Filed under: Reviews | Tags: David Ludwig, ensalada, Francisco Guerrero, Gabriel Garcia de Mendoza, Jaun Vasquez, Juan Bautista Cabanillas, Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, la bomba, Ladino, Mateo Flecha, Pedor Bermúdez, Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz, St. Martin's Chamber Choir, Timothy Krueger, villancico
Friday evening, November 8, I attended a performance at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Wheat Ridge. St. Martin’s Chamber Choir gave a performance of the music of Spain and the Spanish Americas from the late fifteenth century through the late seventeenth century, and then, taking a large jump to the year 2012. It was a very interesting program because it dealt with some truly beautiful music that is not often heard: the villancico. This is truly a very interesting genre of songs. As one might surmise from their name, they originated in Spain, and, perhaps the largest collection of them is in the Cancionero de Palacio which, itself, wasn’t discovered until 1870 in the Madrid National Library. Many of the songs in that collection are 400 years old.
Maestro Timothy Krueger dedicated the entire concert to the villancico, which is almost always a very short work, and almost always, a secular work. In addition, they are almost always unabashedly cheerful and seem to have evolved from rustic sources (villancico comes from the word villano, which means villager). Because of their secular nature, and because they are sung in the vernacular, they might be compared to the madrigal.
As soon as the concert began (this was a cameo performance, where the choir is smaller and the program shorter than most), I was once more impressed with this skill of St. Martin’s Chamber Choir. Friday evening there were twelve performers: three sopranos, three contraltos, three tenors, and three bass. Their pitch never faltered, they were absolutely together one hundred percent of the time, and they clearly were enjoying their art. I might add that the acoustics in this particular church are close to perfect. In order to differentiate the ‘Old World’ villancico from those of the New World, the choir moved from the rear of the apse, to the front of the altar. The concert opened with two villancicos by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), one by Juan Vasquez (c. 1500-c. 1560), and one by Mateo Flecha (1481-1553). It was truly refreshing to hear music that is not often performed. These pieces were all energetic, and their harmony crystal clear, which is typical of Renaissance music. There were many cadences on the interval of open fifths and fourths, as well as parallel fifths and fourths. We consider those dissonant today but in the Renaissance they were considered as consonant. Keep in mind, that major and minor scales had not yet been established: that came from an Italian music theorist, Gioseffo Zarlino, in the year 1558.
The villancico by Juan Vasquez dealt with a young man trying to decide which of two sisters he prefers. Thus, it was sung only by the tenors and the bass. It was as humorous as it was sung beautifully. I am constantly amazed, and reassured, that such professional singers exist in Colorado.
Next on the program, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir performed an Ensalada. The title, quite literally, means “salads.” These are truly burlesque madrigals, and often several popular tunes are contrapuntally intermixed. This particular ensalada was written by Mateo Flecha. There were two Mateo Flechas: uncle and nephew. This one was written by the uncle, and was entitled La Bomba. This particular ensalada became so popular that a parody mass was written on the melody by Pedro Bermúdez. Even today, the name la bomba can mean just about anything from a strong cigar to a delicate pastry. It’s interesting to note that a collection of works of both uncle and nephew were published in Prague in the year 1581. And I certainly recall walking past a nightclub in Prague named La Bomba. This work was one of the most complex of the evening’s performance. The rhythm was incredible as was the harmony. It was a very spirited performance, and this piece was the longest of the evening. It was almost twelve minutes long, describing a shipwreck and rescue, followed by a raucous party, and then a very short section with almost liturgical harmonies, wherein the parties give their thanks for surviving the shipwreck.
As I mentioned above, Pedro Bermúdez composed a parody mass on the melody from La Bomba, and it was at this point in the concert when the choir moved to the front of the altar to demonstrate that Bermúdez (1558- 1605) was from the New World: Guatemala. Maestro Krieger pointed out the similarities between the ensalada and the Kyrie of the parody mass, so that the audience could understand the derivation, and hear the similarities between the two works. There is no question that the audience appreciated this, and it is this kind of “teaching” that will help preserve concerts of this type.
As Dr. Krueger pointed out, these villancicos are almost always comprised of texts that are good natured and cheerful. However, he and the choir performed one which was poignant, and which had a text which had a religious text, though it was not liturgical. The title of this work was Mortales Que Amáis, and was written by Juan Bautista Cabanillas (1644-1712) who was a native of Guatemala. The text of this piece was secular, but it seemed quite similar in scope to the Stabat Mater text of the Roman Catholic Mass, wherein Mary stands at the foot of the cross grieving for the death of her son. It was beautifully done by the choir, and it is always a pleasure to hear them communicate the depth of the text, whether it be sad or humorous, of what they are singing. This is but one aspect of excellence that is inherent in St. Martin’s Chamber Choir.
Following the work by Cabanillas, Maestro Krueger returned the choir to the Baroque period of Spain, and they performed the Villancico de Negros de Navidad by Gabriel Garcia de Mendoza. The title that I just mentioned in the previous sentence is really a classification. The name of this particular composition in this classification was A siolos molenos. It is an example of the villancicos that were sung by Africans because of their influence in the social and economic life in Spain and the Spanish Americas. This song describes Mary and Joseph in the manger, and describes the presents they give each other in celebration of Christmas. The performance of this villancico was almost boisterous because of the good nature and cheerfulness with which the choir sang. Maestro Krueger has a knack for allowing the choir to communicate the spirit of what they are singing to each other, and then to the audience. This unquestionably gives them the opportunity to show that they understand the music that they are performing. This was a particularly difficult work to sing because of its rhythms, which were punctuated by mere syllables. It became an almost contrapuntal rhythm, and it was an absolute joy to listen to.
