Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Antonio Vivaldi, Astor Piazzolla, Cynthia Katsarelis, Erika Eckert, Heidi Mausbach, Lina Bahn, Lyn Loewi, Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Paul Erhard, Pro Musica Coloardo Chamber Orchestra, Stacy Lasartre
Friday evening, the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Maestra Cynthia Katsarelis presented an absolutely stunning program featuring the renowned violinist, Dr. Lina Bahn. Not only was the program stunning because of its excellence, it was also stunning because of its originality. Maestra Katsarelis chose two works to feature on this program: the famous The Four Seasons by the Italian Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), and The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by the twentieth century Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). The unusual aspect of the program was that Katsarelis picked contrasting seasons from each of these two works, and paired them together on the program, while keeping in mind that Italy is in the northern hemisphere, and Argentina is in the southern hemisphere. Thus, Vivaldi’s Spring was paired the Piazzolla’s Autumn, next came Vivaldi’s Summer paired with Piazzolla’s Winter; the Vivaldi’s Autumn paired with Piazzolla’s Summer; and Vivaldi’s Winter, paired with Piazzolla Spring. Lest the purists among you readers object to this kind of pairing, I advise you to attend the concert tonight, April 5, at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder at 7:30 PM. I admit to a certain amount of suspicion when I saw the program, but the minute the first pairing of these two composers were heard, I realized what a creative imagination Maestra Cynthia Katsarelis has. In addition, I can assure you that the members of the orchestra are totally dedicated, professional musicians, and they would truly not participate in anything that would denigrate their art. So, those of you who were not in attendance Friday evening, quell your suspicions, and attend Saturday evening’s performance. You will, once again, be amazed at the artistry and musicianship by violinist Lina Bahn, and you will also be amazed at the camaraderie between Pro Musica and the soloist.
I will quote from the University of Colorado at Boulder website for Lina Bahn’s bio, which I have abridged slightly:
“Lina Bahn is a violinist who has a keen interest in collaborative and innovative repertoire, and has been called ‘brilliant’ and ‘lyrical’ by the Washington Post. Appointed to the faculty at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 2008, she has taught masterclasses throughout the world, including those at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, the Sydney Conservatory, Hong Kong University, Renmin University in Beijing, the Curtis Institute of Music, and The Colburn School, among others. She has been on the faculty of the Sierra Summer Academy of Music since 2001, and is on the faculty at Green Mountain Chamber Music Summer Festival, and at The Institute of the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, Italy.
“In Washington, D.C., Dr. Bahn is the Executive Director and violinist with the VERGE Ensemble, the resident ensemble of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The VERGE Ensemble has performed in Paris, New York, Cleveland, at the Livewire Festival (UMBC) and Third Practice Festival (Richmond), and was the resident ensemble for the June in Buffalo Festival in 2009. They have performed at Le Poisson Rouge, The Issue Project Room, and the National Museum of American Indians. She is also the violinist and member of the National Gallery New Music Ensemble of the Smithsonian, which gave its inaugural performance in the East Wing in 2010, performing works of Xenakis, Antosca, and a premiere by Roger Reynolds. The National Gallery Ensemble participated in the 2012 Washington D.C. John Cage Centennial Festival, with performances at the East Wing, the NGA Auditorium, and at the Maison Francaise of the French Embassy. These included premieres of composers Christian Wolff, Beat Furrer, Robert Ashley, and George Lewis. http://www.johncage2012.com/
“As a soloist, she has appeared with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Orquesta Sinfonica de la Serena (Chile), and the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra. Solo performance recitals include those at the Phillips Collection, The Stone, and at The Corcoran Gallery of Art. She has commissioned works by Benjamin Broening, Ken Ueno, Dan Visconti, Jeffrey Mumford, Adam Silverman, Steve Antosca, Keith Fitch, and (upcoming) Douglas Cuomo. Dr. Bahn’s chamber music performances have included recitals and concerts in festivals such as the Costa Rican International Chamber Festival, the Sierra Summer Festival, the Grand Canyon Music Festival, the Garth Newel Music Series, and the Festival de Música de Cámara de San Miguel de Allende. In the spring of 2010, she was on tour with the Takacs Quartet, performing at Carnegie Hall, the Southbank Centre, Concertgebouw, and the Mariinsky Theater, among others. From 1992-1994 she toured extensively throughout Chile with the Bahn-Mahave-Browne piano trio as a recipient of national grants to teach and perform. In 2005, their piano trio was selected to perform for the president of Chile and the King of Indonesia, in Kuala Lumpuur.
