The Great ReOpen

Friends of Chamber Music, Denver

Courtesy of David Spira

Wednesday night, October 6, violinist Arnaud Sussman and pianist Anna Polonsky played a finely tuned program of Janacek, Dvorak, Brahms and Weinberg. It was a heady selection that displayed Sussman’s virtuosic skills and Polonsky’s sensitive playing.

In 2006, Sussman became a teaching assistant to Itzhak Perlman. Between his international appearances and work with Chamber Society of Lincoln Center he teaches at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Ms. Polonsky is both a soloist and a chamber musician who has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, and with clarinetist David Shifrin and cellist Peter Wiley in a trio.

Mr. Sussman’s spoken commentary led the audience in Gates Hall through the three sonatas that echoed one another with folk music. After the very lyrical 2nd movement, Ballada, in the Janacek, a four note figure in the 3rd movement, Allegretto, pulsed with  tension emoted by Polonsky. The Dvorak was both dramatic and expressive as a sense of longing unspooled from Sussman’s violin. His control was sublime. The program ended with Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes. While Weinberg was born in Poland his father was from Moldavia, later annexed by the Soviet Union. He carefully embedded Moldavian folk music and a Jewish klezmer tune in the piece per the Communist request for ethnic expression in music, but the 1949 premiere was anything but a tribute to Mother Russia. Just a year earlier his father-in-law was executed under Stalin’s order.  

The next concert on the series is December 13 with the Harlem Quartet and Michael Brown on piano.

Giselle at the Ellie

On October 10, Colorado Ballet opened its first season in two years with Giselle with precision and grace.  The awe inspiring evening ended with a standing ovation and three curtain calls for Dana Benton.  Her extraordinary performance of Giselle’s mad dance to death at the end of act one confirmed what Denver already knew. She is both an actress and a prima ballerina.  The corps de ballet executed a flawless second act. The wilis (ghosts of girls who died of unrequited love) were spectres as no corps de ballet could be. The dancers moved as one with perfection as they enveloped the fine principal Christopher Moulton as the besotted Hilarion who dances to his death. The wilis’ long grey and white tulle costumes from the Pittsburgh Ballet merged elegantly with the traditional choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, as revised by Marius Petipa.  

It was an evening to see familiar faces of our Colorado Ballet company. Ballet mistress Lorita Travaglia took the stage as Berthe, the beloved Gregory Gonzales appeared as The Duke of Courtland, and Kevin Thomas’ infectious smile and his defiance of gravity charmed the audience as Peasant Pas Man. 

Plan now to attend the holiday production of the Nutcracker. New sets and new costumes will make the standard’s return to the stage even sweeter. Performances will be November 27- December 24 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.


Jason Moran Bathing the Room with Blues

Courtesy Elizabeth Sweeney

There’s a cool vibe at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Step inside the Three Deuces off of 15th Street in Denver. Jason Moran, intent on resurrecting the glory of jazz clubs from the 1950’s, recreated the New York stage, an intimate space where famed performers Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday entertained. On my third occasion to see the exhibit I was struck by the organic way the musicians (Joanne Brackeen at  the Whitney in NY, Jason Moran with trumpeter Ron Miles, and guitarist Otis Taylor at the MCA in September, and on Saturday October 9, Derrick Hodges, harpist Annastezhaa Mitchell-Curtis, and drummer Adam Deitch) owned the curated space as if they’d been playing gigs at the Three Deuces for months. Derrick Hodges started the October set with his stand up bass and moved to his electric bass, then to the Steinway, and back to his plug in bass all while Deitch set a beat that flowed with Hodges and Mitchell-Curtis’ improvisations. Posted in the gallery surrounding the stage are Jason Moran’s works on paper that he created with a sheet of Gampi paper and “saturated pigment to track the attack” of his fingers on the keys. The blue images literally revolved around his tribute to the Blues.  

The Martin Building opens

Courtesy Elizabeth Sweeney -Nick Cave Soundsuits cavort with a Deborah Butterfield horse

The Great ReOpen of the Denver Art Museum, titled “Unveiled”, was timed when so many of Denver’s performing arts organizations were opening venues for live audiences. With the notes of the Colorado Symphony still in my ears, the doors of the Martin Building’s glass pumpkin opened on Friday, October 15 for patrons who contributed to the renovation of the Gio Ponti building that first opened  fifty years ago. Lanny and Sharon Martin bequeathed a sizable sum to refresh the galleries and add a sumptuous and necessary space for museum gatherings.  Previously, patrons were pressed to stand between the gift shop and Libeskind’s angular staircase in the Hamilton building. Seating for exhibit openings was limited to the small couches near the lockers. Now anyone visiting the museum can reserve seats at the Ponti restaurant. Revelers on Friday night filled the downstairs hall that once was a dining area and a space for Indigenous tribal dance performances.  The glitter of the ceiling lights in the new entrance paled in comparison to the museum guests adorned in gowns and tuxes.  The new Suited show on the 6th floor, curated by Florence Müller, showed that the museum was committed to curating an expanded fashion collection.  In September, it was announced that $25 million was gifted to form a Textile and Fashion department. $10 million will go towards a new collection. Per Christoph Heinrich, the museum director, the Textile Art and Fashion collection will “create a basis for scholarly research and exchange in ways that are engaging and valuable for our community.”  

The first of the museum’s quarterly Friday evenings, Untitled:Creative Fusions, will celebrate art and local artists on October 29 from 6-10 PM.  Enjoy music by Felix Ayodel and contemporary art by Alejandra Abad.  The theme, rightly, is The Spirit Survives.  Both the Hamilton and the Martin Buildings will be open. The event is free for kids and $13 for Colorado residents.


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