“It is with great sadness,” the board of the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild (OCPAG) announced last spring, that it would be taking a “Fermata” — a musical expression for “a pause of unspecified length” — on the remainder of the 2020 concert season.
Times change, and local cultural institutions continue to find ways to adapt, and move on.
Many events have gone online, and indeed, OCPAG quickly pivoted in that direction as well. In lieu of its well-attended San Juan Chamber MusicFest — and at the suggestion of the fest’s artistic director, concert pianist Max Levinson — the arts guild came up with an offering not only safer but longer-lasting and more edifying: a series of eight live historical presentations on piano music through the ages.
There have been five “Wednesday Evenings with Max” so far. It costs $25 to attend each session, or purchase a membership to the arts guild for the same amount of money and watch the entire series.
Past episodes have been archived online, allowing you to catch up with Levinson’s instruction at your leisure. He is more than a teacher, though his day job is at the Boston Conservatory; he’s an acclaimed concert pianist, who will offer a live, solo performance at the end of each session. (Levinson receives no compensation for these teachings.)
Tonight (Wednesday), the focus is on Romanticism and Levinson has promised a live performance by the piano virtuoso Frederic Chopin, perhaps a rendition of the composer’s Etude in E major, a solo composition considered by Chopin himself to be one of his most moving. (A musical prodigy who emigrated from Poland to Paris in his early 20s, Chopin reportedly remarked that he had never composed such a beautiful melody, and broke down and cried, “Oh, my homeland!” while teaching the etude to a German pupil.)
Following tonight’s presentation on Romanticism, subtitled “New Audiences and the ‘Exotic,’” piano music bursts into the 20th Century. Next week’s session — appropriately called “Now What?” — will include a live performance by Levinson of a work by Prokofiev.
The series concludes Sept. 2, with “Americans and Other Experimenters: Music Since 1950,” during which Levinson will play a composition by the avant-garde composer George Crumb, who wrote a 1969 work inspired by Apollo 11’s lunar landing, “Night of the Four Moons.” The composer’s pieces have become known “for their almost choreographic visual elegance in performance,” Jeremy Grimshaw has written, “and, in fact, numerous dance companies have composed dance pieces to be performed with his work.”
LIVE IN THE COURTYARD
More acoustic music will be on offer courtesy of OCPAG two Fridays from now, in the first in-person performance of the summer season, when classical guitarist Javier de Los Santos will be in concert at the Courtyard at 610 on Sept. 4. The musician has performed in Mexico, Spain, Brazil, and “in festivals all over the United States,” a news release notes, and is the president and artistic director of the Western Colorado Classical Guitar Society, an instructor at CMU in Grand Junction (where he resides) and “lead guitar and lead instructor at the Aspen Music Festival.” Audiences are likely to be treated to more than classical guitar at these shows: De Los Santos is the founder of Mariachi San Jose, “building upon the rich musical heritage of the Western Slope.”
“My spirit gets fulfilled through the sounds of the guitar,” he has said.
For more information on Evenings with Max Levinson via Zoom, or a classical guitar performance in Ridgway’s Courtyard at 610, visit ocpag.org. The concerts at 610 will be in two sessions, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; learn more and reserve a table at sherbino.org.