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Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder

Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado

In 2006 the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra launched a project designed to help bridge past and present: It commissioned six composers to write companion pieces for Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-51), works that were completed around 1720 and use a rich variety of instruments. The multiyear New Brandenburg Project had one condition: each composer had to use the same instrumentation as the Bach model. The result was new compositions by Aaron Jay Kernis, Melinda Wagner, Peter Maxwell Davies, Christopher Theofanidis, Stephen Hartke and Paul Moravec.

In 2012, Michael Christie and the Colorado Music Festival Chamber Orchestra performed Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto nos. 1, 3, and 6 along with the companion pieces by Kernis, Theofanidis, and Hartke. A 28 July 2013 concert at 7:30pm at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder will present the remaining pieces in the two sets of compositions.

Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music, has composed over one hundred works for the orchestral, chamber, choral, lyric, film, and operatic genres. He is University Professor at Adelphi University, recently served as the Artist-in-Residence with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ., and in 2010 he was recently elected to the American Philosophical Society. His Brandenburg Gate, composed in 2008, is inspired by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto  no. 2 in F Major,  as well as by contemporary events in Germany. “The title, Brandenburg Gate, suggests a portal through which we enter Bach’s world of exuberant invention,” Moravec said in his program notes. “It also refers to the actual monument in Berlin, which I personally associate primarily with the astonishing images of the opening of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989.”

Melinda Wagner’s chamber works have been performed by the New York New Music Ensemble, Network for New Music, the Empyrean and Left Coast Ensembles, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra  and other leading organizations. She has taught at Brandeis University, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, and Hunter College. She has lectured at many schools including Yale, Cornell, Juilliard, and Mannes, and has served as Composer-in-Residence at the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Monadnock Music Festival, Wellesley Composers Conference and the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Little Moonhead, inspired by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 4 in G Major, includes a celesta in the instrumentation. Wagner says of her composition, “In Brandenburg no. 4, Bach puts into motion a relatively small number of voices, each presented in broad brushstrokes, through doubling. In addition to all of its lightness and air (and the delicacy provided by soloists), there is a kind of orchestral heft, along with pristine clarity. My own music tends to be much more dense, with many more voices, compound chords, and divisi strings. Ironically, . . .  Little Moonhead sounds more like a chamber work, perhaps because my ‘brushstrokes’ are pencil-thin.”

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is an English composer and conductor and is currently Master of the Queen’s Music. He is a  prolific composer who has written music in a variety of styles and idioms over his career, often combining disparate styles in one piece. Sea Orpheus reflects Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 in B flat Major and takes its inspiration from a poem by George Mackay Brown, the Orcadian poet. Says Maxwell Davies: “There are three movements, played without a break, all based on a Gregorian chant, Tantum ergo Sacramentum, which is subject to constant transformation processes, and is present throughout in some form. The work has . . . flute and violin solos and a virtuoso keyboard part, taking full advantage of the modern grand piano.”

Colorado Music Festival