Saturday, October 13, 2018 Boulder Philharmonic in Jessie Montgomery's "Starburst"

Jessie Montgomery

The Boulder Philharmonic calls its 2018–19 season Open Space, and will begin its classical programming focusing on the openest space of all. Under the title Infinite Space, the Phil will perform music about stars and astronomers and planets.

You might guess one of the pieces: The Planets by Gustav Holst, one of the best loved and most programmed pieces for orchestra. The other two are completely new to Boulder audiences, having both been written in this century: Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and James Stephenson’s Celestial Suite.

“To take something well loved and surround it with music that is a discovery for people — that is the formula we have followed for a while,” Michael Butterman, the Boulder Phil’s music director, says.

Neither of the new pieces is a world premiere, but Butterman believes their inclusion is significant. “It’s one thing to get an orchestra to play something once and enjoy the cachet of a premiere, but to have it given a life beyond that is what every composer wants,” he says.

Montgomery is affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports African-American and Latinx string players. Starburst was written for the Sphinx Virtuosi, a string orchestra that performs without a conductor, while Montgomery was composer-in-residence to the group.

“With a name like Starburst you might expect a lot of percussion and brass,” Butterman says. “It’s remarkable that she’s able to create a sense of dynamism and energy with just [strings alone]. It has energy and explosiveness without using the other timbres that you find in a full orchestra.”

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