Opus Colorado

Pathways To Jazz Awarding Recording Grants To Jazz Musicians
May 3, 2015, 12:25 pm
Filed under: News

Now in its second year, Pathways To Jazz will award grants again to jazz musicians to support costs associated with producing a recording. Pathways To Jazz exists to provide opportunities for jazz musicians of all ages to succeed in their artistic and educational development by funding qualified jazz musicians to record their music and further their artistry and career. Pathways To Jazz seeks to connect people with the rich tradition of jazz in our musical heritage and to expand the reach of that music to a wide audience, especially to those who may not otherwise have access to see, listen, learn or play jazz. Since jazz is a uniquely American art form it is the program’s objective to see this rich tradition continue for future generations. Pathways to Jazz knows the value that recorded work plays in furthering artistry and supports artists who are unable to make provisions for themselves to take this essential step. Five grants were awarded in 2014 and those artists can be found on http://www.pathwaystojazz.com.

To be eligible, an artist must have the capability to produce a studio-quality recording, can evidence a strong artistic track record, and would clearly benefit from producing a recording in terms of artistic development and in furthering and preserving jazz music. Emerging and established artists are eligible and recorded works can be original or the works of other contemporary composers. The creative control of the recording remains with the artist.  Online applications are available May 1, 2015 at the Boulder County Arts Alliance webpage http://www.bouldercountyarts.org. A grant coaching session will be offered and the deadline to apply is June 30, 2015.

As an individual, organization or business you can support the mission of Pathways To Jazz to document and provide wider exposure for jazz music by making a donation to the project through the Boulder County Arts Alliance.

For more information and to apply or donate, please go to http://www.bouldercountyarts.org or call 303-250-7660.

Pathways To Jazz is sponsored by the Boulder County Arts Alliance.

CONTACT:  Alan Cogen, Founder

Sarah Goodroad
Administrative Director

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg: Passionate Shostakovich. Andrew Litton: Passionate Mahler

Friday, May 1, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra gave another remarkable performance. Under the directorship of Maestro Andrew Litton, and partnering with the sensational guest violinist, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, they performed two very difficult works: Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto Nr. 1 in A minor, Opus 99, and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Nr. 5 in C sharp minor.

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg needs no introduction to Denver audiences. She is one of the world’s most extraordinary violinists, and she is spectacular to watch. On stage, she moves a little more than many violinists; however, her movements are not directed toward theatrical impact, but rather they clearly assist in placing energy into her bow arm. The result is one of excitement and intensity: and it is abundantly clear that she genuinely feels that intensity. Every performance that Salerno-Sonnenberg gives seems to remind me that she is, perhaps, one of the few violinists today who can truly see and re-create the passion and intensity of the composer.

Shostakovich’s marvelous Violin Concerto in A minor was written in 1947 and 1948 and then revised in 1955. It was composed for Shostakovich’s close friend David Oistrakh, but it had to be “withdrawn” because of the oppressive climate for composers, poets, and artists in the Soviet Union at the time. As I have said in past articles, the favorite term of the communist regime was “formalist perversions.” However, in the instance of the First Violin Concerto, Dmitry Shostakovich, in a rare response to Soviet criticism, wrote an article in the June 17, 1956, issue of Pravda, wherein he stated, “Not infrequently, ‘formalism’ is a label applied to what is not comprehensible or even unpalatable to some persons… However, only art which is empty and devoid of ideas, cold and lifeless, deserves to be described as formalistic art. In the latter, the technique chosen by the composer becomes an end in itself, a kind of foppery, a trick of an aesthete.” It is amazing to me that Shostakovich was able to get away with this rebuttal, but he was certainly one of the most prominent composers in the world, and it is that prominence which probably kept him from being sent to Siberia.

The reason that the Concerto was revised in 1955 was that David Oistrakh suggested that because the third movement ended with a startlingly difficult cadenza that leads directly into the fourth movement without pause, that the opening statement of the main theme of the fourth movement be given to the orchestra. In that way, the soloist gets a chance to rest and catch his breath. Shostakovich agreed to that suggestion from his friend.