The final four works on the program were four Ladino songs. Ladino is a Judeo-Spanish language, and is a combination of old Spanish and Hebrew, that, according to Dr. Krueger, is similar to the Yiddish language, which is a combination of the Ashkenazi Jewish and German dialects. These four songs were arranged by David Ludwig in 2012. I will quote briefly from his biography that comes from his website:
“Ludwig was the Young Composer in residence at the Marlboro Music School for three consecutive years. In addition to Marlboro, he has been in repeated residence at the Yaddo and MacDowell artist colonies and was a resident artist at the Isabella Gardner Museum. After a three-year residency with the Vermont Symphony funded by Meet the Composer, he is now the permanent New Music Advisor for that orchestra. He is the composer-in-residence and director of composition programs at the Atlantic Music Festival, Lake Champlain Festival, the Rocky Ridge Festival, and is the Artistic Director of the Curtis Young Artist Summer Program. Additionally, he has served on the faculty of Yellow Barn and the Ravinia Festival Steans Institute. Active abroad, Ludwig was in residence at the Shanghai International Summer Music Festival in 2012, and is the resident composer for the STUDIO2021 Ensemble at Seoul National University.
“Born in Bucks County, P.A., Ludwig comes from several generations of eminent musicians. His grandfather was the pianist Rudolf Serkin and his great-grandfather, violinist Adolf Busch. His teachers include John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Jennifer Higdon, Richard Hoffmann, and Ned Rorem. He holds degrees from Oberlin, The Manhattan School, Curtis Institute, Juilliard School, and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Ludwig is on the composition faculty of the Curtis Institute where he serves as the Gie and Lisa Liem Dean of Artistic Programs and as the director of the Curtis 20/21 Contemporary Music Ensemble.”
These four Ladino Songs, Durme, Durme; Ven Hermosa; Camini por Altas Torres; and Quando veo hija Hermosa, were spellbinding. The harmony and texture were decidedly avant-garde, but still tonally centered. The sound was rich and full with many simultaneous half steps, and, it seemed to me, quarter tones. They sounded extremely difficult to sing because of the intervals involved, but it is my hope that Maestro Krueger and the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir perform this composer again. Their vocal skills give them an advantage in this genre of music.
Every time I hear the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, I leave the concert thinking that I have never heard them perform so skillfully. They have amazing confidence in themselves, and they have great confidence in their ability to communicate with each other during the performance. And, while Maestro Krueger certainly does conduct them, he also has the good sense to allow them to rely on their extraordinary musicianship. Their diction is remarkable, and Friday evening, even if one did not understand Spanish, one could tell they were singing in no other language accept Spanish.
If any of you readers have not heard St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, you simply must attend their concerts. They are proof that a wonderful concert can be given without having a choir of two hundred: it was enjoyable in every way, and I am sure that for many in the audience it was a learning experience. Early music can be just as beautiful as contemporary music. Maestro Timothy Krueger’s succinct explanation of each piece gave the audience the opportunity to understand and appreciate the music that was being sung. I have a slight suspicion that modern audiences who attend concerts expect the music will be from France, Germany, Russia, Italy, or somewhere in central Europe, rather than from Spain, and the Spanish Americas. There were some individuals near me who expressed surprise that such wonderful and appealing music could be composed by someone from Guatemala or Peru. Everyone in the audience Friday night learned something new.
Filed under: News
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra (PMC) announces their 2013-2014 season, A Season of Epic Symphonic Works.
Pro Musica Colorado, a fully professional orchestra presenting the classics to the cutting edge, will be exploring some of classical music’s most sublime works, punctuated by engaging new pieces. “When I was planning the music for this season, I was thinking about epic works of literature, such as the Iliad, where the protagonist is presented with a problem, has adventures, and arrives home,” says Cynthia Katsarelis, Music Director and Conductor of Pro Musica Colorado. “I believe this journey is a part of great art. The symphonic work of Beethoven and Mozart gives meaning to our lives as it is a powerful metaphorical for our own human experience.”
Pro Musica Colorado will bring these performances to Denver and Boulder with a Friday and Saturday performance schedule. See below for complete program details.
In November, Pro Musica will be presenting Epic Beethoven. The centerpiece is Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A Major. This symphony is known for its fantastic architecture, dance-like rhythms, and its famous slow movement. “The structure of this work contributes to the feeling of an epic story.” The program includes a guitar concerto, Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, played by the wonderful guitarist, Nicolò Spera. Also on the program is Michael Daugherty’s Strut for String Orchestra, inspired by Paul Robeson, the great African-American actor, singer and civil rights activist.
The January and February program is Epic Mozart and includes his Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. Mozart only wrote two minor key symphonies and the 40th is the most far-reaching. “Mozart took expressive chromaticism as far as it would go until the late Romantics,” says Katsarelis. Pianist Hsing-ay Hsu joins Pro Musica to perform Beethoven’s sublime Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major. The program will also include Daniel Kellogg’s string quartet, Coming Into the World, re-envisioned for string orchestra.
The season finale in April, Epic Seasons, features violinist Lina Bahn in Vivaldi’s beloved Four Seasons, alongside Astor Piazzolla’s tangy companion piece, the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. “We love to juxtapose works old and new, and this is the perfect combination,” says Katsarelis. “Lina Bahn is an ideal collaborator for an epic night of violin virtuosity!”
