If three’s a charm, then 11 may be magic.
March musical madness has blown in with a tornado of local concerts. Between tonight and March 13, there are 11.
The Durango Choral Society presents “Bright & Beautiful,” tonight. It’s an online collage from the past and present (see Herald, Feb. 26). Saturday, the San Juan Symphony has created a fresh musical offering culminating in an evergreen Bach concerto. Starting Sunday, the 14th Annual Bach Festival ramps up nine concerts careening toward a spectacular finale on March 13.
San Juan Symphony“The Joys of Bach and Bologne,” is the tantalizing title of the orchestra’s late winter concert. Recorded last week on the stage of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, the program consists of ensemble work and features one of Conductor Thomas Heuser’s popular preconcert talks. That part will be live.
“I’ll be speaking from the Rochester Hotel,” Heuser said. “Bach’s C minor Concerto is a powerful piece of music. The key alone has a lot of drama, contrasts in mood and so much emotion.”
A string orchestra will accompany the two soloists: violinist Lauren Avery and oboist Rebecca Ray. Reconstructed from Bach’s 1720 “Concerto for Two Harpsichords,” two solo voices will be in dialogue with each other, Heuser said, playing with the string orchestra.
“We’ve performed this concerto once before, and it’s the kind of a piece we could play every year. It’s such a joy,” said Concertmaster Avery.
Building from the Bach concerto, Heuser added works by two relatively unknown composers to further the symphony’s goal of inclusion.
“How can we not emphasize diversity right now?” Heuser asked. “For example, Joseph Bologne was an 18th century Black French composer and virtuosic violinist. He was a contemporary of Mozart. Briefly, they were associates in Vienna. A few years ago, a colleague of mine introduced Bologne’s music to me. We’ll play his Symphony No. 2 in D Major, from about 1780. It also functioned as the overture to Bologne’s opera “L’Amant Anonyme.”
“In the 1700s, racial discrimination was almost unsurmountable, yet Bologne had a career as a performer and composer,” Heuser said. “His music rings most of early Mozart, crystalline and bubbly.”
For contrast, something Heuser is known for, he’s added a work by contemporary American composer Hanna Benn.
“She’s a composer, a pop singer with a beautiful voice and a diverse portfolio,” he said. “We’ll be performing her work for string orchestra inspired by a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins: ‘Where Springs Not Fail.’ The poem resonates deeply in this time of a pandemic.”
Following the works by Bologne and Benn, Heuser and company will close with Bach.
Bach Festival The 14th annual festival will get underway with two student recitals Sunday, continue with five popular Bach’s Lunch programs throughout the week, with two evening concerts Wednesday and March 13.
If you love cello music, this is your year. Executive Director C. Scott Hagler has packed the normal weeklong schedule of largely local string, wind, vocal and keyboard specialists with a gaggle of cello players.
On Wednesday, for example, five cellists in various groupings – trio, quartet, quintet – will be accompanied by pianist Helen Gregory to perform works rearranged for cellos. The most unusual transformation may be a chorale from “Christ ist Erstanden,” BWV 276, for cello quartet arranged by Rick Mooney. Performers include Sandy Kiefer, Melanie Ellison, Sheri McMurtrey, Steve White and festival stalwart, the inimitable “I-Do Cello” from Farmington, Hans Freuden.
Freuden will reappear on Thursday performing Bach’s Suite No. 2 in D minor as intended for cello solo. And on March 12, Katherine Jetter will perform Bach’s Suite No. 2 in G major, also intended for cello alone.
The midweek evening concert Wednesday is unusual in another way: Hagler will perform Bach’s Two-Part Inventions, BWV 772-786, with “jazzy accompaniments” for second piano by John Salmon.
The festival finale will include a lot of music for strings and a little vocal music. Guest tenor Fred Graham will sing three selections from three different masses. The Durango Chamber Singers will perform a motet by Johann Michael Bach, who happened to be the big man’s first cousin – once removed, and father-in-law by way of Bach’s first wife, Maria.
Violinist Lauren Avery will close the concert with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major – on her viola, mind you.
“I wanted a challenging solo project,” Avery said. “I’ll play the entire work. I grew up listening to my Mom playing this work on her cello. Because the strings are same on the viola and the cello but up an octave, it’s an obvious transition. I played this once before in a Bach Festival concert, and because it’s longer than a lunchtime work, it’s on the evening program.”
Did someone say “big finale”?
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.