Elliot Moore is building bridges as director of the Longmont Symphony

First season is about connecting with local institutions—and friendship

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) has announced its 2017–18 season, the first under new music director Elliot Moore, and the consistent theme is building connections within the community.

Elliot Moore - credit - Photography Maestro

Elliot Moore. Photo by Photography Maestro

That and friendship. The first concert explicitly highlights friendships, and the entire season is filled with performances that developed out of Moore’s professional friendships.

“Building connections is something that I’m really passionate about with this orchestra and with Longmont,” Moore says. Some of the connections he has worked to establish over the coming season are with the Longmont Public Library, with local composers, with the Longmont Museum through a chamber orchestra concert in Stewart Auditorium, and with other local cultural organizations.

“These are friendships that I think are so valuable, and I’m happy that we’re highlighting that very thing on the first concert,” he says.

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Composer Carter Pann, one of Moore’s new friends

The season opening concert Oct. 7 features three pieces, each representing a different facet of friendship: Slalom by CU composer Carter Pann, who Moore counts as a new friend since coming to Colorado; Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with piano soloist Spencer Myer, a professional colleague and friend that Moore has worked with before; and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, in which each variation describes one of Elgar’s close friends, from his wife to his publisher.

In addition to Pann, the season includes another local composer, Michael Udow, a percussionist/composer who lives in Longmont. The LSO concert on Feb. 24 will feature the world premiere of Udow’s Mountain Myths.

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Percussionist/composer Michael Udow

Udow had been on the faculty of the University of Michigan when Moore was a student. “When I was guest conducting the LSO, Michael contacted me and said, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m living in Longmont,’” Moore explains. “I got to know some of his music, and thought that he writes really beautiful stuff. I was very happy to be able to draw on that connection with a fantastic composer who literally lives right there in Longmont, and it goes along with the theme of friends.”

Several of Moore’s friends will appear as soloists. In addition to Myer on the first concert, violinist Andrew Sords will play the Barber Violin Concerto on Nov. 11, and cellist Matthew Zalkind, Moore’s fellow student at Michigan who now teaches at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, will play the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 on Feb. 24.

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Popular children’s author Jack Prelutsky

Another personal acquaintance on the season is sure to attract attention. “I believe this is going to be a real feather in the cap of this orchestra and this season,” Moore says. “The main work on our family concert (Jan. 27) is Lucas Richman’s Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant. People are going to have an unbelievable experience because the music is so good!”

In collaboration with the Longmont Public Library, the LSO is bringing in to narrate Richman’s piece the well known author and former Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky. “Prelutsky is a music lover and a great singer,” Moore explains. “It just so happens that my mom conducted a choir, which she recently stepped down from, and Jack was in her choir.”

Another program that Moore wants to point out is the concert on Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day. Titled “The American Frontier: In Honor of Our Veterans,” the all-American program includes both Aaron Copland’s World War II-era “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and Joan Tower’s 1987 response to Copland’s iconic piece, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”

Other works on the program are “Hymn to the Fallen,” taken from John Williams’ score for the World War II film Saving Private Ryan, and the Barber Violin Concerto, played by Sords. The program closes with just about the first piece to enter the standard orchestra repertoire that was written in America, Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”

Balancing the needs of the orchestra and the audience, Moore has put together a season with a mix of styles and periods, known and unknown composers. There are several pieces by living composers, but also many of the most popular classical composers are on the schedule as well: Rachmaninoff, Elgar, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Vivaldi, Bach, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky. And the season will end with a chamber orchestra concert featuring the two most loved classical-era composers, Beethoven and Mozart.

Six‐concert subscription packages will go on sale by phone only on Thursday, July 6 (303‐772‐5796; 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Fridays). Prices and details will be available on the LSO Web page. Single tickets go on sale on Monday, Aug. 28 by phone or online.

