Highs and Lows Saturday, November 18, 2017, 7pm, Broadmoor Community Church Sunday, November 19, 2017, 2:30pm, First Christian Church
Pärt Fratres for Violin, Strings and Percussion Jacob Klock, violin Britten Simple Symphony, op. 4 for Strings Lundquist Landskap (Landscape) for Tuba, Strings & Piano Charles Ortega, tuba Mozart Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K201
The Chamber Orchestra is delighted to feature Charles Ortega, Principal Tubist of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, in his first solo performance after his triumphant recovery from a devastating car accident. Charlie’s artistry is the center of a diverse program of some of the most exciting and uplifting music, with another exceptional performance of a Mozart symphony. Nobody does Mozart like the Chamber Orchestra!
Pre-concert talk 45 minutes prior to each concert with Michael Campion, KCME On-Air Host.
BY MARK ARNEST
Concert overview: The title “Highs and Lows” could refer to the pieces’ comparative registers – ranging from the floating melodic art of Fratres, to the deep notes of Landskap. But even more pointedly, this program contrasts youth and maturity. The Mozart and Britten pieces show composers near the beginnings of their careers, all freshness, spontaneity, and joie de vivre; the Pärt and Lundquist pieces show composers at the height of their creative powers, supplementing their innate creativity with the skill and attention to detail that are the fruits of years of hard work.
Overview: Arvo Pärt Born: September 11, 1935, Paide, Estonia Work Composed: Original version 1977; this version 1992 Why It Matters: A beautiful and contemplative work by one of the most individual of contemporary composers
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in 1886, “Madness is rare in individuals; but in groups, parties, nations, and ages, it is the rule.” One of the differences between our world and Nietzche’s is that what was then a brilliant insight is now painfully obvious. Before rapid mass communication, few who didn’t live in a border area were acutely aware of what was going on outside their own group. Now all cultures – whatever culture it happens to be – are continuously bombarded with ideas and products from other cultures. Today, we know enough history to realize that there is no golden age to which we can return; and at the same time, we are aware that there is no way forward that guarantees success. Thus we now live in a state of anxiety: Either we are uncertain of our way, but in the company of fellow pilgrims; or to the extent we are certain of our way, we are surrounded by enemies. The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt invites us to take a break from this world of history and time and causality and judgment and anxiety. Until his early 30s, he was a typical academic composer, composing in various contemporary styles. But in 1968, Pärt had a creative crisis: He realized his music meant nothing to him. He said years later, “I had lost my inner compass and I didn’t know anymore what an interval or a key meant.” He courageously admitted to himself that he had spent decades pursuing the wrong goal. Three years later, he began again in a radically simplified style. Pärt’s goal is nothing less than to return our shattered world – for a few minutes, at least – to wholeness and an understanding of itself. In many ways, Pärt’s minimalism is the musical opposite of the consumer world in which we live. We’re continually bombarded with images and stimuli, each vying for our attention; Pärt’s music is simple, and encourages us to listen with a meditative state of mind. We often listen to music for its emotional or intellectual impact; Pärt’s music is almost aimed at the physiological level, affecting us below the level of meaning, whether intellectual or emotional. As composer Steve Reich has written of Pärt, “His music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion.” Fratres (“Brothers”) is one of Pärt’s most widely played pieces, partly because it exists in so many versions: 19 in all, dating from 1977 to 2009. It consists of a slow, repeating chord progression that’s lyrical without being melodic. Like much of Pärt’s music, it has a dynamic arch, but it is not goal-oriented music; it has no definite direction and no climax. It simply comes closer to us and then moves away in a way that implies that it has sounded since the beginning of time, and will continue until the end of time.
Overview: Benjamin Britten Born Nov. 22, 1913; died Dec. 4, 1976 Work Composed: 1934 Why It Matters: An atypical but beautiful work by one of the greatest of English 20th-century composers.
