Returning to CMF

Jean-Marie Zeitouni and David Danzmayr will lead orchestra concerts for the next two weeks

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Jean-Marie Zeitouni, principal guest conductor of the Colorado Music Festival.
David Curleigh

The Colorado Music Festival hosts the return of two guest conductors for the central portion of the six-week festival, July 11–23.

For orchestral concerts July 11, 12 and 14, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, principal guest conductor of the festival, returns to lead the Festival Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. David Danzmayr, who appeared as guest conductor in 2015 and 2018, will lead the CMF orchestra July 18,19 and 21.

“I’m excited about coming back,” says Zeitouni, who was the festival music director 2015–17. “I share so much beautiful music-making with the CMF orchestra, that it’s really heartwarming for me. And I have my favorite spot for good coffee, a good meal, a good hike, a good sunset, so this is fun.”

Zeitouni opens his CMF visit with a pair of concerts titled “Romantic Duos,” Thursday and Friday (July 11–12). Three of the pieces have romantic couples in their titles: Pelleas et Mélisande by Gabriel Fauré, Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky, and Bacchus et Ariane by Albert Roussel. Also on the program is Brahms’s Double Concerto for violin and cello, played by the real-life romantic duo of Mira Wang and Jan Vogler, who are married.

Zeitouni, who is Canadian of French heritage, always enjoys bringing French music to Boulder. “I have a long and loving relationship with the (Fauré) piece,” he says. “I think that Fauré is one of the greatest composers, not only of French music but period. I label him unofficially ‘the French Brahms’ — to me they are very good together.”

Although he is not well-known in the U.S., Roussel is well-known in France, where the 150th anniversary of his birth is being celebrated throughout 2019. “His music is brilliant,” Zeitouni says, but “because he was a humble composer, he did not promote his music very well.”

Zeitouni’s second CMF concert is part of the summer series tracing Beethoven’s reach into the future. Titled “Beethoven’s Path to Neoclassicism,” it will feature Beethoven’s First Symphony and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements played with alternating movements. Completing the program is Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto played by pianist Lilya Zilberstein.

The general theme, tracing Beethoven’s anticipation of future trends in music, was the idea of CMF artistic director Peter Oundjian, and Zeitouni contributed the neoclassical program. “Beethoven in a way was the first neoclassic composer,” Zeitouni says. “He took the music of Haydn and stepped it up to something rooted in classicism but completely revolutionary.

“Then we put the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto, played by a true Russian-tradition pianist, which is neoclassical and in C, just like Beethoven’s symphony. The audience loves a good Prokofiev concerto, especially the third one which is so colorful, a shot of pure energy.”

Danzmayr, an Austrian conductor who studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, will conduct two concert programs, one which does not reflect his Austrian heritage, and one — an all Mozart program — that definitely does.

The first, a pair with the same program July 18–19, features Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (“Pathétique”), the celebrated Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero playing the Grieg Piano Concerto, and Sidereus by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Not that Danzmayr is anything but enthusiastic about the programs. “Tchaikovsky’s Sixth is a piece that I’m very happy to do,” he says. “It’s an absolute masterwork.”

And he does find an affinity between the culture of Russia and Austria. “Because of the imperialist times, Imperialist Vienna and Imperialist Russia, there is an influence in Tchaikovsky’s music. And Tchaikovsky loved Mozart, so there is influence there.”

He also sees a connection between Tchaikovsky and Grieg, because both are from northern countries — Russia and Denmark — that are close geographically and share a similar climate. But the Argentine Gollijov represents an entirely different culture.

“Since the rest of the program is quite traditional, I wanted to have something more modern,” Danzmayr says. “Golijov is the best composer of the last 20 years, and I program him very often. I think it’s music that the audience deserves to hear.”

The second program, July 21, is part of the CMF “Magnificent Mozart” mini-festival, with symphonies no. 32 and 38 (“Prague”), the Overture to Don Giovanni, and the brilliant young violinist Stefan Jackiw playing the Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”). 

“The funny thing is, it was not my idea,” Danzmayr says. “I really love Mozart, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of the Mozart program came from the festival.” Since they had decided on a Mozart mini-festival for the 2019 season, Danzmayr says, he was the obvious choice to conduct one of those programs. 

In addition to the orchestral programs there will be two chamber concerts during these two weeks: “Quintessential Harp,” with music by Arnold Bax, Ravel and Brahms, July 16; and “Russian Masters” with piano trios by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.  

ON THE BILL: Colorado Music Festival. July 11–23, all performances at 7:30 p.m. Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder,
303-440-7666, tickets.chautauqua.com