Boulder Chamber Orchestra and soloists delight with rare, youthful works

Performances of music by Mendelssohn and Janáček were ‘charming and expressive’

By Peter Alexander

Last night (Nov. 10), Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra gave charming and expressive performances of two little known works: Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin and strings, written when the composer was 14; and Janáček’s Idyll for Strings, written when the composer was 24.

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Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Both scores have been eclipsed by greater works that came later in the composers’ careers. But last night’s performances were refined and stylish, making a case for the Concerto and the Idyll.

The program and others this year mark a return to genuine chamber orchestra repertoire for the BCO, after an excursion into the large-symphony realm last year. This is a good decision: the BCO sounded better and more comfortably at home with these two works than ever. It is one the best concerts I have heard them give.

Zachary & Mina

Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

The soloists for the Mendelssohn, pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin, ripped through their often-virtuosic parts, tossing off Mendelssohn’s adolescent show-off riffs with aplomb. The young Mendelssohn was clearly drawing on classical models for structure and syntax, but he did not hesitate to use more dramatic Romantic gestures for the solo parts.

For example, the Concerto opens with a Mozartian introduction that would not be out of place in the catalog of any Classical composer. The piano then seems to drop in from another planet—call it the world of heroic soloists—entering with stentorian chords and flamboyant arpeggios. Gajić played with complete command, and was matched by Carrettin’s flourishes on the violin.

The mixture of styles is especially evident when Mendelssohn begins to develop his carefully balanced melodies, spinning off into unexpected keys and sudden changes of mood. Writing for himself to perform on piano with his violin teacher, he seems unable to resist showing everything he can do with the material.

Much of the slow movement is a Romanza for the two soloists, which provided some of the best moments. The Finale bounces between light-hearted jollity and stormy outbursts of passion, much as we can imagine the 14-year-old Mendelssohn doing with his own playing. Gajić and Carrettin followed Mendelssohn through every twist and turn, matching one another note-for-note through all the movement’s many scampering scales and runs.

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Bahman Saless: Czech in a former life?

Saless and the BCO came into their own with the Janáček Idyll, a suite of seven movements marked with the sweet melancholy and dance rhythms of Czech folk music. Saless spends part of every year in Prague and has said that he must have been Czech in a previous life.

If so, his performance of the Idyll was clear evidence of his identification with Czech culture. His interpretation was sensitive and deeply expressive throughout. Apart from an occasional muddiness in the lowest parts—likely due more to the venue than the players—the performance was exemplary. Though little known, the Idyll contains music of unexpected beauty.

The performance will be repeated, tonight at 7:30 in Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Both pieces are well worth hearing: the Mendelssohn is a delightful glimpse of a young genius at play, brought delightfully to life, and the Janáček is filled with wistful beauty, played with deep expression.

You can order your tickets here. You won’t be sorry.

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Youthful works form the Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s program Nov. 10 & 11

Music by Mendelssohn and Janáček with soloists Mina Gajić and Zachary Carrettin

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) calls its current season “Fourteeners,” in honor of the their 14th season and their goal of “reaching new heights.”

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BCO and Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo.

It may or may not be a coincidence, then, that conductor Bahman Saless chose a piece by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn for the next concert, to be performed Friday in Broomfield and Saturday in Boulder (Nov. 10 and 11). The program features pianist Mina Gajić and violinist Zachary Carrettin playing Mendelssohn’s Concerto for piano, violin, and strings from 1823.

Joining the Mendelssohn on the program is another youthful piece, the Idyll for Strings by Leoš Janáček, written when the composer was 24—a relatively young age for someone who lived and worked into his 70s.

Mendelssohn’s concerto is a youthful work, but it should not, Saless maintains, be considered an immature piece. “It gives the audience the chance to see the charm that you find in early Mendelssohn, and quite frankly his genius at that age,” he says. “It’s a pretty fascinating snapshot of what he was able to do at the time, and what he will be doing later.”

Carrettin agrees. “It’s an early work, but not that early,” he says. “He wrote it at 14, but at 16 he wrote the String Octet, which is considered by all to be a complete, mature masterpiece. In these two years, Mendelssohn becomes a fully formed master composer.”

