Takács Quartet returns to the stage of an empty Grusin Hall Oct. 4

Performance with Ivalas Quartet will be available online to prior Takács subscribers

By Peter Alexander Oct. 2 at 3:20 p.m.

The Takács Quartet will be entering familiar territory Sunday (Oct. 4) when they step onstage in Grusin Music Hall for one of their campus concerts.

Takács Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton

But there won’t be an audience in the hall. The concert, and one scheduled for Nov. 1, will be streamed live for prior Takács season ticket holders. The concert will feature the Takács Quartet playing alone; the Ivalas Quartet, the current graduate quartet-in-residence at CU, playing alone; and the Takács and Ivalas players joining together as a string octet.

This will be only the Takács’s second campus concert since Richard O’Neill joined the quartet as violist, replacing the retired Geraldine Walther.

The program opens with the Takács playing Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a piece they have not played before. The Ivalas Quartet will play several short numbers: Strum by Jessie Montgomery; An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon; and two movements from Daniel Bernard Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks.” Concluding the program will be a string octet arrangement of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No.9.

The most notable feature of the program is the ethnic and racial diversity of the composers: African-English—Coleridge-Taylor; African-American—Montgomery and Simon; Haitian-American—Roumain; and Spanish-Brazilian— Villa-Lobos.

Ivalas Quartet

In this regard, the program also reflects the diversity of the Ivalas Quartet. One violinist is of mixed Danish/German and Ethiopian heritage and grew up in Des Moines, Iowa; the other violinist has American and French-Caribbean/African ancestors and grew up in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma; the cellist is Venezuelan; and the violist is from Southern California but has an Argentinian mother.

Members of the Takács Quartet are busy working to pull the program together, but first violinist Ed Dusinberre shared his thoughts by email. “This has been a time of reflection for us,” he wrote. “Over the summer we’ve been exploring works such as Coleridge Taylor’s extraordinary Fantasiestücke that to our shame we didn’t know previously.

“We always like to showcase our graduate quartet in different ways throughout their residency here. We can’t wait to play the Villa Lobos together and to hear Ivalas perform a variety of wonderful works that they feel passionately about.”

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Not widely known today, Coleridge-Taylor was prominent in English musical life early in the last century. Known in the U.S. as “The African Mahler,” he had several successful tours of the U.S. before he died at 37.

In his program notes, Simon wrote that A Cry from the Grave, written in 2015, “is an artistic reflection dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.”

Roumain’s String Quartet No. 5 is dedicated to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus set off the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1956. Roumain, whose Haitian parents lived through the Civil Right movement in the U.S, wrote that he created the quartet “as a musical portrait of Rosa Parks’ struggle, survival and legacy. The music is a direct reflection of a dignified resistance.”

The Bachianas brasileiras are a series of nine suites by Villa-Lobos written for varying performance media. Each work aims to join Baroque compositional techniques to Brazilian musical material. Most of then are not well known in this country, although No. 5, for soprano and eight cellos, has achieved widespread popularity with classical audiences. The ninth of the series was originally written for chorus and string orchestra, and will be performed in an arrangement for string octet.

Grusin Hall

Performing into an empty hall might seem discomfiting, but Dusinberre says it is not that difficult for the players. “Of course it is an adjustment but compared with the challenges most people face during the pandemic, we feel very fortunate to have projects to work on at all,” he wrote. “We have become experienced at recording CDs over the years and to creating performance energy without a present audience.

“We hope our audience are staying safe. We are extremely grateful to CU Presents in being both sensible and innovative to find means by which we can still communicate with our loyal audience here.”

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Takacs and Ivalas string quartets
Full program

Takács Quartet. Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Five Fantasiestücke, op. 5 
I. Prelude 
II. Serenade
III. Humoresque 
IV. Minuet
V. Dance 

Takács Quartet 

Jessie Montgomery: Strum
Carlos Simon: An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave 
Daniel Bernard Roumain: String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks”
I. “I made up my mind not to move.” 
II. Klap Ur Handz 

Ivalas Quartet 

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileiras No.9, W449, arranged for string octet
I. Preludio, Vagaroso e Mistico 
II. Fuga (Pouco apressando) 

Takács Quartet and Ivalas Quartet 

The shared Takács/Ivalas concert will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, and will remain available through 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. A second all-Mendelssohn program by the Takács alone will be live streamed at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, and will be available through 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9. These performance will be available online only to prior Takács subscribers. A decision is pending on Takács Quartet performance arrangements for the spring.
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NOTE: Subhead changed 10/3 to include Ivalas Quartet.

