DAILY CAMERA: Acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell headlines 2017-18 CU Presents season
After completing an 80th season filled with world-class performers, including four of classical music’s biggest names, the Artist Series at the University of Colorado promises another lineup of distinguished performers for 2017-18.
Violinist Joshua Bell—perhaps most familiar as the performer behind the score of the film “The Red Violin”—is the star classical attraction. Dates and artists for the ten-concert series have been announced by CU Presents, the performing arts umbrella organization that manages the Artist Series and is affiliated with the College of Music.
Season ticket packages go on sale Monday. Dates and titles for productions of the Eklund Opera Program were also announced, as were the six concert pairs on the annual Takács Quartet Series. All Artist Series events are 7:30 p.m. at Macky Auditorium. Single tickets are available August 14.
CU Presents Executive Director Joan McLean Braun spoke with the Camera in advance of the announcement. She said the 2016-17 offerings proved that the classical lineup remains one of the strongest attractions of the series, but that the eclectic lineup of dance, world music, and jazz will always be a vital part of its identity. Bell’s appearance February 9, 2018 is one of three events in a classical subscription package. Single tickets for that concert are priced at a slight premium, starting at $25. The other events on the Artist Series start at $20.
Braun said that Bell’s performance, unlike this season’s solo appearance from cellist Yo-Yo Ma, would likely be a standard violin recital with a guest pianist. His last appearance on the Artist Series was February 2003.
The first classical concert is one anticipated every four years—the appearance of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medal Winner. The competition is held in June, and CU Presents has been a priority presenter for more than 20 years. The winner appears Friday, November 3. “Audiences love seeing the winner so soon after the competition,” Braun said. Some winners—most notably 2001 champion Olga Kern—have subsequently made Boulder a favored destination.
The final classical event, and the last program on the Artist Series calendar, is the Quicksilver Baroque Ensemble on Friday, April 20. Braun said that the group will perform a program of 17th-Century Italian music in conjunction with a conference on 17th-Century music hosted by College of Music Dean Robert Shay.
“Experts have identified them as one of the finest baroque ensembles,” Braun said. “It is a chance for our classical audience to broaden its experience to more neglected genres.”
‘Cutting-edge’ dance fusion
The remaining events include dance programs from three highly recognizable companies, three jazz and world music concerts, and a unique film screening with live presentation of the musical score. The Artist Series typically opens with a dance program, and the Martha Graham Dance Company takes that honor on Oct. 5. Braun said that the company last appeared in 1999, right around the death of Martha Graham.
“There was some dispute over the rights to her choreography that has since been worked out,” Braun said. The program will include “Dark Meadow Suite” and “Errand into the Maze,” both well-known Graham repertoire standards.
The young dancers of Ailey II, who made a strong impression in their 2012 appearance, return Feb. 17. The company is named for choreographer Alvin Ailey. Montreal-based RUBBERBANDance, making its first appearance on the series, closes out the dance events on March 24.
Braun said that the program is part of the American College Dance Association Conference being hosted by the CU Department of Theatre and Dance.
“This is a cutting-edge group that fuses contemporary dance and street dance,” Braun said. “It’s a group of immense interest to our dance faculty and conference attendees.”
On Oct. 15, the 2003 animated fantasy film “The Triplets of Belleville,” a Cannes Festival darling, will be screened with its music track filtered out and presented live by La Terrible Orchestre de Belleville. Braun said the film’s story is “adorable,” and that its bicycle themes would fit well with a Boulder audience. She called the score a “jazz-hot kind of genre.”
Takács String Quartet returns
The annual Artist Series holiday concert is Dec.16 and features legendary jazz and R&B vocalist Dianne Reeves presenting a program called “Christmastime Is Here.” Braun said that the goal for this concert is always to present something totally different from Boulder’s other ubiquitous Christmas music offerings, including CU’s own Holiday Festival.
Banjo superstar and composer Béla Fleck appears Jan. 20. As is typical for him, the performance will be collaborative, this time with string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Braun noted how diverse his previous collaborations have been, describing Fleck as a genius who effortlessly spans the gap between genres.
Rounding out the jazz and world music programs is vocalist Lila Downs, who appears March 3. Downs, who has a Mexican-American heritage and roots in Mixtec culture, is an avid scholar as well as performer of those traditions, which infuse her own compositions. Braun said that her deep, memorable voice could be described as “cantina classical.”
The Eklund Opera Program, also under the CU Presents banner, announces its dates and productions. Franz Léhar’s operetta “The Merry Widow” will be sung in German Oct. 27-29 at Macky. Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece “Sweeney Todd” is produced for the first time ever at CU March 16-18, also at Macky. The annual chamber opera, April 26-29 at the Imig Music Theatre, will be “Ariodante” by George Frideric Handel.
The Takács String Quartet plays its usual five-program season at Grusin Music Hall, with Sunday afternoon/Monday evening pairs Sept. 24-25, October 29-30, Feb. 4-5, March 11-12 and April 29-30. The annual guest quartet on the Takács series is particularly special, as the Altius Quartet—the CU graduate quartet-in-residence that became beloved in Boulder during their time as Takács students—presents its first local performance as a professional ensemble January 21-22.
The ever-popular Holiday Festival is slated for four performances Dec. 8-10 at Macky.