Classical News

At Boulder’s Planetarium, A Cosmic Choir Performance

(Photo: Courtesy Ars Nova Singers)

The team at the Fiske Planetarium in Boulder loves to show off its sound system. The venue hosts late-night laser shows pairing flashy imagery with music by Pink Floyd or The Grateful Dead.

But four upcoming concerts at the planetarium will feature a very different soundtrack, courtesy of the 38 members of Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers.

The unusual concerts “combine the visual feast of the vast universe with the intimacy of the human voice,” according to Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director of Ars Nova.

The choir presented its first concerts at the planetarium, located on the University of Colorado campus, in 2015. The singers performed beneath images of the solar system and the Milky Way.

The program for the upcoming shows leans heavily on contemporary composers, including music by Philip Glass, David Lang, Meredith Monk and CU-based composer John Drumheller.

Ars Nova will perform at the planetarium at 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

Hear Ars Nova perform Antoine Brumel's "Agnus Dei," one of the pieces on the upcoming program: 

A Look At Boulder Bach Festival's 2016-17 Season Schedule

Zachary Carrettin of the Boulder Bach Festival.

(Photo courtesy of: Boulder Bach Festival)

The Boulder Bach Festival has unveiled its schedule for the upcoming season. Led by conductor and violinist Zachary Carrettin, the festival offers unusual takes on the music of J.S. Bach and other Baroque composers.

The 2016-17 schedule includes concerts in Boulder, Denver and Longmont. Some highlights:

  • Oct. 14 & 16: A “surround-sound” program, called Concertos and Chorales Contextualized, that places the audience in the middle of strings, singers and a cathedral organ.
  • Dec. 8 & 10: A program exploring music of the Viennese Baroque with harpsichord and other Baroque period instruments.
  • March 16, 17 & 18: Concerts exploring Spanish Baroque music featuring Richard Savino, a Grammy-winning guitarist and lute player who will perform on the theorbo, a period instrument.
  • May 21: A “greatest hits” concert featuring the festival’s chamber orchestra playing music by Bach, Vivaldi and Handel.

View the full season rundown.

One of the highlights from last season was a series of concerts called “Venice on Fire.” It featured electrified instruments interpreting pieces by Italian Baroque composers. Check out this footage of the Venice on Fire musicians playing music by composer Barabara Strozzi in the CPR Performance Studio:

Musicians from Boulder Bach Festival's "Venice on Fire" concerts perform Barbara Strozzi's Aria from "Che si puo fare" in the CPR Performance Studio on March 16, 2016. Zachary Carrettin, electric violin; Keith Barnhart, electric guitar; Gal Faganel, electric cello.

View the full Venice on Fire session, or watch Carrettin play his own arrangements of Bach’s Cello Suites on electric violin.


Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields Set For Two More Years At Bravo! Vail

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra in concert, with music director and violinist Joshua Bell.

(Photo: Courtesy Bravo! Vail)

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra will return to the Bravo! Vail music festival in 2017 and 2018.

The festival's organizers made the announcement Sunday night at Ford Amphitheater, during the last of the Academy's three concerts at Bravo! Vail for 2016. This was the first year the ensemble, and its music director Joshua Bell, have been in residence at the festival.

The English chamber orchestra performs around the world and is one of the most widely recorded groups in classical music. The Academy is the first international orchestra to be in residence at Bravo! Vail. 

"Their music-making adds a fresh, vibrant, and essential artistic voice to our summer season,” Anne-Marie McDermott, the festival's artistic director, said in a press release. The Academy will play three concerts during each of their upcoming residencies. 

Bravo! Vail also hosts three American orchestras each season: the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony.

Hear CPR Classical's recent feature on Bell and the Academy at Bravo! Vail, and check out CPR's guide to summer classical festivals across Colorado.

There’s A New Met Opera Music Director -- And Colorado Audiences Know Him

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra.

(Photo: Jessica Griffin)

Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the new music director of the Metropolitan Opera, the organization announced today.

Colorado audiences know Nézet-Séguin from his work conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra each summer at Bravo! Vail. He’ll retain his title as music director of that symphony.

The 41-year-old will serve as the Met’s music director designate in 2017-18, assuming the music director title starting in the 2020-21 season. He replaces James Levine, the Met’s music director for the past 40 years.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, it’s a huge honor for a conductor to lead both organizations:

With the Met appointment, Nézet-Séguin, an upstart just a few years ago, will be heading two of classical music's most prestigious institutions, putting both the opera and orchestra worlds at his feet.