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

Compilation orchestra performances and composers from marginalized communities

By Peter Alexander June 19 at 2 p.m.

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) announced a series of six virtual, online concerts, featuring the Takács Quartet and other guest artists, members of the CMF orchestra, and music director Peter Oundjian.

The performances will be presented free of charge, on demand through the CMF Website.  The performances will be made available at 7:30 p.m. on six consecutive Thursday evenings, June 25 through July 30. Each performance will be available for some time after the time they are first posted.

CMF’s usual summer home, the Chautauqua Auditorium

A letter from CMF music director Peter Oundjian places the virtual festival in the current times, and particularly issues of racial justice in the United States. “It is no secret to any of us that the story of this country is riddled with the murder and mistreatment of non-white races,” Oundjian writes. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this festival an instrumental platform for musicians who come from marginalized communities.

CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian

“This summer’s festival will include only a fraction of what our programming will look like next summer, and the summers that follow. We will be featuring the music of a number of composers, both living and deceased, who come from different marginalized communities all across the country and the world.

“This is just the beginning.”

For the abbreviated 2020 virtual festival, the inclusion of minority and marginalized musicians includes works by, among others, Florence Price, Agustin Barrios Mangoré, Keith Jarrett, Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery and George Walker. The festival will conclude with performances by the current quartet-in-residence at CU Boulder, the Ivalas Quartet, a multi-cultural group with members from Hispanic and Black communities.

Takács Quartet

The six performances and their full programs will be:

June 25: Festival Orchestra and the Takács Quartet, featuring the debut of the quartet’s newest member, violist Richard O’Neill. The program will feature a previous Festival Orchestra performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide; and the Takács Quartet on the Chautauqua stage playing Schobert’s Quartettsatz and movements from Florence Price’s String Quartet No. 2; Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op. 59 no. 3.

Sharon Isbin. Photo by J. Henry Fair.

July 2: A celebration of women in music. Guitarist Sharon Isbin will play works by Enrique Granados, Antonio Lauro, Leo Brouwer, Nanomi Shemer and Agustin Barrios Mangoré. Percussionist Jisu Jung will play works by Howard Stevens and Keith Jarrett. Framing their performances, CMF musicians will play virtual compilation performances of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and two marches by John Philip Sousa. 

July 9: Violinist Augustin Hadelich will join Oundjian in his home to perform music by J.S. Bach, Eugène Ysaÿe and Francisco Tarrega.

July 16: Pianist Jan Lisiecki will perform cadenzas from the Beethoven piano concertos nos. 1 through 4,  and join Oundjian in a discussion of those pieces.

July 23: Brooklyn Rider string quartet will share a performance from their “Healing Modes” repertoire, which features works by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank and Kinan Azmeh. The program will open with a virtual compilation of Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5, performed by members of the CMF Orchestra brass section.

Ivalas Quartet

July 30: CU’s Ivalas Quartet will perform movements from quartets by Joseph Haydn and Jessie Montgomery, and the piano duo of twin sisters Michelle and Christina Naughton will perform music by Ravel, Debussy, George Walker, Rachmaninoff, and Conlon Nancarrow. CMF orchestra members will open the program with Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, and close the virtual festival with the second and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Except for the Overture from Candide, all the performances by CMF orchestra musicians will be virtual compilation performances, assembled from separate videos submitted by the players. These individual video will be compiled by the festival’s recording and sound engineer Michael Quam and CMF staff.

Other performances will be recorded in advance for broadcast at the stated program times.

You may register for the virtual festival performances here

How to fill the hours of isolation? Music by unfamiliar composers

New CDs from local performers offer rare pleasures

By Peter Alexander April 11 at 3:30 p.m.

The hours stretch empty before you, and you’ve already re-watched all 202 episodes of The X-files. Or was it Game of Thrones?

Now is the time to expand you horizons and discover music you don’t know, by composers whose names are not familiar. And happily, Boulder-area musicians have new offerings that you can order by internet and have delivered directly to your front porch without violating social distancing.

Here are four that are worth attention.

81OtBx57QHL._SL1200_Ernst Dohnányi: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2, String Quartet No. 2. Takács Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin, piano. Hyperion CDA68238

Hungarian composer Ernst Dohnányi is best known for his set of orchestral variations on the French nursery tune Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman, which you probably know as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” A highly skilled and original composer, he also wrote chamber music and pieces for piano that provide a more complete perspective of his output.

