This Mother’s Day weekend is all about nature for Boulder’s classical musicians.
The weekend kicks off Friday night with conductor Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra performing a concert titled “Mother Nature” in Broomfield. The concert, which also features violinist Chloe Trevor, will be repeated Sunday evening in Boulder.
Between those performances, conductor Devin Patrick Hughes and the Boulder Symphony will offer “Nature’s Voice” on Saturday evening, with guest soloist Gal Faganel on cello.
Friday and Sunday the Boulder Chamber Orchestra will present, somewhat curiously, the only piece overtly about nature: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral Symphony,” depicting an afternoon’s walk through the countryside. It was that piece, and the coincidence of the second performance falling on Mother’s Day, that led Saless to his title.
“There really wasn’t any other reason to call it ‘Mother Nature,’” he admits. The other works on the program — the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with Trevor playing the virtuoso solo part, and the Pavane by Gabriel Fauré — don’t have any apparent connection to nature.
Saless says he selected the “Pastoral” because it is one of only two Beethoven symphonies he has not yet conducted. “It’s one of the favorites of all Beethoven symphonies, through its connection to [the animated Disney film] Fantasia,” he says.
“This is our chance to give the audience something that’s not the normal Beethoven. It’s so new for Beethoven to have an impressionist piece rather than something about fate. It’s the in-touch-with nature Beethoven — the Boulderite in Beethoven.”
He wants the performance to offer more than you may remember from Fantasia. “I’m going to bring out all the non-famous parts,” he says. “I think the ‘Scene by the Book’ can have a fresh look, and the chorale at the end of the last movement — a lot of people miss that. It’s an amazing homage to Mother Nature.”
Saless describes violin soloist Chloe Trevor as “an extremely talented up-and-rising star.” Raised in a musical family, Trevor was featured on NPR’s “From the Top” when she was 13. Still a young performer who identifies with “Generation Z,” she has already won several major competitions and performed concertos from Latvia to her home state of Texas.
For the Boulder Symphony Saturday evening, it is the composers rather than the pieces that suggested the title “Nature’s Voice.” The major works will be Sibelius’s Third Symphony and Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with Faganel as soloist. Opening the concert will be the world premiere of Everything All at Once by Jonathan Sokol.
Both Sibelius and Dvorák are known as composers who stressed the heritage of their homelands — Finland and Bohemia, respectively — and often portrayed the natural landscape of those countries. “I was thinking in terms of the composers and what they’re known for,” Hughes says.
“With both composers, and Sokol to some extent, one can’t listen without having some kind of visualization of nature and the relationship between man and nature. For me, that is always coming up with both of those composers.”
If Dvorák’s Cello Concerto was inspired by a landscape, it would have been the American landscape. He spent the years 1892–’94 in the United States and saw much of the countryside. He was inspired to write the concerto after travelling around the country, having been particularly impressed by Niagara Falls, and after hearing the premiere of a cello concerto by Victor Herbert.
Like Trevor, Faganel grew up in a musical family. He started studying cello at 8 in his home country, Slovenia, and later studied at the University of Southern California. He currently teaches cello at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and recently appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival playing electric and acoustic cello.
Just like Sibelius and Dvorák, Sokol has an association with music inspired by nature. Hughes and the Boulder Symphony previously premiered his What Trees May Speak, which mourned the shrinking bird population. But this time it is changes in his own life that inspired Sokol.
Since the previous premiere in 2014, Sokol says, “I’ve gotten married, bought a house and have an infant. Stacking one on top of the other — everything all at once is how it seemed. I went from being myself to suddenly being more responsible.
“The title is kind of a double entendre, because the entire orchestra is playing for much of the piece. This big opening block of sound, very loud and dramatic, represents those shifts or transitions [in my life]. As the piece goes on those become less frequent, and it turns to the more melodic, lyrical side.”
After so many late blizzards and days confined to the house, Saless sees these concerts as an opportunity to finally break out. “Come celebrate spring!” he says.
“The long winter is over!”
On the Bill:
“Mother Nature” — Boulder Chamber Orchestra. 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, Broomfield Auditorium, Broomfield. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 8, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Boulder. Info & Tickets: 303-583-1278, boulderchamberorchestra.com
“Nature’s Voice” — Boulder Symphony. 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7, First Presbyterian Church, Boulder. Info & Tickets: 970-577-1550, bouldersymphony.org