Opus Colorado

The Pacifica Quartet: Excellence and Virtuosity

Wednesday evening, September 16, the Friends of Chamber Music hosted the Pacifica Quartet at Gates Concert Hall on the DU campus. Formed in 1994, the Pacifica quartet has rapidly become one of this nations, and most likely the world’s, finest quartets. With Simin Ganatra, violin, Sibbi Rernhardsson, violin, Masumi Per Rostad, viola, and Brandon Vamos, cello, this chamber group truly seems destined to take its place among the all-time great string quartets, such as the Budapest Quartet of the 1950s with members Joseph Roisman, Jac Gorodetzky, Boris Kroyt, and Mischa Schneider. In addition, they are all full-time faculty members at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and that is, without a doubt, the finest music school in the world. As an aside, there are now eight buildings in music.

The Pacifica Quartet opened the program with Mozart’s wonderful Quartet in F Major, K. 590. Evidence, as mentioned in the program notes, points to this quartet of Mozart’s being intended for the King of Prussia, but the dedication was never finalized. The reason for this was that the King of Prussia reduced the amount of the commission he was to give Mozart. He had originally asked for six string quartets along with some easy piano sonatas for Princess Friederike. Mozart finished the first three of the six string quartets, but the easy sonatas for the Princess never materialized. Artaria published the first three quartets after Mozart died in 1791, but there was no dedication in the publication of them. It would be very unusual for Mozart to not mention the King of Prussia in a dedication because of a commission; therefore, it is possible that Mozart was miffed when the commission was reduced, or perhaps the King of Prussia never commissioned them in the first place.

Mozart opens this wonderful quartet with a three measure theme which is symmetrically answered with a slightly modified version. However, it is worth noting that the opening begins softly in the first measure (marked piano), and on the first beat of the second measure, Mozart has marked it forte. In the answer to the first three measures, Mozart does not indicate a forte emphasis. Granted this is a minute detail, but it adds interest to the opening of this quartet, as this is the kind of detail that Mozart never overlooked. It leads one to wonder if Mozart’s style was changing.

The audience Wednesday evening was quite large, and details, such as the above, are easy to hear in Mozart. It led me to wonder how many of the audience heard this subtle change in dynamics called by Mozart, and which the quartet reproduced in such detail. But it is this kind of detail that makes Mozart and his transparency so wonderful to listen to. The Pacifica Quartet performed this first movement in such a remarkably lyrical way that it was sheer joy, and the cello work done by Brandon Vamos was outstanding. The second movement of this quartet truly begins to display the changes in Mozart’s creative style. The texture becomes a little thicker and the harmony becomes more complicated. It has been sometime since I have heard this quartet, and the difference between the first two movements was striking. Mozart was certainly going through a rugged time in his life when this quartet was written: he and his wife desperately needed money, and Mozart seems to have been going through a period of depression. I was left wondering if that had an effect on the sonorities of the second movement. The third movement was full of charm and grace, and the fourth movement was a return to the clarity of a typical Mozart quartet.

At the risk of irritating some of you readers, I must say that in spite of the Pacifica Quartet’s supreme musicianship, two of their members seemed, to me at least, to be making excessive theatrical movements. The accompanying grimaces were extremely distracting from the music. Please do not misunderstand me: I am perfectly aware that it takes great energy to be sincere in the aural reproduction of a printed page of music. In addition, there is much emotion involved, as there should be. But the movements became extreme, and it often seemed as if two of the musicians were trying to convince the audience that they were “feeling” the music. I feel that it is necessary to make a comparison. When one hears the Colorado Chamber Players perform, one hears the music. Certainly the musicians in that organization move as they perform, but it is clear that the music is the first priority. There are no distractions such as lifting one’s feet off the floor, leaning far over in one’s chair, or gazing at the other members of the quartet in rapture or feigned aggression. The composer’s voice always remains unencumbered.

The second work on the program was String Quartet Nr. 3 entitled Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory by Israeli composer Shulamit Ran (b. 1949). This four movement work also bore titles for each movement: “That Which Happened,” “Menace,” “If I Must Perish – Do Not Let My Paintings Die – Felix Nussbaum (1904-1944),” and the fourth movement, “Shards, Memory.” As the program notes, and violist Masumi Per Rostad explained, this work was specifically written for the Pacifica Quartet. The composer found inspiration for her quartet in the work of a German-Jewish painter, Felix Nussbaum who died at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The first movement is a metaphor for one’s “ordinary life” which is shattered by realization of oncoming war. The second movement, entitled “Menace,” depicts the death march; the third, painting and Auschwitz and the execution; and the fourth movement describes all that is left.

Needless to say this was an incredibly moving piece of music, and it was certainly performed that way by the Pacifica Quartet. Obviously, since this is a new work, I have not heard it before; however, it seemed to make rather spare use of 12 tone (serial) composition. It appeared as though the composer was searching for something that was quite new harmonically. In the first movement, it was startling to hear some of the dissonances resolved to a major chord, and that truly seemed to symbolize the contentment of an “ordinary life.” The second movement, as the program notes so adequately detailed, gathers momentum as it becomes unstoppable. The third movement, as stated by the program notes, demonstrates that the act of “creating” must have been for Felix Nussbaum a way of maintaining sanity. I would certainly agree, but I would also hasten to point out that for a painter, or a musician, or a sculptor, that art is not just a source of maintaining sanity: it is a way of life. It is not an occupation or a vocation. The fourth movement, entitled “Shards, Memory,” are all things human, where the only result of the degradation that was suffered by Nussbaum is the dignity provided by death.

