Four finalists chosen for Longmont Symphony position

The candidates will be guest conductors in the orchestra’s 2016–17 season

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) has announced the four finalists for the position of music director of the orchestra.

The four candidates were selected by the LSO’s search committee from a field of 60 applicants. Each will conduct one concert during the 2016–17 season, which will be the orchestra’s 50th-anniversary year. These concerts will be part of the orchestra’s regular season of concerts in the Vance Brand Auditorium at Skyline High School in Longmont, held Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.


The four candidates and the dates of the concerts with the LSO will be:

  • Elliot Moore: Nov. 12, 2016
Moore is music director of the Detroit Medical Orchestra, the Blue Period Ensemble, and the Five Lakes Silver Band. He holds a master’s degree in cello performance from Lausanne Conservatory in Switzerland, a master of music in orchestral conducting from Manhattan School of Music, and a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan.
  • David Handel: Jan. 28, 2017
Handel currently resides in the Tampa, Fla., area. He holds a bachelor’s degree in violin and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan. His international conducting experience includes orchestras in Russia, Chile and Bolivia; and within the U.S. in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, California and New York.
  • David Rutherford: Feb. 25, 2017
Rutherford has been the Longmont Symphony’s rehearsal and guest conductor since 2010. He is music director and conductor of the Stratus Chamber Orchestra (formerly Musica Sacra) of Denver and the Valor Symphonics Youth Orchestra in Highlands Ranch. A string bassist, he performs regularly with orchestras along the Front Range. An on-air personality with Colorado Public Radio, he can currently be heard weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
  • Zachary Carrettin: April 8, 2017
Carrettin is the music director and conductor of the Boulder Bach Festival and interim director of the Early Music Ensemble at University of Colorado, Boulder. Before moving to Colorado he was the director of orchestral studies at Sam Houston State University in Houston, Tex. He pursued doctoral studies in viola at Rice University and holds master’s degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and violin from Rice University.
Olson photo

Recently retired music director Robert Olson

The new director will be selected from among these four conductors, and will announced in May, 2017. He will succeed Robert Olson, who was music director of the LSO for 33 years until his retirement at the end of the soon-to-be concluded 2015–16 season. Olson will return to conduct the opening concert of the 50th-anniversary season, Saturday, Oct. 1.

In a statement released  by the LSO, executive director Kay Lloyd made the following comments: “The selection committee has chosen four very strong candidates that represent high musical values as well as the ability to engage our community. We look forward to their concerts this season and the final selection of a conductor that will lay the groundwork of continuing to provide quality, diverse concerts and outreach programs for another 50 years in this community.”

Robert Olson opens his final season as music director of the Longmont Symphony

Olson and the LSO offer Russian masterworks, “War and Peace” for 2015–16

By Peter Alexander

Robert Olson

Robert Olson

Last night (Oct. 1) Robert Olson announced to the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) that the current season will be his last as the orchestra’s music director.

He had already discussed his decision to retire with the symphony board, but waited until he spoke to the orchestra before making the news public. In a written communication, Olson commented, “I will likely ‘bookend’ the 2016-17 season [i.e, conduct the opening and closing concerts] because that will be the orchestra’s 50th anniversary. The board and orchestra will work together to decide on my successor.”

Olson has been conductor of the LSO for 33 years.

The news came as the LSO was preparing to launch the 2015–16 season on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 in Longmont’s Vance Brand Civic Auditorium) with a concert titled “Those Amazing Russians.”

That title is actually one of two headings that Olson selected for the coming year. The 2015–16 season brochure carries that as its title, but as Olson explains, “There are actually two themes throughout the season. One is ‘War and Peace,’ and the other on most of the concerts is highlighting one of the great masterworks by a Russian composer.”

The Russian theme brings attention to some of the abundance of great music that has come to the concert hall from Russia. Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony will be featured on the season-opening concert Saturday; later concerts will feature Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, Mussorgsky’s Overture to Khovanshchina, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

On the other hand, the “War and Peace” theme comes from the LSO’s biennial collaboration with the Longmont Chorale, which will take place on the second concert of the fall, Saturday, Nov. 14. “They specifically requested the [Vaughan Williams] Dona Nobis Pacem,” Olson says. “That’s a very anti-war statement, so I got thinking, what would I put with it?”