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Zachary Carrettin and Mina Gajic

Gajić and Carrettin are known for their historically informed performances with the Boulder Bach festival, of which he is the artistic director. The performance with Saless and the BCO will be entirely on modern instruments, including the piano, but Gajić and Carrettin, who are married to one another, have been practicing the concerto at home with their own historical pianos and violin bows. Using instruments from Mendelssohn’s time, they have found, gives insights into the music.

One of the pianos that they rehearsed with dates from 1845, during Mendelssohn’s lifetime. “It’s just a whole world of colors and possibilities for phrasing that come naturally on an instrument like this,” Gajić explains. “Because they’re so related to the instrument’s nature, it’s revealing to look into special colors, timings, pedaling. It’s wonderful to see how certain pieces unlock themselves on a piano like this.”

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The 1845 piano that Gajic and Carrettin have used for rehearsals (photo by Peter Alexander)

“Every time we go back to the 1845 (piano) in rehearsal, it reveals something that the other pianos didn’t reveal,” Carrettin adds.

One difference using earlier pianos and bows is tempo. To Carrettin and Gajić it feels right to play faster on the older, lighter instruments. “For us, the later the instrument, the more resonance, the thicker the sound, the more we find that if we go just a couple of clicks slower, the sonorities make more sense with the character of the music,” he says.

That character, Carrettin explains, falls between the Classic and Romantic styles. “It has a little bit of tension between classical rhetoric and Romantic expression,” he says. “There’s a sense of walking between two worlds at a particular time in history, which I love.”

The score combines expressive melodies with virtuosic flourishes, all in a chamber music texture of exchange between soloists and orchestra. “It’s really exciting to bring the chamber music aspect into a concerto,” Gajić says. “We’ll have a great time performing with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.”

Saless is equally excited. “It’s always a pleasure and an honor to work with Zachary and Mina,” he says. “It’s a charming piece, and performing with a husband and wife couple also makes it intriguing, because it’s like the violin and piano could be one instrument.”

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Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo

Saless and the BCO played the Janáček Idyll before, and it’s a piece that he feels a special connection with. “The first time I conducted it was in the Czech Republic and I fell in love with it,” he says. “It’s such a [cultural] identity piece, especially the last movement that brings this absolute joy of Czech culture. I think if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was Czech in my last life!”

We think of Janáček as a 20th-century composer, because his best known works were composed after 1900, but the Idyll was written in 1878, more than 20 years before the new century. The first performance was heard by Dvořák, a friend of the younger composer who is often cited as an influence on the Idyll. But Saless isn’t sure about the influence.

“It’s hard to say if it’s Dvořák’s influence or just Czech influence,” he says. “Because it’s so Czech, it sounds like Dvořák.”

Some of Janáček’s later and better known pieces are fairly complex and spiky, but the Idyll is very straightforward. “It’s much more approachable,” Saless says. “It’s a suite of seven movements like folk songs, and that’s really all it is. It’s pretty simple.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to play, however. “There are some parts that are just impossibly hard,” Saless says. “There are some really hard cello parts. I’ve done quite a few Janáček pieces in the Czech Republic, and every orchestra complains how hard it is.”

The difficulty of the string writing probably reflects Janáček’s training as a pianist and organist and not a string player. “My guess is that he was so young that he was writing more as a composer that was not so familiar with the limitations (of the instruments),” Saless says.

“Having said that, it’s just gorgeous. Don’t miss it!”

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BCO Logo 2016

Idyllic Mendelssohn
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
With Mina Gajić, piano, and Zachary Carrettin, violin

 

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10
Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Rd., Broomfield

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

PROGRAM

Mendelssohn: Concerto for piano, violin, and strings
Leoš Janáček: Idyll for Strings

Tickets

‘Bachtoberfest’ concerts are all about Bach, not beer

Boulder Bach Festival embarks on a new season of adventures

By Peter Alexander

Boulder’s ever-adventurous Bach Festival embarks on a new season of exploration, with concerts in Boulder Oct. 12 and Longmont Oct. 14.

