They say time flies when you are having fun, and this summer has been a blast. From the first night of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to chamber music and free community engagement events, Bravo! Vail has scored big this summer, with large, wonderful and appreciative audiences.
Tonight’s “Baroque Concertos and More” concert, the final in Bravo! Vail’s 2014 season, is special for several reasons. First, we welcome many artists to Colorado for their Bravo! Vail debuts. Second, we present the largest group of musicians on stage for a chamber music performance, maybe ever. Last, we resurrect a popular old tradition of performing Baroque music on Bravo! Vail’s closing concert. We hope the combination is unbeatable.
Making their Bravo! Vail debut is Le Train Bleu, an ensemble from New York, and their artistic director Ransom Wilson. You may remember Wilson as one of the preeminent flute soloists of our time, with many high profile recordings to his credit. These days, Wilson enjoys a multifaceted career as performer, conductor and educator. Le Train Bleu includes musicians who are among the most exciting young players in New York. Chosen for their brilliance as well as their expressive qualities, members of the ensemble present performances of new and interesting music.
Guitarist James Moore also makes his debut this summer. Moore does triple duty this evening performing on various instruments: guitar, banjo and mandolin, but makes his career playing on what is called an American Resonator Guitar. His instrument is a practical invention that allows for more sonic power and volume than a traditional guitar. Its sound is produced by one or more spun metal cones, called resonators, instead of the traditional wooden soundboard or guitar top/face. Resonator guitars were originally designed to be louder than regular acoustic guitars, which were overwhelmed by horns and percussion instruments in dance orchestras.
Then we have 27-year-old clarinetist Alexey Gorokholinsky, one of the most versatile clarinetists of our day, who pushes the boundaries of his instrument. A native of Russia, Gorokholinsky began his musical studies at age five on the piano and clarinet at seven.
“Baroque Concertos and More” includes Gorokholinsky featured in John Adams’s “Gnarly Buttons,” and Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne Marie McDermott, the Calder Quartet and others in a number of gems: J.S. Bach’s Concerto in C minor for Violin, Oboe, Strings, and Continuo; Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major for Guitar and Strings with James Moore; and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major. This is a stunning pairing of tried and true Baroque music with a modern masterpiece.
I’m a huge fan of American composer John Adams. His music somehow manages to be contemporary, accessible, pertinent and entertaining, all at the same time. “Gnarly Buttons” is a three-movement work for solo clarinet, English horn, bassoon, trombone, banjo (who also plays mandolin and guitar), two keyboard players, two violins, viola, cello, and contrabass. Inspired by his father, a clarinetist, and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, it is a work Adams describes as “stretching from Benny Goodman through Mozart, the marching band, the State Hospital to my father’s final illness…”
In the composer’s words, “Gnarly” means knotty, twisted or covered with gnarls ... your basic village elder’s walking stick. In American school kid parlance it takes on additional connotations of something to be admired: “awesome,” “neat,” “fresh,” etc. The “buttons” are probably lingering in my mind from Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons,” but my evoking them here also acknowledges our lives at the end of the 20th century as being largely given over to pressing buttons of one sort or another. Clarinets have rings and keys, not buttons.
Whatever the inspiration, Gnarly Buttons is a sometimes witty, emotionally moving work that offers a perfect balance to a concert full of delightful Baroque Concertos. Don’t miss Bravo! Vail’s season closing concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, 6 p.m., tonight.
Jim Palermo is Bravo! Vail’s president and executive director. For more information, visit www.bravovail.org or call 970-827-5700.