What did you do with your time in quarantine?
Max Levinson used his time away from Ouray County — and (likely) New York City, Santa Fe, Marlboro, Tanglewood, La Jolla, Bravo/Vail, Seattle and Perugia, Italy — to name a few of the many music festivals the acclaimed concert pianist has appeared in — to teach himself some new music.
He’ll share what he learned in a solo performance Friday at the Wright Opera House, beginning with Bach’s Partita #1. The Partitas are “the longest and most complex of Bach’s keyboard suites, and the most technically challenging,” according to Davitt Moroney, who performed them on harpsichord.
“Bach was always something of an overachiever,” Moroney wrote in his notes to that 2013 California concert. “When writing music in various styles, he seems to have been driven by a determination to match the best works by other composers,” and then to outdo them.
“With the Partitas he achieved this absolute domination of the keyboard-suite form, squashing everyone else in the field and making it virtually impossible for anyone to write a good suite afterwards (at least until Schoenberg’s Op. 25)” — which came more than 200 years later.
Levinson’s performance opens Friday with the six movements that comprise Bach’s Partita # 1 in B-flat major, before moving on to a sonata by Beethoven, a trio of movements from “Petrushka” by Stravinsky, and a pair of waltzes and the Polonaise in A-flat major by Chopin.
That’s just the first night. On Saturday, Levinson will return to the Wright Opera House stage, this time accompanied by two acclaimed Colorado performers: Harumi Rhodes, associate professor of violin, artist-in-residence and a faculty fellow at CU Boulder, and Alice Yoo, who is on the chamber music faculty at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music (and is cofounder and co-artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival).
The choice of two Colorado musicians was deliberate, said Heather Greisz, executive director of the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, which has brought classical music to this region since 1983.
“We were planning this program in March, and part of our thought process was, ‘What if we have to cancel?’” Greisz recalled. “We said to Max, ‘Surely you must know of some fine musicians in this state’” who he might recruit from not-so-far-away to perform here this summer.
“Harumi has played here before, and she said ‘yes,’” Greisz noted. “She must have known Alice Yoo, who is quite the accomplished musician in her own right. We’re delighted that Max is back” (the tag line of these concerts), in the company of highly impressive players for Saturday’s chamber-music-fest performance.
“The concerts will be in-person, but will also be livestreamed,” so attendees can watch from anyplace, Greisz added. Following the music, there will be receptions for Levinson, in the Wright’s Tavern Friday, and on the following night in a suite above Citizen’s State Bank. The performance Saturday will include works by Schumann, Debussy and “two lesser-known works by African-American composers,” Greisz said: “Mother and Child,” a 1943 composition for cell and piano by William Grant Still, and “Adoration,” written for cello and piano in 1951 by Florence Price. The evening concludes with Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor, “an audience favorite,” Greisz said.
Next month, the guild shifts gears a bit, and presents a concert by R. Carlos Nakai, who is considered the world’s greatest Native American flute performer. Nakai’s appearance “is through a personal connection,” Greisz said. “My aunt has known Carlos and his wife for years. I’m over the moon! We’re thrilled we get to present him at the Wright.”
The classical music performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; R. Carlos Nakai and Will Clipman perform at the Wright House in a matinee Sept. 12. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit ocpag.org.