by Peter Oundjian
After spending a few weeks back at home in Connecticut preparing for a new season of conducting ventures, my whirlwind of a summer in Boulder really hit me last week.
August was a month of transition. Even as I was driving away from Boulder, I was focused on everything I need to do in September. Now that September is here, it’s brought me a week full of reminiscence.
The one word that has been at the forefront of my mind is joy. All the hard work put in by so many wonderful people that make the Colorado Music Festival happen — people I’ve known for decades, people I just met this summer, and everyone in between — night after night, it culminated in such a wonderful shared fulfillment.
All of these nights strung together are glowing as a brand new memory of warm, unabashed joy. There is something profoundly satisfying about so many moving parts coming together to create such a pure, simple feeling. I think that’s really why we do this. It’s contagious, and it’s addictive.
From the first moment, when the orchestra launched into Respighi’s brilliant Pines of Rome, there was an energy and enthusiasm that took over the Chautauqua Auditorium. There was a living, breathing sense of welcome, a unity of spirit among players, listeners, and everyone who made it possible. With so many friends and patrons of the festival present, it was a special way to kick off the festival.
Then came the gala at the end of the first week. With a couple hundred people enjoying the atmosphere of togetherness, of mutual love for music, and of passion for the festival, this feeling of unity and enthusiasm was brought into an even brighter light. The whole evening was one of the most rewarding festival celebrations I’ve ever experienced — from the wonderful playing of Natasha Paremski to the ardent display of generosity from Chris and Barbara Christoffersen, all the way to the virtuosic performance of our auctioneer. The sense of new opportunity emerging was simply immense.
I would feel remiss not to express my gratitude for the group of remarkable soloists we all got to witness this summer. The aforementioned brilliance of exceptional pianist Natasha Paremski served as the first course of a massive month-long feast. World-class violinists James Ehnes and Robert McDuffie. The sensational young cellist Kian Soltani. The spontaneous and virtuosic clarinetist Jorg Widmann. The sublime, beguiling vocals of Janice Chandler-Eteme. It is with the utmost respect of both musicianship and character that I wish to convey how special it was for me to share the stage with all of them this summer. They are all extraordinary artists that make the world a better place with both their craft and their spirit.
Of course, the musicians who stand at the front of the stage are not the sole vessels of joy in a performance. It is the dedication and passion we receive from every member of the festival orchestra that comprise the backbone of this festival. In the last nine days of the festival, these wonderful individuals delivered us Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique twice, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and Mahler’s 3rd Symphony, all with exceptional sensitivity and collaborative expertise. That is a feat for which I know the entire festival community feels enormous gratitude.
Lastly, I am so grateful for you! The reader, the listener, the audience member who came to one, two or every single performance and gave your time and resources to the celebration and joy of great music with us this summer. Boulder is a uniquely loving and caring town full of kind, engaging people, and the festival was teeming with your energy all summer long.
Planning a festival is tremendously exciting; programming a balanced but stimulating summer of repertoire, soloists, moods, eras, and soundscapes is one of the things I cherish most about my job. But there is simply nothing to match the excitement of seeing and hearing it all come to life.
The final concert epitomized that feeling. As the tender and profoundly beautiful opening of the final movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 emanated from the stage, as if from another world, the feeling of complete unity in Chautauqua auditorium was palpable. The movement possesses that rare quality in which sadness and joy merge into one expression, and the magic of human experience is laid out before us in the unique and exquisite language of music. After the final resonance drifted away, I turned and looked out into the crowd at the Chautauqua Auditorium; I treasured that moment more than I can say.