Opus Colorado


Lindsay Deutsch and the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra and Brahms

Friday evening, November 16, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Adam Flatt, opened the program with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony Nr. 99 in E flat Major. This symphony is the first of a second set of “London Symphonies,” in anticipation of his return to London in 1793, however, Haydn did not actually return to London until 1794. We do not know when in 1793 he composed this symphony, but at some point, he must have discussed these symphonies with Philip Salomon, the impresario responsible for bringing Haydn to London. As a matter fact, the London Symphonies are fairly often referred to as the Salomon Symphonies. Salomon’s orchestra in London had been enlarged to include a pair of clarinets, and as a result of the discussion with Salomon, Haydn included a pair of clarinets in this symphony for the first time.

Haydn (1732-1809) broke new ground in many ways in the sonata form (which is what a symphony is) and, of course, he was one of the innovators of the entire Classical Period because he provided so many models of this genre. He was incredibly prolific because he was an indefatigable worker, but he was also one of the very last composers to benefit from the patronage system, and he lived long enough to reap the benefits of his fame. The Esterházy family, for whom he worked, curtailed their musical activities around 1790, but Haydn was so well-known by that time, that it did not affect his income. He was known as the best composer throughout Europe, though he personally deferred to Mozart in that regard, even though Mozart was considerably younger. And, of course, Mozart died in 1791.

There is no question that under the direction of Maestro Flatt, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra has improved immeasurably; however, their performances are sometimes a little inconsistent. As they began the Haydn, the players were not together within each section, nor were the sections of the orchestra together. This was certainly not caused by ineptness on the part of Maestro Flatt, but it seemed to me, that there were many members of the orchestra who were not keeping their eyes on their conductor. In addition, they gave the impression that they were not carefully listening to each other. Their tune was passable, but their lack of precision gave the first movement of this work a very fuzzy sound. I have often said that all of the woodwinds in this orchestra are exceptional, and that belief is reinforced every time I attend a DPO concert. I have often wondered why the members of other sections in this orchestra don’t emulate the woodwind section when it comes to entrances and phrase endings.

The second movement of the Haydn in many ways suffered the same fate as the first, but the orchestra certainly did supply it with a wonderful amount of grace and melancholy. It is the belief of some Haydn scholars that the mood for the second movement was due to the death of Haydn’s close friend, Marianne von Genzinger. The graceful quality, and the ease with which the orchestra seemed to have in producing it, made me wonder why they couldn’t have more precise entrances. In a piece of music from this time period, precision in phrasing and entrances is crucial, and it is especially so in Haydn and Mozart because everything is so exposed. The orchestra’s dynamics were quite good, and in that regard only, did they seem to be listening to each other.

The tempo of the third and fourth movements was absolutely perfect, but unfortunately tempo does not always mean that the musicians are giving the work a sense of energy, and that is what Maestro Flatt was working so hard to produce. But, unfortunately the orchestra simply did not respond.

Following the intermission the DPO performed a work by the very prolific Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928- ). Quite late in life, he has established himself as one of the major composers of contemporary music in the world, but was often frustrated as a young composer, and was often quoted as saying, “If an artist is not a modernist when he is young, he has no heart. And if he is a modernist when he is old, he has no brain.” Nonetheless, Rautavarra attracted the attention of Sibelius who recommended him for a scholarship to study a Juilliard. There, he studied with Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions. After he returned to Europe he studied in Cologne with Rudolph Petzold from whom he learned twelve-tone technique. He eventually abandoned serial technique, and was more successful writing a very large number of choral, chamber, and vocal music, working, as he put it, “directly from the heart.”

The work performed by the DPO Friday evening was originally conceived as a piano suite, entitled, The Fiddlers, but Rautavaara rewrote it for string orchestra. This is a delightful work of five movements, each with contrasting moods based on finish folk music. The titles of the five movements are:

1.) The famous fiddles from Närbö arrive
2.) Kopsin Jonas plays for the forest
3.) Samuel the village organist
4.) Pirun Polska
5.) The Hypyt

Though the orchestra improves every time I attend the concert, there are fundamental things such as tune and ensemble that need to improve. In this work, the folk spirit was certainly recognizable, and the orchestra played with more energy than they had in the Haydn. This is a very early piece by Rautavaara, in fact it carries the opus number of one, so it was composed before he began using serial technique. It did show an affinity for Jean Sibelius, but it certainly did allow Rautavaara to display his own voice.

