Opus Colorado

The Mendelssohn Trio: Another fine performance
April 28, 2012, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

I am always quite pleasantly surprised by the number of fine chamber ensembles in the state of Colorado. Friday evening, April 27, the Mendelssohn Trio gave a wonderful performance in Hamilton Hall on the DU campus. The Mendelssohn Trio is in residence at Colorado State University, and is comprised of Theodor Lichtman, piano; Barbara Thiem, cello; and Ronald François, violin. Friday evening’s performance was augmented with Margaret Miller, a terrific violist, whose presence made it possible for them to perform Dvořák’s Piano Quartet, Op. 87. As a matter fact, there were two works performed on Friday evening’s program: Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio, Opus 97, and the Dvořák. But, make no mistake about it; this is a full program. Both of these works are enormous, and require the utmost in listening from the audience, as well as the utmost in stamina and courage from the performers. But, you must understand all four of these musicians possess the undeniable qualities of stamina and courage, as well as supreme musicianship.

The only disappointing aspect of the evening was the fact that the audience was so pitifully small. It astounds me that when such a superb chamber group performs, that the hall was not full.

The first work on the program was the famous “Archduke” Trio of Beethoven’s. This trio was the last finished of Beethoven’s trios, and Beethoven considered it one of his finest works. This is the first piano trio of the classical period wherein the piano and violin and cello are truly equal partners. This particular work is known for its lyricism. I could not locate my score to this piece, but as I recall, the violin and cello have only six measures, after the piano begins the first movement, to make their entrance. They play a little duet, and then announce the theme that was originally played by the piano. This piece has always seemed to me quite remarkable for a Beethoven piano trio, for there is nothing of any pressing urgency throughout the entire work. It is all very lush and very straightforward. These three performers have absolutely exquisite control over dynamics, and this aspect was highlighted by the fact that they are so very comfortable performing with each other. The phrasing was absolutely perfect, and the balance between all three performers was excellent as well. When I say balance, I am referring specifically to the ability of these three individuals to allow each one to have their own expressive road upon which to travel.

The second movement is a scherzo, and their tempo was absolutely perfect because one could hear absolutely every idea that Beethoven wanted us to hear. And, there is an abundance of things to hear in this movement including the remarkable chromaticism. Lichtman, François, and Thiem have a unique way of playing together, in that, everything is so perfectly clear. And, speaking of chromaticism, the third movement of this piece, which is marked andante cantabile, has its own remarkable chromaticism: an absolutely, totally unexpected, German 6-5 chord. Every time the main theme returns – and this movement is really a theme and variations – that chord is a wonderful surprise. It is so easy for some musicians to overdo this surprise, because of its emotional impact, let alone its own element of revelations, for truly, that’s what it is. There is much to say about Beethoven’s contemporary, Franz Schubert, and his chromaticism. He most certainly used this chord, but in a much more subtle way. And, the way it was performed Friday night by the Mendelssohn Trio, when this movement reaches its end, one cannot help but think that Beethoven’s use of this chord is equally perfect. The Mendelssohn Trio allowed so many instances such as this to simply unfold the way the composer wished. The third movement was absolutely stunning, and it truly seemed as though these three musicians were joined at the hip.

The fourth movement was simply full of joy. This is the one movement of this piano trio that puts everyone on his/her mettle (trust me, I know). It is truly an almost boisterous movement which is a total joy to listen to. This was truly wonderful Beethoven, performed in a way, which, as I said, was boisterous, but with no crudity, which is sometimes, by some performers, associated with Beethoven.

After the intermission, the Mendelssohn Trio performed Dvořák’s monumental Piano Quartet, Opus 87. It is my own personal belief that Dvořák is a very underrated composer, though everyone is familiar with his name, and certainly, everyone knows the New World Symphony and the Dumky Piano Trio. There is much of his output which is not performed, or even explored in the university sophomore level music history classes.

This Piano Quartet in E Flat Major certainly does contain some of the folk influences that many music history teachers simply dismiss as “Nationalistic Influence,” but it is hugely appealing on many other levels as well. This entire work could be considered as treatises on the Sonata form, and is full of the vehicle difficulties that make all four instruments work extremely hard. I think that its originality and its typically Dvořák-ian (please excuse me for that) craftsmanship, which is so excellent, make it an unjustly neglected work.

