Opus Colorado

The Colorado Symphony: Puts, Jackson, and Wolfram are Magnificent and Memorable

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra presented its American Festival: Part I under the direction of Maestro Andrew Litton, Saturday evening, February 28. Without becoming involved in poetic rapture, you readers must understand that this was one of the finest CSO concerts they have given. There are several reasons for this, the first of which is that they played extraordinarily well, but also they introduced Kevin Puts to the Denver audience. In addition, Bil Jackson, former Principal Clarinetist with the CSO, returned to perform Kevin Puts’ Clarinet Concerto, and the outstanding pianist William Wolfram returned to perform Leonard Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety, Symphony Nr. 2.

The program opened with Two Mountain Scenes, Maestoso and Furioso by the American composer, Kevin Puts. Before I discuss his music, I will quote the entirety of his biographical statement from his website. I do so because it was apparent Saturday night that this is a major American composer that you readers need to know about. If you see a concert program where his works are being performed, you must attend.

“Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his debut opera Silent Night, Kevin Puts has been hailed as one of the most important composers of his generation. Critically acclaimed for his distinctive and richly colored musical voice, Puts’ impressive body of work includes four symphonies as well as several concertos written for some of today’s top soloists. His newest work, The City (Symphony No. 5), co-commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in honor of its 100th anniversary and by Carnegie Hall in honor of their 125th anniversary, will receive its premiere in Baltimore and New York in April 2016.

“Silent Night, commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera, has since been produced and performed at Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Wexford Opera Festival, and Calgary Opera, with upcoming productions at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Montreal Opera. In 2013, his choral works To Touch The Sky and If I Were A Swan were performed by Conspirare, and a recording was released by the Harmonia Mundi label.  The recording includes a performance of his Symphony No. 4: From Mission San Juan, performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. His second opera, an adaptation of Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate, also commissioned by Minnesota Opera, will have its world premiere in March 2015. That same month, his song cycle Of All The Moons, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, will be performed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. His first chamber opera, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s gothic novel The Trial of Elizabeth Cree commissioned by Opera Philadelphia will have its premiere in 2016.

“His orchestral works have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading orchestras and ensembles throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, including the New York Philharmonic, the Tonhalle Orchester (Zurich), the Boston Pops, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Miro Quartet, Cypress Quartet, Conspirare, the Eroica Trio, Eighth Blackbird, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Atlanta, Colorado, Houston, Fort Worth, St. Louis, and Minnesota. In 2005, in celebration of David Zinman’s 70th birthday, he was commissioned to write Vision, a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra. During the same year, Dame Evelyn Glennie premiered his Percussion Concerto with the Pacific and Utah Symphonies. In 2008, his piano concerto Night, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and premiered by pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane.

“Mr. Puts has received prestigious awards and grants from the American Academy in Rome, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI and ASCAP. He has served as Composer-in-Residence of Young Concerts Artists, the California Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire, and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. Mr. Puts received his training as a composer and pianist at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. Since 2006, he has been a member of the composition department at the Peabody Institute, and currently is the Director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute.

“A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Puts received his Bachelor’s Degree from the Eastman School of Music, his Master’s Degree from Yale University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music.”

You readers who are, perhaps, not familiar with musical terminology (which is traditionally an Italian) will, even so, recognize that two pieces are titled “majestic” and “furiously” in the work Two Mountain Scenes, Maestoso and Furioso. The work was commissioned by the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, and it certainly reflects the scope of the Rocky Mountains.

The first of the two pieces, Maestoso, opens with a trumpet fanfare, and the music is so wonderfully descriptive that I did not bother at the concert to read the program notes describing the two pieces. I was absolutely dazzled by Puts’ use of harmony and the melodic line. His harmonic structure is best imagined as something that Aaron Copland might write if he were still alive and composing. Indeed, when I read the program notes during the intermission, they quoted Puts as saying that he “… always loved Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet.” The chordal harmony that Puts uses, on first hearing, seems to be that of 9th and 13th chords in parallel motion beneath a melodic line which has a remarkable ambitus and is quite disjunct, very similar to Sergei Prokofiev. He also seems to use a lot of harmonic counterpoint, but, again, that is based on my first hearing of this work. The overall effect is one of surprising mellifluous beauty, and the convincing use of the 9th and 13th chords in a traditionally functional manner is filled with surprise when a truly functional chord, such as a V7, makes its appearance.

The second of the Two Mountain Scenes, Furioso, very clearly describes an approaching storm. His orchestration – masses of percussion – very skillfully describes the impending storm, but his use of harmony takes away the terror of the storm, and turns it in to a natural occurrence.

The effect of these two pieces was that of absolutely stunning beauty and serenity. It is my sincere hope that the CSO programs more of his work.

Following the Two Mountain Scenes, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra welcomed the return (for this performance only) of clarinetist Bil Jackson. I’m sure that all of you readers will recognize his name because he was Principal Clarinet in the CSO for 28 years. He is now Associate Professor of Clarinet on the faculty of the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. To jog your mind, I will quote very briefly from his bio statement on his website:

“Bil Jackson enjoys a varied musical career that includes solo, orchestral and chamber music appearances. Before joining the faculty at the Blair School, he served as principal clarinetist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Honolulu Symphony, and has performed as guest principal clarinetist with the St Louis, Minnesota and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. He also has appeared as a soloist with the Colorado, Honolulu, Denver, Charlotte, Dallas Chamber and Aspen Chamber orchestras.”

