Simone Dinnerstein brings performance magic and a new piece to Boulder

Concerto by Philip Glass receives standing ovation at Macky Auditorium

By Peter Alexander

Simone.D.2.by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein brought her deep sensitivity and considerable magic to Macky Auditorium last night, performing a remarkable new piano concerto by Philip Glass with the string sections of the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman.

Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was written for Dinnerstein, and her Boulder performance was part of the world premiere tour of the concerto. It is a major work that should achieve considerable success with audiences in the years to come, as it did last night in Macky.

Glass’s characteristic gestures are easily found in the score, but they have been transfigured. His usual pulsing rhythms are more gentle, serving and supporting melody and harmony. The music has an emotional immediacy throughout, and the third movement in particular has moments of seductive beauty. The ending is extended, creating a hypnotic, almost ritualistic quality around lovely bits of melody. The slow unfolding of these final thoughts quietly recalls compelling passages from Glass’s previous works.

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Philip Glass

At 80, Glass is entitled to write with a more valedictory and consoling tone, but there are likely two specific reasons for the nature of this piece. First, it was written for Dinnerstein. When she told Glass how much it fit her playing and her personality, he said “Well, I wrote it for you.” It’s hard to know how her influence manifests itself, but I heard a deep poeticism and introspective lyricism, qualities associated with Dinnerstein’s playing that also mark many moments in the concerto.

The other reason is the influence of J.S. Bach, a composer Dinnerstein is renowned for playing and whose Keyboard Concerto in G minor will be paired with the Glass on the current tour. There are no quotes or direct echoes of that specific piece in the Glass score, but I found it notable that the music is shaped largely by harmonic patterns, as if it were based on a Bach-like chorale, but one that wanders into unpredictable turns and paths.

Dinnerstein had both the notes and the inner life of the piece well under her fingers. Playing with evident love for the concerto, she found depths of expression in the music, including some of the simpler moments technically. Her playing was ably supported by Butterman and the Phil.

Not everyone loves Glass, but for me the performance was deeply moving, revealing both the quiet humanity of the composer and the commitment of the soloist. Standing ovations are de rigueur in Boulder, but this one seemed especially heartfelt.

The rest of the program was musically fascinating—a symphony by C.P.E., son of J.S. Bach, and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) on the fist half, and J.S. Bach’s G minor Concerto preceding the Glass. However, all three works, calling for only strings, suffered the same fate of being swallowed by Macky Auditorium’s unforgiving acoustics. Small ensembles, and strings in particular, invariably sound distant and a little cold in the hall.

The C.P.E. Bach Symphony received a refined performance, with transparent textures, and a smooth transition between the first two movements. But the characteristics of C.P.E. Bach’s mid-18th-century Rococo style, the use of sudden and shocking harmonic jolts and unexpected stops and starts, lost the larger share of its impact in the hall. The more’s the pity: C.P.E. Bach is a fascinating composer who should spice up any program—but only if the effects land with the audience.

Butterman introduced Schoenberg’s piece with a useful listener’s guide to the main ideas of the music, and how they are laid out in the score. One of the great musical/emotional outpourings of the late Romantic musical style, Verklärte Nacht portrays a passionate story of forgiveness and redemption, in which a dark and gloomy forest path is transfigured into a glittering scene of starlit beauty by the power of love.

The audience is meant to be enveloped in the lush harmonies of the score, and indeed I could see that the orchestra was playing with great intensity. Alas, the sound again was swallowed by the hall. It was well conducted and well played by the orchestra, but from Row U, it sounded all too polite and restrained to fit a story of passion.

The performance of J.S. Bach’s G-minor Concerto was a little cotton-woolish in the orchestra when more lean muscle would serve the music better, but likely this is another manifestation of Macky’s acoustics. Dinnerstein played with a clear sense of line and overall form. With a Steinway grand and modern string instruments, this was not a historically-informed performance, but Bach’s music is so ideal in conception that it does not depend on the medium.

All other issues aside, Dinnerstein, Butterman and the Boulder Phil scored a great success with the Glass Concerto. It’s only January, but that should be on any list of the year’s highlights.

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Pianist Simone Dinnerstein returns to the Boulder Phil for new concerto

Philip Glass wrote his Third Piano Concerto for his former young fan

By Peter Alexander

The first time Simone Dinnerstein attended a concert alone she was 12, and she heard music by Philip Glass.

Simone.D.by Lisa-Marie Mazzocco

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Marie Mazzocco.

Dinnerstein has since become an internationally known concert pianist and Glass has turned 80. And remarkably, he has now written a new piano concerto for his former young fan, which she will play Jan 13 and 14 for her return to the Boulder Phil.

“It’s exciting when you discover music as a young person, and it’s your own music that has not been shown to you by a parent or a teacher,” Dinnerstein says. “So there is something kind of surreal about having him write something for me! And the fact that he wrote something as magnificent as this piano concerto is really an incredible honor.