The Takács Quartet teamed up with pianist Marc-André Hamelin to record Dohnányi’s two piano quintets and the String Quartet No. 2. Presented in chronological order on the disc, the quartet falls neatly between the two quintets.

The First Piano Quintet, composed in 1895 when Dohnányi was 17, is a remarkably assured student work, and a perfect representation of post-Brahms late Romanticism. The movements are carefully plotted out and filled with attractive themes. This is music to let wash over you and enjoy the warm blanket of sound. There are moments of excess, when the layering of figuration and overripe harmonies threaten to over-thicken the soup, but Hamelin and the Takács players do a remarkable job of maintaining transparency.

Dohnányi’s style matures and shifts over the course of the three works, but it is always marked by the late Romantic ethos. The String Quartet, composed in 1906, 11 years after the First Quintet, is at times lighter in tone, with notable playful touches in the first movement. The second movement (marked “presto acciacato,” or “crushed presto”) is a propulsive, driven scherzo-like movement, which the Takács plays with perfect precision, with a thoroughly contrasting, gentle chorale in the center.

The Second Quintet, written on the precipice of the First World War in 1914, is the most original and striking piece on the disc. Too early to have been influenced by better known works by Stravinsky and Prokofiev, it almost seems to foreshadow the neo-classical style that would emerge after the war. It is marked by sudden, quirky changes of direction and mood. Here Hamelin and the Takács are at their best, bringing out every swerve of mood without losing the forward movement of the music.

This is a disc filled with remarkable pleasures: engaging, interesting music given exemplary performances. Whether you listen with attention to details or prefer to sit back and simply enjoy, you will find much to appreciate on the disc. Available here and here.

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TOCC0528_webcoverHermann Grädener: Orchestral Music, Vol. One. Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 22; Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, op. 41. National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Gottfried Rabl, conductor, with Karen Bentley Pollick, violin. Toccata Classics TOCC 0528.

The German/Austrian composer Hermann Grädener taught at the Vienna Conservatory for 35 years (1877-1913). His works were often found on concert programs in Vienna and elsewhere, if not warmly embraced by the stern critics of the time. After his death, however, he disappeared, and in recent years his music has gone unrecorded and is nearly impossible to find.

Or it was until Viennese conductor Gottfried Rabl and his Indiana University grad-schoolmate violinist Karen Bentley Pollick began investigating his music. (Pollick is a Colorado Mahlerfest festival artist who has performed in Boulder and served as principal second violinist in last year’s Mahlerfest orchestra. Disclosure: I also knew her when we were both students at Indiana University, and we have stayed in touch over the years.)

Pollick and Rabl have teamed up for the first volume of a planned series of recordings of Grädener’s orchestral works, a CD of his two violin concertos with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. This is a well played and well engineered recording of music that is available nowhere else. As such it is a worthy addition to any collection.

Grädener was born before Dohnányi, and is consequently more in the Romantic mainstream than post-Romantic—or as the liner notes laconically state, he was firmly “downstream from Brahms.” His music is lush, sometimes overripe, always attractive to the ear. It is filled with striking Romantic moments, from the very first opening solo by the horn in the First Concerto.

The first movements of both concertos are on the longwinded side, with discursive passages that tend to wander. It’s all pleasant music, if occasionally overripe, that sometimes gives the impression of having lost the plot. The shorter movements are more successful, particularly the second movement of the second concerto, where a lyrical opening section with long, flowing melodic lines is followed by a more energetic middle section and a return of the opening mood.

Both finales are buoyant rondos. That of the First Concerto has plenty of fireworks which Pollick handles gracefully. The finale of the Second Concerto opens dramatically, but soon turns to a more cheerful character, again played with assurance.

Pollick plays with an alluring sound and great confidence. Rabl and the Ukrainian orchestra provide a solid background. They never threaten to overwhelm the soloist; indeed, either the performance or the engineering so favor the soloist that the orchestra seems understated.

These is no question that this is attractive music, skillfully woven together. The recording helps fill in a blank spot in the history of 19th-century music and is certainly worth enjoying, but whether either concerto adds up to more than a lovely 35–40 minutes in the concert hall—or sitting in front of your speakers—is something each listener will have to decide. Available here and here.

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91+vB0jSWxL._SL1396_Paul Juon: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1–3. Charles Wetherbee, violin, and David Korevaar, piano. Naxos 8.574091.