Salerno–Sonnenberg’s playing at the beginning of the first movement was as moody and dark as the sound of the theme itself. Shostakovich does not begin this piece with a fast first movement: rather, he has labeled it a Nocturne that must be taken at a moderate tempo. In keeping with its rather ill-omened sound, there is a thinly veiled reference from the Dies Irae theme of the Requiem Mass in the middle of the movement. The second movement continues this mood; however, this movement is labeled a Scherzo, and it is here that Salerno-Sonnenberg’s supreme technical ability was highlighted. This is an incredibly difficult movement, but it was filled with passion and excitement. In spite of its obvious technical difficulties, Salerno-Sonnenberg demonstrated that she was more than capable in realizing what Shostakovich wished. Before the concert began, Principal Second violinist, Paul Primus, in his introductory remarks about the concert, made the statement that Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg “owned” this concerto. That is a very high compliment indeed, but you readers must realize that he was dead accurate. Everything was in place as she performed this marvelous second movement. I might also add that the woodwind section of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra was spectacular in this second movement. I truly believe that the Colorado Symphony has one of the best woodwind sections in the United States, if not the world. They certainly gave their all in providing Salerno-Sonnenberg with the musical support that her musicianship demands.

As it is labeled, the third movement of this concerto is a Passacaglia that has an almost coral like quality at the outset because the woodwinds deliver a mournful theme. When the violin enters with the main theme, it is obvious that this is one of Shostakovich’s most beautiful themes. Salerno-Sonnenberg gave it astonishing warmth, gradually increasing the tension as it headed into the cadenza which led directly to the fourth movement without any pause. The last movement is marked Burlesca: Allegro con brio, and it is indeed festive in nature. And Shostakovich seems to have written this as a statement, that even though the government is trying to control him and his art, he is daring to show them that he can have a good time. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg played this last movement in an almost triumphant manner, and I am convinced by her playing that she is accurately convinced that is what Shostakovich wished.

It has been some time since I have heard this violin concerto. But Salerno-Sonnenberg’s performance of it will live in my memory for a very long time. Her astonishing accuracy coupled with her astonishing musicality and technical prowess was supreme in every sense of the word. The audience responded with a very long standing ovation. It was if they were saying that they clearly understood the artistic sincerity that was inherent in Salerno-Sonnenberg’s performance.

Following the intermission, Maestro Litton and the Colorado Symphony performed Mahler’s Symphony Nr. 5 in C sharp minor. Mahler “finished” this work in 1902, but the reason I used quotation marks around the word finished is because Mahler continued revising the orchestration of this work until he died in 1911. The first revision was published in 1904, and even then his publisher, C. F. Peters, didn’t bother to make the corrections in the miniature score version of their publication. In 1964, the Austrian musicologist Erwin Ratz’ “critical first edition” of Mahler’s works, turned out to be less than the final word because another musicologist, Karl Heinz Füssl, made additional discoveries which he published in 1989. Indeed, Mahler even composed the movements of this symphony out of numerical order, beginning with the third, he then wrote the first and second movements. The first movement, as Friday’s program indicated, falls into three sections: a funeral march, then a second section which is in sonata form, and a third section which is marked “Stormily with great vehemence.” The second movement of this symphony stands by itself and is marked Scherzo. The third movement can be divided into two sections, the first of which is arguably one of Mahler’s most famous symphonic movements. It is marked Adagietto: Sehr langsam and almost seems to be motivated in spirit to a song that Mahler wrote using a text by Rückert which reads “… I have become lost to the world… I live alone in my heaven.” Following this slow and emotionally painful section, there is the final fast movement which is marked Rondo – Finale: Allegro. Therefore, the end result is a symphony with three large sections, which when performed, give the impression of a typical four movement Symphony. All of this is evidence of Mahler’s continuing search to solve what some consider to be an unsettled compositional process. Nonetheless, there is clear evidence that he was beginning to discover his true symphonic vocabulary.

The performance Friday evening was absolutely superb, and the audience, which almost filled the hall completely, sat in rapt attention for over an hour. Maestro Litton was obviously concerned with every minute detail of this work. In the first movement, the violas and the cellos were absolutely sensational. Their warmth filled the funeral march with a remarkable passion. The third section of this movement, which Mahler marked stormily, brings an end to the first movement in an almost joyous conclusion.

The second movement of this work, marked Scherzo, is equally joyful and it was in this movement that the brass section, particularly the French horns, were superb. Then comes the 3rd movement, divided into two sections, with its wonderfully performed Adagietto and then the final Rondo.

As I stated above, Mahler devised a form completely separate from any previous symphonic form. It is huge and episodic, but it has its own logic. The testament to that is that it captures the audience’s attention for a very long time. Of course, Friday evening, the attention span was aided by an absolutely stellar performance. You readers must understand that Andrew Litton’s knowledge of this symphony, and of Mahler, allowed him to bring out the details of this work so that the final result was shorter in time than that which could be measured by a clock. The members of the orchestra truly must have been emotionally and mentally exhausted at the end of this performance.

