Type of Review
String quartet produces knock-out
By Kyle MacMillan
Denver Post Fine Arts Critic
Posted: 07/08/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT
Brooklyn Rider's name suggests an indie-rock or jazz group, and that's the point.
The string quartet has made its name by bucking convention — traversing musical boundaries, crossing cultural divides and embracing the new.
It thrives on the unexpected, and that sense of adventure was continuously on exhibit during its knock-out concert Tuesday evening at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder.
Even when playing a work by a classical mainstay, such as Claude Debussy, as it did to open the concert, it breaks from the usual.
Instead of a common chamber work by the French composer, it performed a string-trio version of four sections from "Children's Corner," a solo piano piece dedicated to his daughter.
Quickly demonstrating their classical chops, the three musicians offered an involved, suitably dynamic performance, making the most of violist Nicholas Cords' superb arrangement.
Besides the uncommon passion and energy that Brooklyn Rider brings to its playing, the young, all-male ensemble won over the audience with its informal demeanor, contemporary vibe and easy spontaneity.
It performed at least one work publicly for the first time Tuesday, and it significantly altered the program because one of its violinists, whose girlfriend is about to have a baby, could not make the trip.
Without seeming the least bit bothered by such a last-minute change in plans, it invited two regular collaborators to join the group — bassist Jeffrey Beecher and pipa player Wu Man.
Wu Man has done as much as anyone to transform the pipa, an ancient kind of Chinese lute, into a viable concert instrument. She became the star of the evening, with her extraordinary virtuosity and affable stage presence.
She joined violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen in arguably the concert's highlight: "Ning," by Chen Yi, one of the now-famous Chinese composers to emerge after the Cultural Revolution. This riveting, at times intense, work manages to be alternately explosive, bleak and penetratingly poignant.
Much of the rest of the program was devoted to other internationally flavored works, offering a fresh, appealing take on what classical music can be in the 21st century.
Kyle MacMillan: 303-954-1675 or email@example.com
Posted on 8 Jul 2009, 6:50 AM
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.
Read more: Festival celebrates 10th anniversary - Boulder Daily Camera http://www.dailycamera.com/music/ci_15426058#ix...
Posted on 2 Jul 2010, 11:53 AM