“I can’t quite digest the fact that he wrote that for me.”

Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 will be on a program titled “Bach Transfigured.” The concert, featuring the orchestra’s strings under music director Michael Butterman, will also feature the Symphony in C Major by C.P.E. Bach, Transfigured Night by Arnold Schoenberg, and J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in G minor.

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“Bach Transfigured”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Simone Dinnerstein, piano

C.P.E. BACH  Symphony in C Major, Wq 183, no.. 3
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG  Transfigured Night
J.S. BACH  Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 1058
PHILIP GLASS  Piano Concerto No. 3
     Colorado premiere, a Boulder Phil co-commission

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, Macky Auditorium
2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, Pinnacle Performing Arts Complex, Denver

Tickets

 

Boulder Phil announces 60th anniversary season

Commissioned works, returning guests and works suggested by players are on the schedule

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic will present the Colorado premieres of two new works co-commissioned by the orchestra as part of its 2017–18 season.

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Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

Other highlights of the coming season will be the return of popular attraction Cirque de la Symphonie for two performances of “Cirque Goes to the Movies” Feb. 3, 2018, and the orchestra’s second season-ending collaboration with Central City Opera, this time for a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story April 28, 2018.

The season program, which was announced to patrons and the public yesterday afternoon (March 5), celebrates the orchestra’s 60th anniversary. The celebration includes the return of guest artists who have appeared with the orchestra before, including pianists Jon Nakamatsu for Schumann’s Piano Concerto Sept. 24; David Korevaar for Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Oct. 14; and Simone Dinnerstein for concertos by J.S. Bach and Philip Glass Jan. 13, 2018.

Other collaborations will be with violinist and Boulder Phil concertmaster Charles Wetherbee for The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, violinist Stefan Jackiw for Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, and choirs from CU Boulder, Western Illinois University, and Metropolitan State University in Denver.

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Michael Butterman. Photo by Rene Palmer

“What you see [in the 2017–18 season] is a continuation of some of the characteristics of our programing that have worked well for us,” Boulder Philharmonic Music Director Michael Butterman says. “It’s not so much looking back at 60 years as it is looking back at the last eight or nine. There’s the idea of collaborations and of championing successful new music.”

Missing is any season-long programming theme, such as this year’s duo soloists, or recent seasons built around music and nature—although nature is not completely absent next year.

“The music and nature connection is there, in one concert in early April,” Butterman says. The April 8, 2018, concert, titled “A Song for Swans,” includes Sibelius’s Symphony No 5, whose last movement was inspired when the composer saw a flight of 16 swans pass overhead. “One of the great experiences of my life,” Sibelius wrote in his diary. “God, how beautiful!”

Sibelius was one of several composers that members of the orchestra suggested for the season. “We worked with the players early on to get their input, asking what are some pieces that you would like to play,” Butterman says. Among the composers they suggested were Sibelius, who appears on the April 7 concert; Dvořák, whose Seventh Symphony will be performed on the season opener Sept. 24; and Shostakovich, whose Symphony No. 5 will be performed Oct. 14.

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Christopher Theofanidis

The season’s first Colorado premiere will be Dreamtime Ancestors by Christopher Theofanidis, which will open the very first concert. The score was commissioned by a consortium of 50 orchestras, one in each state, that was put together by New Music for America. The world premiere was given by the Plymouth, Mass., Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2015, with other performances around the country following within a roughly two-year period.

“Theofanidis is certainly one of the leading living composers,” Butterman says. “We had  a relationship with him, when we performed his Rainbow Body a few years ago, and trusted the kind of product he was going to provide. So we agreed to take part in that project.”

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Simone Dinnerstein

In a concert titled “Bach Transfigured,” scheduled for Jan. 13, 2018, the orchestra will present the Colorado premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by Dinnerstein. Glass admires her playing, and approached her to say he would like to write a concerto for her.

“She approached some orchestras that she had a relationship with, and conductors, and most of us bought into it,” Butterman says. The Boulder Phil raised their share of the commission from local donors and joined a smaller consortium of orchestras, including A Far Cry, a self-conducted orchestra in Boston, who will give the world premiere of the concerto.

Because Dinnerstein is widely known and admired for her performances of Bach, Glass has asked that the concerto be paired in concert with Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in G minor, as it will be in Boulder.

The season will close out with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. In collaboration with Central City Opera (CCO) and choirs from Metropolitan State University in Denver, the orchestra will present Bernstein’s 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story. Butterman and the Phil worked with CCO at the end of the 2015–16 season to present a semi-staged performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and they were eager to repeat the collaboration.

“We had such a positive experience doing that,” Butterman said. “Hopefully it’s something we can do in other years.” For West Side Story, he said that Central City will provide the cast and some kind of direction, so that it will be “essentially in concert, but with a certain amount of theatrical elements.”

