientists of the Manhattan Project as the date of the first test approached, as well as the pressure felt and exerted by Gen. Leslie Groves, the Army’s commander for the project. (Doctor Atomic is currently being produced by the Santa Fe Opera. Learn more here.)

All of this is transferred into the Symphony, which contains music of ominous intensity. To my ears, this is one of the most dramatic, most powerful, and most effective new orchestral works I have heard in recent years, and it was played with great force and sheer virtuosity by the CMF orchestra. Individual solos—especially the trumpet’s eloquent interpretation of Oppenheimer’s aria from John Donne’s sonnet “Batter my heart, three person’d God”—were all played very well.

One of the central issues and greatest sources of conflict in the opera is weather, with thunderstorms threatening to cancel the long-awaited test. Perhaps it was coincidence, but the CMF performance was powerful enough that it seemed to stir up its own sudden thunderstorm that lasted beyond a long ovation.

Just like the actual test in 1945, the audience departure from the auditorium had to be delayed. But just as in 1945, the storm passed, and to all appearances the audience went home more than satisfied with what they heard.

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Oundjian debuts at CMF with stunning program, riveting performance

Pianist Yefim Bronfman adds luster to the evening

By Peter Alexander July 13 at 12:25 a.m.

Peter Oundjian, the current artistic advisor of the Colorado Music Festival, last night (July 12) made his first appearance leading the Festival Orchestra. He had selected a stunning program and delivered a vivid and riveting performance.

Peter Oundjian 2017-18 - 3 - credit Malcolm Cook

Peter Oundjian, artistic advisor to CMF

Oundjian and the orchestra opened with a brash, zesty performance of Leonard Bernstein’s well known Overture to Candide. This bustling overture won the audience from the first notes, as it always does, getting the concert started on a bright note.

Next on the program, Oundjian brought on a friend from his student days at Juilliard, the widely esteemed Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman, for a performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto in D minor. Oundjian explained the esoteric relationship to the Bernstein Overture: That Bernstein had given a speech before a notorious 1962 performance of the same concerto with pianist Glenn Gould, disavowing Gould’s interpretation while endorsing his right as a performer.

He reassured the audience, however, that he and Bronfman would not duplicate the conflict between Bernstein and Gould.

After Bernstein, the orchestra produced a noticeably darker sound for Brahms. From the very beginning, Oundjian established the contrast between the power of Brahms’ opening phrase and the lyrical sections that followed. In particular, he showed an ability to spin out melodies over a long musical span, a skill that Bronfman duplicated in his playing. Oundjian’s support for the soloist was exemplary.

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Pianist Yefim Bronfman

For his part, Bronfman demonstrated both the strength and the lyrical warmth that Brahms demands of the soloist, while producing a beautiful sound from the piano. His playing was carefully controlled, down to the most delicate passages. This is a killer concerto—Bronfman called it “terrifying”—but he more than survived; he conquered.

Bronfman has said that playing the second movement is almost a religious experience. He conveyed that depth of feeling throughout, once again elegantly spinning out phrase after long lyrical phrase.

The rousing finale wants to drain all of a performer’s energy, but Bronfman seemed to rise comfortably to the challenge—and then to prove the point, tossed off a muscular performance of Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude as encore. His grand virtuosity and musicianship added luster to the evening.

Is this the season for hijinks between movements? On both of his concerts earlier, guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger offered comments between movements of larger works. Last night, Bronfman acknowledged a scattering of applause after the admittedly virtuosic and impressive first movement with a quick bow from the bench. This elicited laughter, and in turn he and Oundjian—old pals—chatted briefly between themselves.

The concert closed with a work that is not well known, as I heard audience members saying on the way from the auditorium: Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The last work he completed, these fantastic dances (as Rachmaninoff initially proposed naming the work) are a sort of reflection on mortality. In fact, the last of the three includes the Gregorian Chant for the Requiem Mass, Dies Irae, a theme that Rachmaninoff brought into a number of his works.

The flighty beginning of the first dance was exquisitely played, and the vast contrasts of dynamics, rising from the slightest gestures to powerful climaxes and fading back into nothingness gave great drama to the music. Oundjian has said this is one of his favorite pieces, and as he performs it, finding all the expressive depth and beauty it contains, it is easy to see why.

The powerful performance showed just what the CMF orchestra is capable of. The score requires a rich string sound and great virtuosity from the winds, all within a musical fabric of great flexibility. It is a sure sign of Oundjian’s orchestra leadership that the performance succeeded at such a high level.

A special word should be said for the woodwind, horn and trumpet sections, in both Brahms and Rachmaninoff. I heard the delicate horn solos in the Brahms, the saxophone solo in the first Rachmaninoff dance, the exposed trumpet entrances, the rare (and no doubt relished) star turns by the bass clarinet, the bassoons and all the other woodwinds with great pleasure.

Last night’s program will be repeated tonight at the Chautauqua Auditorium. You may purchase tickets here.

NOTE: Edited for clarity July 13.

 

 

CMF artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead concerts with Bernstein theme

Principal guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni returns for the festival’s fourth week

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 12:25 p.m.

Peter Oundjian is the most distinguished musician to lead the Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in its 43 seasons.

http://www.jaimehogge.com

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Jaime Hogge.

Since Jean-Marie Zeitouni stepped down as music director at the end of last season, Oundjian — former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet and just-retired as music director of the Toronto Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestra — has been artistic advisor to the festival. This year he will conduct three weeks of orchestral concerts, starting the weekend of July 12–15.

Zeitouni, now CMF’s principal guest conductor, will lead the orchestral concerts the following week. Oundjian will return for the final two weeks, July 26–Aug. 4.

For his concerts, Oundjian has established a theme: “It’s all Bernstein-inspired,” he says, in honor of the 2018 centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. That means “things that influenced Bernstein, things Bernstein loved, things he was famous for, and by extension, music written on American soil.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Colorado Music Festival
July 12–July 22
All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium

Two Peak Performances
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Yefim Bronfman, piano

Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, op. 45 

Octets at Altitude
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Stravinsky: Octet for Wind Instruments
Prokofiev: Two Pieces for String Octet
Mendelssohn: String Octet, op. 20

All-American
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15
Peter Oundjian, conductor, with Robert McDuffie, violin

Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Philip Glass: Concerto No. 2 for Violin, “American Four Seasons”

Scheherazade
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor, with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Timothy Collins: Buch des Sängers (world premiere)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Fresh Fridays: Scheherazade
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20
Conductor: Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
(Played without intermission)

American Strings
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21
Chamber Music with CMF Chamber Players

Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2 (“Company”)
Barber: String Quartet
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12, op. 96 (“American”)

Beethoven’s “Eroica”
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Ravel: Mother Goose
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

Full calendar

Tickets

Guest conductors launch 2018 Colorado Music Festival

Violinists Gluzman and Quint, pianists Weiss and Martinez will be early soloists at CMF

By Peter Alexander June 28 at 12 noon

CMF Orch.by Eric Berlin

Chautauqua Auditorium during a CMF orchestra concert. Photo by Eric Berlin.

The Colorado Music Festival, facing another year without a permanent music director, opens with two weeks of concerts led by guest conductors Marcelo Lehninger and David Danzmayr. Current artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead several concerts mid-summer, and former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni will return for one week.

The opening weeks set the festival pattern of full orchestra concerts on Thursdays and chamber orchestra on Sundays. Later, the season will also see the return of Fresh Friday mini-concerts and Saturday chamber music (full schedule at coloradomusicfestival.org).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.