The opening weekend of the Colorado Music Festival’s 40th anniversary season, Thursday, June 29 through Sunday, July 2, will set the pattern for the entire 2017 season.
“It will be a microcosm of the whole festival,” music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni says. “A variety of repertoire, Baroque, Classic, Romantic, 20th-century, high-profile guest soloists, big orchestral pieces, variety, intensity; it sums it all.”
The opening concert will feature pianist Olga Kern playing two Russian concertos: Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Framing Kern’s solo turns will be Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, and Rachmaninoff’s deeply Romantic Symphony No. 2 in E minor.
The Rachmaninoff Rhapsody recalls one of the CMF’s most spectacular events, Kern’s 2013 performance of all the Rachmaninoff concertos over two nights. This represents another theme of the 40th anniversary: honoring the festival’s history with music from its past. And so the season opens with Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” which was featured in the 10th anniversary season.
Zeitouni chose the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony to end the concert as one of his “so-called gifts to the orchestra,” he says. “They are the heroes, to me, of this festival. I thought having the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony as the main course was the right thing to start the season, to put the orchestra back together.”
Kern will also appear in a solo recital of American and Russian music on July 1, featuring Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Balakirev and several pieces by Gershwin. The next day, CMF founding director Giora Bernstein returns to Boulder for the first time in 10 years to conduct the CMF chamber orchestra.
Bernstein’s program is entirely in the key of D — although that is just coincidental. Two concertos featuring orchestra members had already been selected: the Marcello Oboe Concerto in D minor with orchestra oboist Olav Van Hezewijk, and the Bach Double Concerto in D minor for violinists Calin Lupanu and Joseph Meyer.
“To frame them, I thought Mozart would be wonderful, like bookends,” Bernstein says. He chose two symphonies from the 1780s, the “Haffner” Symphony No. 35 and the “Prague” Symphony No. 38, both in D major.
“They are so different, one from the other,” Bernstein says. “The Haffner has four movements, but is a relatively short symphony. The Prague Symphony is known as the symphony without a minuet, and yet it is more extensive, more expansive. That is the imagination, the genius of Mozart!”
The second Festival Orchestra Concert on July 6 will honor Independence Day with an all-American program under the direction of guest conductor Cristian Macelaru with the Three Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, The “Red Violin” Concerto by John Corigliano played by Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä, and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.”
The next week will see the annual Young People’s Concert at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 8, directed by Scott Terrell, music director of the Lexington Philharmonic; chamber music featuring members of the Festival Orchestra playing Schubert, at 7:30 p.m. the same day; and the first of three Happy Hour @Chautauqua events Tuesday, July 1 at 5:30 p.m. for happy hour and 7:30 p.m. for “Two to Tango,” featuring pianists Christopher O’Riley and Pablo Ziegler.
The first weeks of the festival culminate with performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14.
“It’s basically right in the middle of the festival so it’s a way to mark a certain apex,” Zeitouni says.
The Ninth will be performed with a quartet of vocal soloists he describes as “fantastic”: soprano Mary Wilson, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, CU alumnus Jason Baldwin, tenor, and former CU and professional football player Keith Miller, bass.
For the Thursday night Festival Orchestra concert, the Ninth is programmed with two other works, the north American premier of A Little Summer Suite by Betsy Jolas — a composer with ties to CMF’s history — and DeYoung singing Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with the orchestra. The symphony alone will be repeated at 6:30 p.m. the following night for the first of three “Fresh Friday” performances, a series of shorter concerts giving time for the patrons to have an evening out after the program.
The Ninth is one of the most performed classical works, but Zeitouni says, “I really don’t think there is such a thing as too much, if it’s done with commitment and care. Each time I [conduct it] I buy a brand new score, I get rid of all the markings and I start fresh, because I try to look at it like the first time.”
On the Bill:
Colorado Music Festival
(classical concerts through July 14)
Opening Night: Olga Kern Plays Rachmaninoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29
Olga Kern Recital: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1
Mozart with CMF Founder Giora Bernstein: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 2
“All-American,” featuring violinist Elina Vähälä: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6
Young People’s Concert: 10 a.m. Saturday, July 8
Chamber Music: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 8,
Beethoven’s Ninth: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13
Fresh Fridays – Beethoven’s Ninth:
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 14
Chamber Orchestra with Pianist Stewart Goodyear: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16
All performances in the Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder.
Tickets: Chautauqua Box Office 303-440-7666, or