Bil Jackson and the CSO, as I stated in the opening paragraph, performed Kevin Puts’ Clarinet Concerto. This concerto, written for string orchestra, has two movements, each with a descriptive title of Vigil and Surge.

The opening movement was easily recognizable as being written by Kevin Puts because I had just heard his previous work. Before Saturday’s performance, I was completely unfamiliar with this composer even though this work was commissioned for Bil Jackson by Catherine Gould through the Meet the Composer program. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra premiered this work in 2009 with Jeffrey Kahane conducting. Regretfully, I did not hear that performance.

I can assure you Kevin Puts sounds like no other composer who is writing today. His skill as a composer is evident in this work because it is so convincingly written for the clarinet. It is remarkably difficult, but, on the other hand, Bil Jackson is a totally remarkable clarinetist. The opening of the work is, once again, mellifluous while being disjunct (a seemingly impossible combination?). It has some beautiful writing for two harps, and there are some long sustained notes in the violas underneath the performance of the rest of the orchestra. In the excellent program notes, Kevin Puts is quoted as explaining that part of the impetus for this work was the memory of a television documentary concerning the U. S. military personnel who lost their lives in the Middle East. It is a somber piece in many ways, and the performance of this work was very passionate indeed. Both of the movements of this concerto have a cadenza, and they truly allowed Jackson to demonstrate his almost supernatural technical ability and musicianship on the clarinet. No matter the difficulty involved, it is always apparent that the music and the art of the composer comes first. Not once did he use the ferocious difficulty required in this concerto to simply make a display of his virtuosity. The harmony of the first movement was similar to that of the Two Mountain Scenes, and yet there seemed to be an added aspect of almost modal harmony in the first movement of this concerto.

The second movement of this Clarinet Concerto by Puts began with an incredible sense that something inevitable and irrevocable was taking place: if you got in the way, it would simply run you down. However, no matter the ferocious mood, it was still an astoundingly beautiful work. This movement had a cadenza as well, and, after the cadenza, the mood to seem to change into poignant reflection. There was some wonderful use of percussion in this work: glockenspiel, marimba, bass drum, and chimes. Kevin Puts is a remarkable composer, and Bil Jackson is a remarkable clarinetist. The audience responded with a standing ovation, and it was clear that it was for both Kevin Puts and Bil Jackson.

Following the intermission, and the second half of Saturday’s program was the performance of Leonard Bernstein’s remarkable The Age of Anxiety, Symphony Nr. 2, with William Wolfram at the piano. This work was finished in 1949, but it was revised in 1965. At its premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1949, it was conducted by Sergei Koussevitzky with Leonard Bernstein at the piano. This remarkable work was performed by the CSO in 1998 with Marin Alsop conducting and Jeffrey Kahane at the piano.

William Wolfram performed with the CSO exactly one year ago, February 28, 2014, performing Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto. William Wolfram is clearly one of the best pianists alive today. He has won major awards all over the world, and he has performed with major symphonies all over the world. This also seems like a good point in this article to mention one important fact: Saturday evening, he performed on a Yamaha concert grand, because he is a Yamaha artist. I point this out because the piano he performed on was excellent. It was head and shoulders above the Steinway concert grand that is owned by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The Yamaha was perfectly voiced and perfectly tuned and it sounded wonderful. What a breath of fresh air it would be if the Colorado Symphony Orchestra could afford a new concert grand: perhaps a Bösendorfer, Sauter, Yamaha, Schimmel, or Blüthner, and a technician who could properly care for it.

This work by Leonard Bernstein was inspired by W. H. Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety, which Bernstein considered “… One of the most shattering examples of pure virtuosity in the history of English poetry.” It inspired his second symphony, and he gave it the same form as Auden’s poem.

This work has to be one of the most difficult concertos written in the 20th century, and it truly takes the appearance of a concerto rather than a symphony. The second movement makes use of a drum set, an offstage upright piano, wood blocks, celesta, and bass drum located on stage behind the solo pianist. If one is thinking of this piece as recognizable because of its similarity to Westside Story or Fancy Free, he or she will be surprised. This is a wonderful example of Leonard Bernstein’s supreme compositional abilities. For example, Bernstein writes a boogie rhythm for the pianist which reminds one very strongly of the score he wrote for On the Waterfront. But keep in mind, this work is a very serious composition by Bernstein – it is almost introspective – and in no way can it be associated with “entertainment.” There are many different moods in this work, which seem to vie for the listeners’ attention. And, of course, it is remarkably complex.

This was an outstanding concert because of the works that were chosen to be performed, the superior artistry of the performers, and of the conductor, and those in the symphony. Kevin Puts, Bil Jackson, and William Wolfram are formidable artists and soloists. It was truly a memorable experience having the three of them on one program.

The American Festival: Part II will be performed on March 13 to the 15, and will feature the work of George Gershwin, Samuel Barber, and Stephen Albert. The guest artist will be violinist Anne Akiko Myers.