Ticket prices to A Season of Epic Symphonic Works: $25 General seating at the door ($22.50 in advance), $5 Students. Season Passes for Friday or Saturday Concert Nights are $60. Tickets are available online at: www.promusicacolorado.org. For further information, or to purchase tickets by phone, call: 720-443-0565.
“We hope you will consider taking this epic journey with us,” invites Katsarelis.
Event Details: Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra 2013-2014 Season, A Season of Epic Works. Photos and Bios available upon request
EPIC BEETHOVEN - 7:30 pm Concert, 6:30 pm Pre-Concert Talk (Cynthia Katsarelis)
November 22, 2013, Friday - St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant Street, Denver, CO
November 23, 2013, Saturday - First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major
Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez - Nicolo Spera, Guitarist Michael
Daugherty: Strut for Strings Orchestra
EPIC MOZART - 7:30 pm Concert, 6:30 pm Pre-Concert Talk (Cynthia Katsarelis)
January 31, 2014, Friday - Saint John’s Cathedral, 1350 Washington Street, Denver, CO
February 1, 2014, Saturday – First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO
Wolfgang A. Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 4 in G Major, Op. 58 – Hsing-ay Hsu, Pianist
Daniel Kellogg: Coming Into the World
EPIC SEASONS - 7:30 pm Concert, 6:30 pm Pre-Concert Talk (Cynthia Katsarelis)
April 4, 2014, Friday - St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant Street, Denver, CO
April 5, 2014, Saturday - First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO
Antonio Vivaldi: Four Seasons - Lina Bahn, Violinist
Astor Piazzolla: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Ticket prices to A Season of Epic Works: $25 General seating at the door ($22.50 in advance), $5 Students. Season Passes for Friday or Saturday nights are $60. Tickets are available online at: www.promusicacolorado.org. For further information, or to purchase tickets by phone, call: 720-443-0565
About Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Cynthia Katsarelis, Music Director and Conductor:
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra is a professional chamber orchestra presenting excellent performances of familiar and innovative music. Cynthia Katsarelis has served with the Cincinnati Symphony, Pops and May Festival, the Greensboro (N.C.) Symphony, and has conducted many professional, college, and youth orchestras. For the past two seasons, she has guest conducted the Colorado Music Festival’s Young People’s Concerts. Katsarelis is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, with degrees in both violin and conducting.
See concert previews also on The Scen3
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Ann Marie Liss, Barbara Hamilton, Basil Vendrys, Claude Debussy, Edward Elgar, George Frederick Handel, Josef Haydn, Marjorie Bunday, Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen, Ralph Valentine, Robert Avrett, St. Andrew's Choir, St. John 's Choir, Stephen Tappe, Timothy Krueger
Saturday evening, November 2, I attended a concert at St. John’s Cathedral at 14th Street and Washington in Denver. It featured some of the best musical organizations in Denver: the St. John’s Cathedral Choir, with Stephen Tappe, Choirmaster; St. Andrew’s Choir, Timothy Krueger, Choirmaster; Ann Marie Liss, harpist; and the region’s well-known Colorado Chamber Players, Barbara Hamilton, Executive Director, and violist. I emphasize that these are all stellar musicians.
The concert opened with a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s (1908-1992) famous organ work, Vision of the Eternal Church (Apparition de l’église eternelle) which was written in 1932. It was performed by Ralph Valentine, who is the organist at St. Andrews in Denver. Valentine is a teacher and an organist, well known throughout the United States. He began his teaching career at Rosemary Hall School in Greenwich, Connecticut, and moved with the school to Wallingford, Connecticut, when it merged with The Choate School in 1971. At Choate Rosemary Hall he was Head of Music, Choral Director, School Organist, and Instructor in Theory, Harmony, Counterpoint, History, Composition, Organ, and Harpsichord for forty-two years. He has been very active as a recitalist, composer, and leader of workshops.
This was a riveting performance of a very intense piece of music, which certainly demonstrates Messiaen’s Roman Catholic inspiration in an almost mystical way. That statement, of course, seems almost contradictory, but this composition is full of rhythmic tension and harmonic tension, with open fourths and fifths. It is a very dense piece with thick textures, some of which recall the harmonies of medieval chant with its parallelisms, which were considered consonants. Its mood also makes one think of the huge cathedrals that are characteristic in many countries of Europe. It was a wonderful performance that clearly revealed Messiaen’s inspiration.
The next work on the program was Zadok the Priest, a coronation anthem which was written for George II of Great Britain in 1727. Written by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), I’m sure many in the audience recognized this work, because it has been sung for almost every coronation since it was written. The collaboration with the Colorado Chamber Players produced a small chamber orchestra which was a perfect size for this kind of performance. The choirs and the orchestra, which were thoroughly prepared for this performance, at once gave a demonstration in contrasts of the intricate and elegant style of Handel, while showing his skill at composition for huge ceremonies, with brazen outbursts from the trumpets. But it was in this work that a detriment in this program raised its ugly head: acoustics.