Paul Juon, much like Hermann Grädener, had a successful career as a teacher and composer before falling into obscurity. Born in Russia to Swiss parents, he was educated in Moscow and Berlin, and spent most of his professional life in the latter city. He is another conservative late-Romantic composer who music is associated with an earlier generation; during his lifetime, he was called “the Russian Brahms.”

Over the years there have been a few recordings of his music, most recently a disc from Naxos featuring CU faulty Charles Wetherbee, violin (known to many as concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic) and David Korevaar, piano, performing Juon’s three sonatas for violin and piano.

Although his style is comfortably Romantic, Juon is on some ways a strange composer who avoids the expected. Korevaar’s notes for the album says the his music “suggests a narrative,” which may be another way of saying that it is episodic. Juon often writes wonderful, striking fragments that never quite coalesce into whole themes.

This is especially evident in the first work on the disc, the Sonata No. 2 in F major of 1920. Playing different material, the violin and piano respond to one another in an interesting musical dialog throughout the first movement. Their disparate themes and motives are like pieces of a mosaic that create an image that is always colorful, never quite distinct.

The slow movement features mysterious meanderings full of odd twists and turns. Once again the violin and piano take turns commenting on each other’s different themes and motives. The finale moves from a light, airy opening that suggests a traditional finale, but transforms unexpectedly to a more spooky feeling.

The one-movement Sonata No. 3 in B minor from 1920 features a lovely central section in slower tempo. This leads to a jolly conclusion that is the closest Juon comes to providing the expected, but still with his own surprise twists.

The First Sonata in A major (1898) offers the most conventional music on the disc. All three movements have clear structures and identifiable, if highly individual themes. In spite of being the longest individual movement of the three sonatas, the first movement is the easiest to follow. Its attractive themes are laid out in a clear ex[position, and can be discerned though the extensive development section. The second movement is an uncomplicated set of variations of contrasting moods and styles, and the finale is a lively rondo.

The sensitive partnership between Korevaar and Wetherbee make this disc a pleasure to listen to. They match each other well through all the thematic give and take, maintaining a comfortable balance between the two voices. Wetherbee plays warmly and with great expression, especially in the slower, reflective passages. The performance is marked by a careful sensitivity to the shifts of mood and expressive swerves that characterize Juon’s style.

If you enjoy exploring unfamiliar byways of the Romantic style, this disc will be most rewarding. Available here and here.

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71GxFdVIH2L._SL1426_Longing: Chamber Music of Reza Vali. Charles Wetherbee violin; David Korevaar, piano; Dariush Saghafi, santoor; Carpe Diem String Quartet. MSR Classics 1738.

More adventurous than the CDs of music by Dohnányi, Grädener and Juon is Longing, a new disc from the Carpe Diem String Quartet that features the music of Iranian-American composer Reza Vali. Several disparate works of chamber music are performed by the quartet, and by their first violinist Charles Wetherbee, again with pianist David Korevaar. Dariush Saghafi joins them playing the Santoor, an Iranian and Indian hammered dulcimer, for one track.

Vali was born in Iran, educated in Tehran, Vienna and the United States, and now teaches composition at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His music embraces both his Iranian/Persian cultural heritage and his education in Western styles and genres. It is an intriguing mix, though the two are more comfortably paired in some works than in others.

The album includes two sets of pieces for violin and piano, “Three Romantic Songs” and “Love Drunk,” five folk song settings. All eight movements are essentially very conservative, Romantic character pieces, relatively short (1”32” to 3’31”) and expressing a single mood. They are varied, from wistful fragments to strongly characterized dance pieces to a forceful memory of a lost beloved.

For the most part the music of these duets flows on the surface of romantic yearnings, with a heavy sense of nostalgia deriving from the conservative 19th-century idiom. Wetherbee and Korevaar’s expressive performances bring out the varied qualities of the movements, while revealing glimpses of deeper feelings.

The remaining other works on the disc—all for string quartet—draw heavily on Vali’s Iranian/Persian musical heritage. Some are based on folk songs, others make us of Persian modes, which are significantly different from Western keys and scales

Listening to these works I often had the sense of a meaning, a structure and a musical sense that remains just beyond my Western-trained comprehension. This music provides a great adventure for the adventurous listener, even when it seems partly hidden behind a veil of unfamiliarity.

santoor

Santoor

The most interesting work is Calligraphy No. 14, part of an ongoing series of works, also titled Âshoob. This work exists in two versions, both a little over 6 minutes in length, one for string quartet alone and one for string quartet and santoor, a type of hammered dulcimer found in Iran and India. For the recording, the santoor is played by Darius Saghafi, a medical doctor and master santoor player.