After the death of Henry Purcell in 1695, English classical music went through an extraordinary dry spell, with no indisputably great composers for a period of nearly two centuries until the emergence of Edward Elgar in the late 19th Century. Elgar turned out to be merely the first of a veritable flood of English composers that continues to the present day; and of those composers, none is more esteemed than Benjamin Britten. When Britten’s mother realized the extent of her son’s musical talent, she set out to make him the fourth “B,” after Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, with predictable results: Britten eventually made his peace with Bach and Beethoven, but his dislike of Brahms endured to the end of his life. Composition lessons with Frank Bridge broadened his horizons. Although his own music is always approachable, he had great admiration for modernist composers such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Berg. Britten composed fluently and in many genres. Along with Mozart and Tchaikovsky, he was one of the rare composers who was equally successful in both opera and instrumental music. In the notes to the 1956 Decca recording of this piece, Benjamin Britten wrote that, when he was a boy, there was only one thing unusual about him: “He wrote music. His friends bore with it, his enemies kicked a bit but not for long (he was quite tough), the staff couldn't object if his work and games didn't suffer. He wrote lots of it, reams and reams of it.” Britten composed the Simple Symphony when was 20, but most of its thematic material is much earlier: He was only nine when he composed some of the themes. The style is largely Neoclassical, but it’s straight pastiche – “in the style of” – rather than the radical reimagining of Classical style found in Stravinsky’s Neoclassical works. The alliterative titles to the four brief movements attest to the piece’s unpretentiousness: “Boisterous Bourrée,” “Playful Pizzicato,” “Sentimental Sarabande,” and “Frolicsome Finale.” It’s a piece that reveals most of its charms at first hearing, but is so attractive you’ll want to hear it again. The theme of the “Boisterous Bourée” is a minor-key version of “How Dry I Am,” perhaps the most widely used motive in music history. (Leonard Bernstein devoted an essay to this thematic shape in The Infinite Variety of Music, in which he discusses 20 or so versions – but not this one.) As was Haydn’s favorite procedure, the lyrical second theme is a variant of the first theme. The development section is reminiscent of Mendelssohn in its lightness. The recapitulation is reversed in both order and dynamic scheme, beginning with a triumphant statement of the second theme and ending with a subdued treatment of the first theme. The Playful Pizzicato is pure fun in a simple ABA form. Its folk song-like middle section is especially charming. The Sentimental Sarabande, also in ABA form, is the work’s longest and most expressively complex movement – the one movement that doesn’t reveal all its beauties on first hearing. The exhilarating Frolicsome Finale returns to the sonata form of the first movement, but with a more driving rhythm. Britten would go on to compose more individual, more ambitious, and more complex pieces, but few works of his are more widely performed than this expressively direct and lucidly scored little symphony.
Overview: Torbjörn Lundquist Born September 30, 1920, Stockholm, Sweden; died July 1, 2000, Grillby, Sweden Work Composed: 1978/1994 Why It Matters: You get to tell your friends, “I heard a beautiful tuba concerto.”
There’s something almost tragic about the tuba. If you’ve ever heard “Tubby the Tuba,” you’ve encountered the instrument’s beautiful upper register: a suave, mellow sound that’s unique among brass instruments. But it’s rarely heard in orchestral music, because the lower register is so useful. Tuba players – despite their instrument’s beautiful high notes – spend an inordinate amount of their lives as the “oom” in “oom-pah.” Fortunately, there’s this concerto, in which the tuba’s lyrical quality is very much on display. Its composer, Torbjörn Lundquist, wrote prolifically and skillfully, including 9 symphonies (6 composed after he turned 60), numerous large-scale works for accordion, and 26 film scores. And he possessed a wide stylistic palette, encompassing traditional and modern classical music, jazz, Balinese Gamelan, and the music of the Saami people of the far north. But aside from a few accordion pieces, Lundquist remains almost unknown outside his native Sweden. Landskap was begun during a period when Lundquist was especially interested in the tuba: The previous year, he’d composed Triplet for four tubas. Landskap exhibits his natural lyricism, his spontaneity, and his expert handling of transitions. The harmonies obviously belong to the 20th Century, but they are not as acidic as found in such Lundquist works as the Sinfonia Ecologica or Metamorphoses for accordion; nor does this piece contain the driving rhythms typical of these scores. Its mood is mostly lyrical, and is often reminiscent of film music from the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s a challenge to write concertos for low instruments, because our ears naturally gravitate to high notes. (This is a major reason why there are so many more violin concertos than cello concertos.) The challenge is lessened in this case by the tuba’s natural volume, the relatively small accompanying ensemble, and the wide difference in tone color between the tuba, the piano, and the strings; but even so you’ll notice how much care Lundquist takes to give the tuba is own acoustic space in which to shine. The strings are generally written above the tuba, not around it. The piece unfolds as a series of picturesque episodes – not a single landscape, but several. Although the opening tuba cadenza sounds like an improvisation, it contains the germs of the following themes. The tonality is ambiguous, and it remains ambiguous when the orchestra enters, hovering between C-sharp minor and B-flat minor. The central episode is lushly cinematic, and turns subtly from major to minor. A second cadenza, more dramatic than the first, leads to the return of the orchestra’s opening motif, after which the piece dies away – one of Lundquist’s favorite ways of ending a piece. It’s a pity that Lundquist is so little known outside Sweden. His voice is original, if not startlingly so, and his music repays attentive listening.
