Reprinted from thescen3.org, preview by Betsy Schwarm
A virtual re-broadcast (no live performances) of the February 2022 “Love Changes Everything” CCP program is available from February 11-25, 2023, via On The Stage. Tickets $5-20 and are available at: www.coloradochamberplayerstix.org
Given the troublesome events of the past two years, one can scarcely find a person who doesn’t know someone recently affected by worries. From pandemics to wildfires, it gets to all of us, even through second-hand news. However, encouraging signs might be appearing around the periphery. As the Colorado Chamber Players remind us, ‘love changes everything.’
That slogan is the title of a video on demand the Colorado Chamber Players (CCP) will be presenting virtually in February 2023. The program’s theme grew out of the lifelong friendship shared by Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, both of whom are featured. Moreover, as violist and CCP Executive Director Barbara Hamilton observes, “But it’s also about how the pandemic has transformed us all, and how much we rely on our loved ones to get through all this… Love changes everything – and sometimes results in amazing music.”
In this case, the genuinely amazing music includes the second of Clara Schumann’s Romances, op. 22, for violin and piano, dating from 1853 and written for master violinist Joseph Joachim. That work will be preceded by Brahms’ Two Songs, op. 91, from 1884, dedicated to Joachim – and his wife Amelie. The Joachims were friends of both Clara and Brahms, though in the years between Clara’s composition and Brahms’, the Joachim marriage had become troubled. The texts Brahms set are a reminder of the power and depth of love, and were scored for alto voice, viola, and piano. Alas, the Joachims parted company, though the poignant music survives.
The center of CCP’s program features three African American composers in recognition of Black History Month. Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood is arranged for violin and piano. Its soulful text will play only in listeners’ memories; nonetheless, its message – “I never dreamt that you’d be loving sentimental me” – is still present in the graceful flow of the phrases.
Of more recent origin is African American Composer Jessie Montgomery’s (b. 1981) Loisaida, My Love, for mezzo-soprano and cello. Based on the poem Loisaida by Bimbo Rivas (1939-1992), the song is, as Montgomery attests, an “ode to the community he (Rivas) loved,” in this case, the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Kathryn Radakovich will be the mezzo, with cellist Beth Vanderborgh. Radakovich describes it as a “complex emotional landscape” with feelings that evolved in a “stream-of-consciousness” manner. Both the style of the music and the technique that Radakovich will bring to the performance reflect a world newer than that of Brahms: not strage per se, but decidedly current.
The third African American composer is George Walker (1922 – 2018). Dating from 1953, his Variations on a Kentucky Folk Song is the second movement of his Piano Sonata no. 1 and is based upon “O Bury Me Beneath the Willow.” Some readers might find the title unfamiliar, though the song is a staple in country circles, and when Dolly Parton sang a verse to television host Stephen Colbert, she brought him to tears. Pianist Andrew Cooperstock will be in the spotlight and describes the variations as “modern yet thoroughly accessible.” Walker’s music is of particular significance to Cooperstock, whose teacher Walter Hautzig, an old classmate of Walker’s at the Curtis Institute of Music, used to speak admiringly of Walker. Cooperstock attests that “it is a particular pleasure for me to be able to bring this music to our audiences.”
CCP’s program will close with the largest scaled composition, perhaps not in number of performers, but certainly in the scope of the work itself: Brahms’ Piano Quartet no. 3 in c minor, op. 60 (1875). Brahms was a superior pianist, his dear friend Clara Schumann an even better one. They were dearest friends for all 40 years of Clara’s widowhood, but never became a romantic couple. The piano quartet has been interpreted as an expression of Brahms’ enduring love for Clara, particularly, as pianist Andrew Cooperstock suggests, in “the dramatic key, “sighing