The version with santoor has an exoticism that is enchanting. The santoor gives the music a stronger profile than in the version for strings alone. For me this is the best track on the album, an engaging mix of Western and Eastern elements that fit comfortably together with no sense of unease.

I do not have the expertise to know how well the Carpe Diem Quartet handles the Persian elements in Vali’s scores, although it is clear that they play with confidence and commitment. They are a solid quartet, and in this unusual and challenging repertoire they have their parts well under control. Most likely a native Iranian will hear their playing differently than I do, but I find the result intriguing and engaging. At its best, this an adventurous and enjoyable album. Available here and here.

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Cancellations of CU Performances; statement from Boulder Phil

Eklund Opera, Takács Quartet are included in the latest round of cancelations

By Peter Alexander March 11 at 3:57 p.m.

CU Presents and the University of Colorado, Boulder. have just announced the cancellation of all Spring 2020 College of Music events. Their statement specifies that:

This includes Eklund Opera, Artist Series, Takacs Quartet, ensemble performances and all other events. We will be in touch with ticketholders soon regarding next steps.

Please note that this includes the Eklund Opera production of  The Marriage of Figaro (scheduled for March 13–15) and the performance by the Kronos Quartet (March 19) previously covered in Boulder Weekly and on this blog.

The following is also posted on the CU Presents Web page:

We are currently working with the university to understand the impact this has on our events and will update patrons with more information as soon as possible. . . . CU Presents is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone at our events. We are actively monitoring the global coronavirus or COVID-19 situation and would like to point you to updates and resources from the University of Colorado Boulder and Boulder County Health.

The Boulder Philharmonic has sent a statement to its patrons and ticket buyers concerning the cancelation of its upcoming concerts March 21 and 22. This information will be shortly available on the Boulder Phil Web page.  Here is the message that has been sent to patrons:

We regret to report that the Boulder Phil will be unable to proceed with concerts scheduled for March 21 at Macky Auditorium and March 22 at Pinnacle Performing Arts Center. CU announced today the suspension of all campus classes and gatherings, and we are supporting public health and safety by suspending our concerts until the virus threat has passed. We hope these preventative measures will be effective as our community does its part to protect our citizens.
We view this change as a postponement, and we will reschedule the concert if at all possible. We will keep you informed of developments as we have information.
For all ticket holders, your tickets is valid for a rescheduled performance of this program, or for exchange to a future concert. If you prefer you may donate the value of your ticket to the Phil, or request a refund, by calling the box office, 303-449-1343 starting Monday.
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NOTE: As much as possible, I will attempt to keep updates concerning cancellations due to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 current on the Web page. Anyone with further information is encouraged to contact this site at alex.peterm@gmail.com.

Takács Quartet features Mendelssohn siblings in spring concert series

Retiring violist Geraldine Walther will be honored for her years with the quartet May 3–4

By Peter Alexander

04-Takacs-Quartet-Amanda-Tipton-photography.jpg.jpg

Takács Quartet

Programs featuring string quartets by sister and brother Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Jan. 12-13) and Felix Mendelssohn (May 3-4) will form the bookends of the spring concert series by the Takács Quartet at the University of Colorado.

In between (March 8-9) will be a program recognizing the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Other composers on the bill over the three programs will be Mozart, Haydn and Brahms.

The programming of quartets by the siblings Mendelssohn comes about partly from a planned recording by the Takács Quartet that will include both pieces, but it also reflects the music’s history. “The Felix Mendelssohn quartet that we’re playing was written just after Fanny died, and he dedicated it to her,” Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, explains. “It’s also his last quartet, and he died very soon after that.

“That’s a nice link between the two pieces, which will form the nucleus of our next recording.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Takács Quartet Spring Series 2020

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13
Mozart: String Quartet in D major, K575
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: String Quartet in E-flat major
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, K 581, with Daniel Silver, clarinet

4 p.m. Sunday, March 8 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 9
Haydn: String Quartet in C major, op. 54 No. 2
Beethoven: String Quartet in G major, op. 18 no. 2
Beethoven: String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131

4 p.m. Sunday, May 3 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 4
Beethoven String Quartet in B-flat major, op. 18 no 6
Felix Mendelssohn, String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, op. 80
Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major, op. 111, with Erika Eckert, viola

All performances in Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building on the CU campus. For ticket availability, call 303-492-8008.

Meet the Ivalas Quartet

New CU Graduate Quartet in Residence will play free concert 

By Peter Alexander Nov. 7 at 11:40 a.m.