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Longmont Symphony
Elliot Moore, music director
2017–18 Season

(All performances at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium except as noted)

Opening Night: On the Frontier with Old & New Friends
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Spencer Myer, piano

Carter Pann: Slalom
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Elgar: Enigma Variations

The American Frontier: In Honor of Our Veterans
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Andrew Sords, violin

Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
John Williams: Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto
Aaron Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

HOLIDAY EVENTS

The Nutcracker Ballet with the Boulder Ballet
Elliot Moore, conductor
4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3

Candlelight Concert with the Longmont Chorale Singers
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
Westview Presbyterian Church, Longmont
Longmont Symphony Chamber Orchestra
Elliot Moore, conductor, with the Longmont Chorale singers & soloists

Vivaldi: Gloria
J.S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Respighi: Adoration of the Magi
John Rutter: Candlelight Carol and Angel’s Carol
Cynthia Clawson: O Holy Night
Holiday carols & sing‐alongs

Family Matinee Concert
4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Concerto Competition Winner (TBA)
Longmont Youth Symphony
Jack Prelutsky, narrator

Matthias Bamert: Circus Parade
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (Finale)
Lucas Richman: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

A Longmont World Premiere
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Matthew Zalkind, cello

Michael Udow: Mountain Myths (world premiere)
Saint–Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

Tales from the Sea
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, 2018
Elliot Moore, conductor, with Sarah Barber, mezzo‐soprano

Mendelssohn: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave)
Elgar: Sea Pictures
Rimsky Korsakov: Scheherazade

Museum Concert
4 p.m. Sunday, April 15, 2018
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
Longmont Symphony Chamber Orchestra
Elliot Moore, conductor

Mozart: Symphony No. 35, “Haffner”
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1

Pops Concert: Divas through the Decades
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12, 2018
Elliot Moore, conductor, with vocal soloists

In celebration of Mother’s Day, the LSO will feature music by and about women across decades and genres―from opera to cabaret, jazz and pop, and from Bernstein’s West Side Story to Lady Gaga.

 

 

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“Stunningly brilliant” Brahms captivates Stewart Auditorium audience

Boulder Bach Festival unveils the sound of Romanticism

By Peter Alexander

Technical perfection is what musicians strive for in all those hours of practice, but never achieve. In classical music, that perfection would include uncompromised accuracy and control of pitch, and consistency of sound in all registers.

Interestingly, musical instrument makers have aimed for the same qualities, especially the consistency of sound, and they have made great progress over the past 200 years. Much has been gained in the technical capacities and consistency of sound in modern pianos, for example, as well as wind instruments. But much has been lost as well.

What has been lost was demonstrated yesterday (May 15) in a stunningly brilliant performance of the Brahms Horn Trio in E-flat major, op. 40, presented by the Boulder Bach Festival in the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont.

The performance brought together three players: violinist and artistic director of the Bach Festival Zachary Carrettin; pianist Mina Gajic, the festival’s director of education and outreach; and guest artist Thomas Jöstlein playing horn. More crucially, it brought together three instruments that were perfect partners: A violin strung with 19th-century style strings, including pure gut; an 1895 Érard piano; and a natural horn (without valves), made in about 1815. I have never heard a better balanced performance with such disparate instruments.

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1895 Érard piano onstage at Stewart Auditorium

The Érard, a beautiful example of the piano maker’s craft in the 19th century, was a critical ingredient. With its remarkably transparent, clear and nuanced sound, it paired with the other instrument as no modern piano could. Gajic could play with full commitment and never overwhelm the other players.

Jöstlein’s natural horn was equally critical to the success of the performance. Its smaller bore and restrained sound never overwhelmed the violin, its closest partner throughout the piece, as a modern large-bore horn, built for a big sound and the ability to cut through a modern orchestra, would do.

Both the piano and the horn brought another quality that we have lost: a sound that varies from register to register, or, in the case of the horn, from note to note. Brahms made expressive use of these differences. As Jöstlein demonstrated before the performance, the sound of the horn could be bright and clear in one phrase, muted and distant in another. And one thing you almost never hear today: the natural horn, which changes pitch by the player moving his hand inside the bell, added a snarling quality to some of the crashing chords that could be suddenly resolved into a clear and pure sound.