If one had no idea of the programme that inspired this work, its sound would still be overwhelming. It was an incredibly powerful piece of music, and everyone in the audience would have ascribed to it various moments of his/her own life. However, knowing what inspired this composition left an indelible focus of one’s attention on an enormous stain in our history. The performance was superb.

After the intermission, the Pacifica Quartet performed a portion of a new work commissioned from Daniel Kellogg, composer on the faculty at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This was not in the program, and I am sorry to say that I missed the title. I am also sorry that I missed the “talkback” session that was offered after the concert. I will say that the movement of the work which was performed was outstanding, and I am quite anxious to hear it again. We are fortunate that Kellogg is on the faculty, for his award-winning compositions have attracted a great deal of attention. This particular work, which was commissioned by the Pacifica Quartet and Richard Replin, seemed quite dramatic upon first hearing. I am fairly confident that I heard some melodic counterpoint, but again this was my first hearing, so I cannot be sure. It is my sincere hope that this work is performed again quite soon.

The last work on the program was the Quartet Nr. 4 in E minor, Opus 44, Nr. 2. Dedicated to the Crown Prince of Sweden, this particular quartet has one of the most captivating scherzos that Mendelssohn wrote: it is lyrical, and yet fast, and also elegant, and only Mendelssohn could have combined all those attributes. Like the other Opus 44 quartets, this one contains fugal passages that give these quartets an incredible sense of richness. It almost seems as though Mendelssohn’s fugal technique had improved over the years. The Pacifica Quartet seems to have a true knack for Mendelssohn – his Mozart-like transparency and his sense of absolute lyricism were easily exposed. This was a breathtaking performance of a marvelous piece which is simply not heard often enough.

The Pacifica Quartet truly deserves its fine reputation. They are excellent. But it is my humble wish that they would not dictate to the audience with gestures and facial expressions what mood the audience must feel. The composer’s intent must always come first.

Three artists lead the discovery of an unknown French composer: Théodore Gouvy
September 15, 2015, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Sunday afternoon, September 13, soprano MeeAe Nam, and pianists Mina Gajić and Hsing-ay Hsu presented a recital of songs and four hand piano compositions of the Romantic French composer Théodore Gouvy. The program was presented at the Grace Lutheran Church on 13th Street in Boulder, Colorado.

Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was quite well known during his lifetime but soon after his death, he was forgotten. This is surprising for many reasons, especially considering the fact that one of the eminent musicologists at the turn of the 20th century, Otto Klauwell, published Gouvy’s biography in 1902. In addition, in the 1870s, the New York Philharmonic Club commissioned works from him. Gouvy was a friend of all of the composers of the Romantic era, and this is borne out by the large amount of correspondence that occurred between Gouvy and the musicians and composers of his time. It is true that he was not an innovator in the same way that César Franck and Gabriel Fauré were innovators: he did adhere to the more conservative trends of the Romantic period having been strongly influenced by Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Liszt. Though his symphonies were performed frequently in Paris, Gouvy found it the easier to be published in Germany rather than in France and England where symphonies and chamber music were not as highly regarded at that time. As a result, he spent many winters in Leipzig, and returned to Hombourg-Haut, France, in the summers where he composed at peace in the home of his brother, Alexander.

I must say at the outset that the Grace Lutheran Church in Boulder has startlingly fine acoustics, and the setting is certainly intimate, and perfect for chamber music or a song recital. There is an absolute minimum of distortion and everything that is done by the performers can clearly be heard. In addition, Grace Lutheran Church had the knowledge and foresight to purchase a German Steingraeber piano which is one of the six or seven best pianos in the world. I hasten to point out that this church always keeps their piano an absolutely superb condition.

The Gouvy songs, and he wrote about 120, are certainly, to my way of thinking, on par with those of Franz Schubert or Hugo Wolf. Most certainly Gouvy has his own voice, and keep in mind that the concert-going public of the day gave Gouvy the nickname, “the French Mendelssohn.” He used French poets for his songs texts, and wrote at least 40 songs using the text of the Renaissance poet Pierre de Ronsard. Gouvy also set the poems of Philippe Desportes, Joachim du Bellay, and Amadis Jamin.

I am confident that all of you who read this will be familiar with the name of MeeAe Nam as she is a former resident of Colorado and now teaches at Eastern Michigan University. She still performs all over the world and in addition to her world-wide performance schedule, Dr. Nam has developed a well-deserved reputation as an important scholar of rare French song literature of Théodore Gouvy. She has given lecture recitals of Gouvy’s songs at various universities in the U. S. and Hans Eisler Musik Hochschule in Berlin, Germany. The first CD “Songs of Gouvy” was released in September, 2014 on Toccata Classics.

