Author: Peter Alexander

BOULDER WEEKLY: Mozart, movies and more at the Dairy

2017–18 concert season gets underway at the Dairy Arts Center

Some of Boulder’s best musicians want to see you at the Dairy.

That’s the punning implication of the new series CU@The Dairy, presented jointly by the Dairy Arts Center and University of Colorado College of Music. That concert series opens Thursday, Sept. 7 with “Miraculous Mozart,” a program of Mozart piano concertos with David Korevaar, the Helen and Peter Weil Professor of Piano, doubling as soloist and conductor, and continues eight days later, Friday, Sept. 15, with a screening of the 1918 film The Yellow Ticket with live music performed by klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and pianist Marilyn Lerner.

“Miraculous Mozart” will feature two of Mozart’s piano concertos, K449 in E-flat major and K450 in B-flat major, with Korevaar leading and playing with a chamber orchestra. He has performed as conductor and soloist before, but not here. “I fell into this about five years ago,” he says. He was playing a New Year’s concert in Japan, and “when I got there, my manager said, ‘By the way, you know there’s no conductor!’ That was the first I knew of that, but it turned out very well.

“You have a more direct pipeline to the orchestra members, and when you’re working with a small group, it’s amazing the power of a head nod or just quick eye contact. It’s much more like doing chamber music and waving your arms now and then.”

For this performance, the orchestra will comprise faculty and others from the CU College of Music, including Charles Wetherbee as concertmaster. “You need strong leadership from everybody,” Korevaar says. “And a good concertmaster, which fortunately I have.”

Korevaar enjoys performing with what is essentially a chamber group. “The performance can be much in the moment,” he says, “because everybody’s paying attention. The smaller string section gives you an ability to move that bigger sections don’t have. … In K450 the winds are extraordinarily important, almost co-equal with the strings. That comes through so well in smaller ensembles.”

The screening of The Yellow Ticket is presented collaboratively by the Dairy, the College of Music, and the CU departments of Jewish Studies and International Film Studies. A silent film from 1918, The Yellow Ticket is of great historical interest for several reasons: Filmed in Warsaw, it features a teenaged Pola Negri, who went on to great fame as a femme fatale in Hollywood. The film was reconstructed from various partial sources.

David Shneer, who holds the Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History, notes that “this is, to the best of my knowledge, the first film that has a Jew, period, as a leading character. So for that alone it is quite significant.”

The plot concerns a young Jewish girl — Pola Negri — who travels to Moscow to study medicine. As a Jew, she can only travel in St. Petersburg with a “yellow ticket,” which identifies her as a prostitute. Throughout the film she has to lead a double life as a student while living in a brothel — until a somewhat contrived but welcome pleasant resolution.

Svigals, a klezmer fiddler who will play her own score with the film, explains that “Kevin Brownlow, a famous film restorer, found [bits of the film] in an attic in the Netherlands. There was no intact version, so he put it together” from the fragments he could find.

In 2012, the Washington D.C., Jewish Music Festival commissioned Svigals to write a score for the film. “I watched the film and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’” she says. “I got deeper and deeper into it, and then it kind of took over my life.”

Co-founder of the Klezmatics in the 1980s, Svigals says the score includes “other stuff, too. I wrote stuff that sounds like klezmer, that sounds like Ukrainian, Romanian Jewish folk music. you might say it was like Bartók or Bloch, and there’s some weird sounds that come out of my own brain.”

Svigals finds it particularly intriguing that “the team that made this film was part of this kind of progressive artistic team in Warsaw, and Negri wrote in her memoir that part of her motivation for making it was to promote tolerance and to combat antisemitism.”

The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion with Shneer and Yonatan Malin from the College of Music and the Jewish studies program, and other faculty members. Returning music series presented by the Dairy, including Soundscape, One Night Only and Jazz at the Dairy, will also open this month. You can see all the dates and purchase tickets at tickets.thedairy.org/online.

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