The Mendelssohn Trio began this work with true vigorousness. François and Miller (remember, she was the guest violist of the evening) accomplished the tremolo’s at the end of the first movement perfectly. All four musicians literally “dug in” to this music with true conviction, and it was very clear that they enjoyed performing this work. In the second movement, which is marked Lento, Barbara Thiem was wonderfully intense in tone and expression. The performance of this movement was truly spectacular because of the communication between all four of the musicians. It is always such a joy to watch individuals who are united in their consideration of music as their first priority rather than displaying their own personal technique.

The third movement, which Dvořák marked grazioso, was just that: graceful, even though it is done at a fairly quick tempo. The fourth movement was full of energy and emotion and joy. There is no question that the performance of this entire Piano Quartet exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm. The response by the audience was a standing ovation, and I am sure that they noticed the enthusiasm demonstrated by all four performers.

I must say that I felt that the performance of the Dvořák exceeded that of the Beethoven, but you must understand that the Beethoven was done exceptionally well. The Dvořák had the necessary spark.

Concerning the guest artist Margaret Miller, I will quote from the program notes:

“Margaret Miller has been Assistant Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at CSU since 2004, and is also the coordinator for the Graduate Quartet program. Prior to joining the CSU faculty, Ms. Miller was violist of the Da Vinci Quartet for eighteen years, touring throughout the United States and recording three CDs for the Naxos American Classics label.

“Ms. Miller maintains a private studio in Colorado Springs, where she is also on the faculty of Colorado College and Pike’s Peak Community College. She has been honored for her teaching by the Colorado Chapter of the American String Teachers Association and the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony.”

Concerning the members of the Mendelssohn Trio:

“Dr. Ron Francois’ performances as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician has consistently won the acclaim of notable musicians. ‘…a big talent…’ said Abram Shtern concertmaster of the Kiev State Opera and professor at the Kiev Conservatory. Others proclaim Francois’ playing as ‘…extremely musical…Francois plays with great sensitivity and warmth…’ said concert violinist Daniel Heifetz ‘…A wonderful musician…sensitive ensemble player and a brilliant violinist,’ said Michael Tree from the Guarneri String Quartet.

“A recipient of the Quebec Arts Council Grant, Francois began his career under the tutelage of concert violinist Daniel Heifetz and members of the Guarneri String Quartet. Francois concertized all over the USA and abroad with Heifetz as soloist, and as a member of his ‘Classical Band’. Consequently, Francois has performed several major solo works with orchestras in Canada and throughout the United States. He has also studied with David Salness of the Audubon Quartet, Elizabeth Adkins, Zvi Zeitlin and taken masterclasses with Charles Castelman.

“In addition to his performance activities, Ron Francois serves as Head of the String Division at Colorado State University in Fort Collins Colorado where he has been on the faculty since 2002.”

“Barbara Thiem is an internationally acclaimed cellist who combines teaching cello and coaching chamber music with her active schedule of performances in Europe and the United States, playing recitals, solo with orchestra, and chamber music. She is a member of the Mendelssohn Trio and in the summers administers the International Summer Academy of Schloss Ort, Austria. She holds degrees from Cologne, Germany, where she studied with avant-garde cellist Siegfried Palm, and from Indiana University where she was assistant to Janos Starker and was awarded the coveted Performer’s Certificate. In addition to concertizing, she has recorded for many radio stations and has produced several CDs among them a set of Bach Suites for cello solo, Complete Works by Felix Draeseke for cello and piano with pianist Wolfgang Mueller-Steinbach, Works for Cello and Organ with organist Robert Cavarra, and Cello/Bass duets with Gary Karr. She has published the translation of Gerhard Mantel’s Cello Technique as well as a number of articles on good postural and practicing habits which appeared in the ASTA and Suzuki Journals. She has also been involved in research as part of the Center for Biomedical Research in Music Therapy at CSU.

“Presently she is teaching and performing at Colorado State University. In addition to studio teaching of cello and chamber music, she is teaching a three semester course of cello pedagogy, as well as organizing the Pre-College Chamber Music Program and the biennial Rocky Mountain Contemporary Music Festival.”