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Zachary Carrettin

The differences in sound for Carrettin’s violin were less dramatic, but his choice of natural gut for some strings, steel for the highest string, and wound gut for the lowest, gave the instrument a sound that matched the others.

A fourth partner was the space where the music was performed, the intimate Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum. In an interview before the concert, Carrettin had stressed the importance of the hall: “Stewart Auditorium . . . is a 250-seat hall. It’s very much a salon setting, so we don’t have to worry about projecting to a 3,000 seat house. That has in it an authenticity in the way that we can craft the interpretation.”

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Mina Gajić

The combination of a space where everyone felt in close contact with the performers, and instruments that were perfectly matched freed the performers to play with complete commitment. No punches needed to be pulled, no climaxes pushed too hard, no passages held back in the name of balance. I have rarely heard such excitement as Gajic, Carrettin and Jöstlein generated in the last movement.

The Stewart Auditorium crowd—totally sold out with seats added onstage—gave a standing ovation that went well beyond the expected, dutiful “standing o” we get with too much regularity. They knew they had heard something special, and they reacted in a way we do not usually associate with “original instruments” or “historically accurate” performances. They had heard the door opened into an unfamiliar sound world, and they were captivated.

The short program, played without intermission, had opened with Carrettin and Gajic playing a 19th-century arrangement of Bach’s much-loved “Air on the G String.” As Carrettin explained beforehand, violinists at the time were starting to play with continuous vibrato and used far more portamento, or sliding glissandos, than we are accustomed to hearing.

The performance was fascinating, although not to the taste I developed through mid-20th-century training and listening. As the great violinist Fritz Kreisler said appreciatively of that style of playing, it gave melancholy to the music. That’s not the spirit of the original Bach, but it is the spirit of the late 19th century and Carrettin played with passion. I would not have missed the experience.

Amanda Balestrieri

Amanda Balestrieri

The remainder of the concert was filled with one Bach aria and three Brahms songs, eloquently rendered by soprano Amanda Balestrieri and Gajic (plus Carrettin on the Bach). Balestrieri’s bright, clear sound was ideal for the well controlled filigree of the Bach aria. The Brahms was sung with exemplary expression of the text, and only the slightest push to the highest notes. The lyrical songs formed a lovely companion to the more intense Horn Trio.

As this concert shows, Boulder County now has such musical riches that revelation can strike in almost any concert. This may be a golden age. If you have any interest in classical music, don’t let it pass you by.

Boulder Bach Festival will remove the veil from Romanticism

In Longmont, J.S. Bach shares the program with Brahms songs and Horn Trio

By Peter Alexander

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Zachary Carrettin

Zachary Carrettin, artistic director of the Boulder Bach Festival, has an apparently inexhaustible supply of surprises.

He and the festival have offered Bach in many different guises—on historical instruments, on traditional modern instruments with a full-sized symphony, on electronic instruments—always revealing new discoveries. And now they are heading down one of the most well traveled paths in the concert repertoire, the music of Romanticism.

You might think that era would not hold many surprises today, but the festival’s next concert—5 p.m. Sunday, May 15, in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum (tickets)—promises to present “Romanticism Unveiled.” The program features the Horn Trio in E-flat of Johannes Brahms played on historical—that is, Romantic-era—instruments, as well as a familiar piece by Bach in a late-19th-century arrangement, and several Brahms songs.

Performers will be Carrettin, playing a modern violin but with types of strings that would have been used in Brahms’s lifetime; pianist Mina Gajic playing her straight-strung 1895 Érard piano; horn player Thomas Jöstlein playing a 19th-century natural horn; and soprano Amanda Balestrieri applying what is known of 19th-century vocal style.

The Brahms Horn Trio is a fairly well known work, but as Carrettin explains, today it is usually played on modern instruments, including a valved horn and a grand piano. “There is content in this music that is revealed when it is played on the instruments of the time,” he says. “So we are unveiling some of the colors, and some of the meaning in the music that is different when played on the original instruments.”