Overview: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austria, died December 5, 1791, Vienna, Austria Work Composed: 1774 Why It Matters: Mozart
It’s a musical truism that the greatest unknown composer is early Beethoven: The masterpieces of his middle and late periods push the marvelous early works off programs. The situation is only slightly better for Mozart. Of his 41 symphonies, it’s rare to encounter one before no. 35, the “Haffner.” (There are some early symphonies that didn’t make the original catalogue of 41, making the “Haffner” an even later symphony.) The Symphony No. 29 is one of a group of five symphonies Mozart composed in 1774, following a trip to Vienna. Mozart scholar Hermann Abert wrote of these symphonies that “they are notable for their markedly grander, more heroic stamp,” and that they possess a conceptual unity unusual for Mozart’s music of this period. This symphony, though hardly a staple on concert programs, is not as neglected as most of its early peers. Musicologists regard it as Mozart’s second great symphony, following the G minor symphony – no, not that Mozart G minor symphony – composed a few months earlier. Though it’s not on the level of the late symphonies, it’s astonishingly polished and brilliant for an 18-year-old. Mozart builds our sense of expectation with the opening theme, which rises first slowly and then more quickly. He soon combines it with itself in canon, counterpoint that’s no less ravishing for being simple. Strong dynamic contrasts contribute to the energy. The second theme is related to the first in its use of repeated notes – an example of the conceptual unity to which Abert refers. The development section is notable for its ending; it relaxes back into the recapitulation in a way we now regard as typically Mozartian, but which was then relatively new to the composer. The second movement, like the first, is in sonata form. The hushed, intimate mood is intensified by the violins being muted, an effect Mozart used very rarely. Like the first movement, the two main themes are related, but the relationship here is subtler: The themes share an identical upbeat structure; the first theme then falls from D to F-sharp, before rising to G, while the second theme (here described from its appearance in the recapitulation, where it’s in the same key as the first theme) instead rises from D to F-sharp, with the subsequent rise to G interrupted by a pair of intervening notes. Rather than the second theme sounding like a variant of the first, they sound like two children of the same, unheard parent. It’s a technique the older Mozart would return to again and again, but never more elegantly than this work from early in his 19th year. The movement is further distinguished by its combination of gentle mood with sharply etched and distinctive rhythms, and by its unexpectedly loud ending. It’s jarring by itself, but it wonderfully sets up the cheerful third movement. With its energetic dotted rhythms, this movement is reminiscent of Handel, born two generations earlier. The central trio, however, is pure Mozart. Abert heard “impressions of nature” in the brilliant finale. The development section is vigorous, imaginative, and for music of this period, long – fully two-thirds the size of the exposition. The symphony ends triumphantly.
About our soloist
Currently, Charles Ortega is the principal tuba with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. He is the tubist and founding member of the Apollo Chamber Brass, a professional brass quintet in the Denver area and the tubist with the Best Brass ensemble in Durango, CO and the Restoration Brass Ensemble in Fountatin, CO. As of Fall of 2014, Charles is the Adjunct Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Colorado State University in Pueblo, CO. He teaches lessons, conducts the Tuba-Euphonium ensemble, teaches classes and performs in the faculty brass quintet.
