The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in Boulder, Colorado, isn’t broadly known outside the state, but it should be. This summer, under the leadership of the recently arrived Music Director Peter Oundjian, the Festival will actually present more 21st-century pieces (16, including two world premieres) than works by Beethoven (13). That reflects Oundjian’s commitment to presenting the work of living composers as well as music by masters of the canon. This is the first year of the Festival’s five-year commitment to commissioning new works and presenting them in Boulder.
“I believe that performing and hearing music by living composers is essential to keeping the art form alive, and to understanding the relevance of the great masterpieces of centuries past,” said Oundjian. “We don’t have to be afraid of new music anymore, as I learned over the 14 successful years of the New Creations Festival with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra while I was Music Director there.”
The season’s opening concert (performed June 25 and 26) embodies Oundjian’s vision. The first half features Forestallings, a world premiere for orchestra by Hannah Lash, commissioned by the Festival, and John Adams‘s Absolute Jest with guest artists Takács Quartet. According to both Lash and Adams, these pieces were inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, which listeners can hear in the second half of the concert. By pairing the new and the old, Oundjian says the concert honors not only Beethoven’s music in this 250th Anniversary year, but his penchant for bold innovation as well. Lash’s commission also kicks off a three-year series of three generations of women composers, celebrating 100 years of the 19th Amendment.
This summer, John Adams makes his CMF debut as composer-in-residence. “I am honored to be composer-in-residence for the 2020 Colorado Music Festival,” Adams says. “I deeply appreciate the Festival’s enthusiasm for new and imaginative ideas and look forward to the collaboration.”
On July 7, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, also making their CMF debut, performs Adams’s String Quartet No. 2. On July 16, the program features Adams’s City Noir as well as a piece by his son, Samuel Adams, Chamber Concerto. Both composers are planning to attend the concert.
The performance of City Noir concludes the Festival’s first-ever Music of Today Series, July 14-19, with four concerts dedicated exclusively to the work of living composers (except for one Beethoven string quartet).
· The week opens on July 14 with the quartet Brooklyn Rider, which Strings magazine described as “the future of chamber music,” performing five pieces composed in 2018: Caroline Shaw’s Schisma; Gabriela Lena Frank’s Kanto Kechua #2; Du Yun’s i am my own achilles’ heel, a form that would never shape; Matana Roberts’s borderlands…; and Reena Esmail’s Zeher (Poison). Also on the program is Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132.
· On July 16, the CMF Orchestra performs a World Premiere by Wang Jie, also commissioned by the Festival and part of the 19th Amendment women composers project. That evening also features John Adams‘s City Noir (2009) and Samuel Adams‘s Chamber Concerto (2017).
· The “Kaleidoscope” concert on July 17 pairs energetic and accessible contemporary music from an eclectic mix of composers with pianist Christopher Taylor, Jisu Jung on marimba and members of the CMF Orchestra. That evening’s program features:
Joan Tower, Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 5 (1993) Nico Muhly, Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion (2012) Eric Ewazen, Northern Lights (1989) Derek Bermel, Turning (1995) Nebojsa Zivkovic, Trio per Uno (1995/1990) William Bolcom, Piano Quintet No. 2 (2011) Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert (Part IIC) (1975) Leigh Howard Stevens, Rhythmic Caprice (1989)
· On July 19, composer-in-residence John Adams takes the stage for the first half to conduct his own Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, featuring pianist Jeremy Denk in his CMF debut, as well as Gabriella Smith’s Tumblebird Contrails (2014). The second half of the program is dedicated to Christopher Rouse‘s Symphony No. 6 (2019), a dark, introspective work that had its world premiere with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on October 18, 2019. This concert will be the first performance of the symphony since its premiere; Peter Oundjian conducts.
Also new this year is the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, named for Robert Mann, composer, conductor, founding first violin of the Juilliard String Quartet and friend and mentor to CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian. The Tuesday evening series features three quartets making their CMF debuts, beginning on June 30 with the group that carries on Mann’s legacy, the Juilliard String Quartet performing Beethoven, Britten and Brahms. The St. Lawrence String Quartet performs Haydn, Debussy and John Adams‘s String Quartet No. 2 (2014). Brooklyn Rider appears on July 14, performing five pieces of music written in 2018 (see above). The Festival’s own musicians present the last two concerts in the series – on July 21 (Mozart and Brahms) and July 28 (Beethoven).
To honor Beethoven’s genius during this landmark 250th birthday, the Festival concludes its two-year exploration of Beethoven with programs throughout the season:
· Beethoven’s iconic Fifth and Seventh symphonies
· Oundjian’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Op. 131 String Quartet
· A cycle of all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos, performed by the Festival Orchestra and award-winning young pianist Jan Lisiecki over the span of three concerts
· Beethoven’s only violin concerto, performed by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich
· Six of Beethoven’s chamber music treasures as well as his overtures to Fidelio and Coriolan
Several major International Artists will be performing at the Festival this summer with exciting programs. Guitarist Sharon Isbin performs a program featuring Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso; Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez; Chris Brubeck’s Affinity, written for Isbin (2016); and Copland’s Buckaroo Holiday (July 2-3).
The phenomenal twin piano duo of Christina and Michelle Naughton, making their CMF debut in an all-Mozart program, including the rarely heard Concerto for Two Pianos (June 28); pianist Conrad Tao making his CMF debut in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (July 5); Jeremy Denk makes his CMF debut on a program with John Adams conducting (July 19); and a remarkable young pianist, Jan Lisiecki, making his CMF debut with all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos (July 23, 24, 26).
All concerts take place in the historic Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, built in 1898 as the tabernacle for the recently established Colorado Chautauqua, a settlement that arose out of the Chautauqua education movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of only 25 National Historic Landmarks in the state of Colorado, the auditorium is known locally for its electrifying acoustics, providing a unique listening experience in the unsurpassed landscape of Boulder’s Flatirons in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL
Tuesday, July 14 at 7:30 PM
MUSIC OF TODAY Robert Mann CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES Brooklyn Rider Caroline Shaw: Schisma (2018) Gabriela Lena Frank: Kanto Kechua #2 (2018) Du Yun: i am my own achilles’ heel, a form that would never shape (2018) Matana Roberts: borderlands… (2018) Reena Esmail: Zeher (Poison) (2018) Ludwig van Beethoven: Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132
During the 2020 season, the Colorado Music Festival and Center for Musical Arts will launch the Festival Fellows program, hosting a total of eight aspiring professional musicians to serve as Festival Fellows in Boulder, CO. Up to four of the fellows will be selected by the Sphinx Organization, an organization with the goal of addressing “the social issue of underrepresentation of people of color in classical music.”