Equally, I am sure that all of you know of our resident pianist, Hsing-ay Hsu. She has been performing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and in Europe and Asia.  Her thoughtful and passionate interpretations have won international recognition, including the Juilliard William Petschek Debut Award, William Kapell International Piano Competition, Ima Hogg National Competition first-prize, Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, Gilmore Young Artist Award, and the US Presidential Scholar of the Arts Award from President Clinton. Ms. Hsu is the Artistic Director for Pendulum New Music at CU-Boulder.  She has served as visiting piano faculty at several universities including CU-Boulder.  Her Conscious Listening™ Seminars brings dynamic teaching to festivals, universities, and the upcoming 2016 Music Teachers National Association convention.

The one relative newcomer to Colorado that was on the program Sunday is Mina Gajić. Mina Gajić started her music career and education in Yugoslavia. She has concertized as piano soloist in Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Montenegro, China, and in the United States. Recent solo appearances include concerto performances with the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia and the Symphony Orchestra Stanislav Binički, Serbia. She has performed recitals internationally as soloist and with violinist Zachary Carrettin, focusing on a diverse repertory spanning the centuries and various styles on historic period pianos in addition to modern concert instruments. She is currently Director of Education and Outreach of the Boulder Bach Festival, maintains a private teaching studio in Boulder, and performs in a variety of musical contexts in the United States, South America, and Europe. This season in Boulder, she will appear as soloist with Boulder Chamber Orchestra and as an artist for the Boulder Bach Festival season finale.

As evidenced by the length and enthusiasm of the applause at the end of this performance, it was clear to me that everyone in attendance recognized and understood that these three women, MeeAe Nam, Hsing-ay Hsu, and Mina Gajić are world-class performers. I can assure you that this was an outstanding performance, and it truly was performed at a world class level. I would also point out that Gajić and Hsu had little time to learn the music involved. Gajić performed with Nam on all of the songs, and Hsing-ay Hsu performed the four hand piano works with Gajić. All of you aspiring pianists take note: performing experience counts. It truly seemed as if these three women had been performing together for years. They were very comfortable with each other on stage and they also communicated a thorough understanding of Gouvy.

Gouvy songs can often be very deceptive. On the surface, and particularly if one does not know French or have a translation of the French text in front of them, his music often sounds very lighthearted. Ronsard’s poems are often quite emotional. It is not that Gouvy’s music does not match the text, because it does; however, it does not have the collapsing despair as evidenced in some of Schubert’s songs (i.e., Die Schöne Müllerin). Like Schubert, Gouvy’s songs are intensely thought-provoking, and his expression is often produced by penetrating lyricism. It is that lyricism for which Gouvy was known

For example, in the second song that was performed on Sunday entitled Here is the wood, Ronsard uses the past tense to imply that the texts author can no longer find his love:

Here is the wood where my darling Angelette
In springtime rejoices with her song.
Here are the flowers that her foot walks upon
While in solitude she contemplates.

And the last stanza:

Here singing, there weeping, I saw her
Here sitting, and there dancing,
Here smiling and there I was enraptured
With the chatter of my beloved:
On the loom of vaguest thought,
Love weaves the fabric of my life.

In the texts above, Gouvy’s music could almost be called underrated because the harmonies used are not as obvious as other composers: the listener must truly engage in thought as well as the performer. Nam and Gajić gave an enormously moving performance of this song, and gave the impression that they had been performing together for years. This symbiosis was in evidence throughout the entire performance.

In What do you say, what do you do, my sweetheart?, the singer becomes agitated in expressing the text:

What are you saying, what are you doing,
my sweetheart?
What are you dreaming of? Are you not thinking
of me?
Have you no care for my heartache,
And for the torment that your pride gives me?

Gouvy allows Ronsard’s text to provide more agitation in the music, and emphasizes this by giving the musicians the instruction “a little more animated.” The torment becomes even clearer when Gouvy accents it with small 32nd note flourishes in the pianists left-hand. And yet the soprano line must soar.

Nam and Gajić gave this song incredible passion, and at least two members of the audience confided in me after the performance was finished that several of the songs brought tears to their eyes.

MeeAe Nam grouped the songs together in threes, and between each group Mina Gajić and Hsing-ay Hsu performed some of Gouvy’s piano works. Take note that everything he wrote for piano was either for four hands at one piano or for two pianos. They performed works from Gouvy’s Opus 59, which is entitled Six Morceaux a Quatre Mains (Six Pieces for Four Hands).

The first work was a Polonaise, and it was a wonderful break from the tension of the songs. I might add at this point that all of the works on this program displayed Gouvy’s affinity for the piano. The instrument was his main interest in music until he became close friends with Franz Liszt. He was, as many other musicians were, totally intimidated by Liszt’s formidable skill at the keyboard (Liszt was one of the greatest pianists who ever lived.) Gouvy, thereafter, decided to concentrate as a composer, and yet his piano works reflect his own brand of virtuosity combined with unrivaled lyricism.

Gajić and Hsu were magnificent in their interpretation of this piece, and these two musicians clearly gave the impression that they had performed for years together. This grasp of Gouvy’s music, combined with their performance experience and virtuosity, gave the audience an absolutely magnificent experience.