The Boulder Bach Festival is reinvented by Maestro Zachary Carrettin

Friday evening, February 27, the Boulder Bach Festival came to Denver to perform J. S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor at the Montview Presbyterian Church. I was anxious to hear this performance as it was the first performance by the Boulder Bach Festival’s new resident conductor, Maestro Zachary Carrettin. I have written about Maestro Carrettin previous to this article, but you must recall that he was recently appointed as the Resident Conductor of the Boulder Bach Festival. This season is the 34th year of the Boulder Bach Festival, and it is also the first year of Zachary Carrettin’s appointment. I also point out that aside from their coup in retaining Carrettin, they truly gained a package, because his wife, Mina Gajić, is an accomplished pianist. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Zachary Carrettin, I will quote from the bio statement which appears on his website:

“Zachary Carrettin has performed as violinist and conductor in more than twenty-five countries on four continents, dazzling audiences by fusing ancient music with sounds influenced by South American, Middle Eastern, and European folk traditions, and guitar solos by Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. Fusing improvisation with decades’ experience researching old manuscripts and performing on original instruments, his performances are singular, unlike any other. Whether improvising a cadenza in a romantic violin concerto or performing the Four Seasons with an all-electric-instrument chamber orchestra, he continues to surprise audiences with a sense of freedom, poetic depth, and brilliant virtuosity.

“Zachary has performed as featured artist at festivals in Italy, Germany, Norway, and Argentina, in the world’s great concert halls including the Mondavi Center, Zurich’s Tonhalle, the Grieg Hall in Bergen, the Wolf Trap Center, the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, and at one hundred stadiums internationally, on tour with Yanni. Zachary has been featured in Brazil by IBM, in Oman by Toyota, and in Las Vegas at The Venetian.

“A dynamic conductor and violin soloist, Zachary has led orchestras across Europe, the U.S., and South America, including the National Symphony Orchestras of Bolivia and Moldavia. He performs with pianist Mina Gajic in the duo Mystery Sonata, which presents twenty-first century programs including Tango Nuevo and Balkan Dances alongside impressionist and impetuous classical concert works. On baroque violin, he tours with trio Aeris, which specializes in the wildly expressive and improvisatory Italian sonatas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

“Zachary has held university positions in violin and conducting at the University of St. Thomas and Sam Houston State University. He has premiered numerous works by living composers, while resurrecting the forgotten works of great artists of the past. Not one to be bound by self-prescribed limitations, he frequently presents the complete unaccompanied works for violin (and cello) by J.S. Bach on electric violin.”

I have written about J.S. Bach’s remarkable Mass in B minor before. It is remarkable in many respects. One is that Bach normally wrote at lightning speed, but it took him several years to finish this work. In addition, there has always been the question of Bach’s motivation for writing a Mass liberally taken from the Catholic style when he was a Lutheran. And, scholars often point out that the work is so large that it is not at all suitable for liturgical use. Sometimes, when I read these arguments, I think to myself that, perhaps, the reason is very simple. Bach was a very devout Lutheran, and for every liturgical piece that he wrote, he included the initials “S. D. G.” after he signed his name. Those initials stand for Soli Deo gloria meaning to the glory of God alone. He also added these initials on many of his secular works. It simply means that he was not concerned with his own glory, but humbly presenting the composition for the glory of God. In addition, it was unusual in the Baroque era to have a Mass written with such large proportions, but in later years there were many composers who wrote “concert” Masses that were too large for liturgical use. I hasten to point out that I mention these items only as food for thought in this article. I am not trying to solve the puzzle that this remarkable work presents.

The problem that occasionally occurs with the performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor is that many who perform this work believe that its large-scale and its historical importance indicate that one should have a huge orchestra and a huge choir. Unfortunately, the result of this misdirection often results in an exaggerated, almost romantic, interpretation of a Baroque work. This was certainly not the case with Friday evening’s performance: the orchestra was the perfect size, and the choir was certainly not beyond the scale available to Bach.

When the performance began, I was very pleasantly surprised at the diction of the choir. They were singing the expected Latin text with which I am quite familiar. Their diction was absolutely exceptional, and it remained so for the duration of the performance which was just over two hours. The Boulder Bach Festival Orchestra was led by Concertmaster Kenneth Goldsmith. I was sitting in a fortunate position where I could hear the orchestra as a whole and also the individual instruments. Goldsmith’s playing was remarkable. There were other new faces in the orchestra, but it was a certainty that they were all chosen very carefully as this was the best Boulder Bach Festival Orchestra I have heard to date.

The Mass in B minor is such a huge piece that there is no room here to cover every detail of the performance. The soloists, Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano, Melissa Givens, soprano, Julie Simpson, mezzo-soprano, John Grau, tenor, and Michael Dean, bass baritone, were all truly exceptional, and all of them were very obviously familiar with this work, and familiar with the Baroque style. They had the common sense to let Bach’s genius govern the way they sang, rather than infuse the work with their own self-aggrandizing.

The outstanding feature throughout the performance Friday evening is one that is critical to the performance of Bach, and it is one which is often overlooked by those who have no true conception of how Bach should be performed. That feature is the inherent rhythmic pulse and forward motion in every single piece that Bach wrote. It is in his most languid melodic lines of the slow movements. Part of it comes from the continuo section of the orchestra. For those of you who are not familiar with that term, the continuo is that part of a Baroque ensemble played on a keyboard instrument – organ or harpsichord – and a low stringed instrument (sometimes two) that provide the harmonic basis upon which everything else is organized. Friday evening, the organ was played by Faythe Vollrath, Robert Howard, Principal Cello, and Paul Erhard, Principal Bass. It is clear that these are remarkable musicians.

In the opening Kyrie, Josefien Stoppelenburg, and Melissa Givens sang a duet in the Christe portion. They sang beautifully and it was an indication of what was to come from them throughout the entire work. Their diction was excellent, and they were strongly influenced by the steady pulse of the orchestra. I feel that I must mention again the diction of the choir. The larger the choir the more difficult diction becomes. Counting the names and the program, the choir numbered 52 individuals. Simply put, their diction never failed.

