Music, Uncategorized

A Farewell to Pro Musica Colorado

Preview by Marc Shulgold

Cynthia Katsarelis

Cynthia Katsarelis spoke with enthusiasm as she discussed her Pro Musica Colorado’s season-ending chamber orchestra concert. She gave particular emphasis to the concluding work – a rarely heard Symphony by a rarely heard French composer. Then, when a question about next season came up, she turned serious and delivered some unexpected news.

There will be no next season.

“I let the players know in June,” Pro Music’s founder/music director reported. “It’s time to move on.” Pro Musica is closing its doors. She gave no dark tales of financial troubles, personality conflicts, or any of the usual reasons when performing organizations cease to exist.

The orchestra has always been Katsarelis’ baby, so to speak. She helped get it started in 2007, with modest intentions, she recalled.

Notre Dame Sacred Music

“We’ve grown and grown. We’ve become a string quartet on steroids.” In retrospect, the handwriting has been on the wall since executive director Courtney Huffman left in 2020 without a successor being named. And here’s another clue: Katsarelis was hired to teach at Notre Dame.

“I started there in August,” she said, speaking by phone from the famed university in South Bend. “My title is assistant professor of the practice in conducting. I’ll also be teaching the sacred music program.” Katsarelis will be commuting to Denver as she prepares for Pro Musica’s season finale in Boulder on April 6. The conductor recently reached yet another milestone, finishing her doctorate.

Jessie Montgomery

Rather than dwell on the sad end of Pro Musica, she felt more comfortable talking about all the good times. “Over the years, we built up a trust with our audience,” she mused. “They got the whole gamut (in repertory). They came for Mozart, but ended up liking the (Philip) Glass. They liked the Carter Pann. They ended up discovering something new – Jennifer Higdon, Caroline Shaw. Man, that Florence Price Piano Concerto (in 2022) knocked their socks off. My theory is to present unfamiliar music on the shoulders of (music of) the past. At the same time, you’ll hear all that older music with fresh ears.”

Case in point, she noted, is the program for the farewell concert on April 6. You might say it’s typical Pro Musica: The evening begins with Starburst by America’s hottest young woman composer, Jessie Montgomery, followed by a beloved concerto favorite – Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un gentilhombre, featuring guitarist Nicolò Spera. Ending the program will be that rare work by a little-known French composer mentioned earlier, Louise Farrenc‘s Symphony No. 3.

Louise Farrenc

Farrenc (1804-75) came to the attention of Katsarelis through a live-streamed performance of the French woman’s Second Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra during the pandemic. “I thought, ‘Wow! This is great,” the conductor recalled. “I looked into her and found the Third. I think it’s a good pairing with the Rodrigo. You can hear both the old and the new (musical styles) in each of them.”

For a veteran guitarist like Nicolò Spera, the Rodrigo concerto is hard to resist. “It actually appeals to me more than the (Concierto de) Aranjuez,” referring to the composer’s other favorite, Spera remarked in a separate interview. “There is an elegance that I love, that reflects back to the Golden Age of Spanish music.”

Nicolò Spera

These are three works that reflect Pro Musica’s commitment to the familiar and the unfamiliar, including works by women composers (Katsarelis proudly pointed out that each program this season had made that inclusion). Beyond that, the orchestra and its music director never wanted things to turn stodgy – and their farewell concert will be no exception.

“We’re going to end with a party,” Katsarelis promised.

Pro Musica Colorado will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6 in Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder. Information and tickets:

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra

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