The last work on the program was Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77. This is, of course, one of the violin concertos of all time, and resides alongside the violin concertos by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bruch, and Berg. It is such a famous work that I feel I don’t need to comment about its history. It was performed by Lindsay Deutsch (follow the linke to her website http://www.lindsaydeutsch.com/), a young lady who is 26 years old, but who has a string of successes behind her that makes one think that she is at least 50 years of age. I have heard and written about Lindsay Deutsch before, and her musicianship and her technical ability come to her with such great ease that it takes one’s breath away. In addition to all of that, she has one of the most beautiful violins that I have heard for some time: it is in 1845 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. (A French violin maker, Vuillaume was inspired by Stradavari, and worked constantly to improve violins and bows. He made over 3000 violins during his lifetime, most of them carefully numbered). It has been a very long time since I have seen a violinist concentrate so hard on every single note being played, but again, that is what is required of a musician if one is to succeed in the same way that she has. I recall from my undergraduate days that Josef Gingold presented that same ability when he was on stage. The startling aspect of Ms. Deutsch’s concentration, however, is that it is displayed alongside a supreme confidence and casualness while she is performing. But do not be deceived: her overwhelming ability is startling in one so young.

She began the Brahms with great authority, and throughout, it was full of intelligence and passion. Over and over again she proved her musicianship. Her dynamics were absolutely perfect and covered an incredibly wide range. I began to notice that the DPO followed her every dynamic lead. I also began to notice that Maestro Adam Flatt was not working nearly as hard in the Brahms as he was in the Haydn and the Rautavaara. This is because the orchestra finally started listening to themselves, or so it seemed. Perhaps they were motivated by the stellar performance of Lindsay Deutsch, but for what ever reason, they stepped up, worked hard, and gave Deutsch the support that she and Maestro Flatt were asking for. However, there was one instance in the bass section where one of the musicians came in a couple of beats early.

In the second movement, the woodwinds absolutely excelled, but as I have said so many times, the DPO has the best woodwind section of any community orchestra in the Denver Metro area. Maestro Flatt and Ms. Deutsch took an absolutely perfect tempo in this movement, however, the violin section was sometimes out of sync with the soloist.

The third movement was exceptional in so many ways: it was full of warmth and solid tone, not only from Ms. Deutsch, but from the orchestra as well. In fact, the orchestra did so well in this Concerto that I wondered why they could not perform like this all the time. I truly think it was because they were listening to each other, and listening to Lindsay Deutsch, and as a result they certainly gave the impression that they were being inspired by the music that they were playing. That may sound like a cruel comment, but there was a marked difference from the orchestra in this work. I am puzzled as to why they cannot do this all the time.

To say that Lindsay Deutsch is talented is a shallow remark indeed. In addition, it hides the hours a day that she practices not only with her fingers, but with her ears and her mind. At a young age, she is a gifted artist with such a sureness and confidence of approach that one is left baffled. When she plays, one can tell that she is totally engrossed, and can genuinely hear what she wants to do, and that this is the most important thing in her life: to look within herself and show us, the audience, a totally new realm.



Lindsay Deutsch, Bahman Saless, and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra are World Class

The last four weeks have been amazing. I have attended four concerts, one of which was very good, one which was excellent, and two which were extraordinary and worthy of any concert hall you would care to name. One of the extraordinary concerts was Saturday night, October 1, given by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra at the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church of Denver.

To begin with, Maestro Bahman Saless invited the audience to move forward in the sanctuary because the acoustics were better down front. He had a trusted colleague stand in the sanctuary to check for balance and sound. As most of you readers of my articles know, I get a little peeved when this is not done, because I think it is the performers responsibility to check out the hall. But it does show that performers really care about the quality of their performance.

The first work on this program was Mozart’s Overture to Abduction from the Seraglio. This opera, with its exotic setting in a Turkish harem, was Mozart’s first real success as an opera composer. It was premiered in July of 1782, which was Mozart’s first full year in Vienna. The Opera has some very difficult roles for the singers: the soprano must go above high C, and the bass has trills in the lower registers.

I have always admired the performances by the Boulder Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Bahman Saless. However, the clarity of the Mozart overture Saturday night was truly exceptional. It really was quite possible to hear every single instrument in the orchestra, and entrances were exact and secure. The tempo and dynamics were perfect, and the entire performance was amazingly spirited and almost boisterous without being overdone. It was apparent that the entire orchestra was working very hard to be as cheerfully precise as possible.

Following the Mozart was the incredible Violin Concerto, Opus 64, by Felix Mendelssohn. Sometimes the general public, when asked about musical geniuses, considers only Mozart, while Mendelssohn seems to have escaped that ranking, at least until his name is mentioned specifically. But he was a virtuoso composer, pianist, violinist, conductor, and visual artist. Perhaps his life as a prodigy is not so well-known because he, unlike Mozart, was not pulled all over Europe by an exploitive father. In addition, he was happily married, and thus avoided the turbulent relationships of some of his contemporaries.

