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BMI plays some "crazy’ music

Kimberly Nicoletti

BRECKENRIDGE – Ludwig van Beethoven’s peers thought he was ripe for the madhouse when they heard his seventh symphony  – at the very least, they thought he wrote the finale in a drunken state.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s peers weren’t ready to send him away when he cast the viola in a solo role in his Sinfonia Concertante, but they balked at the outlandish move.

These “insane” risks made the composers stand out – to be ridiculed, but later to be revered.

The Breckenridge Music Institute (BMI) Orchestra opens its summer season Thursday with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and Hector Berlioz’s Rakoczy March.

Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann returns as the music director and principal conductor for his 10th season. He has held the position of music director and conductor of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra and the North Carolina Symphony for more than 20 years.

The three pieces set the tone for the energy and virtuosity of the remaining musical season, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come.

Human suffering

and the will to live

The highlight of the evening is Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola with BMI concertmaster Jason Horowitz and principal violist Gregory Falkenstein performing solos.

The Sinfonia is Mozart’s compromise between a symphony and a concerto – it has the breadth of a symphony but retains the individuality of solo pieces. Though it’s only 13 minutes long, it’s packed with emotion.

The large opening movement soars with intensity. The second movement slows into lyrical, emotional melodies, introduced by the orchestra and echoed by the soloists. The orchestra and soloists exchange motifs, or musical phrases, back and forth as if in a friendly conversation.

“The second movement is one of the most poignant expressions of human suffering ever embodied in a work of art,” Horowitz said. “The third movement represents, to my mind, the intention to live – the movement pulses with joy and strength and touches of humor.”

Falkenstein calls the Sinfonia Concertante one of Mozart’s most divine inspirations.

“The dialogue between the two solo instruments is perfectly balanced, and the piece is rich with beautiful melody,” Falkenstein said. “As a violist, I would point out that in Mozart’s day, it was unheard-of to cast the viola in a solo role. I think he loved the viola and understood its potential in a way that no one else in his time did.”

Dramatic musical prowess

Berlioz’s dramatic Rakoczy March from the opera “Le Damnation de Faust” displays Berlioz’s dramatic musical prowess.

In the opera, Faust overlooks the plains of Hungary, contemplating an impending conflict. Then a troop of Hungarian soldiers passes by, which Berlioz portrays musically in a blaze of orchestral majesty. The piece opens with a trumpet, followed by alternating passages between the flutes, strings and full orchestra and ending with powerful artillery blasts from the bass drums.

The orchestra extends the power of the march into Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in the second half of the program.

The orchestra plays notes of chords in quick succession (rather than playing the notes of the chord simultaneously) with Beethoven’s trademark dotted rhythm, “tum-ti-tum,” alternating between flutes, strings and full orchestra. The pulsating crescendos and diminuendos build tension that ends with a finale of clamor.

Beethoven couldn’t hear his peers rant about how he must be on the edge of madness to compose such a piece – he wrote it in 1811, when he was completely deaf and seeking a cure from the healing waters of spas in the Bohemian region surrounding Teplitz.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Riverwalk Center. A champagne reception with Zimmermann is open to the public and follows the concert in the tent. Tickets are $17, $22 and $27 for adults ($7 for children) and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.


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