After the intermission, and the next group of songs, Hsu and Gajić performed the Theme and Variations and the Prelude from Gouvy’s Opus 59. It was wonderful to hear these pieces, and I must say the tempo that these two pianists took in the Prelude (it was an accurate tempo) gave the audience the opportunity to hear a real technical tour de force. It was intensely musical and very exciting.

This was a wonderful performance that contained Colorado Premiers and United States Premieres of this rare music. It was intensely gratifying to hear these unknown works by an unknown composer who has, since his death, fallen into undeserved oblivion. By their excellent performance, MeeAe Nam, Mina Gajić, and Hsing-ay Hsu have taken a giant step in restoring Théodore Gouvy to his rightful place.

Local choral group brings rare 17th Century music to Denver and Boulder
September 14, 2015, 7:47 pm
Filed under: News

Seicento Baroque Ensemble to perform Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 October 24-25

Today, Seicento Baroque Ensemble announced the dates of their 2015-2016 concert season, to include the performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 on October 24 in Boulder and on October 25 in Denver.

Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 is considered to be one of the most ambitious religious compositions before Bach, and is described as “…90 minutes of the most exciting and brilliant music one could ever hope to hear” (Charles Cole, the New Liturgical Movement). The piece calls for seven soloists, double chorus, and a period-instrument orchestra of baroque strings, sackbuts, and cornettos.

“The vocal soloists have a huge roll as the music demands highly agile and rapid singing to implement early baroque ornamentation and vocal fireworks. We have superb soloists and three of the best Monteverdi tenors around. Seicento performs with period instruments and will collaborate with the Washington Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, a professional group of players from the East Coast,” said Artistic Director Evanne Browne. “Because of the type of singing and specific period instruments called for, the piece was never performed in the state of Colorado until 2010, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Monteverdi Vespers. That first Colorado performance was my honor to conduct, and it helped launch Seicento, a group that specializes in the 1600s, the Seicento. I am thrilled to bring it back to Denver and Boulder audiences.”

Preceding the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 performances, on October 23 the Seicento Baroque Soloists will present “Music of 17th Century Venice” with virtuosic singers and period-instrument players performing Italian 17th century music, including works by Monteverdi, Rossi and Castello.

Performances by Seicento Baroque Ensemble have been described as “Superb” by Opus Colorado, and Browne “does an admirable job of advocating for early Baroque music and creating a very fine vocal and instrumental ensemble.”

The Seicento Soloists concert is on Friday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m., and the 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee performance of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 will be performed at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 1600 Grant in Denver. The Boulder performance of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 will be at the First United Methodist Church (1421 Spruce Street) on October 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets and information are available at seicentobaroque.org.

About Seicento Baroque Ensemble
Seicento Baroque Ensemble is Colorado’s premier choir specializing in the historically informed performances of 17th and 18th century choral music under Artistic Director Evanne Browne. The group is an auditioned chamber choir which uses historically informed performance practices and period instruments as it brings to life the rarely heard gems of Monteverdi, Carissimi, Schütz, Purcell, Biber, Mielczewski, Scheidt, Charpentier, Vejvanovsky and others. Seicento Baroque Ensemble’s concerts are performed by early music specialists playing baroque strings, violas da gamba, harpsichord, recorders, sackbuts, baroque flute and baroque oboe, and vocal soloists.

Augustana Arts presents Faythe Freese, Organ, Saturday, October 3, 2015
September 14, 2015, 7:13 pm
Filed under: News

Dr. Freese’s performances have been hailed as “powerful …masterful… impressive … brilliant.”

In collaboration with the American Guild of Organists, Augustana Arts presents University of Alabama organ professor Dr. Faythe Freese, the first woman to record at L’Eglise de la Sainte-Trinite’, Paris.  Dr. Freese has received critical acclaim world-wide and will present an eclectic program sure to showcase the King of Instruments.

Augustana Arts presents Faythe Freese at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 3 at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5000 East Alameda Avenue, Denver, CO. Tickets are $25 adult; $20 senior; $15 student; $10 children age 4-17 years and are available online at http://www.augustanaarts.org or by calling 303-388-4962.

Dr. Faythe Freese lived in Magdeburg, Germany for over three months in spring 2015 during her sabbatical and played and performed on over fifty historic organs in nine countries.  She collaborated with early performance practice experts such as Ton Koopman, Montserrat Torrent, Pieter van Dijk, Aude Heutermatte and João Vaz on period repertoire.

She was a featured lecturer at the 2014 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts; and was a featured lecturer and concert artist at the 2010 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Washington, D.C.; the 2011 American Guild of Organists Region IV Convention in Greensboro, NC; the 2001 American Guild of Organists Region VII Convention in San Antonio, TX.; and the 2011 Association of Lutheran Church Musicians Biennial Convention.   Dr. Freese was also faculty and featured performer at the 2011 Boston Pipe Organ Encounter Advanced (POEA), the 2011 Birmingham POE, the 2012 Gainsville POE and the 2004 Atlanta POE.