“Dr. Bahn studied with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School for her undergraduate degree. She completed her Master’s degree as the recipient of the Jane Bryant Fellowship Award under the tutelage of Paul Kantor. Her Doctorate in Music is from the Indiana University, where she completed her dissertation entitled, Virtuosity in Luciano Berio’s Sequenza VIII. At Indiana University, she was an Associate Instructor and studied with Miriam Fried and Paul Biss. Dr. Bahn’s early training in Chicago started with Lillian Schaber and she finished her high school years under the guidance of Roland and Almita Vamos.”
As any performer can tell you, excellence is always pursued, and it is the result of hours of practice. Musicianship improves with every performance, and, yet, one always reaches for that elusive, perfect performance. Once in a while, when all of the musicians are superb, all of the stars can line up in exactly the right order, and the audience will receive the benefits of a perfect performance, reflecting the joy of musicianship. That is precisely what happened at Friday’s performance. Everyone in the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra is an excellent musician, and the performance that this orchestra gives is always truly superb. Friday night it was exceptional.
The minute they begin to play, the joy of the music came through. The size of the Pro Musica changes with the dictates of the score, and Friday evening there were sixteen members of the orchestra. Therefore, practically every individual could be heard separately, as well as the blend of the entire ensemble. That clarity was manifest throughout the entire evening.
Everyone is familiar with Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, but some of you readers may be unfamiliar with Astor Piazzolla’s work. He was an Argentine composer, as previously stated, who once made a statement that the “tango was always for the ear rather than the feet.” Piazzolla has clearly become the master of the tango for the concert hall, rather than the dance floor. His composition teacher, Nadia Boulanger (he went to Paris in 1954 to study with her) encouraged him to concentrate on the tango after she heard one of his pieces. He developed a Nuevo tango style which departed substantially from its traditional sound, as he adapted it to classical music.
Stacy Lesartre, Concertmaster, led the ensemble Friday night, and everyone in the orchestra played as if they were a concertmaster, and I assure you they all sounded as if they could be a concertmaster. Stacy Lesartre and Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Principal Second violin, were excellent. It has been sometime since I have heard Vivaldi’s work, as well as Piazzolla’s, performed live, and it always surprises me at how difficult these two composer’s works are. Plainly, everyone on stage was working hard, and yet there was no awkwardness: it was all very graceful work. Lina Bahn performed these difficult works with great aplomb, and never did her intense musicianship and virtuosity cause a wrinkle on her forehead. I mentioned that only because as the program progressed, I finally put my finger on the one element of Friday evening’s performance: it was joy. The orchestra was having a wonderful time playing these pieces, and they were having a wonderful time playing with Lina Bahn. And, Dr. Bahn was having a wonderful time playing with the orchestra. That was clearly in evidence. It has been a long time since I have seen so many smiles in an orchestra. Stacy Lesartre, Margaret Soper Gutierrez, and Heidi Mausbach, Principal Cello, easily responded to the different tempi that Lina Bahn and Maestra Katsarelis wished to take. I might add that those tempi were some of the fastest that I have heard in the Vivaldi or the Piazzolla, but I hasten to point out that everyone in the orchestra followed them with complete accuracy. There were many times when members of the orchestra had a marvelous solo, such as Heidi Mausbach in Piazzolla’s Autumn.
Lina Bahn was the perfect choice as the guest violinist and soloist for this performance. She is daring and effortless in her choice of tempos, and her musicianship is strong and authentic. Music comes to her as the primary consideration, never flamboyant. Her tone is incredible, as is her sense of pitch, which never failed even in the most rapid portions of the Vivaldi. Lina Bahn is clearly a world-class artist, and her consummate artistry reflects and underscores that fact.
The evening was marked by its contrasts between Vivaldi and Piazzolla, and yet those contrasts, emphasized as they were by the pairings, were legitimate and wonderful to hear. Paul Erhard, bass and Erika Eckert, viola, were superb as was Lyn Loewi on the harpsichord continuo. I might add that “…Lyn Loewi earned a Doctor of Musical Arts from Stanford University, and a First Prize in Organ from the French National Conservatory. She has worked for many years as a choir director and organist, and has taught at Portland State University and at the University of Minnesota. She now works as a freelance musician in Denver, and is a regular volunteer organist at Saint John’s.”