"The conductors I have admired all my life divided their time between those two repertoires, and for me it's a question of keeping those two poles but actually making them geographically closer," Nézet-Séguin said this week in a call from Tokyo while on the Philadelphia Orchestra's Asian tour.

"So we happen to have a short train ride away between the two cities [with] arguably the two greatest organizations, symphonic and operatic, in our country. Of course, I feel very lucky I can do this."

Nézet-Séguin’s announcement follows a big appointment for another familiar face at Bravo! Vail. In January, the New York Philharmonic announced their new music director will be conductor Jaap van Zweden, who’s currently music director of the Dallas Symphony. Both the New York Phil and the Dallas Symphony perform each summer in Vail.

Colorado listeners can see Nézet-Séguin in action with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Bravo! Vail. Highlights of his schedule include Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony on July 15 and Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony on July 16.

More more summer classical music highlights, check out CPR Classical’s guide to the 2016 festival season.

Sing Along With Beethoven: A Public ‘Ode To Joy’ Celebration In Colorado Springs

Ludwig van Beethoven

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a chance to cross a big item off your classical music bucket list.

If you’ve always wanted to sing the mighty “Ode to Joy” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony -- but maybe lacked the time or vocal chops to join a choir -- this weekend could be your best opportunity.

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic hosts a sing-along of the famous choral passages at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Music director Josep Caballé-Domenech says he’s excited to invite the public to help bring the legendary piece to life in what’s billed as an “interactive dress rehearsal.”

"We want to bring people together," the conductor told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "Even if it's not perfect, at least you have the experience that you can be powerful making music. The message is you can make music and be part of it."

The Philharmonic will follow the sing-along with two full performances of Symphony No. 9 on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs.

CPR Classical recently explored the massive Ninth Symphony -- as well as Beethoven’s entire symphonic output -- as part of The Beethoven 9 @ 9 Podcast.

Listen and subscribe to the series to hear the stories behind some of Beethoven’s most amazing work.

If you haven't heard the Ninth Symphony lately, refresh your memory with this great performance by the Chicago Symphony: 

Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

University Of Colorado Composer Carter Pann Named Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Composer Carter Pann

(Courtesy University of Colorado)

A composer based at the University of Colorado in Boulder earned recognition from the Pulitzer Prize committee this week.

The Pulitzer panel mentioned Carter Pann, who teaches composition at CU, as a finalist for his piece “Mechanics: Six From the Shop Floor.” Pann wrote the piece in 2013 for the Capitol Quartet, a saxophone ensemble.

Jazz composer Henry Threadgill ultimately won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his piece "In For a Penny, In For a Pound." Pianist and composer Timo Andres, who performed a Friends of Chamber Music recital a few weeks ago in Denver, also received a finalist nod.

In a statement from CU, Pann said he learned of the award when he received a text from a former student.

“The Pulitzer is generally considered an orchestral or opera prize. This wasn’t my first time submitting, and this piece was a total shot in the dark,” Pann said. “It was totally unexpected.”

Pann began teaching composition and music theory at CU’s College of Music in 2005. He recently wrote a new string quartet for the Takacs Quartet, also based at CU.

Watch the Capitol Quartet perform the full piece in this video, filmed at the North American Saxophone Alliance in 2014. “The Mechanics” starts at the 16:10 mark in the concert.

The Capitol Quartet performs Carter Pann's "Mechanics: Six From the Shop Floor." The performance begins at the 16:10 mark.

Denver's Friends Of Chamber Music Reveals Musicians On Tap For 2016-17 Season

The Escher String Quartet

(Photo: Sophie Zhai)

Denver Friends of Chamber Music has announced the classical pianists, string quartets and other musicians on tap for the 2016-17 season.

The Denver organization’s 63rd season at the Newman Center for the Arts starts Sept. 14 with the Escher String Quartet playing music by Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert:

Pianist Jonathan Biss

(Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Other highlights:

  • Sept. 28: Pianist Jonathan Biss plays an all-Beethoven program featuring Sonatas No. 4 in E-flat, No. 17 in D minor and No. 32 in C minor.
  • Oct: 5: Violinist Philip Setzer joins acclaimed chamber duo pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel for music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Schubert.
  • Nov. 9: The Ariel Quartet plays music by Igor Stravinsky and Erwin Schuloff, plus a performance of Erno Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet No. 2 with pianist Orion Weiss.
  • March 15: Pianist Joyce Yang plays music by Robert Schumann, Carl Vine and Enrique Grandos.

Read the full schedule for more on the music and the musicians.