In the soprano and tenor duet, which occurs in the Domine Deus section of the Gloria, the soloists were superb, but it was this section where the orchestra took my attention completely. The woodwinds were truly excellent and the portato notes played by the cellos and the bass were absolutely the same length all the time. The counterpoint, played by the flutes Ysmael Reyes and Gina Vega, was absolute perfection and supported the soloists and the chorus without being obtrusive. And that brings me to a very important point: every note and every measure of the performance Friday evening could be heard. Nothing was covered or hidden, and I am quite sure that even a first-time listener could appreciate what Bach wrote.

The bass aria, sung by Michael Dean, in the Quoniam to solus sanctus, was full and rich, and it was done without the exaggeration of the romantic style that I have heard in other performances of the B minor Mass. It was excellent Bach.

At the beginning of the program, Maestro Carrettin explained to the audience that an intermission was going to be taken after the text in the mass, “And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.” He asked that the audience not applaud because of the solemnity of the text. After the intermission, the positioning of the sections in the choir were very different from the first half of the program. I am sure this was done in consideration of the fact that Bach wrote this Mass over a long period of time, and Maestro Carrettin, after studying Bach’s intent, wished to have a different blend of voices for the remaining sections of Bach’s work. Consider that the second half of the program began with the jubilant, Et resurrexit, and the choir seemed to be full of energy and excitement.

The Mass in B minor gives each section of the orchestra and the choir the opportunity to display their ability as musicians. I feel that it is necessary to point out that the Boulder Bach Festival, with the appointment of Zachary Carrettin, has undergone a sea change. The quality of this performance was certainly indicative of the fact that every musician on stage, be they orchestra member, choir member or soloist, was inspired by the leadership of Maestro Carrettin. The phrasing, entrances and exits, and forward motion, was absolute perfection, and it clearly delineated the counterpoint inherent in Bach’s writing. They performed with such excitement that one could imagine that this was the first time this piece had ever been heard. I am aware that I have not mentioned some of the orchestra members and some of the choir members, but there simply is not enough room to mention everyone. However, I can assure you, everyone on stage deserves mention for this performance. It was marked by an amazing range and depth of mood which was absolutely exhilarating. The Boulder Bach Festival performers were rewarded with a standing ovation. Now, if they would just give us a performance of Bach’s Cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140.

Colorado Symphony Announces 2015/16 Season
February 27, 2015, 4:20 pm
Filed under: News

Artistry, diversity, return of Music Director Andrew Litton among highlights; subscriptions on sale Monday, March 2 at 10 am.

The Colorado Symphony is thrilled to announce programming for the 2015/16 season, which opens Friday, September 18, 2015 at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver.

Guided by Music Director Andrew Litton, the Colorado Symphony’s 2015/16 season represents a richly diverse spectrum of styles, from classical to contemporary, and includes appearances by some of symphonic music’s most revered conductors and artists. More than forty distinct programs in the 2015/16 season showcase the virtuosity of one of the finest orchestras in the United States while appealing to the broad interests and appetites of Colorado audiences.

“As everybody’s orchestra, our goal and mission, always, is to curate a diverse offering of programs that appeal to music lovers of every taste and background,” says Jerome H. Kern, Colorado Symphony CEO and co-chair of its Board of Trustees. “We’re thrilled by this year’s lineup, which showcases the excellence, virtuosity, depth, and range of the Colorado Symphony.”

On sale Monday, March 2 at 10 am, 2015/16 subscriptions are available for renewal by existing subscribers through April 15, 2015. New subscribers enjoy a range of benefits including priority seating, discounts of up to twenty percent, and convenient ticket exchange options. Single tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, August 3, 2015. New and renewing subscribers can purchase subscriptions and add-on tickets to individual concerts by visiting http://www.coloradosymphony.org, by calling 303.623.7876, or by visiting the Colorado Symphony Box Office inside Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1000 14th Street.

Music lovers can choose from a variety of subscription packages to suit a range of tastes, lifestyles, and budgets. Offering both flexibility and choice, subscriptions are the most affordable way to purchase tickets for Colorado Symphony concerts. This season’s options include Custom Design and Flex Pass as well as packages for the Masterworks, Pops, Family, and Inside the Score series. Additional concerts from the Special, Holiday, and Geek series may be included in custom packages or added on.

Most concerts in the 2015/16 season will be performed at Boettcher Concert Hall, home of the Colorado Symphony. Additional concerts, programs, and venues will be added throughout the season.


Complete season line-up
Hi-resolution, downloadable photos

2015/16 Season Highlights:

Music Director Andrew Litton Returns

Named Music Director of the Colorado Symphony in August 2013, Andrew Litton has elevated the orchestra to new heights of excellence in performance and programming. With an unparalleled portfolio that includes 120 recordings as both conductor and performer, as well as distinguished conducting appointments around the world, Litton has expanded the orchestra’s global profile and audience. The 2015/16 season offers eight Litton-led programs – a powerful tour through some of the greatest musical masterpieces of all time. Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Mahler, and Copland are among the composers who will receive the Litton treatment; an all-Gershwin program (“All Gershwin Featuring The New York City Ballet,” January 10, 2016) features guest dancers from the New York City Ballet, where Litton was named Music Director in December 2014.