This performance by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with Lina Bahn was as exciting as it was masterful. The tempos, and the musicianship, were something to behold: nothing was out of place, or out of order. Everything exceeded expectations.
Filed under: News
Extended Voices: Modern Masterworks – April 25 & 26
Boulder, Colorado (March 31, 2014) – The Ars Nova Singers, a professional-caliber ensemble of 38 musicians based in Boulder, will continue their 28th concert season with a program of modern masterworks for voices on April 25th and 26th. Connect with the future in this fascinating journey into the world of new music, featuring the winning works from our 6th Colorado Composers Competition: music by Nathan Hall, Leigha Amick, and Joseph Goodhew.
The program will also include adventurous music for voices by John Tavener (Village Wedding and the sublime Song for Athene), Samuel Barber, (Reincarnations, op. 16), Mason Bates (Observer in the Magellanic Cloud), and an ethereal extended chant by Robert Gass. Join us for an evening of fresh, innovative and hauntingly beautiful sounds with astonishing overtones and undertones, connecting with the listener on a deep, primal, and spiritual level.
When and Where:
Friday, April 25, 7:30 p.m.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine Street, Boulder
When and Where:
Saturday, April 26, 7:30 p.m.
Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave, Cherry Hills Village
Tickets are $24 for adults, $18 for seniors, $12 for college students, and $6 for youth. Tickets are on sale at our website: http://www.arsnovasingers.com or by phone: (303) 499-3165.
About the winners in the 6th Ars Nova Singers Colorado Composers Competition:
Nathan Hall is a doctoral candidate in music composition (DMA) at the University of Colorado. A former Fulbright fellow, he recently studied in Iceland, and his winning composition is a setting of an Icelandic poem by Stein Steinarr entitled Utan Hringsings (Outside the Circle). Mr. Hall’s evocative work includes soprano and baritone soloists and percussion.
Leigha Amick is a sophomore at Boulder High School and an Advanced Placement music theory student. She has studied composition at the Rocky Ridge Music Center and was a winner of the 2013 National Young Composers Challenge, having her winning piece performed by the Orlando Philharmonic. Ms. Amick set a translation of a Rumi text in her work Awake for mixed voices and flute.
Joseph Goodhew is a home-schooled high school senior. As a marimbist he has played with Kutandara Marimba Ensemble and as an organist he has accompanied the choirs of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. He was a winner of the 2013 Vancouver Chamber Choir Young Composer’s Competition. Mr. Goodhew’s winning piece for the Ars Nova Singers’ competition is a setting of Ave Maria for a cappella choir.
Eighteen composers (either current residents or composers born in the state of Colorado) entered works for consideration. The submitted works were screened by an initial review panel, and the top works were then read by the ensemble before the final winners were selected. Based on the entries received, the judging panel elected to give two prizes in the student composer category this year.
Ars Nova’s 28th season is made possible in part by grants from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (Boulder County); the Schramm Foundation; and the Avenir Foundation.
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Andrew Litton, Chad Cognata, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Dona Nobis Pacem, Missa Mirabilis, Peter Cooper, Rachmaninoff, Ralph Vuaghn Williams, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Stephen Hough
Saturday evening, March 29, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro Andrew Litton, welcomed Stephen Hough to a concert at Boettcher Hall. It was a remarkable concert, for not only did Stephen Hough perform, but the CSO performed one of his compositions. I daresay that many people do not know that he is a composer as well. Therefore, I will quote briefly from a bio statement that appeared in the program notes:
“Stephen Hough is regarded as a renaissance man of his time. Over the course of his career he has distinguished himself as a true polymath, not only securing a reputation as a uniquely insightful concert pianist but also as a writer and composer. Hough is commended for his mastery of the instrument along with an individual and inquisitive mind which has earned him a multitude of prestigious awards and a long-standing international following. In 2001, Hough was the first classical performing artist to win a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded the 2008 Northwestern University’s Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano, won the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award in 2010 and in January 2014 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in the New Year’s Honors List. He has appeared with most of the major European and American orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world. Hough resides in London and is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester.”