This concerto is different in that it has no introductory theme by the orchestra. The violin and the orchestra present a single exposition instead of having two contrasting expositions – one for the orchestra, and one for the soloist. The B theme group is presented by the woodwinds, and the violin is treated almost in an accompanying fashion. In addition, the cadenza is placed before the recapitulation, rather than after.

This concerto, of course, has become a mainstay of violin concerto repertoire, but it is a serious mistake to believe that every performance sounds the same. Saturday evening’s performance was given by Ms. Lindsay Deutsch.

I quote from her website:

“Ms. Deutsch is currently the Principal Guest Artist for Orchestra Nova. Upcoming and recent performances include the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series, Orchestra Nova, the Cape Cod, Las Cruces, Colorado, Longmont, Eugene, Newport, New West, South Carolina, Brevard, West Virginia, Norwalk, Knoxville, Fort Worth Symphonies, as well as the Portland, Boulder, Mission, McGill, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestras. Her newly commissioned ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ for violin and orchestra was recently premiered with the National Academy Orchestra in Toronto and will see its US premier this season at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

“Ms. Deutsch feels strongly that the young people of today need to be exposed to the world of classical music. She is actively involved in outreach programs to present classical music in new and exciting ways that will thrill and inspire the young audiences of today. She also has a page on her website specifically aimed at young musicians and their parents which attracts 70,000 hits per month. She has garnered corporate support for this site which encourages young musicians and selects a “Student Musician of the Month” which highlights and recognizes outstanding young musicians from all over the U.S. and Canada.

“In 2007, she and her sister, Lauren, co-founded a non-profit organization, Classics Alive (www.ClassicsAlive.org), dedicated to building classical music audiences.”

As Ms. Deutsch began to play, it was apparent that this was going to be an extraordinarily wonderful performance. It has been a very long time since I have heard such incredible lyricism from a violinist. I have heard many violinists play this piece, and some of the performances were exceptional indeed, but none of them had the incredibly sweet, lyrical sound that Lindsay Deutsch generates. It was rich and full, and seemingly without effort, though it was readily apparent that her concentration was on nothing but her violin and the orchestra. She has an absolutely phenomenal technique, both with her fingers and her bow. She does not exhibit any theatrics at all; the only motions involved are the ones necessary to make the music. It is amazing to watch her play, for she will occasionally turn her back to the audience in order to emphasize her sense of ensemble with the orchestra.

In the second movement, she demonstrated the maturity of an absolutely profound musician. I say this, because it is often much harder to play slowly with intensity, then it is to play fast and loud. Every single note has to be considered, and in slow movements one usually has the time to make that consideration. Her phrasing was absolutely masterful, and again there was her incredible tone and sweetness of sound. Maestro Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra matched her dynamics impeccably, and there was no question that Saless had great confidence in her artistic ability and reliability. It was truly a wonderful partnership.

Listening to her perform the third movement of this concerto simply left me speechless. The orchestra was clear and clean, and extremely accurate. She displayed absolutely stunning virtuosity, but it was obvious that she used her virtuosity to make Mendelssohn speak, rather than impress the audience. She made it clear, that in addition to her extraordinary technique, she is a musician first and a violinist second. Lindsay Deutsch is stunning and she is world-class, and she can bring tears to your eyes.

In addition, only on the rarest of occasions, have I heard a violinist that is so equally paired with his/her violin. It gave me the impression that her violin was perfectly suited to her style of playing. She was capable of drawing such beautiful sounds from the instrument, that it seemed her violin was also inspiring her musicianship. How fortunate she is to have found such an instrument! After the performance, I asked her what kind of violin she had, and she told me that it was a French Vuillaume.

After the intermission, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony Nr. 7 in A Major, Opus 92. This is a monstrously difficult work because of its rhythms and because of the tempos involved. So much has been written about this Symphony (in fact, all of Beethoven’s symphonies) that I am sure all of you are familiar with some of the most famous quotes from Beethoven’s contemporaries, and even musicians several years after his death. Did you know that the choreographer, Isadora Duncan, got into the act by choreographing this symphony, which, in my opinion, led to the distortion of its intent? There is no question that this was Beethoven’s final break with the tradition of Mozart and Haydn, not only in form but in harmony as well.