Ted Lichtman is certainly well-known throughout Colorado and much of the United States. Nonetheless, I will include a short bio statement:

“Theodor Lichtmann, pianist, was born and educated in Switzerland. He studied at the University of Munich and the Vienna Academy of Music as well as privately with Irma Schaichet and Leonard Shure, assistant to legendary Arthur Schnabel. Lichtmann received his Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is highly sought after as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the U.S. and internationally and is co-founder of the Mendelssohn Trio. Professor Lichtmann has taught in Zurich, the Brooklyn Conservatory, the University of Texas at Austin and Wittenberg University. Until his retirement he was Professor of Piano at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver in Colorado.”

This was an absolutely delightful chamber music concert. All of you who attended this performance are aware of that: all of you, who did not attend, make the effort the next time the Mendelssohn Trio performs.


Michael Butterman debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra
April 19, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: News

I just received a very exciting press release concerning the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra’s conductor, Maestro Michael Butterman. After conducting many orchestras throughout the United States – and, I might add, getting outstanding reviews – he is going to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra. I have absolutely no doubt that the musicians in that orchestra will admire his conducting style a great deal, but from a purely selfish point of view, I am pleased that he is not moving permanently to Cleveland, because it is my supreme wish that he stay in Boulder. As I have stated before in articles, the Boulder Philharmonic musicians really seem to respond to his leadership and have a high regard for the way he conducts. He is an outstanding musician, and every once in a while the state of Colorado loses one who is as gifted as Michael Butterman. But I can guarantee you that he will have a very enjoyable experience with the Cleveland Orchestra, and I do think that everyone in Boulder should give him a hearty round of applause.

I will quote directly from the press release:

“Michael Butterman, known for his leadership in shaping a new model for today’s conductors, makes his debut appearance leading the famed Cleveland Orchestra on Sunday, May 6, at 2 p.m., in Severance Hall. He will lead the orchestra in a performance of Beethoven Lives Upstairs, part of the orchestra’s family concert series.

“It is a distinct privilege to have the opportunity to work with one of the greatest orchestras in the world,” said Butterman. “In addition to its long history of outstanding concerts and recordings, the Cleveland Orchestra has sustained a commitment to performances that reach out to families and young people.”

Butterman, who is the Music Director of the Boulder Philharmonic and the Shreveport Symphony Orchestras, and the Resident Conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony, is also the Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra—the first position of its kind in the United States, and a position he has held for 12 years.

“In demand as a guest conductor, Mr. Butterman’s recent engagements include appearances with the Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Hartford Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, El Paso Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony, Mobile Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Pensacola Opera, and Asheville Lyric Opera. Summer appearances include Tanglewood, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado and the Wintergreen Music Festival in Virginia.

“It is so important that our finest orchestras continue to program concerts specifically for young people,” said Butterman. “There is no replacement for the experience of hearing live orchestral music and engaging the creative senses of our future musicians and audiences.”

“Beethoven Lives Upstairs, written by Barbara Nichol, tells the story of young Christoph’s experience as he develops a friendship with Ludwig van Beethoven, the new tenant who has moved in upstairs. The performance includes excerpts from more than 20 of the Beethoven’s most popular works and serves as a vehicle for understanding the magic and the madness of this legendary genius.

“Founded in 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s best orchestras. With an extensive discography, and frequent national and international tours, it regularly collaborates with the leading soloists and conductors in the classical music world.”

For ticket information for the Cleveland Orchestra’s performance, May 6, 2012, visit www.clevelandorchestra.com. For additional information about Michael Butterman, visit www.michaelbutterman.com.


The Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra hosts a soirée: Larry Graham

Saturday evening, April 14, the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra held a soirée at the magnificent home of Stanley and Elissa Guralnick in Boulder. The featured artist for the evening was none other than the inimitable Larry Graham who performed a benefit recital for the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra. For those of you who have not made the acquaintance of the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, you are in for a treat. It is a relatively new chamber group in Boulder, but they have quickly established themselves as a superb organization of true musicians which was formed under the leadership of Maestra Cynthia Katsarelis.

