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Heavy hitters: Beethoven, Caballé-Domenech and pianist Grace in concert
Who: The Colorado Springs Philharmonic, pianist Sue Grace and conductor Joseph Caballé-Domenech
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $29-$59; 520-7469; pikespeakcenter.com
Repertoire: Music by Mozart, von Weber, Beethoven and Wagner
Something else: This concert's performances of "The Ride of the Valkyries" and "The Overture and Bacchanale from Tannhäuser" constitute the philharmonic's celebration of Richard Wagner's 200th birthday.
Next: "Appalachian Spring" a "Vanguard Performance" written and conducted by Thomas Wilson on February 9 at 8 p.m.
Sue Grace meets Josep Caballé-Domenech in a match set up by Ludwig van Beethoven.
It’s clearly the main event on this weekend’s Colorado Springs Philharmonic concert, which also includes Carl Maria von Weber, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner on the card.
For Grace, this is a continuation of more than three decades of appearances with our local professional orchestra, which began under the baton of the late Charles Ansbacher. Her performance of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto will be our first opportunity to hear how the preeminent local pianist and the already beloved conductor make music together.
The philharmonic’s executive director, Nathan Newbrough, got the ball rolling.
“Nathan called me up and said ‘we’d like you to play Beethoven 4 in January,’” says Grace. “I was very happy to hear that Josep was conducting. I think he’s very delightful and the orchestra has come a long way under his guidance. We’re very fortunate to have him here in the Springs.”
Even with her long history of solo performances with the philharmonic and the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, Grace is mostly celebrated through her position as artist-in-residence at Colorado College. There she performs solo and chamber music throughout the school year. She also endears herself to regional music lovers as music director of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival.
“I’m waiting ‘til the Beethoven’s over and then I can put my mind to the festival,” she says. “I think Beethoven and also Mozart are two staples that, if I don’t have a chance to play them on regular intervals, I get very antsy.”
Grace was excited by the philharmonic’s suggestion she play this particular concerto.
“It’s a very good piece for me. If they had said Beethoven 5 (the “Emperor” Concerto), I wouldn’t have been happy. The 4th is very poetic, truly beautiful. I just love the piece.”
Premiered in 1807, this concerto sits firmly in the composer's "middle" or "heroic" period. The impending loss of his hearing caused Beethoven to recommit to his art on a deeper and truly revolutionary plane. The introspective quality of the 4th Concerto sets it a part from anything that had come before it. It's Beethovian storytelling at its best.
Besides the great challenge of mastering the score, Grace has uncovered the literary engine that drives this concerto. To prepare for the performance, Grace is studying the Orpheus myth, in which the musician ventured into the underworld in search of his beloved Eurydice.
“A lot of it is based upon the story of Orpheus, especially if you look at the second movement. It’s Orpheus taming the Furies. The strings come in forte and very angry and then the piano comes in placid and very calm: Orpheus using his charm. There’s a whole dialogue going on.”
Being a hometown hero, it would logically follow that Grace would get extra preparation and rehearsal time with the Caballé-Domenech and the orchestra.
“I have 15 minutes prior to my first rehearsal with Josep.”
Then, just like any visiting soloist, she gets to work with the orchestra twice — Thursday night and Friday night — before the first performance.
“This is real life. You take what you can get. But it’s always good to wake up in your own bed.”