Charles grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, in McAllen. He had an active high school career. He was principal tubist with the 1990 Texas All-State Philharmonic Orchestra, and 1st chair in the Texas All-State Symphonic Band in 1991. He was the Band President, and performed with his high school symphony orchestra and band, which became internationally famous by concertizing in Saltillo, Mexico. In addition to regional UIL Solo & Ensemble competitions, he also went to the UIL State Solo and Ensemble competitions, where was named Outstanding Soloist of the Day, the best out of 50 tuba players from across the state. He attended the Texas A&M University-Commerce Band camp, and the Stephen F. Austin Band camp where he was named Outstanding Brass Musician. When he was a senior, he performed the Carnival of Venice with his high school band. In 1991, Charles was the principal tubist with the Young Artist's Orchestra at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, MA. This Institute takes one tuba player in the nation, and he served under the batons of Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff, David Hoose, and performed with Yo-Yo Ma. While at Tanglewood, Charles studied with John Manning of the Atlantic Brass Quintet.
He received his Bachelor of Music in Tuba Performance from the University of North Texas in 2000, studying with Don Little, principal tuba (retired) with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Ev Gilmore, principal tuba with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Between his undergraduate and graduate work, Charles was principal tuba with the Disney Grammy Collegiate Orchestra for the 1998 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. From 1998 to 2001, Charles free-lanced in the Orlando area, playing with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Walt Disney World Orchestra and the Candlelight Festival Orchestra at Epcot in the Walt Disney World Resort. He was also a regular substitute for the World Class Brass, the brass quintet at Epcot. Charles received his Master of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, studying with Alan Baer, principal tuba with the New York Philharmonic.
In the area of instruction, Charles has been on the faculty of some of the top schools in Colorado, including Arapahoe High School, Loveland High School, Legend High School, Mountain Range High School, & Legacy High School. In 2010, Charles became the Adjunct Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of Wyoming-Laramie, where he taught lessons, conducted the tuba-euphonium ensemble, coached quintets, and was a founding member of the faculty brass quintet, The Front Range Brass. He keeps an active teaching studio in the Colorado Springs area.
In 2011, Charles appeared as soloist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, performing the Vaughan-Williams Concerto for Bass Tuba. In 2016, he played the Yellow Rose of Texas Variations by Buckley with the Best Brass in Durango, Colorado. In 2017, he performed the Capriccio by Mike Forbes with the Restoration Brass Ensemble at the Rocky Mountain Tuba Euphonium Conference held at UNC in Greeley, Colorado.
Charles has been a finalist for the principal tuba positions with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. He was also runner-up for the Interim Tuba professor position at the University of Colorado - Boulder.
Charles recently retired from the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra after 10 years with that ensemble. Charles has also performed with the San Juan Symphony, Irving Symphony Orchestra, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Rio Grande Valley Symphony Orchestra, Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. In 2002, Charles was named 1st associate tuba with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and was the tubist with the Chicago Civic Brass Quintet.
Charles can be heard on the commercially available recordings of the North Texas Wind Symphony, including: Luminaries, Wind Dances, Dream Catchers, Deja View and Dialogues & Entertainments, which was nominated for a Grammy. He can also be heard on the educational resource, Teaching Music through Performance in Band, Volume I.
In 2015, Charles was involved in a horrific car crash which left him in a coma. He had numerous injuries including a broken pelvis and ribs, a punctured lung and collapsed lung, broken teeth and a shattered right arm. If not treated correctly, these injuries would have left him unable to play if he ever awoke. Thankfully, after 4 weeks in a coma state, through the efforts of doctors, nurses, the care of his family and the prayers of countless people across the World, he awoke, despite the prognosis of the doctors. Through much individual effort and therapy, and once again the care of his loved ones, he has learned to walk again, and has returned to his life as a professional musician.
Charles lives Pueblo, Colorado. He enjoys Mexican food, & spending time with his son, Aaron.