BOULDER—Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra opens for the Season on September 15. This is a magic time. I’ve mentioned before that Macky Auditorium and the Boulder Phil are a match mixed with manna from heaven, but when Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 is part of the recipe, all that is lofty and elevating in music and architecture come in to play.
This stupendous symphony in four movements was performed first in Moscow in 1878 and dedicated to Tchaikovsky’s patron, Nadezhada von Meck. The patron-artist relationship in this period was one of mutual regard and a sort of symbiotic creativity, placing patron in equal esteem with artist.
The musical architecture of Symphony No. 4 has been linked sympathetically with the composer’s somewhat tormented existence. Tchaikovsky’s own description of the essence of the piece gives us more than hints in this regard: "The fatal power which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness ... There is nothing to be done but to submit to it and lament in vain.”
Tchaikovsky further describes the first movement of the work as “all life is an unbroken alternation of hard reality with swiftly passing dreams and visions of happiness. No haven exists …Drift upon that sea until it engulfs and submerges you in its depths.”
Tortured much? Who knows why it is that the most exquisite of life’s pleasures have often stemmed from the worst of its pain. One has to wonder if, given the choice between peace of mind and towering achievement, would the artist choose to forego the suffering that gives birth to a masterpiece?
There is a great deal of reflection upon the challenging musical structure of this symphony, as well. The PBS series “Great Performances” is a good start at delving into a deeper understanding of the composition, providing colorful narrative and associated links.
But of course, submerging oneself in the utter beauty of a piece of music is the way to know it, and Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra has never failed to transport me. Music Director Michael Butterman conducts this concert which marks the Orchestra’s 55th Season. Of this Season, Butterman in a recent press release says “Our concerts blend time-tested masterpieces with new discoveries. They reflect the artistry and creative spirit that make Boulder unique.”
Also on the program for Opening Night are pieces by Boulder composer Jeffrey Nytch and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Jeffrey Nytch is the Director of CU’S Center for Entrepreneurship. His work “Acclimations” is described as a short, high-spirited composition that puts the Orchestra through its paces.
Returning to perform with Boulder Philharmonic for a second time is celebrated pianist, Christopher Taylor. Prokofiev himself played his Piano Concerto No. 3 in a 1921 premier with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Christopher Taylor maintains a demanding performance and recording schedule while also serving on the faculty of UW in Madison, where he lives with his family. He was named an American Pianists’ Association Fellow for 2000, received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1996, and has won many awards, but more importantly here, Taylor performed Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Boulder Philharmonic in 2010 to a sold-out and raving audience that has eagerly awaited his return.
Of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Michael Butterman describes a brief and serene opening with a piano entrance announced with a definite sense of virtuosic, kinetic energy. “Throughout the piece, Prokofiev alternates harmonies and episodes of near caricature with periods of lush romanticism more reminiscent of Rachmaninoff – a stylistic dualism, if you will.”
I will! I will!