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Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock for the Juilliard School and Philharmonia Baroque will be a guest artists with the Boulder Bach Festival. Photo by David Tayler.

Boulder Bach Festival music director Zachary Carretin explains, “We spent recent years talking about Bach as our compass, and that gives us liberty to explore in any direction, across time, across cultures. So exploration is certainly a theme (this year), and presenting music the festival has never presented before.”

Not that Bach has been forgotten. “Every program does connect to the music of J.S. Bach,” he says, “sometimes in more direct ways, sometimes with six degrees of separation.”

That description applies to the opening program, which features chamber works with and without voice by Bach and composers associated with him: Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, his student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and his son Johann Christian Bach, known as “The London Bach.” Featured performers are Carretin and Elizabeth Blumenstock on violin; cellist Guy Fishman; keyboardist Christopher Holman; and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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“Bachtoberfest”
Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carretin, artistic director
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Guy Fishman, cello; Christopher, Holman, keyboards; and Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road, Longmont

Tickets

 

From ‘Bachtoberfest’ to Carnival in Brazil, Boulder’s musicians plan celebrations

Boulder Bach Festival, Boulder Chorale announce 2017–18 seasons

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival and Boulder Chorale have announced their 2017–18 seasons, with globe-trotting celebrations from “Bachtoberfest” to Brazil to Venice.

imageOf the two, the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF) gets underway first with the “Bachtoberfest” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday , Oct. 12 in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium.

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Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg

The concert—which actually has nothing to do with beer—will feature four guest soloists: violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock from the faculty of the Juilliard School; Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Handel-Haydn Society of Boston; Chris Holman, historical keyboardist of the Bach Society in Houston; and Dutch soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, who has appeared with the BBF several times in the past.

Violinist Zachary Carrettin, artistic director of the BBF will also play on the concert of 18th-century chamber music. The program includes trio sonatas and arias by Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and Telemann.

A particularly interesting item on the program that continues the BBF’s exploration of historical rarities is listed as a “Keyboard Concerto in G major” by Johann Christian Bach, arranged by Mozart. Known as “The London Bach” for having had a very successful musical career in that city, Johann Christian was the youngest of J.S. Bach’s sons. Mozart visited London while on tour with his family during the years 1763–66, when he was seven to 10 years old. He became friends with Bach, around 30 at the time.

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Johann Christian Bach, portrait by Thomas Gainsborough

In order to learn how to write concertos, the young Mozart arranged three of Bach’s solo sonatas as concertos by adding passages for orchestra. These arrangements were originally included in Mozart’s works under the listing K107 nos. 1–3; the Concerto in G major is the second of the three. Rarely performed, because they are not strictly “by” either J.C. Bach or Mozart, they are nonetheless fascinating historical documents, revealing the young composer’s learning process.

There are two new scheduling features for BBF’s 2017–18 season: Boulder performances will all be on Thursdays, to avoid conflicts with other performing organizations; and the performances will be split between Boulder’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. Some concerts will be presented in both venues, and others only in one or the other.

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1895 Érard piano

For example, the second event on the season, a concert titled “A World Transformed,” will only be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, in the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont. The performance will feature Mina Gajić performing on her 1895 Érard grand piano together with Richie Hawley performing on a 1919 Parisian clarinet and Carrettin playing a  gut-string violin. They will play music of the early 20th century by Bartók, Ives, Berg and Antheil.

Likewise, the major Bach performance of the year will only be presented once, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in Boulder’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. Titled “The Eternal Spirit,” the program comprises four of Bach’s great sacred cantatas. Zachary Carrettin will lead the BBF Chorus and Orchestra with vocal soloists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass-baritone.

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Flutist Ismael Reyes

The final concert of the season will honor the musical heritage of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, with music by  prominent Venetian Baroque composers: Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Tarquino Merulo and Antonio Vivaldi. The concert will end the season with one more piece by J.S. Bach, the Orchestral Suite in B minor with Ysmael Reyes playing the flute solos.

You can see the full Boulder Bach Festival season here.

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Dec-2014-BC-adults

The Boulder Chorale (BC) opens its 52nd season with “Carnival Brazil,” at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. Titled “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” this will be BC’s ninth season combined with the Boulder Children’s Chorale and the third with artistic director Vicki Burrichter.