The first performance of this work was on December 8, in 1813, at the University of Vienna. It was a benefit concert for soldiers wounded in the war, waging at the time, against Napoleon. Beethoven conducted this performance, and many of his fellow composers and musicians, Hummel, Spohr, Meyerbeer, and Mocheles, volunteered their services as members of the orchestra. It is also interesting to note that, in this Symphony, Beethoven indicated metronome markings, for at the time this Symphony was written, Maelzel had only recently invented the instrument, and Beethoven became fascinated by it.

This was a superb performance at the hands of Maestro Saless. The opening was rather subdued, but began to build with impending excitement, and Saless allowed it to build all the way through to the end of the movement. It was almost as if the music itself was anticipating the Scherzo (movement three) and the last movement marked Allegro con brio. The woodwinds in this movement were excellent.

The second movement is quite similar to a funeral march. Though it is not specifically marked as such, its 2/4 meter and its repetition strongly imply a funerary mood. The difficulty of this movement is in keeping the orchestral sections together, because, at this tempo, which is slow, the slightest inconsistency would be very obvious. Saless took an absolutely perfect tempo in this movement. As a matter of fact, after the performance I commented on the tempos, and had a short discussion with Maestro Saless.  He assured me that he adhered to Beethoven’s tempos. That is something to remember, because many conductors do not. The rhythms in this symphony make this an especially difficult piece for any orchestra to perform.

The third movement requires incredible discipline at an incredible tempo. It is a scherzo with two trios – and that again sets this work apart, because scherzo movements have only one trio. There is the start of a third trio, but it ends abruptly with a coda of five fortissimo chords.

The last movement of this work is probably one of the hardest movements of any symphony ever written. Beethoven’s tempos, which I remind you that Saless took, are blindingly fast, and the music is simply treacherous. The horn section really stood out because their repeated notes were even and consistent. I have never heard the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, and I say again I have always admired their performances, be so amazingly consistent and so amazingly musical. This was pure Beethoven, and it was one of the most exciting, live performances of this work that I have heard.

The orchestra itself was very exciting to watch as well. No one just sat and moved his arms back and forth with his bow, or just sat and blew into his instrument. They put forth a phenomenal effort, and that is what Beethoven and Maestro Saless required. But Saless has such an easy way (even though you can tell he is working) of drawing what he wants from the orchestra.

When I go to a concert with the intent of writing a review, I take along my little spiral bound notebook which fits into my pocket. I take notes on the performance. But at this performance, there were so many times when I simply had to listen and not write a single word. The Mozart, the Mendelssohn, and the Beethoven were so full of life and done so beautifully, that I had to just sit and listen. Maestro Saless is a fine musician, as is this entire chamber orchestra.

So this was the third extraordinary performance in four weeks. The first two were the opening Boulder Philharmonic concert, the opening Boulder Bach Festival concert, and the third was the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. These three performances would have received standing ovations in Chicago, New York, or Prague. All three were world-class.

On October 28 and 29th, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra is uniting with the Ars Nova Singers to perform the Mozart Requiem. Have you heard the Ars Nova Singers? I know that under the direction of  Thomas Morgan they equal the Boulder Bach Festival, the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.

Denver, pay attention.



Boulder Chamber Orchestra announces new 2011-2012 season

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Bahman Saless have announced their new concert season for 2011-2012. Each concert has its own title which reflects the general spirit of the compositions performed for that particular concert. 

“Liberation” – September 30th & October 1st, 2011

Mozart    Abduction from the Seraglio, Overture

Mendelssohn    Violin Concerto, Lindsay Deutsch, violin

Beethoven     Symphony No. 7

Concert 1: First Congregational Church, Boulder

Concert 2: Montview Boulevard Presbyterian, Denver

 “Piety” – October 28th & 29th, 2011

With Ars Nova Singers

1st piece   To Be Announced

Mozart   Requiem

Concert 1: St. John’s Cathedral, Denver

Concert 2: First United Methodist, Boulder

 “Festivity” – December 16th & 17th, 2011

Rameau   Suite in G/g (La Poule)

Albinoni   Oboe Concerto in d, featuring Max Soto, oboe

Torelli   Christmas Concerto

Bach   Suite No. 2 in b, featuring Cobus du Toit, flute

Concert 1: First Congregational Church, Boulder

Concert 2: Jefferson Unitarian, Golden

 New Year’s Eve Concert – December 31st, 2011

Strauss

Waltzes and more (still working on details)

Note: This concert will be performed in the Glenn Miller Ballroom, UMC (?)