Masterworks, In Many Forms

Music Director Andrew Litton opens the season with “Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1,” September 18-20, 2015, an all-Russian slate to start the season with a bang. Between Opening Weekend and the season’s closing in May 2016, Boettcher Concert Hall will welcome ascending and established stars from the symphonic world, including pianists Alessio Bax (“Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1,” September 18-20, 2015), Denis Kozhukhin (“Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 3,” November 6-8, 2015), and Andrew Staupe (“All Beethoven Featuring Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica,’” December 4-6, 2015). Classic pieces by Mozart, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Mahler, and other great composers appear alongside works by emerging voices, including banjo master Béla Fleck (“Béla Fleck: Return Of The Banjo,” April 1-2, 2016), and Gabriel Kahane, who appears with his pianist father (and former Colorado Symphony Music Director) Jeffrey Kahane (“Jeffrey and Gabriel Kahane,” April 15-17, 2016, conducted by Jeffrey Kahane). The inaugural Shakespeare Festival probes the musical intersections between the Bard of Avon and the world of music with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” March 4-5, 2016; “Inside The Score: Shakespeare Festival,” with the Colorado Symphony Chorus, March 11, 2016; and “Shakespeare Festival Romeo And Juliet,” March 18-20, 2016.

Colorado Symphony Musicians Front And Center, Chorus Celebrated

Colorado Symphony resident musicians take turns in the spotlight throughout 2015/16, showcasing the brilliance that permeates the orchestra all season long. Audiences will enjoy solo turns from Principal Horn Michael Thornton (“Mozart Performed By Michael Thornton,” Masterworks, October 2-3, 2015), Principal Harp Courtney Hershey Bress (“Elgar ‘Enigma Variations,’” Masterworks, October 16-17, 2015), Principal Cello Silver Ainomäe (“Strauss Conducted By Andrew Litton,” Masterworks, October 23-24, 2015), Assistant Concertmaster Claude Sim (“Mussorgsky Pictures At An Exhibition,” Masterworks, January 29-30, 2016), and Concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams (“Dvořák Symphony No. 9 ‘From The New World,’” Masterworks, May 13-14, 2016). Led by Director Duain Wolf, the Colorado Symphony Chorus anchors many powerhouse performances throughout the season, including “Mahler Symphony No. 2 ‘Resurrection,'” Masterworks, February 19-20, 2016, conducted by Andrew Litton; “Handel’s Messiah,” Holiday, December 18-19, 2015, conducted by Duain Wolf; and a blockbuster finale to end the season, with “Carmina Burana,” Masterworks, May 20-22, 2016, conducted by Andrew Litton.

Pops, Specials, and Movies

“76 Trombones” kick off the 2015/16 Pops season, with an original, semi-staged production of Meredith Willson’s classic, “The Music Man,” September 26-27, 2015). With a cast that includes local actors and performers and directed by Robert Neu, this is a community celebration of one of the most beloved musicals in American history. All season long, stars of every genre join the orchestra for performances both inspiring and fun – including ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, October 10, 2015, “Pixar In Concert,” January 15-16, 2016, and Wonderbound, the acclaimed Denver-based modern dance company (“An Evening With Wonderbound,” March 12, 2016). Film buffs will find plenty to watch, and listen to, with a robust Symphony At The Movies series, including Psycho (October 30, 2015), Back to the Future (November 14, 2015), and Home Alone (December 22, 2015). In 2016, the Colorado Symphony presents tributes to two legends – former Colorado Symphony Pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch (“One Singular Sensation: A Tribute To Marvin Hamlisch,” January 23, 2016), and Mel Brooks (“A Symphonic Tribute To Mel Brooks,” April 9, 2016).

Geeks, Families, and Holiday

Attracting patrons of all ages to the Colorado Symphony, many for the first time, the wildly popular Geek series returns with programs to delight one’s inner superhero, including “A Weekend Of Star Wars,” December 26-27, 2015, and “A Symphonic Tribute To Comic Con v3.0,” May 6, 2016. Patrons are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite character from pop culture; many of the musicians will do so, too. Costumes are also big part of an annual Family series tradition, with “Halloween Spooktakular,” October 31, 2015. Families will enjoy the return of the bombastic, fun “Drums Of The World,” November 29, 2015; “Side-By-Side With DYAO: 100 Year Celebration Of The U.S. National Parks,” February 6, 2016; and classic tales of elephants and other creatures in “Carnival Of The Animals And The Story Of Babar,” March 13, 2016. Finally, no Colorado Symphony season would be complete without a full range of Holiday programs, including the perennial favorite “Colorado Christmas,” featuring the Colorado Symphony Chorus, directed by Duain Wolfe, December 11-13, 2015; and the intimate, uplifting “Holiday Brass At Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church,” December 18 & 20, 2015, featuring Colorado Symphony Brass and Percussion.

For a complete list of programs in the 2015/16 season, visit http://www.coloradosymphony.org.

The Colorado Symphony is proudly sponsored by Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, ARROW Electronics, DaVita, Target, and 9News.

One of the leading orchestras in the United States, 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, 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, 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, Colorado Symphony continually expands its reach through education, outreach, and programming. 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.

Colorado Symphony Streaming Online, On Air!
February 24, 2015, 7:35 pm
Filed under: News

Orchestra to launch Soundings Live, resume live broadcasts on CPR Classical

The Colorado Symphony is pleased to announce the launch of Soundings Live, a new streaming service that offers webcasts of select Masterworks performances, recorded live at Boettcher Concert Hall.