It was wonderful to see that the audience came very close to filling the hall Friday evening. It was also wonderful that they demonstrated their appreciation of such a fine performance with a standing ovation after each work that was presented. Also exciting Friday evening was the fact that there were many young people in attendance to hear the works of two absolutely significant composers so beautifully performed.

St. Martin’s Chamber Choir Closes 2014-2015 Season With William Byrd’s “Mass For 4 Voices”
May 1, 2015, 1:18 pm
Filed under: News

24 voices / St. Martins Chamber Choir, Timothy J. Krueger, Conductor, Jimmy Howe, Mark Sheldon Conducting Intern

Friday, May 29, 2015, 7:30 pm, Montview Blvd Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St, Denver 80220

Sunday, May 31, 2015, 3:00 pm, St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church, 6190 E Quincy Ave, Cherry Hills Village 80111

William Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices” is arguably the greatest choral masterpiece of the Renaissance.  St. Martin’s 1997 recording of it prompted Juilliard’s Richard Westenberg
to call it “as close to perfection as I’ve ever heard.”
“Byrd 4″ will be coupled with modern masterpiece “The Canonical Hours” by John White (written for and premiered by St. Martin’s in 2005), as well as other works.

Premium $35, General Admission $25, Student $10. Online at http://www.stmartinschamberchoir.org 
By phone at 303-298-1970 or at the door before each performance.

Video Games Live™ with Your Colorado Symphony
April 24, 2015, 7:02 am
Filed under: News

Explosive entertainment returns to Red Rocks with your Colorado Symphony and Video Games Live™

Video Games Live™ joins forces with the Colorado Symphony and chorus to bring you an immersive concert event featuring music from the most popular video games of all time, live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre Wednesday, August 5 at 7:30 PM.

Created by Tommy Tallarico, Video Games Live™ showcases your Colorado Symphony performing along with exclusive synchronized video footage and music arrangements to create an explosive one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Special events surround the show, including a pre-show experience where guests can enjoy interactive events.

Expect the energy and excitement of a rock concert mixed with the power and emotion of your Colorado Symphony Orchestra combined together by the technology, interactivity, stunning visuals and fun that only video games can provide, all at Colorado’s outdoor landmark entertainment venue, Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Special presale codes will become available Friday on Colorado Symphony social media. Tickets will be available for the general public Friday, May 1 at 10 AM.

Limited VIP Experience ticket information will become available at http://www.coloradosymphony.org in the coming weeks.

Tickets are available online at http://www.coloradosymphony.org, by phone at 303.623.7876, and in person at the Boettcher Concert Hall Box Office, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1000 14th Street. The Box Office is open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 6 pm; Saturday, noon-6 pm; and two hours prior to each performance.

The Colorado Symphony thanks its gracious season sponsors: The Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), Arrow Electronics Inc., DaVita, Target, 9News, and United Airlines.

One of the leading orchestras in the United States, the Colorado Symphony performs more than 150 concerts annually at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver and across Colorado. Led by internationally renowned Music Director Andrew Litton, the Colorado Symphony is home to eighty full-time musicians, representing more than a dozen nations, and regularly welcomes the most celebrated artists from the world of symphonic music and beyond. Every season, the Colorado Symphony serves more than 250,000 people from all walks of life, performing a range of musical styles, from traditional to contemporary. Recognized as an incubator of innovation, creativity, and excellence, the Colorado Symphony continually expands its reach through education, outreach, and programming. The Colorado Symphony partners with the state’s leading musical artists, cultural organizations, corporations, foundations, sports teams, and individuals to expose diverse audiences to the transformative power of music. To learn more, visit http://www.coloradosymphony.org

This May at Your Colorado Symphony
April 21, 2015, 7:09 pm
Filed under: News

Spring program highlights: Litton conducts Mahler; local musicians take the keys to Boettcher; Masterworks showcases dance; Scott O’Neil’s final Masterworks; and Star Wars family fun returns

Andrew Litton, conductor
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 99
MAHLER Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor
Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is an intense, alluring work that is at times sublime and haunting. Music Director Andrew Litton is joined by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, often regarded as the champion of this great work. The program closes with one of Mahler’s most popular symphonies, creating an experience that is simultaneously powerful and emotional.