Dr. Freese holds degrees in organ performance and church music from Indiana University.  She has held faculty positions at Indiana University, Concordia University in Austin, University of North Dakota-Williston, and Andrew College.  As a Fulbright scholar and an Indiana University/Kiel Ausstausch Programme participant, she studied the works of Jean Langlais with the composer in France, and the works of Max Reger with Heinz Wunderlich in Germany.  Her organ teachers have included Marilyn Keiser, Robert Rayfield, William Eifrig and Phillip Gehring.  More information at http://www.faythefreese.com.

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. The Guild serves approximately 17,000 members in more than 300 chapters throughout the United States and abroad.

Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, the Guild seeks to set and maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music

Since 1997, Augustana Arts has been serving the community by presenting the artistry of resident performing groups, internationally renowned touring artists and accomplished locally-based ensembles of many genres. The resident groups, Stratus Chamber Orchestra and the Colorado Women’s Chorale (CWC) perform at a variety of venues in addition to the majestic Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver.

Augustana Arts serves educational outreach through the City Strings program, an inspired vision to provide youngsters with great need access to high quality, small group music instruction free of cost afterschool at several metro locations.

Augustana Arts concerts and programs are made possible in part by generous support from the citizens of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, the Colorado Creative Industries, a state agency which is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the Augustana Foundation, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and several other community partners.

Augustana Arts
Faythe Freese, Organ
Saturday, October 3 @ 7:30 p.m.
Augustana Lutheran Church, 5000 East Alameda Ave., Denver, CO 80246
Tickets are $25 adult; $20 senior; $15 student; $10 children ages 4 – 17 years
303-388-4962 or online at http://www.augustanaarts.org

Denver Young Artists Orchestra Welcomes New Conductors to the Podium for its 2015-2016 Season – Brave New World
September 8, 2015, 2:39 pm
Filed under: News

Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) proudly announces a new conductor for its String Ensembles and three new conductors for its Conservatory Orchestras for its 2015-2016 Season. Carmen Wiest will conduct the String Ensembles for the season and Christopher Dragon, Gal Faganel, and Carmen Wiest will share the podium for the Conservatory Orchestras for the season.

“We are very excited for the upcoming season, and are especially looking forward to seeing the musicians in our String Ensembles and Conservatory Orchestra continue to develop as musicians under the guidance of the very talented and accomplished conductors who will be leading them this year,” said DYAO Music Director Wes Kenney. “The level of outstanding artistry that all three of these conductors will bring to the Denver Young Artists Orchestra Association will be clear as we watch them take the podium and prepare the orchestra for concerts throughout the next season.”

Carmen Wiest has been named the conductor for the String Ensembles and also opens the Conservatory Orchestras season in the fall, joining the DYAO family as an award winning educator, newcomer to Denver, and parent to current DYAO musician. “I am honored and thrilled at the opportunity to join DYAO as a conductor,” said Wiest. “Providing a dynamic and engaging orchestral experience for our youth is something that I am very passionate about. This position allows me to help grow the DYAO program so that it can reach even more young people and provide them with exciting opportunities to create and share the love and benefits of musical expression.” Prior to joining DYAO, Wiest conducted the Central Illinois Youth Symphony ensembles, several middle and high school ensembles, and University of Wisconsin collegiate ensembles. In addition to conducting the Conservatory Orchestra and String Ensembles, Wiest teaches at Cresthill Middle School.

The String Ensembles, conducted by Wiest, give young music students an opportunity to experience the wealth of string orchestra literature. The ensembles are designed for those who have developed facility in bowing techniques, reading music, and using vibrato. Comprised of approximately thirty members, the String Ensembles perform three to four concerts each season in conjunction with the Conservatory Orchestras.

The Conservatory Orchestras, DYAO’s advanced level ensembles for students working to further their orchestral performance skills for advancement into DYAO or collegiate programs, perform three to four concerts annually in conjunction with the String Ensembles. Students receive regular coaching throughout the season and attend an overnight retreat in September. Conservatory Orchestra conductors Carmen Wiest, Christopher Dragon, and Gal Faganel, will lead the ensembles throughout the 2015-2016 season in challenging repertoire ranging from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony to Sibelius’ Karlelia Suite and more.

Gal Faganel comes to DYAO as an accomplished conductor and cellist, currently serving as an Assistant Professor of Cello at the University of Northern Colorado, and formerly held the position of Principal Cellist in the Phoenix Symphony. “Thinking about making music with the talented young musicians in the DYAO Conservatory Orchestras excites me,” said Faganel. “I look forward to teaching, inspiring, and working towards artistic growth of the ensembles. I hope to instill a lifelong love for music in every orchestra member and contribute to the continued growth of this wonderful organization.”

On his appointment to the Conservatory Orchestra conducting roster, Christopher Dragon stated “it is a huge privilege to be joining the DYAO family this season. I look forward to exploring more of Colorado and working with these talented young musicians!” Dragon joins DYAO from nearly three years as the assistant conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and has recently accepted the position of Associate Conductor at the Colorado Symphony. He has also conducted the Princess Galyani Vadhana Youth Orchestra in Thailand and studied under notable conductors including Paavo and Neeme Jarvi at the Jarvi Summer Festival, Fabio Luisi, Jorma Panula, and Asher Fisch.