Carrettin admits that the modern instrument are technologically advanced, and in some ways easier to play than older versions of the same instruments. At the same time, though, the older instruments reveal aspects of the music that modern instruments may conceal—or veil from view.

“When you open the can of worms with period instruments, you have to explore different techniques, different intonation, different balance, and also (different) phrasing,” he says. “The instruments teach you how they want to be played. Certain things are possible and other things are more difficult.”

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1895 Érard piano

Gajic’s Érard piano was made in Paris in 1895. It is straight strung, meaning that the strings all run parallel, which creates a different sound from the modern cross-strung grand piano. The Érard is clearer than the modern piano, and each register has its own sound. (Read my earlier description of this piano here.)

Carrettin will play his modern violin, which is essentially the same as the violins of Brahms’s era, but with strings that reflect 19th-century practice. “I’m using a combination of gut, wound gut and steel strings,” he says. “I’ll have (natural) gut wound in silver on the G, and I’m still playing with all other options. Typically for this kind of setup my two middle strings are pure gut, not wound, (with a steel E string).”

Another issue you may not have thought of is the use of a chin rest. In the Baroque and early classical era, violinists did not have chin rests, but during Brahms’s lifetime chin rests were in wide use. “One day I practice with no chin rest, which gives the violin a rounder, darker sound. The next day I practice with the chin rest which gives the violin more focus,” Carrettin says. The decision to use the chin rest will depend on how the violin sounds with the other instruments.

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Thomas Jöstlein (l) with his 1815 natural horn and Ab Koster (r), the German horn player from whom he purchased the horn

The third member of the trio, Jöstlein, will be playing a natural horn, without valves. Even though the valved horn that we know today had been invented during Brahms’s lifetime, it was not the composer’s first choice. “He played (natural horn) as a child and always preferred it over the pistons and valves,” Carrettin says. “He wrote all four symphonies with the natural horn in mind.”

As principal horn of the St. Louis Symphony, Jöstlein has plenty of experience on the modern instruments, but he also owns and performs widely on natural horns from the 18th and 19th centuries. For “Romanticism Unveiled,” he will play a horn from about 1815 that he purchased in Europe.

Other works on the program will include a 19th-century arrangement of Bach’s “Air on the G string” for violin and piano. “We’ve talked so much in our concerts about electric violins and Baroque violins and Steinway pianos and harpsichords,” Carrettin says. “We typically have modern instruments and Baroque instruments, but this is the first time the Bach Festival has played Bach on 19th-century Romantic instruments with a style influenced by research on Romantic chamber music style.”

Amanda Balastrieri

Amanda Balestrieri

To fill out the Romantic program, Balestrieri will sing an aria from Bach’s cantata BWV 196 and three Brahms songs with piano. “Amanda is the perfect artist for this program,” Carrettin says. “She has spent her career performing with period and modern instruments and in a variety of historically informed styles.”

He is particularly pleased to be performing music from the 19th century in a smaller facility. “We’re performing in the beautiful Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum,” he says. “It’s a 250-seat hall. It’s very much a salon setting, so we don’t have to worry about projecting to a 3,000 seat house. That has in it an authenticity in the way that we can craft the interpretation.”

It all adds up to an unusual opportunity for local audiences, Carrettin says. “It’s a rare thing to hear Romantic period chamber music on original instruments in this part of the country,” he says.

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Stewart Auditorium in the Longmont Museum

“Romanticism Unveiled”
Boulder Bach Festival

Zachary Carrettin, violin
Mina Gajic, piano (Érard, 1895)
Thomas Jöstlein, natural horn
Amanda Balestrieri, soprano

Program includes several short selections by J.S. Bach, Lieder by Brahms, and the Brahms Horn Trio in E-flat major, op. 40, performed on Romantic-era instruments

5 p.m. Sunday, May 15
Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum, Longmont

Tickets

5/12/16 Edited for grammar