Prokofiev on the cover of Time magazine, Nov. 19, 1945

Prokofiev on the cover of Time magazine, Nov. 19, 1945

He settled on Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, which was premiered in Moscow in January, 1945. The Second World War was coming to a close, and the performance was a great occasion for Russian musicians and audiences who had returned to a recently re-opened city. Just as Prokofiev was set to conduct the premiere, the sounds of artillery could be heard, celebrating the success of the Russian army.

“I thought, oh, that would be cool!” Olson says.

That pairing—a composition calling for peace and a composition written during war—became the germ of the larger theme. Works later in the season expand that theme to include emotional and inner struggles as well as overt warfare, with John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 (“AIDS” Symphony) and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration. In fact, Olson says, for the opening concert on Saturday “there’s so much internal strife with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth that I could easily have said that was Part I” of the theme. “That didn’t occur to me until it was too late.”



“As most people know, this is the most intimate of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies,” Olson continues. “He bares his soul trying to reconcile so much pain in his life. Tchaikovsky is the quintessential suffering ‘artiste’ of the Romantic era, so we have a piece that is very dark in a lot of ways.

“The third movement ends with one of the great, glorious marches that Tchaikovsky was so good at writing, (followed by) maybe the most important movement, one that opens with great anguish and ends with peaceful resolution. He does bring a sense of comfort at the very end, (with) that beautiful major theme that’s just played over and over again.”

Sharing the program with the Tchaikovsky symphony will be two works for solo double bass and orchestra performed by CU music faculty member Paul Erhard: Divertimento for bass and orchestra by Nino Rota, and Arioso for bass and orchestra by retired CU professor Luis Gonzalez. The Arioso was written for Erhard in 1992 as a work for bass and piano, and first premiered by Erhard and Gonzalez at an international double bass event in Hungary. The Longmont performance will be the premiere of a new version for bass and orchestra.

Double bassist Paul Erhard

Double bassist Paul Erhard

Gonzalez’s score reflects the composer’s Argentine heritage in the use of the tango. “There is a tango rhythm that pervades the entire work,” Erhard explains. “Something I find interesting is that the tango originated on the river between Argentina and Uruguay. As I play it with that in mind, I can hear South American birds. They’ve got their different songs, and they don’t all necessarily line up.

“I’m very excited to hear the orchestra part, because I haven’t heard it yet. From the score there’ll be these sounds of birds, if one uses one’s imagination that way. Luis never talked to me about this, but that’s what I’m hearing in it.”

Gonzalez and Erhard performed together often as a piano-bass duo, both before and after the Arioso was written. As a result, Erhard says, “Gonzalez has a very special sense of the double bass. He knew my playing, he knows a lot of wonderful bass players, so the piece is based on things that he heard the bass do, and new things that the bass could do.”

Nino Rota, the composer of the Divertimento that Erhard will play, is known to many as the composer of film music for Federico Fellini (8 ½, La Strada, Juliet of the Spirits), Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), among others. Rota has also written a great deal of concert music, including concertos, chamber music and choral works.

Although the Divertimento is not widely performed, Erhard believes it is the best solo work for bass and orchestra that he knows. He has recently introduced the work to other bass players, who he says quickly added it to their repertoire.

# # # # #

Those Amazing Russians
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Robert Olson, conductor
Paul Erhard, double bass

Nino Rota: Divertimento for bass and orchestra
Luis Gonzalez: Arioso for bass and orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”)

War and Peace, Part I
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont

Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Robert Olson, conductor
Longmont Chorale, Kara Guggenmos, soprano, and Steven Taylor, baritone
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem
Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

Tickets for these and other concerts by the LSO may be purchased here.

Colorado MahlerFest announces new music director

Kenneth Woods will be second permanent director in festival history

By Peter Alexander

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

Kenneth Woods. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A perfect piece for Robert Olson’s final MahlerFest

By Peter Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Colorado MahlerFest XXVIII

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Näher.

Gustav Mahler. Photo by Moritz Nähr.

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

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

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