Colorado Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian with Robert McDuffie, violin.

by admin on October 16, 2011 · 5 comments

in Live Music Reviews

by Anthony Kershaw

Boettcher Concert Hall / Denver Performing Arts Complex
October 15, 2011


BERNSTEIN / Overture to Candide

GLASS / Violin Concerto No. 2, “The American Four Seasons”

BEETHOVEN / Symphony No. 7

Denver, CO — I was fortunate to get a late press ticket for the Colorado Symphony’s Masterwork concert of Bernstein, Cage and Beethoven, with Peter Oundjian, conductor
 and violin soloist, Robert McDuffie.

I’m in Denver attending the amazing Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, but after 12 hours of listening via electrons, I wanted to cleanse my ears a little with some live music. What a nice surprise that the CSO was doing my favourite Beethoven symphony with my hometown conductor (Oundjian is Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra). And, what a lovely evening it turned out to be.

The evening started ominously, but through the cheery demeanor of the orchestra’s timpanist. He was announcing the new board members during ‘this difficult financial time of the orchestra’s life (over a million dollar deficit, I believe), and how, with the help of all concerned, the orchestra and its subscribers would navigate the ‘bumps in the road’. The audience responded with hearty clapping at every ‘obstacle’. They adore their orchestra. It was refreshing to see such transparency (an overused and tiresome word, in many cases) by the orchestra and board and the will to ensure the orchestra’s survival. And survive, it must.

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is an expressive instrument, filled with fine soloists. Oundjian got the best out of the orchestra — the rhythmic vitality, the energy and the joy was evident on all the musicians’ faces. They obviously love working with him (Oundjian has recently been appointed to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and will maintain his position in Toronto, too).

Bernstein’s Candide Overture began the program with its customary jolt. Speed was consistent and all orchestral pyrotechnics were in place. The same can be said for the excellent Beethoven. The dance rhythms of the first movement were infectious — for Oundjian, too, considering his dancing on the podium. The elegiac slow movement was beautifully balanced and Oundjian started it attacca. It was very effective. The Scherzo was played brimming with energy and moved directly in to the blazing Finale.

American violinist Robert McDuffie commissioned Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2 — The American Four Seasons. It is typical of Glass’ meanderings but with some lovely solo sections and a beautiful slow ’season’ — we are left to our own devices by Glass to match season with movement. McDuffie was a passionate advocate for the work and the audience loved it.

The only sore spot of the evening was the acoustics of the Boettcher Concert Hall / Denver Performing Arts Complex. The complex is astounding — theatre, opera house, symphony hall, restaurants, under one giant atrium, but the interior of the concert hall reminded me of a high school auditorium within the shell of the Royal Albert Hall. I could tell (and was told) that the orchestra members have to work exceptionally hard to project their sounds, especially the woodwind. In these financial times, the players are happy to have a central, comfortable home. But, musically, they deserve better.

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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2011 — Audiophilia
10.17.11 at 9:59 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Tift 10.16.11 at 8:58 am

Enjoyed sitting with you at the concert last evening. You had this posted almost before I returned to Colorado Springs. I think your assessment of the concert is a fair one. For my tastes I would have preferred the first two movements of the Beethoven to have been a bit faster in tempo, but I see the logic of his interpretation. Having only heard the Glass concerto only in snippets from the Alsop recording before last night, I really can’t give an opinion on the work or performance. As to the hall, the city passed a 60 million dollar bond a couple of years ago for a redo with the symphony coming up with thirty–which they have not done to date. To hear what the hall sounds like under less stressful conditions, I recommend the Naxos/Alsop recording of the fourth symphony of Tchaikovsky, #8.555714. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Denver.

admin 10.16.11 at 10:37 am

Hi Richard.

Very pleasant to meet and talk with you last night. A very enjoyable evening.

I enjoyed the concert, I really liked seeing how the patrons dressed (lots of black tie and formal dresses — lovely), but most of all, observing the respect and love the orchestra and its audience has for each other was wonderful. It’s not so obvious in London, New York, or Toronto.

As for the hall, I guess the orchestra has bigger fish to fry than sorting out the hall. And, even if the money is there, the right acoustician must be found. From the many duff halls I’ve watched, played or conducted, harder than one might think!

Special thanks to Sarah Horn of the CSO office for organizing a press ticket request so quickly. Cheers, a

Michael Mercer 10.17.11 at 2:45 pm


Your prose on the experience of the evening truly brought me there with you.

admin 10.17.11 at 5:32 pm

You are so kind, Michael. Thx. Cheers, a

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