Classical News

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.

Playground Ensemble Teaches Denver Students A Unique Musical Language

Denver’s Playground Ensemble, a group that champions modern classical and contemporary composers, is spending this week teaching students an unusual way to create music.

It’s called Soundpainting. A composer guides musicians with a series of hand gestures to create an improvised piece of music in concert. Here’s a video of a Playground Ensemble Soundpainting performance from 2014:

The Playground Ensemble, conducted by Mark Harris, in a Soundpainting performance recorded Sept. 5, 2014, at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Three Playground Ensemble teachers are working with second-through-fifth-graders from El Sistema Colorado, which offers free instrumental and choral music instruction to about 700 students in Denver schools. Megan Moran of El Sistema Colorado called the classes “a launching-pad in musical composition”:

“I wanted to give my students an opportunity to create their own material and be creative in a new way.  I hope that students eventually feel empowered and utilize the skills they learn to think outside of the box and recognize their own artistic ability."

Walter Thompson, who created Soundpainting in 1974 and has presented Soundpainting concerts around the world, helps teach this week’s classes in Denver. Here’s footage of Thompson in action:

A concert by Soundpainting founder Walter Thompson. Recorded October 2013 at Le Triton in Paris.

The students will show off what they’ve learned in their own Soundpainting concert hosted by Friends of Chamber Music. It happens Thursday at Garden Place Academy, 4425 Lincoln St. in Denver.

Check out CPR's recent feature on Playground Ensemble's debut of a unique string quartet by composer Loretta Notareschi.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said the Playground Ensemble also holds monthly Soundpainting meetups. The group says it no longer host those gatherings.

Take A Virtual Lesson From Theremin Virtuoso Clara Rockmore

Google's Doodle celebrating Clara Rockmore.

(Photo: Google screengrab)

Musician Clara Rockmore, a virtuoso player of one of the world's first electronic instruments, was born 105 years ago today.

Google shared a Rockmore-themed Google Doodle today to give users a sense of what it's like to play the instrument, which inventor Leon Theremin created in 1919. A cartoon version of Rockmore -- standing before a period art-deco backdrop -- guides her student through the opening notes of Camille Saint-Saens' "The Swan."

The theremin is a uniquely unwieldy instrument. A player controls the instrument's pitch and volume by moving her hands without actually touching the theremin during a performance. Rockmore died in 1998 but continues to be the theremin's best-known player. 

After you practice with Google's simulation, compare your progress to this footage of Rockmore herself playing "The Swan":

Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore plays "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saens.

The tribute to Rockmore comes a day after a Google celebrated International Women's Day with a video featuring music by composer and tUnE-yArDs singer Merrill Garbus.

Colorado Music Festival In Boulder Rolls Out 2016 Season Schedule

The Colorado Music Festival orchestra performs at Chautauqua Auditorium.

(Photo: Courtesy Colorado Music Festival)

Published 03/04/16
Updated 05/19/16

The Colorado Music Festival in Boulder today released its lineup for the 2016 season.

The schedule includes several pop/classical “Musical Mash-Up” concerts; programs featuring violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Olga Kern; and deep dives into the symphonies of Johannes Brahms and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni

(Photo: Courtesy of Colorado Music Festival)

Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni returns to Chautauqua Auditorium for his second year. Highlights:

  • June 30: An opening night concert at Chautauqua Auditorium featuring vioinist Jennifer Koh playing Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto. The program also includes “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz.
  • July 1: Percussion quartet So Percussion performs.
  • July 7-8: The festival orchestra performs all four of Johannes Brahms’ symphonies over consecutive nights.
  • July 12: Jazz trio The Bad Plus performs “The Rite of Spring Deconstructed,” their take on Igor Stravinsky’s masterpiece.
  • July 14: CMF Music Director Laureate Michael Christie returns to conduct pianist Orion Weiss playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1.
  • July 24: Zeitouni conducts Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s three final symphonies.
  • July 26: Hip-hop artist and producer DJ Spooky performs on the turntables over pieces by Bach, Beethoven and Mozart at a Musical Mash-Up concert.
  • July 30: Vocal octet Roomful of Teeth performs at the Dairy Center. (UPDATE: This concert has been canceled.)
  • Aug. 2: Another Musical Mash-Up concert: Colorado band Paper Bird performs with the festival orchestra.
  • Aug. 7: The season closes with pianist Olga Kern playing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto.