 “Joy” – February 10th & 11th, 2012

Biber   Battalia

Mozart   Divertimento, K.136

Diamond   Rounds for String Orchestra

Tchaikovsky   Serenade

Concert 1: Broomfield Auditorium

Concert 2: First Congregational Church, Boulder

 

“Reverence” – April 13th & 14th, 2012

Saint-Saens   Piano Concerto #2, featuring Claire Huangci, piano

Stravinsky   Pulcinella Suite

Prokofiev   Classical Symphony

Concert 1: First Congregational Church, Boulder

Concert 2: Broomfield Auditorium

 “Mastery” – May 11th & 12th, 2012

Rossini   L’Italiana in Algeri, Overture

Hummel   Trumpet Concerto, featuring John King, trumpet

Mendelssohn   Symphony No. 3, Scottish

Concert 1: First Congregational Church, Boulder

Concert 2: Broomfield Auditorium

This is a very good series of programs. The title of the entire season is “Road to Mastery.” And indeed, even though several of the pieces could be included in the last program, which is entitled Mastery, there is a sort of natural progression. And I point out that the titles for each program are quite apt. For example, take a look at the concert entitled Reverence. Here are three works which are truly “revered” because they are absolute masterworks.

Lindsay Deutsch, a young violinist who has taken the United States by storm will be the featured artist for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on the first program of the season. Ms. Deutch received her Bachelor’s Degree, and continues to study at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Robert Lipsett. She has performed with orchestras throughout the United Statesand Canada, in addition to performing the violin soundtrack for the 2006 movie, The Good Shepherd.

In addition to her many awards and concert credits, she and her sister, Lauren, have co-founded a non-profit organization, Classics Alive (www.ClassicsAlive.org), dedicated to building classical music audiences. I think this is a fantastic idea that more young musicians who are on the concert stage need to become involved with.

Another young American artist will perform with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra this coming season. She is Claire Huangci of Rochester,New York, and she will perform the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto Nr. 2.

Born in 1990, Claire became a student of Eleanor Sokoloff, a piano professor of the Curtis Institute of Music. In 2003, she was formally accepted by the Curtis Institute with a full scholarship from the Hirsig Family Foundation and continued her piano study under Eleanor Sokoloff and Gary Graffman. From there, she went on to win the Philadelphia Orchestra Competition and performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Wolfgang Sawalisch, one of dozens of American orchestras she has appeared with. Several of her performances were aired on music radio stations in 2006 and 2007. In May 2007, Curtis Director Gary Graffman honoured her with the Most Promising Student Award. She is continuing her work with Professor Arie Vardi in Germany at the Hanover Hochschule für Musik as she continues to perform throughoutEurope.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra’s own Max Soto, principal oboe, will perform Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in d minor. Max Soto has a Masters Degree in Performance from the Lamont School of Music, and has performed throughout the United States. Max began his musical education with the Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil de Costa Rica which allowed him to study with Principal Oboist Jorge Rodriguez and helped to cultivate a passion for classical music and the oboe. Max arrived in the USA in 1996 at the Loyola University of New Orleans and received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance. Max began his professional career as the Assistant Principal oboist with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra.

John King, principal trumpet with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, will perform the Trumpet Concerto by Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Since moving to Coloradoin 2004 John has performed with all major arts organizations including Colorado Symphony and Colorado Ballet.  Before moving here he was in the San Francisco Bay area for many years, and during this time he held the position of Second Trumpet in San Jose Symphony and was Principal Trumpet in Californiafor eighteen seasons.  In addition, he worked extensively with the San Francisco Symphony including numerous national tours and recordings. 

Another amazing musician from the BCO, Cobus du Toit, will perform the Bach Suite Nr. 2 in b. Cobus held the principal position in the National Youth Orchestra of South Africa which toured to Germany for the Beethoven Festival in Bonn. While in Germany, Cobus also performed at noted venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie under conductor Herbert Blomstedt. Other orchestral experience includes the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of South Africa, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra and the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Certainly, no one will want to miss the October concert. Thomas Edward Morgan and the Ars Nova Singers will perform the Mozart Requiem. I have stated before, and I mean this in all sincerity, that the Ars Nova Singers is one of the best choral groups in the United States. If any of you readers have not heard them, you must come to this performance. The pairing of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and the Ars Nova Singers will be a performance that you absolutely must hear.

The artists involved, and the difficulty of the programming, are indicative of the quality of this organization. The Boulder Chamber Orchestra continues to set a new standard for itself. Maestro Bahman Saless has established a real criterion for this young organization which was founded in 2004. Their website says that they have become Boulder’s premier chamber orchestra. I truly think that should be changed to read one of the region’s premier chamber orchestras.




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