The Ivalas Quartet only recently arrived in Colorado, but if you follow classical music you will be hearing about them soon.

IMG_3633

Ivalas Quartet: L-R Anita Dumar, Reuben Kebede, Pedro Sanchéz, Aimée McAnulty, rehearsing at the CU College of Music. Photo by Peter Alexander.

That’s because they are the new graduate string quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado College of Music, studying with the Takács Quartet. And they are very good — but don’t take my word for it. They will play their first full concert program in Boulder at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church. The performance is free and open to the public.

Their program fits the standard format for student recitals — or, for that matter, most professional string quartet concerts: A classical period quartet (in this case, Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2); a 19th century quartet (Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2, the “Second Razumovksy” Quartet); and one work that is more recent or less known (the First String Quartet by 20th century American composer George Walker).

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Ivalas Quartet
Reuben Kebede and Anita Dumar, violin; Aimée McAnulty, viola; Pedro Sánchez, cello
7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 2425 Colorado Ave., Boulder

Haydn: String Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2
George Walker: String Quartet No. 1
Beethoven: String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2

Free and open to the public

 

Takacs Quartet announces change of violist

Geraldine Walther to retire in 2020, after 15 years with quartet

By Peter Alexander Oct. 10 at 4:55 pm.

The Takacs Quartet, in residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has announced that retirement from the group of violist Geraldine Walther. She will be replaced by violist Richard O’Neill starting in June 2020.

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New Takacs membership, starting in 2020: From left, Richard O’Neill, viola; András Fejér, cello; Harumi Rhodes, second violin; Ed Dusinberre, first violin.

The other current members of  the quartet are first violinist Edward Dusinberre, who joined in 1993; second violinist Harumi Rhodes, who joined in 2018; and cellist András Fejér, the sole remaining original member of the group.

The original Takács Quartet was formed by four students at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, following a pickup soccer game. That quartet, comprising Gábor Takács Nagy, Karoly Schranz, Gábor Ormai and Fejér, first came to Boulder in 1986 as artists-in-residence at the CU College of Music. In addition to maintaining a high profile international career, the quartet presents an annual concert series on the CU campus that sells out two performances of each program, and frequently collaborate with their faculty colleagues.

Walther was quoted in a statement released by the Takacs Quartet: “I have loved being a member of the Takács Quartet and am grateful for all the friends I’ve made along the way. I am very happy to hand the baton over to the wonderful violist and musician, Richard O’Neill, and wish the group every success for their future together!”

O’Neill wrote, “Joining the Takács Quartet is the greatest honor of my life. I am thrilled to follow in the footsteps of one of my heroes, the great Geraldine Walther, whom I have listened to and adored since I was a child.”

CU College of Music Dean John Davis wrote: “Walther, whose exceptional artistry has contributed to the long-standing success and reputation of the Takács Quartet, will be sorely missed by the many people who have been impacted by her music, friendship, teaching and warm spirit. She has been a treasured part of the College of Music family, and her immense contributions here will be felt for many years to come.

“The addition of Richard (O’Neill) to the quartet is to be celebrated. Richard is a musician of the highest caliber and we are beyond thrilled that he will become the newest member of the Takács Quartet and contribute to the ongoing stellar level of the group. We welcome him to the College of Music!”

walther.cuphoto

Gerladine Walther. CU Photo.

Walther joined the Takacs Quartet from the San Francisco Symphony, where she was principal violist for 29 years. Early in her career she won the William Primrose International Competition. In addition to CU, she taught at the San Francisco Conservatory, Mills College in Oakland and Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Cal.

She also has appeared a chamber music festivals from Marlboro, Vt., to Santa Fe N.M., and frequently performed as a solo artist. Her chamber music performances include collaborations with Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zuckerman, and the Guarneri, Tokyo and St. Lawrence quartets.

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Richard O’Neill

Korean-American violist O’Neill has been artistic director of Ensemble DITTO, founded in 2007 to introduce chamber music to a wider and younger audience in South Korea and Asia, throughout its 13-year existence. He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and principal violist of Camerata Pacifica in Santa Barbara, Cal.

Walther will perform with the quartet for the remainder of the their campus concerts of the 2019-20 academic year. Her last performance with the group will be at the Prague Spring Festival on May 22, 2020. O’Neill will then succeed her starting with a performance at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where he is currently on the faculty.

Takacs Quartet starts the fall season with near perfect program, beautifully played.

Music by Mozart, Bartók and Dvořák will be repeated tonight

By Peter Alexander Sept. 9 at 1:05 a.m.