Stephen Hough’s work that the CSO performed Saturday evening was his Missa Mirabilis which was premiered in its orchestral version by the Indianapolis Symphony April 6, 2012. This orchestral version was commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, while the original version for choir and organ was commissioned by the Westminster Cathedral, and that version was premiered in 2007.
This composition makes use of the five parts of the sung portion of the Ordinary of the Mass. (The Ordinary contains those texts which remain the same at all times. The Proper of the Mass contains items which are changeable according to the season of the church year.) Thus, Hough’s composition makes use of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
The composition of this work has an interesting story connected to it, and I will quote as briefly as possible from the Chorus America website of March 21, 2012:
“Hough originally wrote Missa Mirabilis for the Westminster Chorus and after hearing the first performance, he desired to transform it into a symphonic work for a chorus and full orchestra. A Catholic, Hough said, ‘My Missa Mirabilis, as well as being a musical setting of the traditional Mass texts, explores some of the psychology behind them. The centerpiece of the work is the Creed – but what does believing mean? What if we don’t believe? Or if it’s all become jaded? Or if we fear our failing faith?’
“When asked why he used the term Mirabilis, Hough said, ‘Mirabilis means ‘miraculous’ and it is purely personal. I gathered a year’s-worth of sketches for the Mass together in September 2006 and wrote three of the movements in three days while visiting the Halle Orchestra. The following day, I had a serious car crash, overturning on the motorway at 80 mph; I stepped out of the untouched door of my completely mangled car with my Mass manuscript and body intact. I was conscious as I was somersaulting with screeching acrobatics on the highway, and one regret which went through my mind was that I would never get to hear this piece. Someone had other ideas.’
“Of the two remaining movements, I sketched the Agnus Dei in St. Mary’s Hospital a few days later, waiting four hours for a brain scan following the crash, and the Gloria later still while sitting in a practice room at the Hilbert Circle Theatre on a visit to play with the Indianapolis Symphony. I never did think at the time that I would orchestrate the piece and that it would receive its premiere in that same building,’ he added.”
In addition to the rather amazing events surrounding the piece, it is a breathtaking composition. Immediately noticeable was the orchestration of this piece. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Stephen Hough knows the orchestra and the inherent capabilities of each instrument as well. His orchestration is certainly as skillful as that of Ravel or Berlioz. Perhaps it is because my mind was prejudiced with his soon-to-be performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, but I could not help but hear some portions of the orchestration that reminded me very much of the sound that Rachmaninoff obtained in his four movement choral symphony, The Bells. The sound was full and lush, and it left me with the impression that none of it was left to chance. The Kyrie made marvelous use of the woodwind section, particularly oboe and bassoon (Peter Cooper and Chad Cognata were stunning, as usual), as well as the full horn section. In the Gloria, the full choir and brass combined again with woodwind section, and it was absolutely beautiful. There were several measures where two piccolos appeared from nowhere to produce an almost ethereal effect.
There is no question that Hough’s composition is a twentieth century work, for it used twentieth century harmonies. This was the first time I have heard this work, and I certainly have to hear it again. But the element of orchestration and expert choral writing is what left an indelible impression upon this first hearing. It was tremendous.
Following Hough’s composition, Missa Mirabilis, Huff joined the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Litton to perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43. This is such a famous piece that it needs no introduction, and, of course, everyone knows the eighteenth variation as “THE melody.”
This work is a theme with twenty-four variations. I would disagree strongly with the comment in the program notes that the work gets underway after a “brief introduction to set the stage.” It is not an introduction but the first variation which Rachmaninoff states before revealing the theme and Rachmaninoff states this as Variation I in the score. However, if one is familiar with Paganini’s 24 Caprices for violin, the opening is easily identifiable as the last Caprice.
The work is easily divided into three sections that resemble a fast-slow-fast structure of a concerto. Variations XI through Variations XVIII comprise the “slow movement.” Rachmaninoff also discovered as he was writing the variations, that the theme could evolve into the Dies Irae theme from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. This first appears in Variation VII and the next three variations as well. While some state that this is a reference to the myth that Paganini sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his unbelievable talents on the violin, I think it points out a characteristic that both Rachmaninoff and Stephen Hough share: a remarkable ability to see in the score things that remain unseen by the eyes of others.