In most of the performances that I have attended at St. John’s Cathedral, the performers have been seated in the Crossing (that is the official name of the area) which is immediately in front of the Apse. The Apse is the U-shaped area at the front of the church that contains the Altar, and it is surrounded, at St. John’s Cathedral, by an area called the Ambulatory. The Ambulatory contains the organ keyboard and the seats for the choir which surround the Altar. The seating follows the U-shaped Ambulatory. Therefore, sections of the choir are facing each other. The Colorado Chamber Players was seated at the base of the U-shape, facing the congregation – or in this case, the audience. That meant that the sound of the choirs was echoing off opposite walls of the Apse, while being combined with the chamber orchestra. I’m not sure how many choir members there were at the performance, but there were fourteen members of the chamber orchestra. This may have been too large a group of musicians to put in the Crossing, but it is in the Crossing where the sound produced would not have ricocheted off the narrow walls of the Apse.
I point out that since the organ pipes are in the rear of the church above the Narthex, organ performances are not affected by the acoustics in the front of the church. In the performance of Handel’s Zadok the Priest, the acoustics made the sounds of these excellent musicians muffled and mushy. The diction of the choirs, and I remind you these are excellent choirs, could not be understood at all. Sometimes the orchestra overpowered the choirs, and sometimes the choirs overpowered the orchestra.
Next on the program, came Danses Sacrée et Profane, written by Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Debussy wrote this work as a commission from the Pleyel piano and harp manufacturer in Paris. They had just built a new chromatic harp, which was different from the conventional concert harp with its seven pedals and huge size. It also took a very long time to tune. The new harp had added strings for the chromatic half steps in the scale. As a matter of fact, it could vaguely be considered similar to Bach’s use of Pythagoras’ theories of ratio in tuning the harpsichord to equal temperament wherein, for example, the note ‘A’ can be played in the key of A major, F major, D major, etc., without having to tune the harpsichord between each key.
Debussy’s work became a very important contribution to harp literature, and I must say that it was a joy to hear, for even though it is quite popular for a small chamber orchestra and harp, it has been sometime since I have heard the piece performed live.
Dr. Ann Marie Liss performed on the harp Saturday evening. She has performed worldwide, and is on the faculty at Colorado College. She earned her doctorate at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. She has won many international competitions, and is widely sought out as an instructor, coach, and clinician, specializing in technical foundation, tone production, and brain integration in musical performance. She is a founding member with Basil Vendrys, who is the principal violist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in Duo Esprit which appears frequently in concert.
The opening of this work by Debussy has always struck me as being very un-Debussy-like, because of its unison strings, but soon the harp enters and it plays typical thick textured Debussy chords. Dr. Liss was absolutely wonderful and her performance of this piece, and so was the Colorado Chamber Players. Their unison string playing against the rich harmonies provided by the harp was absolutely spectacular, and it was interesting to note the difference in sound between the harp and strings, when the strings played pizzicato. I, for one, have never been able to make much of a distinction between the sacred and the profane concept that Debussy must have had in mind. To me, this is simply another beautiful piece that Debussy wrote around the turn-of-the-century.
But, once again the strange acoustics left their mark in the way of attacks and releases which were not sharp and well-defined.
Following the Debussy, the Colorado Chamber Players performed a Haydn quartet that is rarely performed. It is the last of six quartets that comprise Haydn’s Opus 33, and it carries the Hoboken number Hob. III:42. Thus, its official name is String Quartet Op. 33, Nr. 6 in D major, Hob. III:42. Anthony van Hoboken was the musicologist who created the catalog of Haydn’s works. These six quartets were the first Haydn had written in ten years, and he wanted to earn more money by selling manuscript copies, even though these had been published by Artaria, I believe, in 1782. In order to sell them, Haydn proclaimed them to be “brand-new” (which, of course, they were), but some scholars have insisted that this meant that these quartets contained a new style, which is not the case. They are simply wonderful, absolutely delightful quartets that are rarely played.
The Colorado Chamber Players, in my opinion, have a special ability at performing Haydn. It is absolutely marvelous, and they convince me that the Haydn quartets should be played just as often as the Mozart quartets, which, unfortunately, they don’t seem to be. The musicians Saturday night were superb as always, and their spirit and approach to the interpretation of Haydn could not have been better. However, their hard work and enthusiasm for what they were doing was marred by the troublesome acoustics. Some of their sounds were so distorted, that they became almost “electronic” in nature, with a flat and whining buzz. The Apse of the church seemed not to be able to handle the different quality of sound between violin, viola, and cello, with the sounds ricocheting off the narrow enclosure.
Before intermission, the choirs sang a beautiful work, They are at rest, by Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), which he composed for the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death. It is a striking piece with rich harmonies and a genuinely contemplative mood. And that is precisely the way it was performed.
The major work on Saturday evening’s concert was the Requiem by French composer Maurice Duruflé (1902- 1986). Duruflé was an outstanding organist and composer who, like César Franck, was not very prolific. However, Duruflé, again like Franck, is known for a small number of truly fine compositions. The Requiem is probably his best known work. It seems to be a mix of harmonies coming from Fauré and Ravel, and yet blended with the modal harmonies of the Renaissance. It is interesting to note that in this mass for the dead, he omits the Dies Irae and the Tuba Mirum, which is exactly what Gabriel Fauré omitted from his Requiem, prompting the often acid tongued Camille Saint-Saëns to call Fauré’s Requiem “One of the finest nocturnes ever written.” (The Dies Irae carries the warning that one must “live piously,” or face the wrath of God upon one’s death. The Tuba Mirum announces that the Day of Judgment is at hand, and that there is no reprieve for those who have not lived piously. Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, and Gouvy, wrote some stunning music to fit these two sections of the requiem masses that they composed.)
