A holiday challenge


This year's Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra Holiday Concert will take you away from the Christmas carols you may be used to hearing in December. It will challenge your ears, just as it will challenge the performing musicians.

Conductor Ernest Rich--ardson put together a program that features pieces even the most avid classical music fan may not have heard in years.

¤ Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra Holiday Concert

¤ 7 p.m. today and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

¤ Steamboat Christian Center, across from the Holiday Inn on U.S. Highway 40

¤ $10 for adults; $5 for seniors and students; children 12 and younger get in free; tickets are available at All That Jazz, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, the Depot Art Center and at the door.

The concert is centered on a lesser-known piece by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi titled, "Trittico Botticelliano" (translated Botticelli Triptych).

In this piece, Respighi chooses three Botticelli paintings and describes them with music. The first piece is "La Primavera" (Spring).

The light melody "sounds like birds singing, like flowers blooming, like the end of winter," Richardson said.

The second painting of the triptych is "L'adorazione dei Magi" (The Adoration of the Magi). In this piece, Respighi builds the music around the familiar "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and that is the reason Richardson was able to put this composition in the Holiday Concert.

"'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' began as a medieval chant, and Respighi plays off that," Richardson said. "The music paints a picture of a caravan going through the Middle East." The woodwinds create the scene -- starlight overhead and smoke drifting up from a campfire. "A painting is static, but the composer's canvas is time. It's fascinating to me to see how he interprets something visual."

The music explains the paintings literally -- recreating the sounds one would actually hear if he or she were traveling with the Magi -- and also emotionally, Richardson said.

"Trittico Botticelliano" ends with Botticelli's most famous work, "La Nascita Di Venere" (The Birth of Venus).

The music moves from the woodwinds to the strings. The melody quietly undulates "like seeing light on water," Richardson said. Then it begins to build as if Venus is breaking the surface of the ocean. It builds to a crescendo and you get a full picture of The Birth of Venus as seen through Respighi's eyes.

"This piece is a landmark for the orchestra to play," Richardson said. "It is very difficult.

"When I first talked to the orchestra about their goals, they said they wanted to get better, individually and as a group. I'm trying to challenge them and inspire them.

"It seems to me that this town enjoys getting better at everything they do, whether it's skiing or something else. The orchestra is in that same world, and I think the audience will appreciate how much they have improved, and the community will be proud."


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