Rachmaninoff simply must be credited with the uncanny ability to discern, and articulate, movements and ideas in musical compositions that remained hidden from so many other artists. And, I must say, that after hearing Stephen Hough perform, it is my strong belief that he has the same ability. Rachmaninoff was a huge man, 6’5” tall, and his enormous hands could reach almost two octaves – from C to A. The kind of technical demands with which Rachmaninoff filled all of his piano compositions are difficulties that he could play without effort. I assure you, that Stephen Hough can do exactly the same thing. I was amazed at Hough’s posture at the piano, for it was very similar to Rachmaninoff’s. Both pianists simply sat at the piano and went to work. There was no flailing of arms up to the ceiling or behind one’s back. There was no stomping of feet on the floor. And there certainly was no gaze heavenward as if beseeching divine assistance. I do not know the span of Stephen Hough’s hands, but it brought back the recording that I have heard of Rachmaninoff playing this work. The depth of Stephen Hough’s artistry at the keyboard, and his very clear desire to delve into what the composer wanted and expose that to the audience, was startling. Hough never uses his prodigious technique purely for the sake of amazing the audience. His playing always reflects his artistry and the artistry of the composer without any superficiality at all. There are many young pianists today who could use Stephen Hough as an example.
After the intermission the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony Chorus performed Ralph Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. This work was written in 1936 at a time when the rise of fascism alarmed Vaughn Williams, and caused him to write this moving work protesting against the terror of war. Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Piece) takes its texts from four different sources: the Mass, the Bible, poet Walt Whitman, and the British pacifist, Quaker John Bright. It is written in six sections that are performed without pause: Agnus Dei, Beat! Beat! Drums!, Reconciliation, Dirge for Two Veterans, and Finale. Appearing with the chorus and the orchestra were soloists Sarah Fox, soprano, and Christopher Maltman, baritone.
Sarah Fox received her training at London University and the Royal College of Music. She has won many awards and performed with orchestras and opera companies throughout Europe and England. Christopher Maltman studied at the Royal Academy of Music and has appeared in concert throughout Europe and the United States.
The first movement, Agnus Dei, is quite slow, and opens with the soprano pleading for peace. The second movement, Beat! Beat! Drums!, is, as you might expect, almost violent featuring some superb writing for brass and percussion. In comparison, Reconciliation sounds almost like a lullaby. And, of course, the Dirge for Two Veterans is a very slow solemn march. The Finale creates a mood that is glorious and gives us a sense of hope.
I suspect, and I could be completely wrong, that when the Colorado Symphony Chorus is used, there may be some regulation that all of the chorus must be used, but I found myself wondering what Ralph Vaughn Williams work would sound like with the choir half that size. The reason for the speculation is one that I have commented on in the past regarding the use of choirs. It is simply that the larger the choir the more difficult it is to understand the words. I hasten to point out that that difficulty arose Saturday night only occasionally. Nonetheless, it would have been wonderful to understand the text throughout the performance. Sarah Fox and Christopher Maltman both had wonderful voices, but the diction problem reared its head again as these two fine artists sang. Nonetheless, one could easily discern their musicianship and her dedication to what they do.
It pleases me greatly to tell you readers that there was a larger audience present Saturday evening, however, the Boettcher Hall was still not full as it should have been. This was a performance that was satisfying on every level, and exposed a depth of artistry that was very satisfying. Maestro Litton has wrought an amazing change in the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the soloists reflected that change in the joy and artistry of their performance.
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Alexi Tyukov, Amy Seiwert, Asuka Sasaki, Caitlin Valentine-Ellis, Chandra Kuykendall, Christopher Ellis, Dana Benton, DeVotchKa, Dmitry Trubchanov, Domenico Luciano, Edwaard Liang, Francisco Estevez, Jeanie Schroder, Jesse Marks, Kevin Gaël Thomas, Kevin Wilson, Klara Houdet, Lesley Allred, Luis Valdes, Maria Mosina, Max Richter, Morgan Buchanan, Nick Urata, Sandra Brown, Sean Omandam, Sharon Wehner, Shawn King, Shelby Dyer, Tom Hagerman, Tracy Jones
I always look forward to the Colorado Ballet’s series, which they have entitled Ballet Director’s Choice. Instead of one ballet being performed, the Colorado Ballet performs three short ballets, usually thirty minutes for each work, that have, for various reasons, caught the attention of the Colorado Ballet’s Artistic Director, Maestro Gil Boggs. The performance of these three ballets, in the last few years, has been done at Gates Hall in the Newman Center on the DU campus. While I certainly enjoy going to see the Colorado Ballet at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, I truly enjoy seeing the Ballet Director’s Choice done at Gates, because the three short ballets seem more personal and intimate. In addition, there are no sets or scenery, so it gives the audience the opportunity to concentrate on just the dancing, and that is a real joy because everyone in this ballet company is a true artist.