The first of these concerts kicks off with The American Festival: Part 1, featuring works by Kevin Puts and Leonard Bernstein. Listeners from anywhere in the world can tune in by visiting http://www.ColoradoSymphony.org/SoundingsLive. Recordings of the concerts will be available online for a limited time following the performances.

Soundings Live will be presented free of charge for the remainder of the 2014-2015 season in an audio-only format. In 2015/16, the Colorado Symphony will offer subscription-based video webcasts and concerts on demand.

Soundings Live launches as the Colorado Symphony and Colorado Public Radio resume offering live broadcasts to listeners of CPR Classical. CPR Classical will broadcast three Masterworks programs remaining in the 2014/15 season, including The American Festival: Part I (February 28), Symphonic Firsts and Yumi Hwang-Williams (April 17), and Bronfman Plays Beethoven (May 22).

“The Colorado Symphony is everybody’s orchestra. Online streaming is just one of many ways we’re making our music accessible to a wide audience, which is a vital part of our mission,” says Jerome H. Kern, Colorado Symphony CEO and co-chair of its Board of Trustees. “We’re also pleased to return to the airwaves with our long-term partner Colorado Public Radio, which shares our commitment to building and nurturing the future of symphonic music.”

Through streaming and live broadcast, the Colorado Symphony will reach music lovers across Colorado – and the globe. Recently dubbed “the most innovative orchestra in the United States,” the Colorado Symphony embraces cutting-edge programming and new technology to connect an ever-widening audience to the transformative power of live, symphonic music.

Soundings Live Broadcasts:

The American Festival: Part 1
February 28-March 1, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Bil Jackson, clarinet
William Wolfram, piano

The American Festival: Part 2
March 13-15, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

Mahler Symphony No. 5
April 30-May 1, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin

Bronfman Plays Beethoven
May 22-24, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Alan Opie, baritone
Colorado Symphony Chorus; Duain Wolfe, director

Live Broadcasts on CPR Classical, http://www.cprclassical.org:

The American Festival: Part I
February 28, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Bil Jackson, clarinet
William Wolfram, piano

Symphonic Firsts and Yumi Hwang-Williams
April 17, 2015
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin

Bronfman Plays Beethoven
May 22, 2015
Andrew Litton, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Alan Opie, baritone
Colorado Symphony Chorus; Duain Wolfe, director

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.

The Colorado Ballet leaves no doubt: They are one of the best in the United States

Friday evening, February 20, the Colorado Ballet gave one of its most brilliant performances. It was brilliant not only because the dancers are so good and the orchestra so fine, but because the Ballet Masterworks series is always just that: usually three short ballets – roughly 20 to 25 minutes each – are very carefully chosen by Artistic Director Gil Boggs. They are truly masterworks. They can carry that label because the choreography is excellent and because the music is magnificent as well.

The opening work was Concerto Barocco choreographed by George Balanchine with music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Balanchine was an excellent musician as well as a choreographer and dancer, and he had the reputation of being a remarkable pianist. He had extensive courses in music when he was in school. When he conceived this work, which uses the music from Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, he was quoted as saying, “if the dance designer sees in the development of classical dancing a counterpart in the development of music and has studied them both, he will derive continual inspiration from great scores.” I came away from the performance Friday evening secure in my realization that Gil Boggs is also an accomplished musician, and agrees with the ethos expressed by Balanchine. For those of you who are surprised by the use of Bach’s music for a ballet, realize this: the one feature of every single piece that Bach wrote that stands out above all else is an underlying rhythmic pulse. And, it is that pulse that Balanchine took advantage of. Certainly, there is much in Bach’s music to take advantage of: the counterpoint, incredible grace, and continual forward movement. I also hasten to point out that Gil Boggs is aware of the fact that Maestro Adam Flatt, who conducts the ballet orchestra, has had a profound effect on the quality of this orchestra. Lydia Sviatlovskaya and Leslie Sawyer where the violin soloists for this double concerto. They were superb.

I was astounded by the very opening of this work, because the minute the curtain was up the orchestra and the dancers began their work; there was no hesitation. It was absolutely together as the curtain reached its zenith. It truly seemed to me as if Maestro Flatt was watching the curtain, and, of course, all of the dancers on stage had their eyes glued to Maestro Flatt. It had a profound effect on the audience. It was immediately obvious that Balanchine felt a remarkable kinship with the music, and the dancers on stage seem to take particular joy in dancing to his choreography. The most astounding feature of their dancing came in the last movement, where Bach wrote many 16th note passages. The dancers were required to use a step which seemed to me to be a combination of a frappé and a bourée. I have never seen that step before, and I’m quite sure that it has a name, but it was incredibly difficult and every dancer on stage was precisely together with the orchestra and with each other. It was a breathtaking demonstration of the ability of these dancers. However, truly, the most amazing aspect of the performance of this work was the fact that Balanchine’s choreography, and the skill of the dancers on stage, made Bach’s wonderful double concerto truly fit ballet. It was as if Bach had written this work as a ballet. I am sure that he would be amazed if he could have seen this performance.

Sharon Wehner, Maria Mosina, and Alexei Tyukov, were truly sensational. The dancers in the core, Morgan Buchanan, Casey Dalton, Emily Dixon, Tracy Jones, Fernanda Oliveira, Alexandra Pullen, Emily Speed, and Melissa Zoebisch were marvelous. All of these dancers “fit” the choreography to the extent that I cannot imagine a performance using any other dancers.

