Pro Musica Colorado looks backward, forward and outward

Music by J.S. Bach, Haydn and world premiere by Max Wolpert

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Harpsichordist Jory Vinikour , photographed in his Lincoln Park apartment, in Chicago, on Saturday Mar. 1, 2015.
Nuccio DiNuzzo

The next concert by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra will look backward, and forward, and outward.

The program, titled “Classical Evolution,” will be presented in Denver on Friday, Feb. 22, and Boulder on Saturday, Feb. 23, and, in a new venture for Pro Musica, in Longmont on Sunday, Feb. 24.

The concert will feature works by J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn, and the world premiere of a new work by Boulder-based fiddler/composer Max Wolpert. Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct the concert, which will feature harpsichordist Jory Vinikour as soloist.

Bach’s piece on the program, the D minor Harpsichord Concerto, looks back in the sense that it probably derived from an earlier, but now lost, concerto for violin. Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 22 (“The Philosopher”) looks back by starting with a movement in an earlier style from the Baroque period, and forward in the later movements by anticipating styles of the composer’s later symphonies.

And Wolpert’s Baroque in Mirror, a concerto for harpsichord and small orchestra, looks back to some revered folk performers and composers from Baroque times, outward to music of different traditions, and forward by bringing them into a contemporary setting.

“The idea was to look at the Baroque period from the other side,” Wolpert says. “I’m a fiddle player, and a lot of our legendary figures were around at that time. So we’re looking at figures from the traditional music world, and paying homage to their music.”

The first movement was inspired by Daniel Dow, a Scottish fiddle player of the 18th century, and the third by John Perry, a blind harpist from Wales of the 18th and 19th centuries. The second movement, however, had a more serious source.

“It was going to be a tribute to Abraham Caceres, a Jewish composer from Amsterdam,” Wolpert says. “The day I sat down to write was the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. Hearing that, the movement became a piece in mourning.”

As a fiddle player, Wolpert admits that he had quite a bit of help from Vinikour learning to write for the harpsichord. “There was quite a bit of ping-ponging back and forth,” is how Vinikour describes the process.

“I think I got where Max was coming from, [and] I had some ideas how to use the harpsichord. But the harpsichord is really just one part of the texture. It’s not a traditional concerto pitting one solo instrument against everybody else.”

Vinikour says that Bach’s D-minor Harpsichord Concerto — the best known piece on the program — stands apart from the composer’s other keyboard concertos. “There are complex passages, chordal writing [and] multi-voice writing, where in the other concerti we are looking at very simple writing,” he says.

“In the D minor Concerto, Bach uses much of his arsenal as keyboard virtuoso. The harpsichord never stops, even when the orchestra takes over, so it’s a very challenging work.”

The final work on the program is by a composer that Katsarelis especially loves, and whose music Pro Musica has performed often. “It’s completely impossible to do too many Haydn symphonies,” she says.

For this concert Katsarelis selected one of Haydn’s earlier symphonies, No. 22 in E-flat major, composed in 1764. It was named “The Philosopher” by an Italian copyist in the 1790s, probably because the slow first movement features a somber dialogue between French horns and two English horns over a steady “walking” bass line in the strings.

The slow tempo and the dialogue between instruments evoke a deep conversation. The movement also harkens back to earlier styles, with the steady bass line and the Baroque sounding texture between the voices. Finally, the movement’s philosophical quality comes from the unusual use of English horns instead of oboes, which creates a darker and more reflective sound.

But after this subdued opening, the remainder of the symphony goes very quickly and in a very jolly mood. “After the Socratic dialogues of the first movement, it’s off the to pub,” Katsarelis says. “As it should be!”

ON THE BILL: “Classical Evolution” — Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with music directors Max Wolpert and Cynthia Katsarelis; Jory Vinikour on harpsichord.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St., Denver. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder. 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont. Tickets: app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=90559