The Ballet Director’s Choice opened with the ballet Feast of the Gods, choreographed by Edwaard Liang, and music by the Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936). This particular short ballet was inspired by the history of the band of traveling Gypsies, which certainly reminded me of Respighi’s travels around the Italian Peninsula on a bicycle in his youth. The particular composition of his that Liang used for the ballet is Ancient Aires and Dances, which resulted from Respighi’s interest and knowledge in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italian music. Respighi was also a noted musicologist, linguist, and conductor.
The choreographer Edwaard Liang joined the New York City ballet in the spring of 1993. He has won many awards for his ballet work as a dancer, and after he became a member of the well-known Nederlands Dans Theater 1, he choreographed and staged ballets as well as dancing in them. He has danced and choreographed ballets for many companies: the Kirov Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and many others. I truly believe he is one of the most imaginative choreographers that I have had the pleasure to see.
His choreography in Feast of the Gods is absolutely sensational. It is remarkably fast-paced and extremely complex, and that carries throughout the entire work and applies to all of the dancers onstage. I have never been so aware of how the choreography of a ballet can unify the work as a whole. Chandra Kuykendall and Alexi Tyukov danced a spectacular pas de deux Friday evening. It required so much energy that Liang, through his demanding choreography, gave a very clear demonstration of not only the artistry of these two individuals, but their athletic ability as well. And that certainly applies to Sharon Wehner, Dmitry Trubchanov, Shelby Dyer, Luis Valdes, Dana Benton, Christopher Ellis, the wonderful Asuka Sasaki, Klara Houdet, and certainly, Jesse Marks. The point of mentioning all those names is not just that they deserve it, but to help explain to you readers who have not seen the Colorado Ballet, that this company is comprised of stellar performers, every one of whom is an artist. The movements choreographed by Liang require so much attention to detail from the dancers that it is astounding to watch. It made me wonder if there is not an entirely new vocabulary to describe the new contemporary movements. For example, is the term “de Côté” still used to indicate a sideways movement, when there is so much other movement combined with it?
The next work on the program was entitled Traveling Alone, choreographed by Amy Seiwert, who used music written by Max Richter. Ms. Seiwert danced with the Smuin, Los Angeles Chamber and Sacramento Ballet’s, and she eventually became the Choreographer in Residence with the Smuin after she retired from dancing in 2008. “She also directs Imagery, which is a contemporary ballet company that collaborates with artists of other disciplines” (Quoted from the program notes). She often receives commissions from other ballet companies in the United States.
Max Richter, whose music was used for this ballet was born in Germany in 1966, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in England, as well as studying at the University of Edinburgh. He also had composition lessons with the famed Italian composer, Luciano Berio in Florence, Italy.
Dana Benton and Jesse Marks were the soloists in Traveling Alone. Dana Benton has danced this role before, and she has a great dramatic sense in portraying someone who is totally alone. Both Dana Benton and Jesse Marks were sensational Friday evening, but after the curtain went down, I sat for a moment wondering if I had ever seen Jesse Marks perform as well as he did Friday evening. He was absolutely stunning. He seemed thoroughly comfortable in everything that he did, and it was also clear that Dana Benton was treating this ballet as an old, and well remembered, friend. The choreography in this ballet was just as fast-paced as in Feast of the Gods, but not quite as complex as the Liang. Chandra Kuykendall, Christopher Ellis, Shelby Dyer, Sean Omandam, Caitlin Valentine-Ellis, and Sharon Wehner, were also in this production. All of these dancers imbued their movements with a searing intensity that was absolutely startling. It seemed that they filled their performance with a sense of irrevocability, so that if anyone got in their way, the dancers would simply run them down. I could not help but notice that during this performance, the audience never made a sound, so rapt was their attention.
