The orchestra begins with a world premiere performance of a piece it commissioned from University of Colorado composition professor Daniel Kellogg, Refracted Skies. It’s inspired by the front range landscape, and combines dissonant and melodic themes as it journeys from the plains to the rugged peaks. The imagery works for me, but not Ann. Hearing a premiere is a worthy cultural experience either way, I think.
AndrÃ© Watts is probably the biggest name pianist I have seen perform. The distinctions become obvious soon after he launches into Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. At 60 years old he is absolutely commanding, exuding mastery of his instrument as he plays. At the same time, he is completely attentive to conductor Jeffrey Kahane, as if ready to turn the performance in any direction if given the cue. He plays with an occasional coreographed flourish, while keeping every note distinct in the piece’s flurries. It’s humbling to see such honed playing, yet I don’t think it will lessen my enjoyment of (relatively) more reckless players that appear to flirt with the limits of their abilities.
Kahane keeps the season opener big by adding a full choir to the orchestra to perform Suite No. 2 from Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis and ChloÃ©, which quickly throws me into a daydream full of lively nature scenes. As usual I’m a bit worn out by the end, but still enjoy the lively España by Emmanuel Charbrier, a piece inspired in 1883 by “Andalusian behinds wiggling like frolicsome snakes!”