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Ginga

Carnival Brazil (Oct. 28) will see the BC sharing the stage with the Brazilian-music band Ginga and the Bateria Alegria, the percussion ensemble of the Boulder Samba School. That is only the beginning of the collaborative performances in a season that the BC is describing as “an adventurous exploration of different genres.”

The BC will be joined by JAMkeyJAM, a duo of Nepalese musicians who aim to combine ancient traditional music with contemporary sounds, March 10 and 11. The joint program, “Between Heaven and Earth,” will include a performance of Eliza’s Gilkyson’s Requiem, written in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Vicki Burrichter

Later the same month, the chorale will appear with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem (March 30 in Broomfield and 31 in Boulder), and they will close out the season May 19 and 20 with Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, performed with a jazz combo.

 

The full Boulder Chorale season, including ticket information and performances by the Boulder Children’s Chorale not mentioned in this article, can be found here.

NOTE: Typos corrected 9.8.17

 

 

 

Bach Festival 2017–18 Season will avoid busy Fridays and Saturdays in Boulder

Long-range plan: an historical-instrument ensemble for Boulder

By Peter Alexander

newBBFLogoSquareWebsiteThe Boulder Bach Festival has announced its 2017–18 season of five concerts, three to be presented in both Boulder and Longmont.

Of the other two, one will be presented only at the festival’s Boulder home, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and the other in Longmont’s Stewart Auditorium. In a significant change, the concerts have been scheduled to avoid the busy weekends in Boulder.

“Boulder is saturated,” Bach Festival director Zachary Carrettin says. “We have so many wonderful music presenters and organizations for such a small community, so I’ve put us on Thursday nights in Boulder and Saturday nights in Longmont. That’s my contribution to the scheduling madness we’re experiencing in Boulder.” (See the full schedule below.)

Carrettin is confident that having performances on Thursday nights will not limit the audience as much as the scheduling conflicts might. “We have a very specific audience,” he says. “They want to hear the particular, distinct programs and artists that we offer. And I think by and large, it doesn’t matter to them which night of the week (the concerts are presented).”

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Zachary Carrettin

Rather than build a season around a single theme, Carrettin looks for connections across seasons, from year to year. ”Each time we finish one season, I ask, where did we start to go?” he says. “What doors did we open? What happens next?”

 

One example is that the festival has programmed music from Venice, one of the musical centers that influenced Bach and others of his generation. In 2016, it was a program titled “Venice on Fire,” featuring chamber music that Carrettin called “the rock ‘n’ roll of the Baroque.” And the 2017–­18 season will close with “La Venexiana,” a concert of music from Venice for orchestra, soloists and chorus (May 24 & 26, 2018).

That concert also represents the beginning of a new long-range project of the Bach Festival: the establishment of a standing Baroque orchestra. Carrettin’s goal is to establish in Boulder a center for historical instrument performance, much as exists in New York, Boston, Amsterdam, and other cities around the world.

“We are introducing concert by concert, season by season, our own in-house Baroque orchestra, on historical instruments,” he says. “Due to the generosity of some donors, we have decided to fill in some of the gaps on the front range by purchasing instruments, three instruments a year for the next three years. You’ll see more (orchestral) concerts each season, and a larger and larger Baroque orchestra.”

The Boulder Bach Festival is partnering with CU Boulder and other musical organizations for this project. “We are working with doctoral students and recent graduates of CU who want to have a world-class international experience with historical instruments here on the front range,” Carrettin explains. “We are offering them access to luminaries in the field—our guest artists—access to the instruments, access to master classes, lessons and reading sessions, so that they can explore the world of early music.”

That project reflects a major thread that connects one season of the Bach Festival with another: the exploration of the many aspects of historical performance practice. “Next year we are engaging even more in the dialog of original instruments, or historical instruments,” Carrettin says. “That dialog is one that I hope results in some unexpected delights.”

