Boulder Phil’s ‘Mozart and More’ features Anderson & Roe Piano Duo

Elizabeth Joy Ro and Greg Anderson.

Music director Michael Butterman will be both conductor and soloist at the Boulder Philharmonic’s next concert, Saturday (Jan. 25) in Macky Auditorium.

His solo turn will be in Mozart’s Concerto for three pianos and orchestra, which he will perform with the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo — Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe. Anderson and Roe are very much the featured artists on the program, which includes three of their own adaptations for two pianos and orchestra: Ragtime alla Turca, based on Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca from his piano sonata in A major, K331; Danse macabre bacchanale, based on Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre; and Carmen Fantasy, based on themes from Bizet’s opera.

They have played the Ragtime alla Turca in a two-piano version, but this will be the first performance anywhere of the orchestral version, which Anderson created specifically for the performance with the Boulder Philharmonic. 

“We have found that premieres are so flooded with energy and excitement, that is one of the most magical moments you have onstage.”

The orchestra alone will open the concert with Masques et Bergamasques by French composer Gabriel Fauré, a neo-classical work that fits with the stated theme of the concert, “Mozart and More.” The second half will open with Mozart’s Symphony in D major, K385 (“Haffner”).

The whole program has a decidedly bright and cheerful vibe. 

“There’s an energy about [Anderson and Roe] that makes everything they do playful and fun,” Butterman says. “That’s the way I feel about this concert in general.”

The Mozart Concerto is not heard often in concert halls, due to both the unusual requirement for thee soloists, and the unusual requirement for three pianos. 

“It’s a bit of a spectacle to have three pianos on stage,” Butterman says. That might be especially true on the relatively small Macky stage, but he is confident everything will fit. For the concerto, “the pianos will be in a fan-like array, pointing toward the orchestra, so I can stand up and wave my arms every now and then,” he says.

The 20-year-old Mozart wrote the Concerto for a Viennese countess to play with her two daughters. As a result, the three parts are not equally difficult. “It’s not the most substantial piece that Mozart ever wrote,” Butterman says, “but it’s still Mozart. It’s got a beautiful second movement, and it’s just fun.

The countess “must have been a good pianist,” he adds, “and her older daughter was also evidently a pretty good pianist. Her younger daughter I think was a good pianist but younger. That’s the part I’m taking — I’m very much the junior colleague in this piece.”

Fauré’s Masques et Bergamasques Butterman characterizes as “lighthearted and bubbly in some movements, passive and gentle in others. It’s a lovely way to open a program.”

The other orchestral piece, Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony, is not as familiar as his other later symphonies, but it seems perfect for this concert: “It definitely bubbles with energy,” Butterman says. “It fits with the rest of the pieces in that it’s kind of energetic and bright.”

The focus of the concert will be the performances by Anderson and Roe. They are such a well practiced ensemble that performing with a third pianist can be tricky. 

“Throwing in a third pianist is a risk,” Anderson says. “But isn’t that the fun of it?”

“Playing on stage there is always this element of risk,” Roe says. “So we’re all about that element of risk. It’s not even risk because [Butterman’s] such a wonderful colleague, and so it’s all in good fun.”

The arrangements are what Anderson and Roe are best known for. 

“Every adaptation that we create, we amplify some element of the original spirit,” Anderson says. “We never want to create something that feels like a pale version of the original.

“We want to make something that surprises and delights the audience. In the case of Danse Macabre, we’ve taken that sinister undertone and brought it to the foreground. The new version is very demonic. In Carmen Fantasy, we figured the two of us could enact the Romantic spirit of the original opera.”

For Roe, it is the variety of the program that she relishes. 

“We like to honor variety in artistic expression and ultimately the variety of life,” she says. For this program, “the audience is going to experience a whole range of emotions. We have the mischief of the Ragtime all Turca, the spooky and terrifying intensity of the Danse Macabre, and finally the romance and passion of Carmen

“What’s wonderful in an orchestral setting is that everything feels amplified. The orchestral forces add an epic element. It’s this kind of dynamic that will make this performance super exciting.”  

ON THE BILL: Mozart and More — by the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, with Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, pianists. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, Macky Auditorium, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder,

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