SATURDAY, MAY 9 – 7:30 PM; SUNDAY, MAY 10 – 1 PM
Scott O’Neil, conductor
Victor Wooten, electric bass
JOSEPH SCHWANTNER New Morning for the World
CONNI ELLISOR/VICTOR WOOTEN The Bass Whisperer – Concerto for Electric Bass and Orchestra
Join us for an evening of masterful music as we recognize the storied career of Resident Conductor Scott O’Neil in his final Masterworks performance with the Colorado Symphony. Five-time Grammy® winner and long-time member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor Wooten joins the Colorado Symphony in a program you won’t want to miss. Wooten breaks new ground with The Bass Whisperer – Concerto for Electric Bass and Orchestra, co-written with renowned Colorado-bred composer Conni Ellisor. Co-commissioned by the Colorado Symphony, this piece will be premiered by a select group of orchestras. On the first half of the program, the Colorado Symphony is thrilled to again collaborate with the dancers of Wonderbound, who join the musicians on stage in this eclectic concert.

FRIDAY, MAY 15 – 7:30 PM
Joseph Swensen, conductor / violin
Internationally acclaimed musician Joseph Swensen conducts the orchestra from the violin as the Colorado Symphony presents all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, instrumental works that define the Baroque era. This program will feature many of the Colorado Symphony’s own musicians as they step into the spotlight for solo appearances.

SATURDAY, MAY 16 – 7:30 PM
The matchless vocal improviser with a breathtaking range hits Boettcher Concert Hall with his fresh interpretations of George and Ira Gershwin’s legendary music.

Andrew Litton, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Alan Opie, baritone
Colorado Symphony Chorus; Duain Wolfe, director
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Overture to The Wasps
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
The Colorado Symphony closes its season in grand fashion with William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. The final celebration of the Colorado Symphony Chorus’ 30th anniversary year features one of the most passionate, dramatic, and chilling pieces written for Chorus and Orchestra. This powerful evening of music also highlights world-renowned pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. This concert will be part of a new experience, Soundings Live, a pilot-test streaming service that offers live webcasts of select Masterworks performances.

In this innovative program, the Colorado Symphony turns over the keys to Boettcher to artists from Denver’s thriving local music scene to create a varied and original program of new music. Emerging Colorado artists Ian Cooke, Land Lines, and Megan Burtt will perform individual sets with musicians from the Colorado Symphony, each with a unique style, sound, and symphonic approach. Longtime Colorado Symphony collaborator Jay Clifford, leader of the seminal South Carolina-based band Jump Little Children, and Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa will work with each artist to create original orchestral arrangements of their music for a full complement of string players, with Clifford also joining in on the collaborative performance.

Your Colorado Symphony presents an epic weekend of music celebrating a galaxy far, far away. Returning by popular demand, this concert weekend is filled with music from the world of Star Wars and classical favorites spanning the Milky Way. Prepare for a weekend that’ll take you on the greatest adventure this side of the Mos Eisley Cantina as the Colorado Symphony dives deeper than ever before into the Star Wars musical repertoire! Whether your loyalties lie with the Imperial Forces or the Rebel Troops, you’ll love this annual tradition, sharing in the love of cosplay and the music that defined a culture.

Tickets are available online at http://www.coloradosymphony.org, by phone on 303.623.7876, and in person at the Boettcher Concert Hall Box Office, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1000 14th Street. The Box Office is open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 6 pm; Saturday, noon-6 pm; and two hours prior to each performance.

One of the leading orchestras in the United States, the Colorado Symphony performs more than 150 concerts annually at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver and across Colorado. Led by internationally renowned Music Director Andrew Litton, the Colorado Symphony is home to eighty full-time musicians, representing more than a dozen nations, and regularly welcomes the most celebrated artists from the world of symphonic music and beyond. Every season, the Colorado Symphony serves more than 250,000 people from all walks of life, performing a range of musical styles, from traditional to contemporary. Recognized as an incubator of innovation, creativity, and excellence, the Colorado Symphony continually expands its reach through education, outreach, and programming. The Colorado Symphony partners with the state’s leading musical artists, cultural organizations, corporations, foundations, sports teams, and individuals to expose diverse audiences to the transformative power of music http://www.coloradosymphony.org.

The Colorado Chamber Players: Three Chances to Hear a Concert of Romantic Sextets
April 21, 2015, 3:47 pm
Filed under: News

Colorado Chamber Players presents a program of lush and romantic String Sextets, with guests Matthew Dane, Viola and Thomas Heinrich, Cello – all on Mother’s Day weekend.
CCP members performing include Paul Primus and Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Violin; Barbara Hamilton, Viola; and Jeffrey Watson, Cello.