In the festival’s recent seasons, the dialog around historical instruments has expanded from Bach and the Baroque era to the late 19th century, where questions of historical performance are not as obvious, but are still significant. “We play Bach with harpsichord and with chamber organ, then why would we not pay Brahms with the straight-strung 19th-century piano?” Carrettin asks. “When the Boulder Bach festival started doing that two seasons ago, our artists were able to work with a piano that has very different properties than today’s concert grand.”

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Mina Gajic’s historic 1895 Érard piano.

That piano was manufactured in Paris in 1895 by Érard and belongs to pianist Mina Gajic, the festival’s director of education and outreach. (Further information on the straight-strung Érard is here.) It was used in a concert of music by Bach and Brahms presented in 2016 that included the Brahms Horn Trio played on a 19th-century-style natural horn (without valves) and a violin with natural gut strings.

The Érard will return in the coming season for “A World Transformed,” a program the encompasses the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Dec. 9, Longmont). “We are opening a new door in the 36-year history of the Bach Festival,” Carrettin says of the program. Opening with some late Romantic music by Brahms the program will move on to works by Bartók, Ives, Enescu and Berg. Gajic and her historic Érard piano will be joined for the program by Carrettin, on violin and clarinetist Richie Hawley, playing a clarinet manufactured in 1919.

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Zachary Carrettin

“What we’re looking at is an early 20th-century clarinet, a violin set up in the manner of the time with silk and gut strings and the piano from the period as well,” Carrettin says. “We are performing (the pieces on the program) as they would have been heard at that time.”

Historical instruments will also be featured on the seasons opening concert, “BachtoberFest,” a concert of chamber music by Bach, Handel, and their contemporaries (Oct. 12 Boulder, Oct. 14 Longmont); and Baroque orchestra concert that closes the season, “La Venexiana” (May 24, 2018 in Boulder, May 26 in Longmont).

For the Bach devotees in the festival audience, the culminating concert of the year may well be on March 15, in Boulder only. Titled “Eternal Spirit,” the program features four of Bach’s best known cantatas: No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden; No. 50, Nun is das Heil und die Kraft; No. 61, Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland; and No. 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

“These works are chosen because of their musical content,” Carrettin says. “The four masterworks represent different periods of Bach’s life, from 1707 to the 1720s. Liturgically they come from different parts of the church year. One special work on the program is Cantata 50, which is a single movement double chorus, based on the chorale Nun kumm, der Heiden Heiland.

 “This work has trumpets and timpani and orchestra, and where we connect season to season is that last October we did three different settings of that chorale, for organ and choir and strings. And now we bring back that chorale in a rarely performed masterwork of Bach.”

 

Boulder Bach Festival
Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
2017–18 Season

Bachtoberfest
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont
—Program of chamber music by Bach, Händel and other Baroque composers performed on historical instruments

A World Transformed
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries performed on historical instruments

Schwartz-Bournaki in Recital
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—A recital by the New York- based duo of Julian Schwartz, cello, and Marika Bournaki, piano, winners of the 2016 first Boulder International Chamber Music Competition.

Eternal Spirit
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
—Four Bach cantatas performed buy the Boulder Bach Festival Chorus, orchestra and soloists.

La Venexiana
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 26, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont
—Vocal and instrumental music from Venice, including works of Giovanni Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Merulo and Vivaldi, plus the Bach Orchestral Suite in B minor.

All-access passes available at (720) 507-5052.

“The orchestra has a rich history and a great potential for the future.”

By Peter Alexander

Each of the four candidates for music director of the Longmont Symphony will conduct a concert during the 2016–17 season. When each candidate visits Longmont, I will take the opportunity to introduce him (and yes, they are all male). The questions will include serious questions about the job of a music director, but also questions that help introduce each of them to the reader. I hope this will give a clearer picture of the strengths of each candidate.

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Zachary Carrettin

The final candidate, Zachary Carrettin, will conduct the LSO on Saturday, April 8. The following works are on the program: A Longmont Overture by Kyle Kindred (world premiere); Violin Concerto Op. 61 by Beethoven, with Charles Wetherbee, violin soloist; and Symphony No. 8 in G major by Antonín Dvořák.

Here are his answers to the questions I asked:

What attracted you to the Longmont Symphony?