Duruflé’s Requiem is an absolutely beautiful piece that deserves to be performed more often than it is. The performance clearly demonstrated the dedication and musicianship of those in the choir and orchestra, but also Timothy Krueger and Stephen Tappe, who prepared the choirs. The alto and baritone soloists, Marjorie Bunday and Robert Avrett, both of whom I have written about previously, were superb. And again, that brings me to a point about the acoustics. Both Bunday and Avrett stood just outside the arch of the Apse of the church, at the front edge of the Crossing. Therefore, their wonderful voices were un-muffled and clear. Every word they sang could be understood, because their consummate vocal production allows them to deal with the rigors of the dictation. However, the diction of these two choirs, which is normally excellent, could not be understood because of the sound bouncing around inside the Apse. Sometimes they drowned out the orchestra, and sometimes the orchestra drowned out the choir. Did the choirs have superb sound quality? Emphatically, yes. Were their dynamics excellent? Again, emphatically, yes. Everybody performing Saturday evening clearly has superb musicianship.
It speaks to that quality to say that the musicianship was apparent in spite of the acoustics. And, I am perfectly aware that fitting the chamber orchestra and the choirs in the Crossing of the church in front of the Apse, would have been difficult because of the number of musicians involved. But perhaps for performances such as this, the powers that be at St. John’s Cathedral could figure out a way to make the Crossing a little larger, perhaps by taking out the first row or two of pews just for a singular performance. I understand that would mean extra work and cost, but when such a marvelous program is presented, as it was Saturday evening, it would be worth it. Nonetheless, in spite of my criticism which some may regard as too heavy, it was a superb program. It gave everyone in the audience a chance to hear some compositions they might not hear for a long time.
Filed under: News
To all of my readers on the East Coast: I would address your attention to a concert given by the North/South Chamber Orchestra which is going to take place Monday, November 11, at 8 PM. The performance will be held at the Christ and St. Stephen’s Church which is between Broadway and Columbus in New York City at 120 West 69th St. This concert will feature four composers, including a composition by Maestro Max Lifchitz, who is the conductor of the orchestra. Please take note that the admission to this concert is free.
The program will open with a new composition by Hayg Boyadjian. I have written articles about Mr. Boyadjian previously to this one, as I have heard his music and reviewed a CD of his. He is an outstanding composer, as are all of the composers on this program. Boyadjian has entitled this new work Danzas Ocultas No. 1. He composed it for string quintet & woodwind quintet.
I will quote from Boyadjian’s website:
“Hayg Boyadjian, Grammy Nominee composer, was born in 1938 in Paris, France. At an early age he immigrated with his family to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he started his musical studies at the Liszt Conservatory. In 1958 he immigrated to the USA, and presently lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. In the USA he continued his musical studies as a special student first at the New England Conservatory and later at Brandeis University. Among his teachers were Beatriz Balzi (student of Alberto Ginastera, with whom Boyadjian had several consulting meetings), Seymour Shifrin, Alvin Lucier, and Edward Cohen. He has composed a large number of works from chamber to symphonic. Many of his compositions have been performed throughout the world: USA, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Korea, Russia, France, Holland, England, Spain, Armenia and others.
“A number of his scores are available through the American Music Center, New York and on the internet through Sibelius Music. Some of his chamber and symphonic compositions are recorded on the following CD labels: Living Music; Society of Composers Recordings; North/South Consonance Recordings; and Opus One Recordings.
“He is a member of the Composers’ Union of Armenia, ASCAP, Society of Composers, the MacDowell Colony, and others. His name is found in the Who’s Who in American Music, the International Who’s Who in Music.
For a brief description of this new work, I will quote from an article which appeared in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, of October 26, 2013:
“The composition is written for 10 musicians, a woodwind quintet and a string quintet and it will be conducted by the director of the ensemble, Max Lifchitz, who has also in the past performed, recorded and conducted works of Boyadjian…The new composition is a collection of snippets of dances from western to eastern styles. “As one would suspect from the word ‘hidden’ in the title, only portions of the dances are heard like apparitions, fragments of a whole slew entity. To maintain a sense of wholeness to the piece I have chosen to use two common harmonies, C minor and G minor, like a tonic and dominant. Thus all this disjointed material, the dance fragments, have a unifying background in their harmonies…” For more information about Boyadjian visit http://www.haygboyadjian.com/.”
The second work on the program will be by José Lezcano, who is professor of music at Keene State College where he teaches guitar, music theory, Latin American music. He also directs the Guitar Orchestra and the Latin American Ensemble at KSC.
Again, I will quote from the web:
“Lezcano’s own Guitar Concerto (2004), which he premiered in New York City as soloist with the North-South Consonance Chamber Orchestra directed by Max Lifchitz, has received critical acclaim after release on the North-South label in 2007 as “Remembrances/Recuerdos.” Fanfare magazine wrote, “Colorfully scored … agreeable music, and dashingly performed by the composer.” Lezcano performed the concerto with the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional of Peru in September 2008. “
Lezcano’s works include two additional concerti, a song cycle, a choral suite, chamber music, and solos, written in an eclectic, expressive, but accessible language that is praised for “energy” and “soaring melodies” (Flute Talk). His chamber works with guitar, published by Alry and Tuscany, have been performed by major artists including Ricardo Cobo, Antigoni Goni, Duo Fresco, the Alturas Duo, and William Bennet. A recent CD by Ms. Goni, “Songs from the New Village,” on Koch International, includes José’s Sonatina Tropical.