The CCP presents three concerts with the same program:

Saturday May 9th, 2 p.m., Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder (Canyon Theatre)

Sunday May 10th, 7:30 p.m., Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave, Cherry Hills Village, $18 general admission,
$15 seniors, $10 students/church members. Advance tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/souvenir-de-florence-with-colorado-chamber-players-tickets-16058554569

Monday May 11th, 12 noon, Children’s Hospital, 13123 E 16th Ave, Aurora, Boettcher Atrium (park in garage for free)

For information on tickets and location, go to: http://www.coloradochamberplayers.org

The concert includes:
Johannes Brahms: String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36
Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70

The Colorado Chamber Players is the Ensemble-in-Residence at the Denver School of the Arts 2014-15. The CCP has garnered awards and grants at the local and national level, including those from Chamber Music America, Colorado Creative Industries, National Endowment for the Arts, ARRA, Denver Office of Culture and the Arts, SCFD, Colorado Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, Argosy Foundation, Copland Foundation, and many others. The CCP performs 45+ concerts each season, primarily in the Denver Metro region, and is featured on over 30 annual Colorado Public Radio broadcasts, heard statewide in Colorado.

Guest Viola Matthew Dane serves as Principal Violist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, Assistant Principal of Arizona Musicfest, and is a member of the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado. Chamber music festival appearances include OK Mozart, Portland (Maine), Chamber Music Quad Cities (Iowa), Ruby Mountains (Nevada), Land’s End (Calgary), Snake River (CO), and Tanglewood.

Guest Cellist Thomas Heinrich is assistant principal cellist of The Santa Fe Opera orchestra and a member of the Colorado Symphony. For eight seasons he served as principal cellist of the Grand Teton Music Festival orchestra. He has also performed at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Strings in the Mountains (Steamboat), and the Bellingham Festival of Music. He is currently serving on the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder for one year.

For more information and to purchase tickets please go to: http://www.coloradochamberplayers.org

The Colorado Symphony: Hwang-Williams and Mäcelaru are Fantastic

Friday evening, April 17, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra gave yet another absolutely remarkable performance under the leadership of guest conductor, Cristian Mäcelaru. I will quote very briefly from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s bio statement of Mäcelaru where he is the Conductor-in-Residence:

“Winner of the 2014 Solti Conducting Award, Cristian Mäcelaru has established himself as one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. With every concert he displays an exciting and highly regarded presence, thoughtful interpretations, and energetic conviction on the podium. Conductor-in-residence of The Philadelphia Orchestra, he began his tenure with that ensemble as assistant conductor in September 2011, and in recognition of his artistic contributions to the Orchestra, his title was elevated to associate conductor in November 2012.

“… Mr. Mäcelaru received the 2012 Sir Georg Solti Emerging Conductor Award, a prestigious honor only awarded once before in the Foundation’s history.”

The title of Friday’s program was Symphonic Firsts because the orchestra performed Haydn’s Symphony Nr. 1 in D Major, Shostakovich’s Symphony Nr. 1 in F minor, Opus 10, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 61.

The CSO opened the program with Haydn’s vivacious Symphony Nr. 1, which is one of the few symphonies that we can be sure is his first. The order of Haydn symphonies has been somewhat confused over the years as a result of their appearance in the early Breitkopf and Härtel catalog which was compiled before thorough knowledge of the proper chronological order became possible. However, we can be sure that this particular symphony was his first because we know that it was written for Ferdinand Maximilian Franz, known as Count Morzin. This symphony has no minuet movement because it is early enough in the classical period that the minuet was not yet inserted into the Symphony. It is certainly clear in this work that Haydn was under the influence of the Mannheim School which included composers such as Johann Stamitz, Franz Richter, and Anton Filtz. The “Mannheim School” was not known for the startling quality of their symphonies, but rather, for its impact upon symphonic form and instrumentation. For example, at the opening of Haydn’s symphony, there is a dynamic feature known as the Mannheim Rocket, which was a fairly rapid crescendo over several measures of music. You readers must realize that this is very early in orchestral development: the use of dramatic changes in dynamics were not yet well known or used. But the Mannheim composers used them to great effect, and it is recorded that the audience was so surprised the first time they heard this dynamic change, that they actually rose to their feet in astonishment. I would like to also point out – and correct – the usually stellar program notes which call this dynamic change a “Mannheim Steamroller.” That is absolutely incorrect. The individual who wrote those notes needs to understand that the term Mannheim Rocket was used during the time of the Mannheim School’s influence in the 18th century. The term Mannheim Steamroller refers to a modern musical organization that crosses rock with classical music.