The third work on the program was entitled The Last Beat, and it was choreographed by the Colorado Ballet’s own Sandra Brown. She has vast dancing experience, and a great deal of choreography experience. For the American Ballet Theater, she choreographed her own ballet, Synchronicity, and she has assisted in choreographing The Nutcracker, Coppélia, Swan Lake, and she was chosen by Mikhail Baryshnikov to choreograph for the American Ballet Theater Choreographic Workshop. And, as all you readers know in 2006 she joined her husband, Gil Boggs, to work with the Colorado Ballet as a Ballet Mistress.
Her ballet, The Last Beat, is, as the program notes state, “Dedicated to those who are serving our country and for those who are waiting for them to come home.” One has the distinct feeling that the title of Brown’s ballet refers to the last beat of a dying soldier’s heart, rather than have anything to do with the inherent rhythm of the ballet. The music that she chose for her work was by DeVotchKa. DeVotchKa is, of course, a four-piece multi-instrumental and vocal ensemble. They take their name from the Russian word meaning “girl”. Based in Denver, Colorado, the quartet is made up 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.
The male dancers were dressed in camouflage, while the female dancers wore translucent skirts with an underskirt of a different color. There were five movements to this work, which sometimes used different dancers in each movement. Appearing for the first time Friday evening were Maria Mosina, Domenico Luciano, Kevin Wilson, Tracy Jones, Francisco Estevez, Kevin Gaël Thomas, Morgan Buchanan, and Lesley Allred. I apologize if I have left out anyone’s name, but this ballet required a very large cast, all of whom appeared together in the last movement. The name of the first movement was The Alley; movement two, All the Sand in the Sea; movement three, How It Ends; the fourth movement, Exhaustible; and movement five, The Last Beat of My Heart.
I was again taken by surprise at the drama and emotion that every dancer onstage communicated to the audience. For sheer impact, Maria Mosina, Domenico Luciano, and Asuka Sasaki were startling. But you must understand that the Colorado Ballet, as I have said so many times before, has such incredible depth that it is very difficult to say one is better than the other. However, Friday evening, in this ballet, it was Mosina, Luciano, and Sasaki who made me take notice. They were fluid, dramatic, and yet very graceful in their drama.
The one thing that I question about The Last Beat was the choice of music. Clearly, a choreographer chooses music to work with because of its rhythmic element, and because it must suggest something specific to the choreographer. Keep in mind that quite often music used by a choreographer has not necessarily been written for use in a ballet unless it was specifically commissioned for that purpose. The music by DeVotchKa made use of Nick Urata’s singing, and I found myself wondering if it was the text that helped Sandra Brown’s choice in using DeVotchKa. I, for one, could not understand anything that was being sung except for scattered words and phrases here and there. Therefore, the text of the song had no meaning for me. The rest of the music used, perhaps, three or four chords, which lent itself to a kind of minimalist feel, but did not carry the subtleties and complexities found in the music of Phillip Glass or Arvo Pärt. Certainly, there was a steady beat and constant rhythmic pattern. And, certainly, the dancers onstage had no difficulty following that beat. The choreography in this ballet was so excellent and imaginative, that I was left wondering about the choice of music.
The Colorado Ballet once more demonstrated that they are one of the best ballet companies in the United States. Their depth, their excellence, and the inherent art in everything they do are remarkable. Their dedication shows, and the audience reaps the rewards.
Filed under: News
In BOULDER and in BROOMFIELD, COLORADO— The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) will present “The Profound Dance” with special guest Andrew Cooperstock, piano
What: “The Profound Dance” — Boulder Chamber Orchestra
When: April 11, 2014, 7:30 pm
Where: The First Congregational Church, 1128 Pine St. Boulder, CO 80302
When: April 12, 2014 7:30 pm
Where: The Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Rd., Broomfield, CO 80020
The concert includes:
• Bach, Piano Concerto No. 1
• Stravinsky, Concerto in D
• Suk, Serenade for Strings
Admission: $25 General Admission, $18 Seniors, $12 Students, $5 Children 12 & Under
Box Office: Call (303) 583-1278 or visit http://www.boulderchamberorchestra.org for tickets.
About the Boulder Chamber Orchestra
The Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) is a non-profit organization committed to providing
exceptional chamber music programming, education, and outreach, as well as an outlet for talented local artists in the Front Range Community.
For more about concert locations, information and tickets please call: (303) 583-1278 or visit http://www.boulderchamberorchestra.org.
