Oundjian takes creative helm at Colorado Music Festival

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Star conductor cultivated a summer program that explores Beethoven’s influence on composers

If you go

What: Colorado Music Festival

When: June 27 through Aug. 3

Where: Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder

Cost: Varies by concert

More info: tickets.chautauqua.com, 303-440-7666

CMF 2019 concert season and guest artists

• Opening night: “Beethoven’s Path to Romanticism,” 7:30 p.m. June 27-28, Peter Oundjian as conductor, Natasha Paremski on piano

• Colorado Music Festival Gala 5:30 p.m. June 29, Boulder Jewish Community Center, 6007 Oreg Ave, Boulder, with Natasha Paremski on piano

• “Beethoven’s Path to Modernism,” 7:30 p.m. June 30, Peter Oundjian as conductor, James Ehnes on violin

• “Brahms & Dvořák,” 7:30 p.m., July 2, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra Chamber Players

• “Revolution & Freedom,” 7:30 p.m. July 5, Jon Kimura Parker on piano

• Family Concert: “Peter & The Wolf,” 3 p.m. July 7, Earl Lee as conductor, Really Inventive Stuff will bring in vaudeville-inspired storytellers and Jon Kimura Parker and Coco Ma on piano

• “Strings at Sunset,” 7:30 p.m. July 9, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra Chamber Players

• “Romantic Duos,” 7:30 p.m. July 11-12, Jean-Marie Zeitouni as conductor, Mira Wang on violin, Jan Volger on cello


• “Beethoven’s Path to Neoclassicism,” 7:30 p.m. July 14, Jean-Marie Zeitouni as conductor, Lilya Zilberstein on piano

• “Quintessential Harp” 7:30 p.m. July 16, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra Chamber Players

• “Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique),” 7:30 p.m. July 18-19, David Danzmayr as conductor, Gabriela Montero on piano

• “Magnificent Mozart Mini-Festival I,” 7:30 p.m. July 21, David Danzmayr as conductor, Stefan Jackiw on violin

• “Russian Masters,” 7:30 p.m. July 23, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra Chamber Players

• “Symphonie fantastique,” 7:30 p.m. July 25-26, Peter Oundjian as conductor. Kian Soltani on cello

• “Magnificent Mozart Mini-Festival II,” 7:30 p.m. July 28, Peter Oundjian as conductor, Jorg Widmann on clarinet

• Beethoven Discussion with guest speaker Jan Swafford, 6:30 p.m. July 31

• “Beethoven’s Path to Minimalism,” 7:30 p.m., Aug. 1, Peter Oundjian as conductor, Robert McDuffie on violin

• Festival Finale: “Mahler’s Symphony No. 3,” 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3, Peter Oundjian as conductor, Janice Chandler-Eteme as mezzo soprano, St. Martin’s Festival Singers and the Boulder Children’s Chorale

Note: At 6:30 p.m. before each Thursday and Friday concert there will be a pre-concert talk with a local musical expert that will take place under the tent adjacent to the north side of the auditorium.

*All shows at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder, unless otherwise noted.

* All orchestral programs are performed by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, which comprises top musicians from orchestras around the country.

Conductor Peter Oundjian spent the last decade and a half proving that classical music is accessible to everyone.

His wealth of performance experience, musical talent, innovative collaborations and charming personality were tools for success in reviving the once-financially unstable Toronto Symphony Orchestra and turn it into a wildly popular and thriving group that would go on to sell out shows across the world. (He’s the star of a documentary that follows these efforts, too.)

The man has flair. And now he’s all Boulder’s — well, Colorado Music Festival’s. But Boulder is sure to reap benefits.

This week, the Colorado Music Festival (CMF) announced that Oundjian is diving baton-first into his newly appointed role as music director. He got his feet wet last season, acting as artistic adviser for a handful of shows while he wrapped his tenure in Toronto.

“Working with Peter has been a joy,” said Elizabeth McGuire, executive director for CMF and the Center for Musical Arts. “He’s an exceptional musician,with seemingly boundless energy and ideas. He’s remarkably gracious and down to earth, especially considering his level of achievement and reputation as a conductor and performer.”

The 2019 season kicks off June 27 and features concerts, talks and events through Aug. 3. The annual classical music event holds its concerts at Chautauqua Auditorium each summer. This year’s programming will explore Beethoven’s influence on composers from the 19th century until today. (This puts Boulder ahead of the 2020 worldwide celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday anniversary.)

Lucky for Boulder, Oundjian’s schedule really opened up as of last year. In addition to departing from his duties in Toronto, he also stepped down as music director with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

“This will be the only music directorship I currently hold, so a lot of my dedication will go into this role,” Oundjian said from his home base in Connecticut. “And every single season will be planned from scratch with a spontaneous imagination.”

With CMF as his sole focus, Oundjian said he has plans for exciting programming, collaborations and mini-festivals.

“It’s a perfect marriage between Peter and CMF, because the atmosphere of Chautauqua itself is beautiful, natural and causal,” said McGuire. “And when you attend one of our concerts, you’re not just a listener. You can actually feel the music resonating in the wooden structure of the auditorium itself. I believe with the combination of Peter’s talent and charisma, the caliber of our orchestra, the stunning acoustical quality of Chautauqua Auditorium will draw new and returning individuals who are seeking a unique and magnificent musical experience.”

Oundjian definitely noticed Chautauqua.

“I had no idea Chautauqua existed until last year,” said Oundjian “I was completely amazed. What a beautiful destination. The acoustics are magnificent. For anyone who hasn’t discovered this place, you have got to go. The experience is like no other. I will make this festival an exciting destination so all kinds of people can come to Boulder for an exceptional experience.”

He added, in a news release: “There is a magical, frontier atmosphere to the festival that I find incredibly refreshing and invigorating, whether I’m outdoors amidst the natural beauty or on stage with the orchestra.”

Also a former star musician, he was the first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet in the early ’80s for 14 years (an injury shifted his focus to conducting). This means Oundjian has some pretty famous friends. Maybe these famous friends will come perform for this town.

“I have very talented friends and colleagues from around the world who have never been to Boulder,” said Oundjian. “I’ll do my best to get them out here to perform.”

Last season, a former student of Oundjian — and one of the world’s top-performing classical violinists — Vadim Gluzman performed at CMF.

“Peter is a tremendous musician,” Gluzman said in a prior interview. “He is truly one of the greatest musicians, and now he’s a star conductor. Because he comes from a quartet background, he’s truly a collaborator. His great collaboration comes across not only with his performing music and conducting, but also with the way he connects to people.”

Oundjian is the fourth person to hold the music director title in the 42-year history of the festival.

“Peter understands the power of the orchestral experience and how it feels to be fully surrounded by the instrumentalists, sounds and textures of the music,” said McGuire. “He wants to convey the composer’s intentions by becoming fully immersed in the music. In this way, he’s like an extremely knowledgeable guide with an uncanny ability to verbally communicate musical concepts in a very approachable and entertaining way.”

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1342, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants

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