 The orchestra has a rich history in its city, 50 years, and a great potential for the future. In recent years, I’ve developed friendships in Longmont, initially through collaboration with the OUR Center and through attending events for A Woman’s Work, Arts Longmont and other organizations. Additionally, the Boulder Bach Festival and I started Bach in Longmont, a series at the Longmont Museum and Stewart Auditorium. Through all of these events I’ve met some of music enthusiasts in Longmont, and I really value these associations and relationships.

 How do you think about programming for a community orchestra? What would a season of the LSO with Zachary Carrettin look like?

 One should program the music the orchestra loves to play, and the music the audience will find interesting: moving, epic, poetic, fun and powerful. European composers from the 1700 to 1945 make up the bulk of our symphonic repertory, but there’s also amazing music by American composers. Spanish and Latin American orchestral music offers exotic colors, as does the music of French Impressionists. The Russian symphonists from Tchaikovsky to Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich are as important in orchestral literature a the music of Beethoven and Brahms. When I program a concert, I always try to include something unique, something special. For example, on April 8 the Longmont Symphony and I will perform the world premiere of a new work celebrating the Longmont Symphony by composer Kyle Kindred.

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Photo by Courtney Lee

There have recently been alarm bells for classical music and orchestras, especially the larger orchestras that have had serious labor disputes. Do you think that these problems will affect community orchestras as well? And if not, what do you think are the challenges for the smaller  orchestras?

 The financial challenges of an orchestra depend on several factors, and one of those is he orchestra’s desire for growth. Any kind of growth in the budget, in the visibility in the community, in the programming costs money, and this balancing of revenue and expense is the challenge of any non-profit arts organization. I don’t think the challenges are quite as steep for the community orchestras as they are for the full time professional orchestras.

Developing new audiences while captivating the loyal core ticket subscribes is the challenge of our times. Marketing and public relations can help with this by focusing on the exotic nature of the orchestral concert experience. When we travel to foreign countries we eat the food, we hear the language, we experience the sights and sounds. Similarly, we might begin to think of advocating a concert tourism approach in marketing, where we seek to attract audiences of all ages to be a part of the depth and the wonder and the splendor of the symphonic art form, an art “ever-changing as a river flowing.” (That’s a quote from Borges.)

How do you balance and prepare for the various aspects of the conductor’s job: the musical requirements, the social demands with the public, and the diplomatic demands with contributors, the board and musicians?

 The schedule of study, administrative efforts and performance is not for the faint of heart! Yet it is a life journey and a constant workout for the body and the mind. All these disciplines intersect, and the success of an ensemble is dependent on these intersections. I can only say that I try my best, and I learn as much as I can in my many professional engagements. All of these different endeavors require slightly different tweaking of the skill sets.

When the organization is progressing, everyone is inspired and everyone has the energy to do the work at hand. When the conductor is in the community, working with the chamber of commerce, in the public schools and working with donors and seeking advertisement and underwriting, all of this involves multiple people who facilitate these relationships, and it can be quite fulfilling. Balancing all of these disciplines contributes to a conductor’s ability on the podium and relationship with the orchestra.

For example, one donor might want to hear 20th-century unknown works, another one to hear the war horses of the literature. One musician of the orchestra might want to play more Haydn, another one might not want to play anything before 1800. So I think listening to the voices of everyone is step one. Processing that information is step two. But a music director also has to have a strong sense of his or her skill set and vision, because if one only listens to everybody else, one is sacrificing his or her own talents and experience.

carrettin_boulderbachfestival_cropAbout you now: Where did you grow up?

 I grew up primarily in Houston, Texas. I also lived in California, Illinois, Romania, Norway and Italy.

 Did you come from a musical family?

 Both my parents studied fine art, which is how they met—my mother was a recipient of a Fulbright study grant and lived in Venice, Italy, for a year, where my father was born and raised. My mom has been an English teacher for her career, and my father has spent most of his life working for restaurants. Both of them supported my musical endeavors wholeheartedly and with great sacrifice.

Who are your musical mentors?

