Recording of performances will be Phil’s first commercial release

By Peter Alexander Jan. 4 at 7:40 p.m.

The Boulder Philharmonic welcomes two guest artists from Caribbean islands for their concert Sunday (4 p.m. Jan. 7, Macky Auditorium)‚ composer/pianist Aldo López-Gavilán from Cuba and clarinetist Ricardo Morales from Puerto Rico.

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra in Macky Auditorium

Morales will play the world premiere of the Clarinet Concerto by López-Gavilán, who will also reprise his Emporium for piano and orchestra, which he played with the Phil in 2019. Completing the program will be Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the familiar Ravel orchestration.

And in a first for the orchestra, portions of the program—the pieces by López-Gavilán—will be recorded for commercial release on the Reference Recordings label. Both the dress rehearsal and the performance will be recorded, with a make-up session afterward to patch any problems in the live recordings.

The full recording will feature both the Clarinet Concerto and Emporium, and additional solo performances by López-Gavilán. Conductor Michael Butterman says that “early fall of 2024 would be a likely target date” for the recording to be released.

Aldo López-Gavilán

Butterman first encountered López-Gavilán’s music when he heard a performance of Emporium on the NPR program “Performance Today.” That show has been one of his favorite sources for music he might not otherwise hear. “If it were not for that radio program, I don’t know what I would ever conduct,” he says, laughing.

“In 2018 I heard this amazingly interesting (music). It was one of those moments where you get to where you’re going and well, ‘I’m not going in now because I have to figure out what this is!’” Once he learned the title and the composer, he contacted López-Gavilán’s US management and arranged for him to play Emporium with the Phil the very next season.

That performance was so successful that Butterman started thinking of other ways to promote López-Gavilán’s music. “As soon as we had that success in 2019, the then-executive director and I got together and said, ‘this is a piece that really deserves to be heard.’ (I asked) could we figure out a way to record it with him?

“I knew that he had been writing a clarinet concerto, for his cousin in Cuba, and so the idea of putting them together has been in my mind for at least three years now. And I’m glad that we’re finally able to do it!”

López-Gavilán brings an interesting mix of jazz and classical background to his music. The son of a conductor and pianist, he grew up surrounded by classical music, but he also was drawn to the Afro-Cuban jazz he heard in his homeland. He performs in both realms.

He began Emporium as a gift for his twin daughters. “The whole thing is based on a theme that I dedicated to my daughters for their birthday, when they were nine,” he wrote in program notes. “I improvised this theme in the middle of the night, just to give them a surprise. Later, I started to play what would be the first movement with my jazz trio.

“Later on, I decided to orchestrate it [as a concerto], because I was invited . . . to perform at Classical Tahoe. You find that main theme from the first movement throughout the entire work, but with variations.”

Butterman says that the title Emporium evokes “a retail establishment with little bit of everything. I think Aldo’s use of that title reflects  that he is drawing on all sorts of influences in his musical life—classical music, Afro-Cuban jazz, more traditional jazz, and so on. It has a great deal of organic unity, however. He has a theme that he presents near the beginning that is used throughout, and so while it is eclectic, it’s not without a binding thread.”

Ricardo Morales

The Clarinet Concerto is written for a chamber orchestra, rather than the full Romantic orchestra of Emporium: single winds, horn and trumpet, plus fairly extensive percussion. As Butterman describes the style, “the outer movements are rhythmically complex, and it gets jazzy. The second movement is more lyrical and starts slowly but gets quicker.

“There’s lots of opportunities for the clarinetist to do pitch-bending [and] the sorts of jazz-derived inflections that you might expect in a concerto by somebody that has so much jazz background. It feels very Latin, very Cuban, especially the last movement.”

The soloist, Ricardo Morales is from a neighboring island to Cuba, Puerto Rico, but Butterman says that’s not why he is the guest for this concert. “He’s perhaps that best clarinetist in the world right now,” he says. “And he’s a charming guy, too!”

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition hardly needs an introduction to classical music audiences. It was written in 1874 as a piano piece to honor the artist and designer Viktor Hartmann, a friend of Mussorgsky who had died suddenly at the age of 39. Each movement was inspired by a painting by Hartmann included in a memorial show of his works. Later the highly virtuosic piano score was arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, creating one of the most colorful and popular pieces in the symphonic repertoire.

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“Vignettes and Promenades”
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Aldo López-Gavilán, piano, and Ricardo Morales, clarinet

  • López-Gavilán: Clarinet Concerto (world premiere)
  • Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, arr. Ravel

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7
Macky Auditorium