The performance of this symphony was absolutely beautiful, and I hope the audience members noticed that it was early enough in Haydn’s output, and in the development of the Symphony, that it still used harpsichord as continuo. Maestro Mäcelaru conducted this work very energetically, but at the same time, with a great sense of charm and vivacity. While this performance was the first ever given of this work by the CSO, it is often performed by other orchestras, and it is always a joy to hear. The second movement was stunning, and I was amazed by the ornamentation played by the orchestra because every note between the violins and the violas, and often the entire orchestra, was absolutely together. The third movement was very exciting, and while it was not as profound as the later Haydn symphonies (let us remember this is his first symphony), one could discern its quality and the direction in which this young composer was headed. This is a work that I hope the CSO performs again because it is so delightful to listen to. It was clear that Maestro Mäcelaru and the orchestra enjoyed themselves in this performance.

Following the Haydn, the CSO and Maestro Mäcelaru performed Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony Nr. 1 in F minor, Opus 10. This was an absolutely remarkable performance of this symphony, and I have never heard it performed with such passion. The first movement was jaunty in character and the clarinet solos and flute solo were beautifully done by Jason Shafer and Brook Ferguson. It was difficult to believe that Shostakovich wrote this work when he was 19 years old in 1926, and he used it as his graduation assignment from the Leningrad Conservatory. The energy with which Maestro Mäcelaru conducted was certainly noticeable in the first two movements of this work, and it was very clear that he had conducted this more than once and was totally in love with the piece. The third movement soared, and Peter Cooper’s oboe work in the solos was sensational as was the violin solo by Claude Sim. The last movement is truly episodic because it switches from fast to slow and from fff to ppp. I have heard this piece before, but Cristian Mäcelaru certainly has the ability in this piece to bring out all of Shostakovich’s characteristics which mark his future works, and one can only imagine the reception that it must have received at the Leningrad Conservatory. It certainly caught the attention of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Though this Committee did not call Shostakovich before them to admonish him (for “formalist perversions” in his later works) until 1948 (along with Prokofiev and Kabalevsky), he was certainly aware that he had secured their interest. Upon visits to America, he was definitely overjoyed to have it his pieces heard without having to worry about any kind of political ramifications. I can guarantee you that he would have been thrilled at the performance given his first symphony Friday evening. It was wonderful to see the audience members jump to their feet when it was finished.

Following the intermission, Yumi Hwang-Williams performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 61.

It is important to realize that Beethoven wrote this concerto in 1806. Why? Because it was written after Beethoven’s realization of oncoming deafness, his attempts to get his nephew away from an alcoholic brother, and some of the trials and tribulations he faced in his relationships with women.

This concerto is not filled with pain and longing. It is cheerful and ebulliant and Beethoven seems to take pleasure in making the violinist wait for such a long time before starting to play the first movement. Yumi Hwang-Williams played this without the score, which was itself refreshing because it indicates that she has had some time to ruminate and learn this piece, and more importantly, play it the way she thinks Beethoven would approve. And she did just that. When Ms. Hwang-Williams plays, she does not employ any kind of theatrical movement. She simply gets down to business and creates a memorable experience. Her playing is sweet, and she makes it look so very easy. Her tone was absolutely breathtaking Friday night and at the end of the cadenza, when the orchestra returns with her after her solo, her playing and her rapport with the music was stunningly beautiful.

The second movement is full of grace and contains some of the most tranquil and serene music that Beethoven has ever produced. That is precisely the way Yumi Hwang-Williams performed it. Totally free from any kind of dramatic unrest, Ms. Hwang-Williams filled it with intense lyricism. There is a short upsurge from the orchestra toward the end of the movement, but this leads to the cadenza which, in turn, leads us to the third movement. The first movement contains some remarkable technical demands on the soloist. But, again, Ms. Hwang-Williams played them with effortless beauty. The cadenza was an absolute joy.

Judging by the standing ovation that the audience gave Yumi Hwang-Williams Friday evening, it is evident that they realize what a treasure Denver has in such an outstanding musician. Her performance Friday evening sets her apart as an incredibly fine musician and technician whose thought is always that the music must come first. We should all be grateful that she belongs to our symphony orchestra, and that she does not have to travel from London or Berlin or New York or Chicago for us to hear her play.


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