The Young Artists Orchestra, DYAO’s most advanced ensemble, has an exciting season planned as well, including a Side-by-Side concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in February, the Travels in Music Concert & Gala featuring all five DYAO orchestras, and a tour to New York featuring two performances at Carnegie Hall in June 2016. The DYAO opening concert features Silver Ainomäe performing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, Copland’s Billy the Kid Suite, and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall on October 11, 2015.

The 2015-2016 Denver Young Artists Orchestra Season is made possible through the generous support of CoBank, Platinum Season Sponsor, The Scientific & Cultural Facilities District, the Bonfils Stanton Foundation, The HBB Foundation, Colorado Creative Industries, Metropolitan Homes and Investment Trust.

For tickets and more information about DYAO’s new conductors and its 2015-2016 season, visit http://www.dyao.org or call 303-433-2420.

The mission of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra Association (DYAO) is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music, and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community. The organization’s five orchestras, chamber ensembles, and group strings classes train over 300 students, ages seven to twenty-three, from more than eighty schools across Colorado.

MeeAe Nam, Mina Gajić, and Hsing-ay Hsu to perform rare works of Théodore Gouvy
September 5, 2015, 11:04 am
Filed under: News

On September 13, at 2:00 PM, soprano Dr. MeeAe Nam will return to Colorado for a concert of songs and miniature piano pieces by the French Romantic period composer, Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898). She will be joined Mina Gajić and Hsing-ay Hsu, both renowned pianists. The concert will take place at the Grace Lutheran Church, 1001 13th St., in Boulder.

Dr. Nam will perform thirteen of Gouvy’s songs with texts by French poets Pierre de Ronsard, Jean Antoine de Baïf, Joachim du Bellay, and Philippe Desportes. Gajić and Hsu will perform miniature piano pieces from Gouvy’s Six Pieces Op. 59, For Four Hands.

It is important for you readers to note that most of these songs have never been performed in the United States, and, therefore, represent a US premiere, as well as a Colorado premiere. That also applies to the miniature piano pieces.

Théodore Gouvy was born into an extremely wealthy family, in the Lorraine region of France, whose wealth came from four steel mills that they owned. His grandfather built their first steel mill in 1751, built the residences for all his employees, and named the town that he had founded Goffontaine. It is now Saarbrücken, in Germany. Théodore had three older brothers Henri, Charles, and Alexander. Henri and Alexander were employed by the steel mills; however, Charles wanted nothing to do with steel, and went to the United States. During the last 14 years of my research on Gouvy, I have been unable to trace Charles in this country.

At this juncture, it is important to know that when Théodore was born, the French border had moved about a mile and a half south of his house. Therefore, even though the family was French, Théodore was considered German, and had to reapply for French citizenship (many citizens of that region of France were also affected in the same way). The family wanted Théodore to become an attorney so that he could help with the legal matters of the steel mills. However, Théodore had already developed a talent for music and for languages. Nonetheless, he went to Paris to the University and studied law, but by the time he was ready for his bar exams, he had become so involved in music that he did not study adequately for his examinations. He failed his exams twice. He then sent a letter to his mother, pleading with her to allow him to study music and she relented. When he approached the Paris Conservatory for admittance, however, Luigi Cherubini, who was the Director, and who had emigrated from Italy to become French, refused to admit Théodore Gouvy because he considered him German (the Italian Cherubini had also refused to admit Franz Liszt because he was Hungarian). But, due to Théodore’s family fortunes, he was wealthy enough to pay the faculty surreptitiously for five years, and received a very good education. As an aside, he also paid the tuition for some students who could not afford to attend the Paris Conservatory.

Théodore Gouvy became an excellent musician and composer. He had a fine reputation as a symphonist, and attracted much attention for his knowledge of form, timbre, and beautiful melodic lines. He wrote a great deal of string chamber music, a Requiem, a Stabat Mater and four cantatas, 120 songs which are of the ilk of Schubert and Wolf, and three large piano sonatas for four hands. Everything he wrote for piano was for four hands or, in a couple of instances, two pianos. He became very close friends with Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. As a matter of fact, during the winters, Gouvy lived in Leipzig, where he and Liszt spent much time together examining each other’s scores, and playing a card game called Whist. In Leipzig and Berlin, Gouvy developed a friendship with all the major composers of the period: Mendelssohn, Schuman, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Reinecke, Joachim, Grieg, Bruch, and Gounod. This friendship is corroborated by the number of letters all of them exchanged. And, it is important to note that these letters were written in French because he came from a French family, and, despite the border moving, he considered himself French and not German. Nonetheless, he was a man of two cultures.

His compositions were performed throughout Europe and Russia (he became an acquaintance of Tchaikovsky), and even the New York Philharmonic Club commissioned works from him.

The songs and the piano works performed on the Sunday recital, September 13, certainly reflect Gouvy’s marvelous sense of melodic line. He was strongly influenced by Mendelssohn and Schuman, and the German audiences often referred to him as “The French Mendelssohn.” Though, as a composer, he lived through the beginnings and development of the Impressionist period (César Franck, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy), and was friends with those composers, he never became involved with the new style. So, perhaps, he could be considered as not being innovative, but he was a master of everything that he wrote. His Requiem was performed four times during his lifetime, and its performance in 1996 was instrumental in his rediscovery in France, and led the Gouvy family to donate one of their mansions for the Institut Gouvy donating all of his scores, letters, and souvenirs to that institution.