The second ballet on this program of three was a work entitled In Pieces, which was given the world premiere by the Colorado Ballet on February 22, 2013. The title comes from a work entitled Concerto in Pieces by Danish composer, Poul Ruders (b. 1949). The work was commissioned by the BBC for the 300th year of the death of English composer Henry Purcell, and the 50th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s Young Persons’ Guide to the Orchestra. The choreographer of this ballet is Val Caniparoli who, in an interview that is still available on the Colorado Ballet’s website, states that he specifically wanted the dancers in the Colorado Ballet to give the world premiere of this work. That should say something about the skill and artistic ability of these dancers, as well as the entire organization. Caniparoli, in the interview, states that he was very excited by the ability of these dancers, as well as having a live ballet orchestra at his disposal. He admired the versatility of these dancers because they are always “willing to try something new and they love challenges.” He also had a great affection for the orchestra’s ability.

From the outset, it was very clear that this is an incredibly difficult ballet. The rhythm is very complicated, and quite often the tempos, at least to me, seemed to be extreme. Asuka Sasaki, Domenico Luciano, Chandra Kuykendall, Jesse Marks, Sharon Wehner, and Christopher Moulton, were the soloists in this ballet, and I was left speechless (again) by their remarkable ability. The music itself has many instances wherein I was reminded of John Cage. There was what I can only describe as thorough use of percussion instruments in this ballet, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to the comparison with Cage. Douglas Walter, Scott Higgins, Mark Foster, Paul Milliken, and Carl Dixon are the percussionists in the Colorado Ballet Orchestra, and they are excellent. In addition, there was a marvelous tuba solo, and Michael Allen came wonderfully close to making the tuba sound like a cello.

The music and the choreography in this work were incredibly dramatic. The movements and steps that the dancers were required to make were quite new to me, and I am quite sure that Caniparoli invented them out of necessity in order to fulfill his spectacular concept of the music. And, there again, I have mentioned a choreographers concept of movement that the music requires. Many audience members who are not totally familiar with ballet and all of its artistic intricacies are under the impression that a choreographer somehow separates movement from the music, and only picks the music once he or she has the choreography in mind. I hasten to point out that in the mind of a choreographer, the movement and the music cannot be separated: they are conceived simultaneously. I encourage all of you to go to the Colorado Ballet website and listen to the interview with Caniparoli. It will shed much light on the process of such a complicated procedure. It also shows how much respect Val Caniparoli has for the Colorado Ballet.

Following In Pieces, the Colorado Ballet performed Fancy Free, choreographed by Jerome Robbins to the music of Leonard Bernstein. The set design for this work was absolutely terrific. One could easily tell that it was in the heart of New York City, for that is where this short ballet takes place: on a hot summer evening in 1944, with three sailors looking for relief from their military duty. As a matter of fact, this work was premiered on April 18, 1944. It concerns three sailors who find themselves in a pickle because they meet only two girls. There is a marvelous pas de deux which was danced by Dana Benton and Francisco Estevez. But when I mention them, you must realize that Kevin Gaël Thomas, Jesse Marks, and Shelby Dyer were excellent as well. It is that fact that sets this ballet company so far above many others that I have seen. I have stated many times, and it is my sincere belief, that every member of this ballet company is a truly fine artist. In the plot of this ballet. Each of the sailors performs a solo dance to attract one of the two girls they have met. The girls can’t decide who they wish to pair up with, so the three sailors promptly engage in a fight. While they are fighting the two girls disappear. The three sailors eventually noticed this, renew their friendship with another drink, and leave the bar for the sidewalk. There, they promptly meet another beautiful girl, danced by Tracy Jones, and they follow her with great enthusiasm.

Estevez, Thomas, Marks, Dyer, and Benton, are not only truly fine ballet artists, they are skilled actors as well, and they injected this ballet with humor as well as a certain amount of pathos. That fact always seems to surprise many individuals who are not familiar with ballet, as they seem to be unaware that a ballet can express so many different emotions.

This ballet company approaches every single production as if it were a theatrical play set to music with incredibly thought out and descriptive movement. Gil Boggs, Adam Flatt, Catherine Sailer, along with Sandra Brown and Lorita Travaglia, have changed this Colorado Ballet into a remarkable artistic organization by demonstrating to the dancers and the musicians that artistry and dedication are rewarded. It is clear that all of the dancers are artists just as all of the orchestra member are artists, and they have the support of the leadership and the Board.

There was a standing ovation Friday night by an audience that was too small. Certainly, many people stayed home in fear of the weather, but those who stayed home are the ones who lost the advantage of seeing three honest Masterworks of Ballet.

February 20, 2015, 2:41 pm
Filed under: News

An evening of “total bliss,” summer tradition for CO music lovers
Thursday, July 23 at 7:30 pm, Red Rocks Amphitheater
Tickets are now on sale.

The Colorado Symphony is thrilled to announce that the orchestra and DeVotchKa will return to Red Rocks Amphitheater on Thursday, July 23 at 7:30 pm. This concert is co-presented by KBCO and Twist & Shout. Tickets to the general public will be on sale Friday, February 20 at 10 am.

Described by Westword as “total bliss,” the creative partnership between DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony is now a Colorado tradition. Conducted by Scott O’Neil, this concert marks the fifth time DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony will share a stage. Last year’s concert at Red Rocks was at full capacity.