“Ms. Katsarelis was Conducting Assistant with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops, and held positions as Associate Conductor with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (North Carolina) and Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra. She made her international debut leading the Bourgas Philharmonic in Bourgas, Bulgaria. In Colorado, Cynthia was recently invited to assist the Colorado Music Festival by conducting the offstage brass in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the “Resurrection.”

“Ms. Katsarelis’ commitment to working with young musicians took her to Haiti in the Spring of 2004 to guest conduct the Haiti Philharmonic at the Holy Trinity School of Music in Port-au-Prince. She has also conducted clinics and sectionals at numerous Colorado high schools, including Fairview in Boulder, Thompson Valley and Loveland high schools, as well as Rocky Mountain high school. In February of 2006, Ms. Katsarelis guest conducted the University of Nebraska (Omaha) Honors Orchestra. Under Cynthia’s leadership, the Youth Orchestra of the Rockies has grown from a program of 40 students to more than 80.

“Ms. Katsarelis studied Violin and Conducting at the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University, earning her Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees. At the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, she pursued doctoral studies in Orchestral and Opera Conducting. She studied with Frederik Prausnitz, Charles Bruck, and Kenneth Kiesler, and has also participated in master classes led by Neema Jarvi, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yoel Levi, Marin Alsop, and Helmuth Rilling.”

Even though this organization is comparatively new in relationship with other chamber groups in Boulder and the state of Colorado, they have established a reputation for excellence and musicianship.

Larry Graham is well-known to everyone in Colorado, and in the fall of 2011, performed with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Players. Nonetheless, I will include a short bio statement below.

“Pianist Larry Graham has twice scored major successes as the top-ranking American in both the Queen Elizabeth Concours in Brussels (1975), and the Artur Rubinstein Competition in Tel-Aviv (1977). The Brussels competition brought Mr. Graham into the public spotlight. His brilliant performances won for him the coveted “Prize of the Public” by an overwhelming vote of the audience that witnessed the finals. Le Soir of Brussels hailed Graham’s popularity as “significant and encouraging. It shows that the popular audience preferred music to virtuosity, charm to velocity, and sentiment to frenzy.” A recording contract with Decca records and professional management followed. As the favorite of the public, he has been invited back numerous times for concerts.

“Graham is a native of Oklahoma and received his training at the Juilliard School in New York City, as a scholarship student of Rosina Lhevinne and Martin Canin. Early successes in such piano competitions as the Kosciuszko, Bloch, and G.B. Dealey resulted in his debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1965. In 1969, Mr. Graham won the Concert Artists Guild auditions which led to his New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. His mastery of the piano repertoire encompasses works of Bach through Stravinsky. Since the Queen Elizabeth success in 1975, Larry Graham has performed over 30 different concerti with orchestras in the United States and abroad as well as numerous solo engagements. Larry Graham lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he continues to teach gifted young piano students. For 25 years he was a member of the piano faculty at College of Music at the University of Colorado in Boulder.”

Saturday evening, Mr. Graham performed three of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues from Book I of his well-known Well Tempered Clavier. In addition, he performed Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 27, Nr. 2, otherwise known as the “Moonlight Sonata,” (a sobriquet given to the sonata by the music critic, Ludwig Rellstab, a contemporary of Beethoven’s [I have often wondered if Beethoven didn’t cringe at this sub-title]). Following the Beethoven, Mr. Graham performed movements three and four from Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.

In the first paragraph of this article I referred to Larry Graham as the “inimitable Larry Graham.” The reason I did so is because it is so refreshing to hear a pianist these days who is a musician first and a pianist second. There are so many new pianists on the scene who rely on absolutely incredible facility (which Larry Graham has) without the prerequisite and necessary musicianship. They are under the impression that if they can play truly fast, that is enough to secure success. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth: one must be a musician, and certainly Larry Graham is that.

The Bach was unbelievably clean and clear. It was certainly stylistically correct, but at the same time, it was wonderfully expressive. In the fugues, every entrance of the subject was marked without being pedantic and obtrusive. It was done with great ease and sureness. Keep in mind that this was a soirée, and I was sitting about 10 feet away from the piano – which, I might add, had been beautifully prepared, and was in perfect tune. The ornaments which are indicated in the Preludes and Fugues are in the German style, but Mr. Graham’s ornaments, upon this hearing, seemed almost French, so I am curious about which edition he used. But understand,  that is simply a curiosity, and not a criticism of Larry Graham’s playing.