Filed under: News
WHAT: St. Martin’s Chamber Choir
“Audience and Singer Favorites”
Echoes from Twenty Years
WHEN & WHERE:
Saturday, April 5, 2014, 7:30 PMSt. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church
1060 11th Street
Denver CO 80204
(Auraria Campus, near Speer & Arapahoe)
Sunday, April 6, 2014, 3:00 PMHoly Cross Lutheran Church
4500 Wadsworth Blvd
Wheat Ridge CO 80033
This program will consist of favorites from all past seasons, as voted upon by audience members and St. Martin’s singers, in celebration of St. Martin’s 20th Anniversary.
Music by: C.V. Stanford, Terry Schlenker, Hubert Parry, William Byrd, Franz Biebl, Maurice Durufle, and Frank Martin.
Ticket Prices* Prem. $35, Gen. Admission $25, Student $10
To Obtain Tickets:
1 – http://www.stmartinschamberchoir.org
2 – 303-298-1970
3 – At the door / each performance
Single tickets for the Saturday, April 5 concert may be obtained only at the door the night of the performance, and for a suggested donation of the prices shown above.
Filed under: News
Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Guest Artists & the Season Finale Sesquicentennial Concert
The Lamont School of Music Spring Season features performances of Mozart’s popular opera Don Giovanni – a blend of comedy, drama and unforgettable music – as well as the University of Denver’s Sesquicentennial Concert, the season finale of the Lamont Symphony Orchestra and combined choirs performing the magnificent Gabriel Fauré: Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48.
The season opens with two Guest Artists. Russian folk trio, Zolotoy Plios will perform international folk songs and instrumental music on Tuesday, April 15, and critically-acclaimed Australian classical guitarist, Rupert Boyd will perform on April 16. Both recitals are in Hamilton Recital Hall at 7:30pm. Tickets $10.
The Lamont Opera Theatre and Lamont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) performs Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Gates Concert Hall featuring baritones Michael Hewitt and Thomas Kittle in the title roles. Don Giovanni, considered by many to be the greatest opera ever written, tells the story of Don Juan, a charming, deceitful nobleman and the women he romances. Lawrence Golan conducts the LSO, while director Kenneth Cox promises “A traditional and beautiful rendering of this classic opera.” Don Giovanni will run Thursday, April 17 at 7:30pm; Friday, April 18 at 7:30pm; Saturday, April 19 at 7:30pm and Sunday, April 20 at 2:30pm. Reserved seat tickets range from $11 to $30.
Next, faculty member Joseph Galema performs an all-French program on the magnificent William K. Coors organ on Sunday, May 4 at 4:30pm, and the DU Jazz Faculty Combo will host a cool evening of jazz Wednesday, May 14 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10.
The season ends with the Sesquicentennial Concert, a celebration of the University of Denver’s 150th anniversary. This special concert includes the Richard Strauss: Don Quixote performed by retiring cello faculty member Richard Slavich. Concluding the Sesquicentennial Concert is the Gabriel Fauré: Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48. Conducted by Catherine Sailer, combining the Lamont Symphony Orchestra with voices of the Lamont Chorale, Lamont Women’s Chorus and Lamont Men’s Choir. The Sesquicentennial Concert will be presented on Thursday, May 29 at 7:30pm in Gates Concert Hall. The concert is free, however tickets are required. Reserved seating in the parterre and mezzanine sections is available for $5.
Purchase and reserve tickets for all ticketed events through the Newman Center Box Office online at http://www.NewmanTix.com/lamont, call 303.871.7720, or visit the box office in the Newman Center, open 10:00am to 4:00pm Monday – Friday, and noon to 4:00pm on Saturday. Parking for these performances is complimentary in the Newman Center garage one hour prior to the concert.
For more information and a complete list of concerts, master classes and events, please visit the Lamont School of Music website at http://www.du.edu/lamont. For updated weekly information call the Concert Line at 303.871.6412. Check out LYRICS – Words and Media about the Lamont School of Music at http://lamontlyrics.com
Founded in 1864, the University of Denver is committed to improving the human condition and engaging students and faculty in tackling the major issues of our day. In 2014, the University of Denver will celebrate its sesquicentennial with a full calendar of events and programs that not only honor the institution’s 150-year commitment to serving students, the community and the public good, but that look forward to a future of continued achievement and innovation. The University of Denver ranks among the top 100 national universities in the U.S. For additional information, subscribe to The University of Denver Newsfeed, visit the sesquicentennial website or follow the University on Facebook and Twitter.