Guest conductors launch 2018 Colorado Music Festival

Violinists Gluzman and Quint, pianists Weiss and Martinez will be early soloists at CMF

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The Chautauqua Auditorium during the Colorado Music Festival.
Eric Berlin

The Colorado Music Festival, facing another year without a permanent music director, opens with two weeks of concerts led by guest conductors Marcelo Lehninger and David Danzmayr. Current artistic advisor Peter Oundjian will lead several concerts mid-summer, and former music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni will return for one week.

The opening weeks set the festival pattern of full orchestra concerts on Thursdays and chamber orchestra on Sundays. Later, the season will also see the return of Fresh Friday mini-concerts and Saturday chamber music (full schedule at coloradomusicfestival.org).

The season opens June 28 with a concert featuring violinist Vadim Gluzman with Lehninger conducting. A rising young conductor, Lehninger currently leads the Grand Rapids Symphony. Gluzman, the celebrated Ukrainian-born Israeli violinist, will play Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, a lovely, lyrical work that has become popular during the 2018 Bernstein centennial.

The concert will open with John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture, a sort of Haydn “Farewell Symphony” in reverse in which the orchestra members start backstage and gradually enter playing. The program will conclude with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

“The Overture is a wonderful effect, with the idea of the orchestra getting back together again for the summer,” Lehninger says. “The Bernstein Serenade is a great piece, hard to conduct to make things work between the soloist and the orchestra, but really wonderful. And we finish with the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony, a phenomenal piece and so exciting.”

Although this is Lehninger’s first performance at the CMF, he has spent a lot of time in Colorado. “My wife is from Denver, so I’m looking forward to participating in this wonderful festival.”

Weiss, a local favorite who has been coming to CMF since 2001, will play Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto on Lehninger’s Sunday concert. Also on the program are Stravinsky’s Suite No. 2 and Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony.

“I’m so happy to have the connection [with CMF],” Weiss says. “A musical career is like a quilt. Certain parts are just patches, but Colorado Music Festival has been a long thread going through my whole life.

“I’ve been playing [the “Emperor” Concerto] for a long time. Every time I come back to it, its beauty and excitement are so fresh. That’s why people love it — it never can be worn out.”

Currently conducting in Zagreb, Danzmayr first appeared at CMF two years ago and returns for the second full week of the festival. He grew up in Salzburg, Austria, and music of his native country forms a central part of his programming: Mahler’s First Symphony on Thursday (July 5) and Schubert’s Third Symphony on Saturday (July 8).

“As a conductor, it’s lucky if you’re from Austria,” he says. “You have [music by Austrian composers] in your bones. I grew up playing Austrian folk music with my grandfather, [which] gives a background to this music that makes it very natural.”

The programming of symphonies by Mahler and Schubert is deliberate. “It’s very important to play Schubert and Mahler together, because Schubert leads directly to Mahler,” Danzmayr maintains. “Without Schubert there would not have been Mahler.”

Mahler’s First is well known in the U.S., but Schubert’s Third Symphony is not. “The Third is where he became completely Schubert,” Danzmayr says.

Both of Danzmayr’s concerts feature soloists: pianist Gabriela Martinez on Thursday, playing Mozart’s dramatic D-minor Piano Concerto on the program with Mahler; and violinist Philippe Quint, playing Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with Schubert on Sunday.

Martinez appeared in Boulder in 2014, playing Saint-Saëns with the Boulder Philharmonic. A Juilliard-trained pianist from Venezuela, she rose to fame when she won the revived Anton Rubinstein Piano Competition in 2003. In a recent performance with the Rogue Valley Symphony in Oregon, she was praised for her “dazzling performance of de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain.”

Quint appeared with the Boulder Phil in 2015, but this will be his first appearance at CMF. “I think this is probably the last major place in Colorado that I have not performed,” he says. “I always look forward to being in Colorado.”

On the Bill: Colorado Music Festival. First two weeks: June 28-July 8. All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium. coloradomusicfestival.org/tickets.