The Beethoven, which followed, was absolutely perfect, and again, the tempo of the last movement, which is marked Presto, was perfect. Some of the young lions of today play this much too fast, without a thought to the fact that piano technique in Beethoven’s time had not progressed to the point where pianists played blindingly fast as they do today. The piano, as we know it, had not truly been invented until 1821, and that piano was built by Broadwood of England. They presented that piano to Beethoven, and it was the first piano to have an iron frame. So, you must understand, that the piano is a relatively new instrument as compared to other instruments. Beethoven’s piano for which he wrote the sonata, was known as a forte piano (not piano forte) and it had no iron frame, and the action was considerably slower in its response to the pianist. Therefore, it was comparatively difficult to play blindingly fast the way pianists do today.

Following the Beethoven, Larry Graham performed the third and fourth movements – Forlane and Rigaudon – from Maurice Ravel’s well-known Le Tombeau de Couperin. Once again, Graham displayed his musicianship by taking absolutely perfect tempos for these two movements. The tempos allowed everything that Ravel wrote to be exposed. The importance of that seems to be secondary among many of today’s younger pianists. Graham’s performance reminded me very much of those of Vlado Perlemuter’s, who was on the faculty at the School of Music at Indiana University (now known as the Jacobs School of Music) when I was an undergraduate there. Those performances were startlingly clean, and once again, every single note that Ravel wrote could be heard. That was the case with Larry Graham’s performance on Saturday evening. It was truly exhilarating.

I might add that the entire evening at this soirée was exhilarating. The company was wonderful; the conversation was delightful, as were the refreshments. The host and hostess were indeed gracious to offer their home for this performance. It was perfect.

And, for those of you who have not heard the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, you will have a chance on May 5, at the first United Methodist Church in Boulder. For details, go to their website at http://www.promusicacolorado.org/.

This is another group in Boulder that deserves your attention.


The responsibility of media to the arts
April 15, 2012, 9:57 am
Filed under: Commentary

For most of my life, I have preferred radio over television. Part of the reason for that is that I grew up without television until I was thirteen or fourteen years of age, and there is no doubt that one is formed early on in his or her perspective. In addition, radio was primarily a source of information, and secondarily, entertainment. It is still difficult for me to adjust to the 30 second in-depth reports that comprise TV news. When I do listen to the radio, I listen mostly to NPR, CPR (Colorado Public Radio), and BBC, but for now I will address some issues that I have with NPR and CPR.

A few days ago I had occasion to go to the NPR webpage. Their page is divided into several headings: News, More News, Arts & Life, Most Popular, and Music. Under the Music heading, there were twelve articles on popular music, one article on ethnomusicology, and two articles for serious music, one of which was a cartoon.

I am perfectly aware that NPR has radio programs on serious music, and anyone who scrolls to the bottom of their website can see them listed. But my question is this: Why doesn’t NPR list their serious music programs where they are in plain sight, and place them on equal footing with popular music? NPR takes such pride in appealing to people of “sophisticated tastes” so I wonder why they don’t make more of an effort to expose serious music in an age where serious music is seldom taught in the schools, and when some college music schools are switching their main thrust to commercial music, simply because they wish to show deference (so they will pay the tuition) to the younger undergraduate students who have never known anything but popular music.

On NPR’s program, Fresh Air, the vast majority of guests are involved with pop and commercial music with precious little time given to serious music. On Colorado Public Radio, there are ads for a new division called Open Air which is dedicated to pop music. They announce that Open Air is dedicated to “new music” so they will not be aligned with anything old. It is a shame that this radio station does not have a new serious music station, which plays nothing but “new” serious music, because there are so many young people who are not even aware that serious music is still being composed. On the other hand, that does seem to be a lot to request, for this classical radio station, KVOD, which is part of CPR, seldom plays anything beyond 1940. And always at the dinner hour, they play relaxing music, just as in the morning they play Baroque. In short, someone at the station seems to be more concerned with music as a companion to mood rather than an art. They are terribly afraid that they are going to offend people, without realizing, and knowing, they are offending people by abrogating their responsibilities to culture by their omissions.