With the announcement of the anniversary season, the Boulder Philharmonic becomes the second local orchestra to build a season around an anniversary. Earlier this year the Colorado Music Festival announced its 2017 40th-anniversary season, also featuring the return of popular soloists.

The full Boulder Philharmonic program for the 2017–18 season is listed below.

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logo2

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
2017-2018 Season
All concerts in Macky Auditorium
(Additional outreach events and repeat performances of selected programs
in metro Denver locations will be announced.)

7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017—Opening Night: Boulder Phil at 60
Christopher Theofanidis: Dreamtime Ancestors
(Colorado premiere and Boulder Phil co-commission)
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Jon Nakamatsu, piano
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7

korevaar

David Korevaar

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017—Music of Resistance
Beethoven: Choral Fantasy, David Korevaar, piano
CU Boulder and Western Illinois University Choirs
Britten: Ballad of Heroes
CU Boulder and Western Illinois University Choirs
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

November 24 through November 26, 2017
The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet

 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018—Bach Transfigured
C.P.E. Bach: Symphony in C Major, Wq 182
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 1068, Simone Dinnerstein, piano
Phillip Glass: Piano Concerto No. 3, Simone Dinnerstein, piano
(Colorado premiere and Boulder Phil co-commission)
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)

janicemartin3-small

Janice Martin

2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018—Cirque Goes to the Movies
Cirque de la Symphonie, with Janice Martin, aerial violinist
Featuring film scores including Harry Potter, Mission Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean and On the Town.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, 2018—A Song for Swans
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending with dancers and Charles Wetherbee, violin
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2, Stefan Jackiw, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28, 2018—West Side Story: Bernstein at 100
Bernstein: West Side Story in Concert with Central City Opera and Metropolitan State University of Denver Choirs

Tickets: Subscription packages are now available.
Single tickets go on sale June 1, 2017.

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CORRECTION 3.6.17: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 would be given the Mitteldeutsche Radiofunk Orchester of Leipzig. The world premiere will be given by A Far Cry in Boston.

Grant Awarded to Boulder Philharmonic, and other news of interest in Boulder

Both Boulder Phil and conductor Michael Butterman are making news

By Peter Alexander

It’s kind of like a dating site, but with much better music.

Missy Mazzoli. Photo by Stephen S. Taylor

Missy Mazzoli. Photo by Stephen S. Taylor

The Boulder Philharmonic announced this week that they have been paired with composer Missy Mazzoli for a “Music Alive: New Partnerships” grant from the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA.

In a news release dated Oct. 22, the orchestra explained that the grant of $7,500 is for a one-week residency sometime during 2014 to 2016. The Boulder Philharmonic was one of 12 organizations in their category—orchestras with operating budgets of $7 million or less—to receive a grant and be paired with a composer through this program.

“Music Alive: New Partnerships” matches composers and orchestras who have not previously worked together. Each residency will take place some time during 2014 to 2016, and will culminate in the performance of an orchestral work from the composer’s catalog.

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome a composer of Missy’s caliber and creativity for a residency in our city,” Kevin Shuck, executive director of the Boulder Philharmonic, said.

Mazzoli commented, “I am so thrilled to be working with the Boulder Phil. There are so many possibilities and I have already enjoyed our conversations and sharing of ideas.  This will be my first time in Colorado and I’m very happy that it’s under these circumstances.”

You may read the entire news release here.

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Michael Butterman

Michael Butterman

In the meantime, Boulder Phil Music Director Michael Butterman has gotten attention in Pennsylvania for his role in getting the newly founded Pennsylvania Philharmonic off the ground.

Operating with an educational mandate, the new orchestra will perform in schools and communities that can‘t support their own professional orchestra. Hired as the music director, Butterman noted how quickly the orchestra got from the planning stage, about 10 months ago, to its first performance, which is taking place Saturday (Oct. 25) in Pottstown, Penn.

In an article by Philadelphia Inquirer classical music critic David Patrick Stearns, Butterman was further quoted as saying “Building an orchestra from the ground up with community engagement being the driving force . . . is very appealing, but also a bit of a blank slate. We have to experiment and try things out.”

Simone DInnerstein. Photo by Lisa_Marie Mazzucco.

Simone Dinnerstein. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who has appeared with Butterman and the Boulder Phil, will be the soloist for the first concert, playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. “I have such admiration for someone with the chutzpah to start an orchestra,” she said.

The rest of the program will include Dinnerstein playing Ravel’s Concerto in G, the Four Dances from Rodeo by Aaron Copland and the Fanfare Ritmico by Jennifer Higdon. That program, titled “Fascinatin’ Rhythms,” will be performed a total of four times over the next two weeks.

You may read Stearns’ article here.