” Concerning this guitar concerto which is entitled Concierto Cubanero, Lezcano states that: “ Concierto Cubanero, a mini-concerto for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra (strings and woodwind quintet), is a nostalgic tribute to Cuban musical idioms like the Bolero, Cha-cha-cha, and the sounds of Orquesta Tipica. As a boy growing up in Miami, I often heard this music on the car radio or at family parties. There are also references to the Baiao rhythms of Northeast Brazil. Extensive solo passages for winds complement the solo guitar writing. The title Cubanero is whimsical and alliterative. The work was commissioned by Max Lifchitz and North-South Consonance, with whom it is a pleasure and privilege again to collaborate.”
Mr. Lezcano’s website is: http://joselezcano.wordpress.com/
The third work on this interesting concert, Yellow Ribbons No. 42, was written by Maestro Max Lifchitz. According to the web:
“Professor Max Lifchitz is active as a composer, performer, arts administrator and educator. A graduate of The Juilliard School and Harvard University, he was invited to join the University at Albany faculty in 1986. Previously, he held teaching appointments at the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. In addition to teaching a variety of music courses and general education offerings, Lifchitz has served as Chair of both the University’s Music Department and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Department, where he holds a joint appointment. In the spring of 2005, he was honored with an Excellence in Research Award. During the fall of 2006 Lifchitz served as the Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Eminent Scholar in Latin American Studies at Columbus State University’s Center for International Education in Columbus, GA.
“Lifchitz is the founder and artistic director of North/South Consonance, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City devoted to the promotion and performance of music by composers from the Americas. Active since 1980, the North/South Consonance Ensemble has received grants from, among others, the Aaron Copland Fund; the Ditson Fund at Columbia University; the Yvar Mikhashoff Fund for New Music; the Cary Charitable Trust; the Virgil Thomson Foundation; New York Women Composers, Inc.; the Zethus Fund for Contemporary Music; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council for the Arts; and the National Endowment for the Arts. It has also received contributions from several corporations and numerous individual donors. North/South Consonance, Inc. sponsors an annual concert series in New York City featuring new chamber music from the Americas and has issued over fifty compact discs on the North/South Recordings label.” Lifchitz is represented as composer, pianist, and conductor on several CD and LP albums issued by the Classic Masters, CRI, Finnadar, New World, North/South, Opus One, Philips, RCA Victor, and Vienna Modern Masters labels.
His Yellow Ribbons No. 42 belongs to a series of works that Lifchitz is in the process of writing as homage to the former American of hostages in Iraq. The single movement work juxtaposes quotations from ancient colonial Latin American hymns, North African melodies, and innovative contemporary techniques.
For more information on Max Lifchitz, please click on this link: http://www.albany.edu/pr/updates/3-2-7.html
The last work on the program is diss-FUNK-shun, composed for the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra by Dr. Roger Wesby.
From his website:
“Roger Wesby was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He graduated from Eastman School of Music with a BM in Composition. With his wife, Barbara, he served in the Peace Corps, teaching and performing in national art centers in El Salvador and Costa Rica, which led to professional opportunities. In Costa Rica Wesby played trumpet in the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted the National Youth Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony’s Chamber Music Series and served as Academic Coordinator of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra School.
“Wesby was appointed conductor of the National Symphonic Chorus and conducted numerous concerts with the choir and orchestra in addition to maintaining an active schedule of community concerts and concerts in prisons. He created the Coro Laboratorio, a chamber choir which brought together many of the country’s finest singers, for the purpose of exploring advanced repertoire. He founded the National Association of Choral Directors. While living in Costa Rica, the Wesby’s children, Carla and Andrew were born.
“He received a master’s degree from Westminster Choir College where he studied with Joseph Flummerfelt. He earned the title of Doctor of Music at Indiana University, studying with Robert Porco. He was Director of Choral Activities at the University of Kentucky, where he conducted the Choristers, and Chamber Choir and founded New Voices, an elite vocal chamber ensemble that performed jazz and gospel music as well as Renaissance and twentieth century sacred and secular music. With his wife, he co-founded the Lexington Children’s Chorus, which became a jewel of central Kentucky, performing state-wide and regional tours and was much in demand for performances with professional opera companies. The Lexington Children’s Chorus recorded Malcolm Dalglish’s Hymnody of Earth for PBS with the composer and poet Wendell Berry.”
Please see: http://wagner.edu/music/faculty/wesby/
Filed under: News
The nationally-acclaimed Ars Nova Singers announces the 6th Colorado Composers Competition and calls upon all interested composers to submit original choral compositions for consideration. The competition will be open to composers in three categories: • Students in grades 6-12 in any Colorado schools, or home-schooled in Colorado • Undergraduate college students enrolled at any Colorado college or university • Professional composers and graduate students, either born in Colorado, or a current resident
February 1, 2014: Deadline for postmark of scores; review panel meets
March 1, 2014: Announcement of award winners
March-April, 2014: rehearsals of winning pieces; composers may be invited to attend one or more rehearsals
April 25 & 26, 2014: Performance of winning compositions on our April concerts, Extended Voices
Prizes include cash award and two performances of selected works by Ars Nova Singers
$300 – Students grade 6-12
$400 – Undergraduate college students
$500 – Professional composers
GUIDELINES FOR WORKS SUBMITTED
Should be six minutes or less in duration
Original works only; arrangements will not be considered
Unpublished works only
Work must not have been previously performed in the state of Colorado
If the text is not public domain, include written permission from the copyright holder to use it
Secular or sacred
Restricted to following combinations of forces: a cappella choir (up to 12-part divisi, SSSATTTBBB voices), Men’s voices (TTBB), Women’s voices (SSAA), or choir with one solo instrument (not keyboard, piano, or organ)
WHAT TO SUBMIT AND HOW
1. By regular mail: One printed choral score per entrant, in a clear, readable form; mail to address below before postmark deadline
2. By email (or online link): MIDI file or mp3 of the score, if available Brief resume of composer, including educational background and complete list of compositions
Prior winners of this contest may enter only after five years. Composers whose works have been performed by Ars Nova Singers in the past 3 years are not eligible. Current members of Ars Nova Singers and their immediately family members are not eligible. Winners will receive: cash prize, complimentary tickets to the April concerts for the composer and their family, and a recording of the concert performance. Ars Nova Singers reserves the right to not issue an award in any of the categories, at the sole discretion of the judges. The judges may also acknowledge additional exemplary works in each category; if so designated, these works will not receive a cash award, though they may be considered for performance. All entrants will be notified of results. The decision of the panel will be final.