Read previews of the 2016-17 schedules for the Colorado Symphony and Boulder Philharmonic. Or learn about the summer 2016 lineups for Aspen Music Festival and SchoolBravo! Vail and Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival.

Related features: 

Boulder Philharmonic Rolls Out 2016-17 Season Schedule

Boulder Philharmonic performs with the Frequent Flyers aerial dance troupe at Macky Auditorium in Boulder.

(Photo: Courtesy Boulder Philharmonic)

The Boulder Philharmonic released its 2016-17 schedule today. Here are a few of the highlights planned for Macky Auditorium next season:

  • Oct. 8: The season opens with the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo playing Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and pianist Elizabeth Joy Roe playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme By Paganini. The orchestra also plays Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2.
  • Nov. 6: Violinist Edward Dusinberre and violist Geraldine Walther of the Takacs String Quartet perform Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola with the orchestra. The program also includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and “Three Studies From Couperin, British composer Thomas Ades’ reworking of keyboard music by Baroque composer Thomas Ades.
  • March 25, 2017: The evening includes the world premiere of a new piece by composer Stephen Lias celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park; Jeff Midkiff playing “From the Blue Ridge,” a mandolin concerto; and the Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance troupe performing Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” The philharmonic will play the program again later that week at a Washington, D.C. festival recognizing innovative regional orchestras.

Read the Boulder Philharmonic’s full 2016-17 schedule.

Check out our overview of the Colorado Symphony’s 2016-17 schedule. Or read our 2016 season previews for Aspen Music Festival and School, Bravo! Vail and Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival.

Watch a clip from Boulder Philharmonic concertmaster Charles Wetherbee’s CPR Performance Studio session:

Violinist Charles "Chas" Wetherbee and pianist David Korevaar perform "Meditation" by Jules Massenet. Recorded April 22, 2014, in the CPR Performance Studio.

Boulder's 3rd Law Dance/Theater Collaborates With Colorado Composers

3rd Law Dance/Theater

(Photo: Courtesy of the artist)

A Boulder contemporary dance company presents a program this weekend built around new music and collaborations with Colorado composers.

3rd Law Dance/Theater presents its "Elision Project" shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder.

The program features 10 dancers performing to music by:

  • Singer Paul Fowler, who uses his laptop to create music from complex layers of vocals
  • Darwin Grosse and Gregory Taylor, whose work mixes Indonesian music with electronic sounds
  • Violinist Zachary Carrettin, who leads the Boulder Bach Festival, will present a piece called “Take to Light” inspired by the story of Humpty Dumpty. Carrettin often mixes acoustic and electric instruments in performance.

3rd Law's Lee Stern says it's a thrill to work with the local artists.

"Nothing comes close to the experience of working directly with a composer where you are in constant conversation, verbal and non-verbal," Stern says. "It becomes a richer experience because both dance and music can change in real-time to adjust to the needs of the work."

Watch Carrettin play a J.S. Bach Cello Suites arranged for electric violin, from his CPR Performance Studio session.

Zachary Carrettin, electric violin: J.S. Bach "Bouree I-II" (fifth movement) from Cello Suite No. 3 in C major. Recorded Feb. 3, 2015, in the CPR Performance Studio.

Listen: How Bela Bartok Turned Folk Melodies Into Classical Masterworks

Composer Bela Bartok collects field recordings of folk songs from Czech peasants.

(Photo: Public domain)

A simple vacation changed Bela Bartok's life forever. The Hungarian composer took a short trip in 1904, and overheard a nanny singing folk songs to children at a summer resort. 

It moved him deeply. From that moment on, the 23-year-old dedicated himself to the collection, study and presentation of Hungarian, Bulgarian, Magyar and Romanian folk music.

He and his friend, fellow composer Zoltan Kodaly, roamed the countryside looking especially for enclaves of people who for centuries had had little or no contact with the rest of the world.

Bartok transcribed the melodies of their folk songs and dances into modern notation. 

But he also carried a new piece of technology: an Edison recording phonograph. This audio record brings the famous story of Bartok's musicological activities to life. Some of his field recordings captured on wax cylinders survive:

Bartok based the majority of his own compositions in some way on the music he and Kodaly collected. He usually transformed the tunes to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. 

But in some cases he simply reworked the tunes in the field recordings with a modern orchestration that faithfully retains the charm, flavor and fire of the original.

Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" is a great example. This is what Bartok did with those folk dances you heard in the field recordings above:

Happy (belated) birthday to Bela Bartok, born March 25, 1881.