NPR and CPR do not seem to realize – and I have said this before – that they have a responsibility to culture (music, art, literature, and language) and to the young people who may listen to their station who receive absolutely nothing related to culture in the public schools. I hasten to point out, there are some public schools that have not done away with culture altogether. On the other hand, NPR and CPR do seem to be relatively immune from criticism that is communicated to them directly, for I still hear some of their announcers continue to make the most insufferable comparisons (I quote: “J. S. Bach was the Tim Tebow of the Baroque period of music.”) when discussing composers.

Many have told me that I worry about the changes in culture too much, and perhaps I do. They have emphasized that culture always changes. However, I would say that culture also depends on art, and while I am fully aware that art changes with its times just as “art” changed during the Impressionist Period, it seems that our culture may be changing without any art because any form of art is lacking on so many fronts.

I am always astounded because there seems to be no connection between critical perceptions of today and past awareness of cultural aesthetics, and the possible outcomes of such a gap in thought.

Again, I state that there have been many individuals say that I worry for nothing: that culture always changes, and there is no way to stop the change. I am sure that Hector Berlioz and Théodore Gouvy felt the same way when they were trying to have their symphonies heard in Paris, when all the Parisians wanted to hear were little operettas; however, these two composers were able to reverse the declining aesthetic environment through direct insistence of practicing their art. But, I must say that it is sometimes easy to imagine even a temporary death of culture in the same way that Heinrich von Kleist’s heroine dies in his play, Hermannsschlacht, not only because of catastrophe, but because of total inaction: “Pale, like dying lilies, she sank with wilting limbs into the arms of her wailing mother; her lovely eyes faded and closed, the charming crimson vanished from her lips; still full of grace in death, her body growing cold, breathed its last, and her soul departed its abode with quiet sighs.”

I am under no illusion that art, music, and literature are going to die away, and I am perfectly aware that times do change. I do, however, fear inaction. Even 50 years ago, the arts were an element of significance in our daily lives. Many newspapers are suffering financial hardships, and have found it necessary to reduce their staff of critics. At least those critics put before the public articles of review and preview, even though they were journalists first, and had no very extensive knowledge of the arts.

It is my hope that all will sit up and take notice that ratings, commercialism, and dilettante-ism are shoving aspects of our culture aside, in favor of pursuits which are more akin to entertainment than to art.

The Colorado Ballet’s new season: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring!
April 13, 2012, 2:11 pm
Filed under: News

After an absolutely stellar season, the Colorado Ballet has announced the performances that will make up their season of 2012-2013. It is going to be a very exciting one, and I am absolutely thrilled with the fact that they are going to do Igor Stravinsky’s great ballet, The Rite of Spring. If any of you readers have ever considered attending the ballet, but have not, this is one performance that simply cannot be missed. I am quite sure that many of you know the music to this wonderful ballet, but how many of you have ever seen it danced? The season that has just ended, is one of the best that the Colorado Ballet has ever performed, and now it truly is time for them to do some Stravinsky.

Below, I have quoted directly from the press release that I received from the Colorado Ballet. It is an ambitious season, and I urge you to get your tickets early. It will be another outstanding year, and I guarantee you that is not an empty promise.

Colorado Ballet Artistic Director Gil Boggs announced the 2012-2013 season, which will feature technically-challenging classical ballet with innovative contemporary premieres.  Marking the Company’s 52nd season, the four-production lineup will stay true to Boggs’ artistic vision of presenting superior quality classical ballet and innovative dance.

“This is a season for our dancers, which will showcase their talent and abilities and is sure to give audiences an inspiring experience,” said Boggs.  “It speaks well of a company that it can perform one of the greatest full-length classical works ever, The Sleeping Beauty, and transform to the raw power of dance to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.  I’m also very excited that our Repertory Production will be performed for the first time in my tenure with the accompaniment of the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.”

Colorado Ballet opens its season with the classical storybook ballet The Sleeping Beauty October 5-21, 2012 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. This beloved fairy tale features choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Tchaikovsky, performed by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.  Colorado Ballet will demonstrate that love conquers all in this classic story.