Please submit scores postmarked by February 1, 2014 to this address: Ars Nova Singers • P O Box 4151, Boulder CO 80306
Filed under: News
In my August 23rd article, previewing the Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s 2013 – 2014 concert season, I quoted Maestro Bahman Saless’ preparatory statements for the season. The following paragraph has stayed with me, so I will quote it again:
“As I look back on BCO’s first concert—a very special night, filled with excitement, apprehension, magic, hope, passion as well as anxiety¬—I realize that the standing-room-only event was the telltale sign of what was to come. That first concert involved a group of brave musical pioneers and explorers, willing to dive into a cultural adventure yet to be defined. We are now commencing our tenth year, celebrating the efforts and talents of not only those who were the founders but also those who joined the ensemble to make it better and better at every concert. Many of the founders never left the core group and are now the body and soul of the orchestra. It is my honor and privilege to celebrate our tenth season with this fine group of musicians, those who brought us here, and you the citizens of this magnificent supportive community we live in.”
Maestro Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra will be giving two performances; one in Boulder, and one in Broomfield. Particulars are as follows:
When: November 8, 2013
Where: First Congregational Church in Boulder 1128 Pine St., Boulder
When: November 9, 2013
Where: Broomfield Auditorium 3 Community Park Road, Broomfield
Britten:, Les Illuminations, Szilvia Schranz, Soprano, Guest Artist
Beethoven:Piano Concerto No. 2, Soheil Nasseri, Piano, Guest Artist
Mozart: Symphony No. 29
Les Illuminations is being performed in honor of Benjamin Britten’s 100th Anniversary. This is an absolutely gorgeous piece of music, and if you have not heard it before, now is your chance. I will quote from Ms. Schranz’ website:
“Ms. Schranz was born in Budapest, Hungary into a family of musicians that had worked for generations in the Hungarian National Opera and Hungarian Festival Orchestra. At the age of 10, her family escaped their country’s oppressive communist government to relocate in Boulder, Colorado, where her father’s string quartet, the Grammy-winning Takács Quartet, [was] appointed as musicians-in-residence at the University of Colorado School of Music. “Ms. Schranz schooled in Boulder at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains and later studied voice at the University of Colorado. With her rare strength and clarity in the upper coloratura ranges, she won First Prize in the school’s prestigious Anderson Vocal Competition and received a full talent scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival. In 1998, she received a bachelor’s of music.
“After graduating from the University of Colorado, Ms. Schranz performed at the Denver Center for Performing Arts with their Tony-award winning theater company in the Tempest. She then went to further her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where she studied with Vera Rózsa, who also taught such renown singers as Kiri Te Kanawa and Anne Sofie Von Otter. After a year’s study in London, she received a post-graduate diploma in vocal training.
“While in London she appeared several times with the London Chamber Soloists, including solo performances of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as in Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s Creation at St. Martin in the Fields. She also sang at a charity concert for the Kensington Housing Trust at the Leighton House in London.”
It is astounding to note that there are two fantastic soloists for the November 8 and November 9 performances. The second soloist is a fine young pianist who has truly made a name for himself. He will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Nr. 2, in B flat Major, Opus 19.
From his website:
“Mr. Nasseri made his European debut in 2004 at Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily. Since then he has performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world: in addition to his regular New York concerts, he has performed solo recitals or concerti at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center in Washington, Berlin’s Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal, Berlin’s Konzerthaus, London’s Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre, Tokyo’s Musashino Center, Théâtre Fémina in Bordeaux, Florence’s Teatro Comunale, St. Petersburg’s Philharmonia, and Palermo’s Teatro Politeama, as well as concerts in Montreal (Canada), Dublin (Ireland), Bucharest (Romania), Chicago (Illinois), Cincinnati (Ohio), Santa Cruz (California), Portland (Oregon), Baltimore (Maryland), Jacksonville (Florida), Savannah (Georgia), Norfolk (Virginia), and Tehran (Iran). As concerto soloist Mr. Nasseri has appeared with conductors Fabio del Cioppo, Alexander Dmitriev, Justus Frantz, David LaMarche, John Lopez, Alexander Platt, Edward Polochick, Timothy Smith, Markand Thakar, and Ormsby Wilkins, and he is also active as a chamber musician, playing 4 piano quintets at Bargemusic in New York and collaborating with a tenor on the Beethoven Lieder. In 2010 he joined the American Ballet Theatre for 9 all-Chopin performances at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, playing a costumed role onstage in the ballet Lady of the Camellias, both acting and performing solo and concerto works.