I am in the process of organizing six concerts of Gouvy’s music here in the United States. It is the only undertaking of its kind in this country. These six concerts will consist of representative works of Théodore Gouvy. The concerts will include, 1) songs; 2) four-hand piano sonatas; 3) string chamber music; 4) woodwind chamber music; 5) Stabat Mater and a symphony; and, 6) his Requiem Mass and a symphony. These concerts will not only demonstrate Gouvy’s musical relevance, but will certainly add to the luster of the Denver Community by increasing its artistic visibility throughout the world. Much of the music that has been selected for the Festival will be United States premieres, and, thus, will add to the orchestral repertoire and chamber music repertoire, greatly benefitting the musical community.

The concert in Boulder featuring MeeAe Nam, Mina Gajić, and Hsing-ay Hsu, will be the first of the series. All three of these musicians have performed throughout the world, and they are truly world-class.

I urge everyone who reads this to attend this performance on September 13 because you will hear some beautiful and very rare music performed. I also point out that in the fall of 2014, Dr. MeeAe Nam released a CD of the Gouvy songs on the Toccata Classics label. It is available on the web, and it contains 26 of Gouvy’s songs, some of which are sung by tenor John Elwes. The recording features Joel Schoenhals on the piano, also a faculty member at Eastern Michigan University. This CD will be available for sale at the Sunday afternoon concert.

Principal dancers Maria Mosina and Sharon Wehner begin their 20th seasons with Colorado Ballet
September 2, 2015, 3:54 pm
Filed under: News

Company will highlight Mosina in La Sylphide and Wehner in Alice (in Wonderland)

Colorado Ballet principal dancers Maria Mosina and Sharon Wehner recently started their 20th seasons with Colorado Ballet.  Both dancers joined the Company in 1995.

According to Colorado Ballet Artistic Director Gil Boggs, having one dancer spend 20 years with a single company is rare and having two is even more unique due to a variety of variables, from artistic differences to injuries.  He said that for Mosina and Wehner, dancing with Colorado Ballet for 20 years has not been a matter of longevity; instead, their artistry enabled them to have such long careers.  While they have differences—Mosina was born and trained in Russia and Wehner was born and trained in California—Boggs says it is that artistry that makes them similar as dancers.  “Take a performance of Swan Lake, they both do the Swan Queen,” said Boggs.  “Maria does it and she pulls you in and she makes you feel the role.  Sharon does exactly the same thing.  She makes you believe that she’s a swan.  So, even with the differences in their training, the similarities are that they can take an audience and pull them in and be thoroughly convincing at what they’re doing.”

This season, Boggs will highlight both dancers in the lead roles of two of Colorado Ballet’s productions.  The Company will celebrate Mosina during La Sylphide, opening October 2 and Wehner during Alice (in Wonderland), opening February 19.  “If anybody was ever meant to dance La Sylphide, it’s Maria.  She has a beautiful jump, she has great expression, she’s going to be flirty and she’s also going to be very dramatic.  It’s a role that’s made for her.  For Alice, it’s a role that’s made for Sharon; she’s the perfect stature and she looks like Alice.  Her temperament is exceptional for portraying that character.  I’m very happy with the programming this year because it complements both of them very well.”

Boggs says that as an artistic director, Mosina and Wehner make him look good.  “I know that when I come into a rehearsal, they’re such professionals, that they’re never marking, they’re always doing everything full-out,” said Boggs.  “They’re giving everything that they have, and when they get on stage, they’re exquisite, they’re beautiful…stellar.  I’m able to sit back and I can relax and know that the performance that they’re about to give is going to be nothing short of wonderful.”

About Maria Mosina:
Maria Mosina was born and raised in Moscow, Russia.  From as far back as she can remember, she said that she loved to dance, move around and act.  Her mother enrolled her in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, where she studied academics and ballet for nine years.  According to Mosina, by the time she was 10 years old, she knew she would become a professional ballerina.

After completing her training, she joined the Bolshoi Ballet Grigorovich Company and danced soloist and principal roles soon after joining the Company.  She toured around the world, appearing on all major European, American, African and Asian stages.  “I realized that the art of ballet, it’s truly a universal art that can bring cultures and countries together,” said Mosina.  She spent five years with the Company, then moved to the U.S. to work with emerging choreographers, new ballets and perform different styles of dance.

Since joining Colorado Ballet in 1995, she has performed major roles in the Company’s classical productions and contemporary works.  “I’m so fortunate to have a job that fulfills and inspires me,” said Mosina.  “I get pleasure from dancing.  I was born to give people happiness on the stage.”

According to Mosina, she uses her life experiences to bring something new to her art.  “I believe that my dance was changed when my daughter was born,” said Mosina.  “It became more emotional, and I put more emotions on stage.  Being a ballerina and a mom is a challenge and a joy.”  She said that knowing that her daughter watches her from the audience brings her even more happiness while performing on the stage.