Colorado Ballet’s season continues in November with Denver’s favorite holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, November 24 through December 24, 2012 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The Nutcracker features unforgettable characters and dazzling costumes and scenery by José Varona. This seasonal tradition will feature classic choreography paired with Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary arrangement performed live by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.

In February 2013, Colorado Ballet transitions from storybook ballets to an innovative collection of three different works.  Colorado Ballet will present the Repertory Production February 22 through March 3, 2013 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.  Highlighting this program will be a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s composition of The Rite of Spring.  Colorado Ballet is honored to be dancing the ballet The Rite of Spring, with choreography by Glen Tetley.  Also in this program will be George Balanchine’s ballet Theme and Variations, performed to the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3 for Orchestra in G major, Op. 55.  To round out the program, Colorado Ballet is proud to bring in Val Caniparoli, choreographer for San Francisco Ballet to create a new work on the company.  Caniparoli’s versatility has made him one of the most sought after American choreographers in the United States and abroad, contributing to the repertories of more than 35 dance companies.  He has created a body of work that is rooted in classicism but influenced by all forms of movement: modern dance, ethnic dance, social dancing, and even ice-skating.

“Along with Stravinsky’s incredible music and the choreography of Glen Tetley’s The Rite of Spring, we will perform a ballet by one of the greatest choreographers who ever lived, George Balanchine’s Theme & Variations,” said Boggs.  “I’m also very excited to have choreographer Val Caniparoli create a new work with Colorado Ballet for the first time.  These three works in one evening with a live orchestra performance will make for a very powerful night of dance.”

Colorado Ballet will close out the season with Light /The Holocaust & Humanity Project March 29-31, 2013 at the Newman Center at the University of Denver.  Making its Denver debut, this ballet explores the issues surrounding the Holocaust.  The work explores human suffering in the face of genocide, as well as people’s capacity to survive and flourish as individuals and as a community.  When it premiered in 2005, Light /The Holocaust & Humanity Project brought national attention to Ballet Austin and choreographer Stephen Mills. Set to the music of five of the most important living composers, Mills’ original choreography turns the spotlight on discrimination and triumph of the human spirit.

“Stephen Mills has not only given the dance world a creation of refection and hope but also a work that transcends to everyday life as we know it. There is a very powerful feeling in the theater during the performance of Light /The Holocaust & Humanity Project, an emotion far different than experienced with other ballets and you walk away with a true sense that there is kindness in mankind.”

Colorado Ballet will present various classical excerpts in An Evening Under the Stars on August 30, 2012 at the Arvada Center. This marks Colorado Ballet’s fifth year at the Arvada Center.

Season subscriptions and tickets will be on sale soon.  Visit www.ColoradoBallet.org for details.

About Colorado Ballet Established in 1961 by Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker, Colorado Ballet is a non-profit organization celebrating 51 years of presenting world-class classical ballet and superior dance in Denver.  Under the direction of Artistic Director Gil Boggs, Colorado Ballet presents more than 50 performances annually. Colorado Ballet enhances the cultural life of Colorado through performances of the professional company, training at the Academy, and Education & Outreach programs.

The Baroque Chamber Orchestra presents Matthew Dane and Jonathan Leathwood
April 9, 2012, 9:02 pm
Filed under: News

The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado presents its annual spring house concert on Sunday, April 15 at 5:00 pm at The Ice House in Lower Downtown Denver. This year’s offering features an unusual combination of instruments, as acclaimed classical guitarist Jonathan Leathwood joins BCOC violist Matthew Dane in a program of music by J.S. Bach and one of his musical sons, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach.

Matthew Dane is a member of the Boulder Piano Quartet, serves as Principal Violist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, and is on the faculty at both the Metropolitan State College in Denver and the University of Colorado. His chamber music festival appearances include OK Mozart, Portland (Maine), Chamber Music Quad Cities (Iowa), and Tanglewood. In summers Dane performs in the Colorado Music Festival. Dane is editor of the Journal of the American Viola Society.

