Festival celebrates 10th anniversary
Boulder`s king of classical leads with Schumann and Strauss
By Kelly Dean Hansen For the Camera
Posted: 07/02/2010 12:08:22 AM MDT
In the summer of 2001, a few months before 9/11, an unproven young conductor, still a couple of years short of 30, took the podium at Chautauqua to fill the shoes of Giora Bernstein at the Colorado Music Festival. It was a shaky summer for the festival. Attendance was low, and so were finances, but at the end of the season, Michael Christie took the stage and announced his own donation while the CMF board pled with the patrons to save the festival. The festival was saved, but money did not do it. Christie himself is almost solely responsible for what the festival is today, a vibrant, financially sound institution that is more deeply entwined with Boulder`s larger music scene than ever before.
He did it in several ways. He diversified programming, focused on new music, made bold experiments that usually worked but sometimes did not, and most importantly, never forgot to have a sound focus on the classical repertoire no matter how daring he would sometimes be. His tenth anniversary season, which opened in earnest Thursday night, is a celebration of his nearly undisputed status as Boulder`s king of classical music.
The first piece he conducted as music director was Robert Schumann`s Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra. It was performed at the overpriced and elitist "opening gala" concert, an event whose demise was one of the earliest positive developments in his tenure. Thursday, to open the season, he went back to this work. The fact that Summer 2010 marks the 200th anniversary of Schumann`s birth is a happy coincidence as well.
The horns of the CMF orchestra, Andrew Bain, Amy Jo Rhine, Andrew Karr, and Gregory Rossa, played the exuberant work with intelligence and fine musicianship, dividing the horn parts among themselves in a judicious way, passing the "principal" parts between them as needed rather than simply sticking to Schumann`s four parts. This made no difference in the actual sound, and helped preserve stamina between them. The opening was a bit shaky, but they quickly found their way to a blazing, harmonious sound that was supported sensitively by Christie and the orchestra.
Christie chose to emulate a Viennese New Years` Eve concert for the second half of the program, playing a satisfying mix of waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss Jr. and his two brothers Josef and Eduard. Strauss has been rather neglected at the festival, and it was a delight to hear this orchestra play both familiar standards such as the "Voices of Spring" waltz along with lesser-known gems such as the "Lagoon Waltz."
There was a balanced dose of humor as well, some of it provided by Strauss himself, such as the bird calls in the "Krapfenwald" polka. The evening`s wonderful capstone, however, was the staged "mutiny" of the second violin section, who, tired of playing repeated chords on the off-beats, "demanded" to switch parts with the first violins in the iconic "Blue Danube" waltz, giving themselves a chance to play the melody. It was, of course, seamless, but such stunts underscore the fact that this is an orchestra filled with the best of the best in all sections.
There is much serious music to come in the anniversary season, but the opening celebration was joyous and "fun" in the best possible way.
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Posted on 2 Jul 2010, 11:53 AM