“Another of Soheil Nasseri’s interests has been music education: he has given concerts at more than 60 public schools in the U.S. since 2003. Mr. Nasseri also regularly performs new music and as such 9 composers have written pieces specifically for him: Richard Danielpour, Avner Dorman, Hormoz Farhat, Martin Kennedy, Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Haskell Small, Ronn Yedidia, Ljova Zhurbin, and Samuel Zyman. As a recording artist he has 6 solo albums on the Naxos, Centaur, Mahoor, and 21CCC labels.
“Born in Santa Monica, California, Soheil Nasseri began studying the piano at the age of five and at the age of twenty moved to New York in part to study with Karl Ulrich Schnabel. In 2001 Mr. Nasseri became a protégé of Jerome Lowenthal who remains Mr. Nasseri’s mentor today. Other teachers include Irina Edelman, Claude Frank, Anna Balakerskaia, Clinton Adams, Eva Pierrou, and Ann Schein.
“Soheil Nasseri resides in Berlin, Germany.”
Maestro Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra are also performing Mozart’s Symphony Nr. 29 in A Major, K. 201. This was written in 1774, and it comes from a time in Mozart’s life which seems to be lacking in documentary detail. But to my way of thinking, this is Mozart’s finest symphony up to this point. It is also unusual for Mozart, because he includes a slow introduction. This is a third good reason for you readers to attend this concert.
For information on tickets, click on the following link: https://secure.velvetseat.com/Clients/Event.asp?ClientId=236048&EventId=11968
Filed under: News
Boulder Phil performs an all-American program in a grand collaboration with CU-Boulder choirs and Boulder dance ensembles!
It’s a collaborative coup on Saturday, November 2, when the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra shares the stage with Boulder Ballet, Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance, CU University Singers, and CU University Choir in an American musical showcase with works by Mason Bates, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland. This performance, the second of the 2013-2014 season that’s dedicated to music inspired by nature, takes place at Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus at 7:30 p.m. Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Phil, is on the podium.
“The three instrumental works on the program—Rusty Air in Carolina, Suite from The Tender Land, and Appalachian Spring—convey varied, though mostly peaceful and contented, impressions of rural life,” said Butterman. “In each case, the presence of nature, the land, and the environment are deeply felt.”
Rusty Air in Carolina, written in 2006 by Mason Bates for orchestra and electronics, opens the concert. “Mason Bates is one of the most original composers working today,” said Butterman, “and he often finds ways to bridge the worlds of electronica and traditional acoustic music. His Rusty Air in Carolina evokes lazy summer evenings buzzing with both insect song and strains of bluegrass.”
The concert continues with Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, written for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals Festival at Chichester Cathedral in England. The CU University Singers and the CU University Choir join the Boulder Phil in a performance of this work, sung in Hebrew, for orchestra and chorus. “The main conceptual thrust of this work seems to fit nicely with the quiet calm or ‘inner glow of peace’ that permeates the two Copland works on the second half of the program,” said Butterman. “Though we have moments of exuberant celebration, anguished confrontation, and ‘noisy complaints’ along the way, the strongest impression is made by the work’s prayer for peace, a longing that, alas, always seems to be timely.”
The second half of the program belongs to Aaron Copland, considered one of the great American composers of the 20th century. The Suite from Copland’s only opera—The Tender Land—explores the struggles and rewards of pioneer farm life in the Midwest, in which the land is by turns partner and adversary. “Ultimately uplifting,” said Butterman, “the work’s famous ‘Promise of Living’ chorus is as affirmative a musical statement as anything Copland wrote.”
Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the centerpiece for the evening, was written for Martha Graham, whose choreography made it an iconic work of modern dance. “Though this work is often presented as pure concert music, I wanted instead to collaborate with a few of our outstanding dance ensembles—Boulder Ballet and Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance—to create something truly unique and special,” said Butterman. “Our aim is to present a vision of the work that conveys not so much the specific details of the original narrative as the ‘feel’ and ‘spirit’ of the music, giving it greater dimension through dance. I’m thrilled by this opportunity to present an ‘only-in-Boulder’ take on such glorious music.”
The Boulder Phil’s season continues with two holiday offerings: The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet, Thanksgiving weekend, November 29 through December 1; and Christmas with the Phil, a festive new tradition, on December 21 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, and on December 22 at Mountain View Methodist Church. Associate Conductor Travis Jürgens leads members of the Boulder Phil and the Boulder Phil Chamber Singers in classical holiday favorites, including the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah and works by Bach and Corelli.
Program Information: Appalachian Spring
Saturday, November 2—7:30 p.m., Macky Auditorium, CU-Boulder
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, Music Director
CU University Singers, Gregory Gentry, Chorus Master
CU University Choir, David Kates, Chorus Master
Boulder Ballet, Alex Davison, Choreographer
Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance, Nancy Smith, Choreographer
Pre-concert talk with Maestro Butterman, Alex Davison from Boulder Ballet, and Nancy Smith from Frequent Flyers, 6:30 p.m., free to ticket-holders.
Mason Bates, Rusty Air in Carolina
Leonard Bernstein, Chichester Psalms with the CU University Singers and CU University Choir
Aaron Copland, Suite from The Tender Land with the CU University Singers and CU University Choir
Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring with Boulder Ballet and Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance
Tickets: $13-$70 ($5 for students) at www.BoulderPhil.org and 303-449-1343, ext. 2.
Event of Note: Post-concert party in the Macky lobby with the Boulder Phil and concert collaborators, free.