Last night (Sept. 8) the Takacs Quartet began the 2019–20 season of major classical music events in Boulder with a near-perfect program: three truly great pieces of music, of contrasting periods and styles, offering different demands to the performers.

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Takács Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton,

As mixed programs often do, it began with music from the classical period: Mozart’s String Quartet in C major K465, one of his greatest works. Known as the “Dissonance” Quartet from the chromatic harmonies of the slow introduction, it does not sound particularly dissonant to ears that have heard Wagner and Schoenberg—not to mention Berio and Boulez.

The Takacs took their cue for their interpretation from the cheerful and engaging music that comes after the slow introduction, which they played in a straightforward way. Where some performers prefer to wring all the drama and angst they can from the harmonies, the Takacs takes a more matter-of-fact approach that fits well with all the music that follows. This interpretation makes the quartet comfortably enjoyable, but it risks missing the real challenge that Mozart’s harmonies, extreme for their time, would have posed to his audiences.

Mozart was followed by the Fourth Quartet of Bartók, one of the great works of the early 20thcentury. So well does this work distill all of the core elements of Bartók’s style, it can (and has done) serve for a whole course on the composer. After a brief and witty spoken introduction by first violinist Ed Dusinberre, who outlined the key structural features of the quartet’s five movements, the Takacs players launched into a driven, compelling reading of the quartet.

This is music that requires great energy and rhythmic command, and the Takacs provided that in spades. Thematic relationships that bind the quartet and its symmetrical form together were clearly audible, not buried in the complex textures. The devilish fourth movement conveyed all the wit inherent in Bartók’s headlong, propulsive pizzicato, even if the players were momentarily revealed to be human, after all. The final movement delivered the wild party that Dusinberre promised, ending the quartet with a wonderful flourish straight out of the first movement.

The final piece on the program was Dvořák’s String Quartet in F major, op. 96, known as the “American” Quartet. Written during an idyllic summer in Spillville, Iowa, it one of the composer’s most delightful and perfect works. This is music that smiles.

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Spillville, Iowa, in 1893, the year of Dvořák’s visit.

As pure music it is thoroughly enjoyable, but for those who know the Spillville legends, the evocation of the open, empty spaces of the American prairie—which Dvořák found to be “sad unto despair”—in the second movement, the quotation of the Scarlet Tanager’s song in the third, and the sound of the organ that Dvořák played in church every morning during the summer in the final movement, the deep nostalgia of the music becomes all the more meaningful.

Once again the Takacs shifted gears to capture the melded American/Bohemian qualities of Dvořák’s most American work, a piece that revels in the countryside and displaced Bohemians Dvořák found in Iowa as well as his love for the countryside and people of his homeland. Written in the open air of the prairie, the music came from deep within Dvořák’s soul. The Takacs’ performance was exemplary.

In fact, it was a joy to hear the whole concert, from first note to last. The Takacs revealed the individuality and character of all three works.

The program will be repeated tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall. Limited tickets are available here.

Two fall concerts, three in spring for Takács Quartet

Fall programs include music by Bartók, Beethoven, Mozart

By Peter Alexander Sept. 6 at 11:54 a.m.

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Takacs Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

The University of Colorado’s Takacs String Quartet, one of Boulder’s musical treasures, will play a program of music by Mozart, Bartók and Dvořák Sunday and Monday, Sept. 7 and 8.

A second program featuring Bartók again, plus Beethoven and Mendelssohn, will be performed Oct. 27–28. The two fall concerts are part of five Sunday–Monday pairs that the Takacs will play on campus during the year. Programs have not yet been announced for the three spring concerts.

Tickets are available for a subscription series that includes concerts by the Tesla Quartet Nov. 10-11. For ticket information, contact the box office at 303-492-8008.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Takacs Quartet
2019 Fall Concerts

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9

Mozart: String Quartet No. in C Major, K465 (“Dissonance”)
Bartók: String Quartet No. 4
Dvořák: String Quartet F Major, Op. 96 (“American”)

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28

Beethoven: String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, op. 18 no. 3
Bartók: String Quartet No. 2
Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2

All Performances in Grusin Music Hall

Tickets

CU Presents’ 2019–20 season features Grammy winners and nominees

Kronos Quartet returns, Eklund Opera presents It’s a Wonderful Life

By Peter Alexander April 4 at 4:15 p.m.