“Red Rocks is iconic and there truly is an element of magic there,” says Nick Urata, DeVotchKa’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter; Urata has recently enjoyed acclaim for his work on film scores including Paddington and Focus, starring Will Smith. “It holds extra meaning for Denver bands like us, who started at the Lion’s Lair. The feeling of performing with 75 people on stage is indescribable, and the fact that we get to do it for a fifth time this summer has got us inspired to pull out all the stops.”

The pairing of DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony sets the standard for musical collaboration among Colorado musical institutions. Beginning with a performance at Boettcher Concert Hall in February 2012, DeVotchKa’s work with the Colorado Symphony has exposed a new generation of music lovers to the power and possibility of symphonic music. Released later that year, DeVotchKa Live with the Colorado Symphony was hailed by many critics as one of 2012’s best. The album remains a top seller at Denver’s Twist & Shout Records. In its annual Best of Denver issue, Westword named the DeVotchKa/CSO pairing one of the best creative collaborations of 2012.

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Tickets are now on sale and range from $27.50-$65 each. Tickets are available online at http://www.coloradosymphony.org, by phone, 303-623-7876, or in person at the box office in Boettcher Concert Hall, Monday through Saturday, 10 am-6 pm.

Tickets, full concert listings, links and information can be found on http://www.coloradosymphony.org.

Grammy nominated DeVotchKa is a four-piece multi-instrumental and vocal ensemble. International ambassadors of Colorado music, the Boulder-based quartet is composed of Nick Urata, who sings and plays theremin, guitar, bouzouki, piano and trumpet; Tom Hagerman, who plays violin, accordion and piano; Jeanie Schroder, who sings and plays sousaphone, double bass and flute; and Shawn King, who plays percussion and trumpet. http://www.devotchka.net

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

Romance, dance, drums come to Boettcher Concert Hall; The Colorado Symphony American Festival launches
February 20, 2015, 2:13 pm
Filed under: News

The Colorado Symphony presents a vibrant selection of programs to bring music lovers into spring. Programs highlight the gorgeous vocal stylings of contemporary songwriter Rufus Wainwright (February 18) and classic crooner Jim Brickman (February 21); explore the intersection between symphonic music and tango (February 20); and celebrate the creative ways hammers, cans, and prepared instruments can be used to create sound (So Percussion, March 20).

On February 28, Music Director Andrew Litton kicks off The American Festival with a Masterworks concert that sees the return of CSO veteran clarinetist Bil Jackson. Running in five unique programs through March, The American Festival celebrates the artistry of America’s most accomplished composers, both traditional and modern.

All programs are at Boettcher Concert Hall, home of the Colorado Symphony. Details are available on http://www.coloradosymphony.org. Tickets for most concerts begin at $25. Students and K-12 teachers with ID may purchase tickets for $10 at the Boettcher Concert Hall box office.

The Art of the Dance: Tango
Featuring the Pablo Ziegler Trio
Friday, February 20, 7:30 pm
Scott O’Neil, conductor

Pablo Ziegler, Piano
Hector Del Curto, bandoneon
Laudio Ragazzi, Electric guitar

Pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler built his astounding reputation in the tango world as the pianist for Astor Piazzola. The rich culture and history of Tango will be brought to life by his trio and the Colorado Symphony. This concert will have you dancing in the aisles!
Ticket info

An Evening of Romance with Jim Brickman
Saturday, February 21, 7:30 pm
Scott O’Neil, conductor

Two-time Grammy® nominee and multi-platinum recording artist Jim Brickman is America’s piano sensation. Experience the romantic sounds of this hitmaker’s pop-style instrumentals and star-studded vocal collaborations.
Ticket info

The American Festival: Part I
Saturday, February 28, 7:30 pm & Sunday, March 1, 1:00 pm
Andrew Litton, conductor
Bil Jackson, clarinet
William Wolfram, piano

On February 28, former principal clarinetist Bil Jackson kicks off The American Festival, showcasing masters who have created, perfected, and expanded the American idiom in symphonic music. This program celebrates the work of living composer Kevin Puts as well as Bernstein’s iconic The Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2, titled after W.H. Auden’s poem of the same name.
Ticket info

Symphony at the Movies: West Side Story
Saturday, March 7, 7:30 pm & Sunday, March 8, 1:00 pm
Scott O’Neil, conductor

Experience Leonard Bernstein’s musical masterpiece and electrifying score live, while the re-mastered film is shown in high definition with original vocals and dialogue.
Ticket info

The American Festival: Part II
Friday, March 13; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 pm & Sunday, March 15, 1:00 pm
Andrew Litton, conductor
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

Anne Akiko Meyers brilliantly performs Barber’s Violin Concerto, one of the most frequently performed concertos of the 20th century. Andrew Litton leads Stephen Albert’s RiverRun to close the performance with its lush, dramatic symphonic music.
Ticket info

So Percussion
Friday, March 20, 7:30 pm & Saturday, March 21, 2:30 pm
Scott O’Neil, conductor

Since coming together at the Yale School of Music in 1999, So Percussion has been creating music that is by turns raucous and touching, bombastic and heartfelt, incorporating traditional drums as well as pretty much anything that can be banged, hit, or struck. The ensemble is known for its exotic and unusual instruments including bowed marimba, glockenspiel, and hammer. This concert will feature David Lang’s piece, man-made, written for So Percussion. Don’t miss this evening of creative music that will delight all of the senses.
Ticket info

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…;


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