View the full CMF schedule, and check out previews of the 2016 summer schedules for Aspen Music Festival and School and Bravo! Vail.

Watch So Percussion in the CPR Performance Studio:

So Percussion plays the "September" movement from member Jason Treuting's composition "Amid the Noise" in the CPR Performance Studio. Recorded March 19, 2015.

Ennio Morricone Wins Best Original Score At Oscars for 'Hateful Eight'

Film composer Ennio Morricone conducts an excerpt from his score for "The Hateful Eight."

Film composer Ennio Morricone -- whose work in cinema spans more than half a century -- won the Academy Award for best original score during Sunday's ceremony in Hollywood.

Morricone received the nod for his work on director Quentin Tarantino's Western thriller "The Hateful Eight." Tarantino filmed much of the movie near Telluride (though it's actually set in Wyoming). 

Watch footage of Morricone conducting an ominous excerpt from the score in the video above, which also contains some of the film's Rocky Mountain scenery.

The 87-year-old Italian composer's previous scores include "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "The Mission." He received another Oscar, an honorary award for his body of film work, in 2007.

Other nominated composers on Sunday included Thomas Newman, who scored Steven Spielberg's thriller "Bridge of Spies," and John Williams, who composed the music for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Kantorei Unveils New Music By Its Composer In Residence This Weekend

Denver choral group Kantorei performs.

(Photo: courtesy of the artist)

Denver choral group Kantorei performs a concert this weekend featuring new music by its composer in residence.

Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen is in Colorado this week to help Kantorei rehearse his newest pieces. He’s collaborating with the singers for the 2015-16 season.

Composer Kim Andre Arnesen

(Photo: Courtesy Kantorei)

Kantorei performs Arnesen’s music Saturday at Denver’s Montview Presbyterian Church and Sunday at Englewood’s First Plymouth Congregational Church.

The program also includes “Passion Week,” a piece by Lithuanian composer Maximilian Steinberg that was published quietly in the 1920s and rediscovered in 2014.

Audio: David Rutherford on Maximilian Steinberg's Rediscovered 'Passion Week'

The range of different choral styles on this weekend’s program is impressive, Arnesen told CPR Classical's David Rutherford.

“I think I have developed as a composer in this process,” he said. “and realized I have one voice but it can be used in many different ways.”

Check out recordings of two Arnesen pieces Kantorei performed earlier this season. The group debuted “The Lamb” at its December concerts:

And here's "Cradle Hymn," also from the December concert:

Bravo! Vail Music Festival Announces 2016 Season

Violinist Joshua Bell leads the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.

(Photo: Ian Douglas)

Bravo! Vail, the annual summer classical music festival in the Vail valley, announced its 2016 season today. (It follows recent season announcements by the Colorado Symphony and Aspen Music Festival and School.)

This year the festival adds Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra, led by violinist Joshua Bell, to the schedule. The Dallas Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic also return.

The season runs June 23-Aug. 6. A few highlights:

  • June 25: The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra plays Felix Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, featuring Bell on violin and pianist Jeremy Denk.
  • July 3: The Dallas Symphony -- led by Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic’s next music director -- plays Bruch’s Violin Concert in G minor with violinist Augustin Hadelich.
  • July 16: The Philadelphia Orchestra plays Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2 with the Colorado Symphony Chorus.
  • July 19: The Dover String Quartet plays Beethoven's Grosse Fugue and Smetana's Quartet No. 1, "From My Life," at Donovan Pavilion.
  • July 28: The New York Philharmonic plays Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 and Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 with violinist Leila Josefowicz
  • Aug. 3: A chamber music concert at Vail's Donovan Pavilion featuring violinist Ida Kavafian, pianist Christopher O'Riley and Bravo Vail's Anne-Marie McDermott on piano. The program includes music by Paul Lansky and Osvaldo Golijov.
  • Aug. 6: Sixty-six percussionists give an outdoor performance of John Luther Adams' "Inuksuit" in Minturn's Maloit Park.

See the full Bravo! Vail 2016 schedule.