 I admire conductor Carol Smith immensely. She ran the orchestral program at Sam Houston State University for 30 years. Her work ethic and strong commitment to nurturing young adult musicians have left a profound legacy.

My mentors also include Romanian conductor Dumitru Goia, who was assistant to Mravinsky in Lenningrad, decades ago. Another one of my mentors is the American conductor Donald Schleicher. But also the formidably exploratory violinists Kenneth Goldsmith and Sergiu Luca.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the music magnet programs in the Houston Public Schools. My elementary school had 80 violin students, my middle school orchestra toured the state of Texas, my high school orchestra performed in Carnegie Hall—Dvorak Symphony No. 8, by the way!—and then I went on to pursue two degrees at Rice University, with additional studies in Illinois, Norway, Germany and Italy.

That said, I grew up playing fiddle contests at Texas rodeos, and played Tango Nuevo and have a love of Portuguese fado songs.

Are there any conductors today whose work you especially admire?

 One of the conductors who made the greatest impact on me was Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who never micro managed. He had an extraordinary sense of beauty of tone and expansiveness of line, and the greatest musicians responded to him attentively  and completely. Fresh out of graduate school I was in the Bergen Philharmonic and we toured Switzerland under the baton of de Burgos. I later learned that my teacher Ken Goldsmith had performed with de Burgos conducting, and Goldsmith’s teacher Nathan Milstein made recordings and performances with de Burgos, so I’m a third-generation violinist to perform symphonic literature with Maestro de Burgos.

Moving on the sillier questions: Do you have a favorite food or cuisine?

I don’t have a favorite cuisine. It depends on the weather and the season and all of that. My wife and I share a passion for exploring food together, from taco trucks to fish markets, to cheese shops to barbeque. In fact, once in Houston we ate three consecutive lunches on a quest to find the best barbeque restaurant in Houston. It turns out it’s in Longmont! It would be unfair to single one out—there are several that I have yet to enjoy. I will say that I’m particularly fond of the Rib House.

As you know, Colorado is an outdoor recreation state. Do you have a favorite activity outdoors? Or are you too busy shut up in your studio studying scores?

 I enjoy water skiing in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter, but admittedly only a few days a year. More frequently I walk on mountain trails with my dog, and especially in the  summer months here on the front range we really enjoy that. He’s a 5-pound Chihuahua named Apple with loads of personality and he never seems to get tired of walking. As regards score study, it never ends, but life seems to. One must study and live.

Do you follow any sport or team?

The symphony orchestra is the supreme example of a team sport. It is extremely athletic, from controlling the breath to controlling the muscles, and requires endurance. The team members have an uncanny awareness of one another, and their collective sense of timing is extraordinary. And they have to be flexible in their role, as the nature of the music requires them to change their position or their role on a dime. This is thrilling to observe, especially in a live concert. Sometimes audiences respond with the kind of enthusiasm we see at football games. And finally the conductor might be considered a coach, but ultimately the instrumentalists in the orchestra are the ones who execute the plays.

Priests, thugs and pickpockets all part of the program for Boulder Bach Festival

Concerts in Boulder, Denver and Longmont explore music from Spain and the Americas

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Bach Festival has become an explorer through the history of music.

That is the work of artistic director Zachary Carrettin, who has led the festival since the fall of 2013. A Baroque violinist, electric violinist and conductor of broad tastes, he has played early music and various styles of chamber music around the world, but also shared the stage with Yanni, Ray Charles and Cake. And as director of the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF), he wants to broaden audiences’ knowledge of the music of the past and all the ways it can be experienced.

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Zachary Carrettin. Photo by Courtney Lee.

The festival’s next program, to be presented Thursday through Saturday in Boulder, Denver and Longmont (see below) is a case in point. Titled “Spain and the Americas,” it will not include a single piece by Bach. It will, however, bring to light a repertoire from just before and during Bach’s lifetime that is little known today. And like most performances Carrettin has presented with the BBF, it will explore ways the music can be presented, using both guitar and lute with the bass part and different combinations of instruments with solo voice.

“It is part of my personal mission that we examine performance practices, but not only with the mission of authenticity, or bringing back to life old practices,” Carrettin says. “Also I’m engaging in a dialog about the various instruments then and now, and how they influence our approach to the various musics we play and sing.”

