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NRO opens a world of sentiments and sounds

Kimberly Nicoletti

BRECKENRIDGE – “The symphony must be like a world,” Gustav Mahler once said. “It should contain everything.”

This week’s performances by the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO) contain a world of tragedy and love.

Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6” strikes the Riverwalk Center with a range of sentiments and sounds at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Breckenridge and at 3 p.m. Sunday at Park Lane Pavilion in Keystone.

“Symphony No. 6,” known as “Tragic,” creates drama much like a Greek tragedy emphasizes the characters’ struggles through its formal structure. Three percussive hammer blows represent the three blows of fate, which dominate the life of the symphony’s hero.

The tumulous nature of Mahler’s compositions parallels the conflict within his personal life. He converted from Judaism to Catholicism to secure a coveted position as the musical director at the Vienna Court Opera, but the psychological tension that created comes out in his music. His family life also caused Mahler pain, as his older daughter died of scarlet fever. The three percussive blows in his sixth symphony have been interpreted as premonitions of the three tragedies of his daughter’s death, leaving the Vienna Court Opera and dying of a heart condition in 1911, at age 51.

The NRO lightens the mood at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when it performs “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland, “American Salute,” by Morton Gould, “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” by Samuel Barber featuring soloist Rachel Coltvet and “Mysterious Mountain” by Alan Hovhaness.

Though Hovhaness wrote “Mysterious Mountain” based upon a mythical mountain, photographer and Evergreen resident Ron Ruhoff will pair 125 of his Colorado mountain photographs with the piece in a photomusical event. Each picture depicts moody or mysterious slides taken from sunrise to sunset during all four seasons.

When Ruhoff first heard “Mysterious Mountain” in 1958, it inspired him to complement orchestral music with photographs.

“It’s a tone poem,” Ruhoff said. “It describes a story. (Photographs) add an understanding of the music. When you really dig into it and learn what is being described in the music note by note, it makes a visual description of what’s going on.”

Though Ruhoff’s father and grandfather played in symphonies and tried to teach him how to play piano, his interest was in photography and electronics. When he decided to pair his love for photography with his background in classical music, he faced one challenge: He wanted each picture to dissolve into the next. But in 1960, a commercial dissolve system had yet to be invented, so he created his own. Since then, he has taken more than 45,000 photographs of the rich colors of Colorado and other Western states and compiled 20 different programs for orchestras, such as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Violin soloist Coltvet described “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” as expansive and experimental, with different tonalities.

“I have three words to describe it,” Coltvet said. “In the first movement, the first word is like the musical equivalent of grace. The second movement to me is the music of love. It’s just really lush and beautiful. The third movement is just crazy. It’s really fast. The piece definitely has an American trait to it – an openness, and somehow that speaks to people. You can just close your eyes and lose yourself in some dream.”

Coltvet grew up in Canada and moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, when she was in fifth grade. She was her mother’s first Suzuki student at age 5 and has very few memories that don’t include playing the violin. She is pursuing a master’s degree in music at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Tickets are $17, $22 and $27 and may be purchased from the Riverwalk Center Box Office at 150 W. Adams St., or by calling (970) 547-3100. Tickets for the Park Lane Pavilion may be purchased by calling 1-888-222-9306 or by visiting the Web site at http://www.ticketwest.com.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

NRO Concerts

– When: 7:30 p.m.

Saturday and Wednesday

– Where: Riverwalk

Center, Breckenridge


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