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A week of old world folk, rhapsody and gypsy songs

BRECKENRIDGE – This week’s National Repertory Orchestra concerts blend contemporary compositions with old world folk, gypsy and rhapsody.

Tonight’s concert features “Bright Blue Music,” written by Michael Torke in 1985. Torke is one of the leading American composers of his generation. His post-minimalist harmonic style and rhythms often make hidden references to popular idioms. He wrote “Bright Blue Music” for the New York Youth Symphony while he was a graduate student at Yale University.

Ernest Bloch’s “Schelomo” features cellist Herine Coetzee. The rhapsody portrays the Old Testament world of King Solomon.



The concert ends with Gustav Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 1. Mahler believed the symphony was a world in itself, which must embrace everything.

In it, he started with an ethereal atmosphere created by string harmonics. The first movement gradually blossoms as distant wind and brass sounds increase until the basses introduce the first primary theme.



The second movement contains a stylized version of a landler, an Austrian peasant dance, as well as a suggestion of a Viennese waltz.

The haunting third movement, a funeral march, is based on the folk tune “Frere Jacques.” The final movement begins with what Mahler called the cry of a deeply wounded heart. The conclusion is a grand fantasy, integrating earlier themes with new ideas and ending with seven horn players standing and playing over the entire orchestra.

German folk and gypsy music

Wednesday’s concert features Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to La Scala di Seta, Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane,” Paul Hindemith’s “Der Schwanendreher” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 39.

“Der Schwanendreher” features violist Caroline Johnston, a student at the Juilliard School of Music. Johnston began playing violin when she was 4 and switched to the viola at age 14, when her music preparatory school needed a violist to tour Italy.

Hindemith wrote the piece in 1935 to rebel against Adolf Hitler’s domination. He based the composition on old German folk tunes. The first movement begins with the viola, reminiscent of a Medieval minstrel. The slower second movement includes a duet between the viola and the harp, and the finale ends with winds and brass in a danceable spirit.

Ravel’s piece highlights violinist Kate Hatmaker, who is spending her second summer with the NRO and is working on a master’s degree in violin performance at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ravel portrays a gypsy serenading, with all the extravagance of his fiery temperament and all the good and bad taste at his command. It’s a flashy showpiece with a Bohemian style.

Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Tickets are $17, $22 or $27 and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.

– Kimberly Nicoletti


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