This particular program is a collaboration between Carrettin and Richard Savino, a lutenist and guitarist who also directs El Mundo, a Renaissance and Baroque performance ensemble. Carrettin has played on concerts and recordings with Savino and El Mundo, and he invited Savino to appear with the BBF for this concert.

“I always enjoyed playing with (Savino and El Mundo),” Carrettin says. “His style of playing is so full of life and imagination that it influences everybody else in the band.”

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Richard Savino

Savino will play both Spanish guitar and lute on the concert, and Carrettin will be one of two Baroque violinists. A second violinist will be Adam LaMotte, concertmaster of the Portland Baroque Orchestra who has known Carrettin since they were both high school freshmen. The cello/continuo will be played by Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society and a member of the Colorado Music Festival orchestra in the summers.

Vocal soloist for the concert will be mezzo-soprano Clea Huston, an artist-in-residence for the BBF this season. A native of Denver, Huston has sung a diverse repertoire, including music by Wagner, Verdi, Mozart, Handel and Bach.

The music for the BBF concert comes partly from one of Savino’s recordings with El Mundo, The Kingdoms of Castile, but it also reflects Savino’s long-time interest in the music of Spain and the Spanish colonies in the New World. “It’s an area of work that I’ve been researching since the mid-‘90s,” he says.

“Growing up a guitar player you’re always fascinated with Spanish music. Somewhere in the 1990s I became more and more interested in the colonial repertory of the 16th through the 19th centuries, and the music that emanated from the different missions, cathedrals, convents and court environments in Latin America.”

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Mezzo-soprano Clea Huston

The program includes music by composers from Mexico, Guatemala and Spain, as well as composers from southern Italy, which was under Spanish rule in the Baroque era. Surprisingly, there is also a piece by Handel. Although he was certainly not a Spanish composer, Handel lived for a while in Naples, the seat of the Spanish Viceroy, where he wrote a song in Spanish.

“It’s his only work in Spanish, and it says specifically on the title page ‘con chitarra Espagnola’ (with Spanish guitar),” Savino says. “He basically adopts every Spanish characteristic for it. He’s the great chameleon—he can do it all.”

Savino singles out one of the composers on the program as a favorite. “Jose Marin is a fascinating character,” he says. “He was a Catholic priest, and he was also a thug—I mean like a Tony Soprano thug. He was convicted in some kind of extortion scheme, was defrocked and run out of Madrid. He was caught trying to sneak back in, and then was implicated in a murder scheme.

“But his songs are stunningly beautiful.”

Carrettin shares Savino’s regard for Marin’s music. “We’re ending the first half with a duo by Marin, and it is just sublime,” he says. “It’s so special and intimate, it’s probably my favorite piece on the program.”

A contrasting piece is a Xacara (or Jácara), a type of lively Spanish dance song that was somehow associated with pickpockets. Oygan una Xacarilla was composed by Rafael Castellano, the chapel master at the cathedral in Guatemala City. “It’s a funky pop tune,” Savino says. “It’s great!”

Other works on the program include a set of pieces for guitar alone, by Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz; a two-part piece that opens with a slow, reserved chorale section celebrating the birth of Jesus, followed by a guaracha, a style of Cuban dance that Savino again describes as a “pop tune”; and several instrumental pieces for two violins with cello and guitar continuo.

Savino believes that the most important thing to listen for on the program is an unmistakable Hispanic, or Latino, element to the music. “There is a discernible lineage to Hispanic music that you can hear from the 16th through the 20th century,” he says.

“When you hear Tito Puente, for example, and then you hear a 17th-century guaracha, there’s a connection, and you know that they both are derived from Hispanic musical practices. You can put it together right away.

“And it’s a vibrant repertory.”

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Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, director
With Richard Savino, guitar and lutes
Clea Huston, mezzo-soprano
Adam LaMotte and Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violins
Guy Fishman, cello

7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, Grace Lutheran Church, 1001 13th St., Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church,2015 Glenarm St., Denver
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road Longmont

Tickets