She said she is lucky to have avoided major injuries throughout her career and she still loves dancing.  “I think my passion and love still pushes me forward all the time,” said Mosina.  “I still love what I’m doing.  I believe that ballet is not just about the number of pirouettes you can do or how high you can kick your leg; ballet is an art and there is no age limit to express yourself.”

Mosina said that she would like to dedicate her 20th season to everyone who has helped her get to where she is today including her teachers, mentors, coaches, choreographers, friends, family and partners on the stage.  “And especially to my mom, she passed away one year ago,” said Mosina.  “She was my first fan and my friend.”

Her advice to aspiring dancers is to study and learn everything that it takes to be a good dancer and take it very seriously.  “It’s not fun, all day,” said Mosina.  “It’s hard physically, for the body, and it’s hard emotionally.  You have to study, all about the art.  And the audience does see or know what you are getting through, those weeks in the studios.  But, it’s paid when you’re standing at the end of the performance and you can feel the audience believing in you.”

In addition to career at Colorado Ballet, she is also an active ballet instructor throughout the U.S. and has participated as a master teacher and judge for the Youth American Grand Prix.  She dances as a guest artist at other festivals, galas and companies and has completed her studies with a degree in ballet pedagogy.  “I believe that when I’ve finished my dancing career, I plan to stay in the ballet world, when I retire…someday,” said Mosina.

About Sharon Wehner:
Sharon Wehner is originally from San Jose, California and started dancing at the age of three.  At 19, she auditioned for several companies.  “I got three offers and I ended up at Colorado Ballet, mostly because I knew somebody here and he had good things to say about the company,” said Wehner.

The Company promoted Wehner to principal in 1999.  “I really didn’t set out to be a principal dancer, I didn’t set out to have a long career with a company,” said Wehner.  “I just wanted to do good work.  I just wanted to be a good dancer, and, I wanted to keep growing, and I think that’s why is stayed; because I was always excited about the rep coming up and I loved my colleagues.”

According to Wehner, starting her 20th season with Colorado Ballet feels a little surreal.  She said that it is difficult to separate her “the person” from her “the dancer” because everything intertwines.  “My position as a dancer at Colorado Ballet has run concurrently with my lifetime; I kind of grew up as an artist with Colorado Ballet,” she said.  “One might think that working for the same company would get a little stale, feel a little too comfortable.  But in fact, establishing a ‘home-base’ with Colorado Ballet has allowed me to expand my own artistry, to build upon all of the experiences I’ve had as both a dancer and human being, and to learn from all of the extraordinary artists who have passed through the Company over the years.”

Wehner said that she has seen many changes over the years at Colorado Ballet and now the Company is on an upward growth.  “It’s had many ups and downs that I’ve witnessed, and even some scary times when the economy was not so great,” said Wehner.  “It’s been wonderful to see the Company go through all of that and then come out stronger.”

In addition to the changes at Colorado Ballet, she has witnessed the perception of arts in Denver change over the years.  When she first joined the Company in 1995, she said that one of her neighbors could not fathom how anyone could make a career as a professional ballet dancer in Denver.  Coming from an area that had a lot of arts and culture, she was shocked by neighbor’s assumption about artists and dancers making a living in Denver.  Since that time though, she said that Denver has changed.  “I think now if someone asks me what I do and I say I’m a ballet dancer and I dance with the Colorado Ballet, it actually means something to them,” said Wehner.  “And I think that’s wonderful to see how the community has changed in relationship to Colorado Ballet.”

After dancing many lead roles during her career, Wehner said that there have been very few ballets or roles that she did not like.  For her, almost every ballet was its own gem and she enjoyed sinking her teeth into each one of them.  She said that when she steps back and looks at her career, a few roles stood out to her more than others.  “Dancing Juliet was one of them,” said Wehner.  “Romeo & Juliet was the first ballet that really moved me.  I think I was nine when I saw the ballet and I remember sitting in the audience and realizing what power a ballet can have on an audience.  I was young, but I felt it and I could feel everybody around me feeling that.’”  She admits that she had a hard time holding back tears when she heard the orchestra play the overture on the opening night of her debut as Juliet.

For Wehner, the future means taking ballet by ballet, year by year, and day by day.  She said that it is important to be in the moment.  “You never know, as a physical artist, you hope your body will be there for you, you can’t take it for granted,” said Wehner.  “Every day, you come into the studio and you start the same way.  You plie.  You start with plies, and that’s kind of the being in the moment part…it’s not like some careers that you can do when you’re 70.  Although, I have seen dancers dancing in their 70’s.”

According to Wehner, 20 is just a number.  “It’s like how people talk about age; it’s kind of a balance looking back and looking forward at all the dancing I still want to do, and then just being present and feeling like this is also just another season and an opportunity to grow as a dancer,” said Wehner.

For more information about Maria Mosina or Sharon Wehner, visit http://www.coloradoballet.org.

About Colorado Ballet
Established in 1961 by Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker, Colorado Ballet is a non-profit organization celebrating 55 years of presenting world-class classical ballet and superior dance in Denver.  Under the direction of Artistic Director Gil Boggs, Colorado Ballet enhances the cultural life of Colorado through performances of the professional company, training at the Academy, and Education & Community Engagement programs.  Visit http://www.coloradoballet.org.