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CU Macky Auditorium

The coming season of CU Presents at Macky Auditorium will feature the return of the Kronos Quartet, not heard in Boulder since 2014; the first appearance here by A Far Cry string orchestra; and the combination return/first local performance of Jake Heggie’s and Gene Scheer’s opera It’s a Wonderful Life, workshopped at CU in June 2018 and now scheduled for a full production by CU’s Eklund Opera Program.

These and other music, dance and theater events have been announced as part of the 2019-20 season of CU Presents. The full schedule for the season is listed here; see a schedule of the music events below .

In addition to CU’s own Takacs Quartet in their annual series on campus, the Grammy winners on the schedule are Kronos Quartet and the Chick Corea trio. A Far Cry was nominated for Grammys in 2014 and 2018.

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A Far Cry sting orchestra. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Founded in Boston in 2007, A Far Cry is an adventurous string orchestra. They are a democratic, self-conducted ensemble in which decisions are made collectively and leadership rotates among the players—or “Criers,” as they like to call themselves. They were recently part of a commissioning project with pianist Simone Dinnerstein for Philp Glass’s Third Piano Concerto, which Dinnerstein played with the Boulder Philharmonic as part of the orchestra’s 2017–18 season.

A Far Cry will perform a new program for the tour that will bring them to Boulder on Feb. 8, 2020. Under the title “Memory,” the program will comprise works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Arvo Pärt.

Kronos

Kronos Quartet. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Over 46 years, Kronos Quartet has been known for the innovative programming and presentation of music for string quartet, and especially new works. More than 900 works have been written for Kronos, by composers from all over the world. Their extensive discography, including more than 40 studio albums, has its own Wikipedia entry that also lists compilation albums, video albums, film soundtracks, and Kronos’ contributions with other artists ranging from Linda Ronstadt to Nine Inch Nails.

Kronos has been nominated for a Grammy 11 times, and won twice. In recognition of the 2014 centennial of World War I, in 2014 they presented the film Beyond Zero in Macky. A reconstruction by Bill Morrison of film from World War I, Beyond Zero featured a score by Aleksandra Vrebalov played live by Kronos. For their performance at Macky in March 19, 2020, they will present a new program, “Music for Change: The 60s,” including a celebration of Pete Seeger’s music and a work inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Houston Grand Opera world premiere production of It’s a Wonderful Life

Heggie and Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, with the San Francisco Opera and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. The opera is based on the 1946 film of the same name, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers.

The original production premiered in Houston Dec. 2, 2016, with subsequent performances in San Francisco and Bloomington, Ind. Prior to the premiere, the opera received workshop performances in Boulder in June 2016, through the Eklund Opera’s New Opera Workshop (CU NOW).

The Eklund Opera will present an all-new production of the opera Nov. 15–17, 2019, in Macky Auditorium.

Music events from CU Presents’ 2019–20 season are listed below:

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Artist Series at Macky Auditorium

Music events

Chick Corea Trilogy
with Christian McBride and Brian Blade
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019,
Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade join Chorea for an evening of Corea classics and jazz standards.

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Nobuntu

Nobuntu
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30
“Nobuntu”—an expression meaning feminine familial love, humility and kindness—is the name of a female a cappella quintet from Zimbabwe that performs traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro jazz and gospel.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19

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Natalie McMaster and Donnell Leahy

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy
“A Celtic Family Christmas”
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17

A Far Cry string orchestra
“Memory”
Music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Arvo Pärt and Elgar
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

Kronos Quartet
“Music for Change: The 60s, The Years That Changed America”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020

Holiday Festival

Dec. 6-8, 2019
CU Boulder’s Holiday tradition featuring student choirs, bands and orchestras—along with faculty performers—in a concert of holiday favorites

Takács Quartet at Grusin Music Hall

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Takács Quartet

Chamber Series:
4 p.m. Sundays Sept. 8, Oct. 27, Jan. 12, March 8, May 3
Encore Series:
7:30 p.m. Mondays Sept. 9, Oct. 28, Jan. 13, March 9, May 4

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11: The Takacs Quartet presents the Tesla Quartet

Eklund Opera Program

It’s a Wonderful Life
Music by Jake Heggie; Libretto by Gene Scheer
Nov. 15-17 at Macky Auditorium

The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
March 13-15 at Macky Auditorium

Béatrice et Bénédict
Music and libretto by Hector Berlioz, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
April 23-26 at the Music Theatre

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Season tickets for these and other events presented by CU Presents are now on sale and my be purchased here. The complete listing of the CU Presents 2019–20 season, including dance performances and productions of the CU Department of Theater and Dance, may be found here.