Jonathan Leathwood was born in 1970 and has come to Denver from his native England. His first visit to the Lamont School of Music (at DU) was in 1996, when he spent the Spring Quarter as visiting guitar instructor at the invitation of Ricardo Iznaola, then on sabbatical. Recently Denver University awarded him its Artist’s Diploma, the first time they have made this award in individual performance, and made him the first recipient of the Ricardo Iznaola Guitar Scholarship. Jonathan is also a guitar instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

A professional period-instrument ensemble with core musicians primarily based in Colorado, the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado brings to audiences the musical riches and spirit of improvisation of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The ensemble’s imaginative programming strikes a balance between familiar masterworks and hidden treasures of the Baroque Period. In addition to a subscription concert series, the orchestra provides an innovative educational program focusing on musician development, youth outreach, and building the audience of the future.

The program will feature:

Johann Sebastian Bach, Selections from Cello Suite No. 6 in D major (performed on guitar) Johann Sebastian Bach, Selections from Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor (performed on viola) Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Sonata in A major (performed on viola and guitar)

Tickets Are priced at $50 per person with the proceeds to benefit BCOC’s seventh season. To make reservations, call 303-889-1012 or click here: https://www.ticketturtle.com/index.php?ticketing=bcoc.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra performs next weekend, April 13th and 14th
April 6, 2012, 8:54 pm
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Next weekend, April 13 and April 14, 2012, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra led by Maestro Bahman Saless will perform a concert in Boulder and the same concert in Broomfield. The Boulder concert will be given at the First Congregational Church, at 1128 Pine Street, Boulder, CO 80302, and the Broomfield concert will be given at the Broomfield Auditorium, at 3 Community Park Road, Broomfield, CO 80020. The concerts are entitled “Reverence,” and will feature Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, and Camille Saint-Saëns’ well-known and extremely difficult Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor.

Performing the Saint-Saëns Concerto will be Claire Huangci, a remarkable young pianist from Rochester New York. I will quote from the website:

“Born in Rochester, New York, 20-year-old pianist Claire Huangci astonishes all who hear her perform. Coming from a family of scientists, Claire received a grand piano for her 6th-year birthday present. After exploring the instrument herself in the first year, she started taking lessons when she was 7. And in the same year, she was featured on FOX News as a child prodigy with ‘the skills of a professional pianist.’

“During her studies, Claire was awarded with a number of scholarships and won many competitions, including the Grand Prize at the 1999 World Piano Competition. As a result, she performed in the gala concert with the World Festival Orchestra in Cincinnati and in a winner’s concert at Carnegie Hall. Continuing her studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, she went on to win the Philadelphia Orchestra Competition and performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of dozens of American orchestras she has appeared with.   “In April 2006, Claire won first prize in the 57th Kosciuszko Chopin International Piano Competition in New York City. She made her first appearances in Europe with solo performances in Munich (Herkulessaal), Frankfurt, Leipzig (Gewandhaus), and Paris (Salle Cortot) and has also performed with the China Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite is from his famous ballet which was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, and it marks Stravinsky’s first work as a neoclassical composer.

The Prokofiev Classical Symphony is, likewise, a neoclassical work which he wrote in 1919. It was an exercise in composition for him, and he based the form of the Symphony on those of Franz Joseph Haydn, though, of course, there are no direct quotes of Haydn themes.

Both Pulcinella and the Classical Symphony are well-known, as they should be, and if you have not heard them, you must attend this performance.

Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his piano Concerto Nr. 2 in G minor and performed it in 1868. There is no question that the Second is his most famous Concerto, and it was written for the Russian pianist and composer, Anton Rubinstein for a Paris concert. But, as things did not work out, Saint-Saëns premiered the work himself with Rubinstein conducting. The audience’s reception of this work, upon first hearing, was not necessarily cordial, even though it was highly praised by Franz Liszt. As its excellence became more and more obvious to the fickle Parisian audiences (they loved trite operettas), they decided that they had loved it upon first hearing (or so said the critics).

If all of you readers attend the Friday, April 13, performance in Boulder, you will have the wonderful opportunity to sample a three course tasting menu prepared especially for the Boulder Chamber Orchestra audience by Chef Sam Proia at The Bitter Bar. That restaurant is located at 835 Walnut Street in Boulder, and is within easy walking distance of the First Congregational Church. The meal begins at 5:30 PM, and is a bargain at $25 per person. However, make your reservations now by calling the Bitter Bar at 303-442-3050, so that you will not be left out in the cold.