At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I’ll admit that when I think of composers, the European ones are usually first to come to mind. Perhaps my childhood piano lessons, during which my teacher and I discussed Bach (German), Chopin (Polish), and Beethoven (also German), overshadowed the names of familiar American composers, such as Gershwin and Sousa. Nevertheless, it’s good to be reminded of the vast creativity found among composers in this country—as I am this week with Summit Music and Arts‘ A Trio of Trios concert, taking place November 2.
At its most basic, a “trio” in musical composition is an old Russian tradition of writing a piece in memory of someone. The “trio of trios” being performed at this weekend’s event spans three generations: Russian Dmitri Shostakovich’s piece was written in honor of a close Jewish friend; Russian-Israeli composer Joseph Dorfman’s score is in memory of Shostakovich; and the world premiere of “Odessa Trio” by Ofer Ben-Amots—an Israeli-born composer who has lived in Colorado since 1994 and works as a teacher and chair of Colorado College’s music department—is in memory of Dorfman, his now-deceased composition teacher from Tel Aviv. “It’s a heavy program,” Ben-Amots says. “The music is challenging emotionally. It’s not like going to the disco. But it’s interesting.” He says the audience can expect to hear everything from Jewish-inspired klezmer music—a genre characterized by its celebratory sound—to more modern styles, including the tango.
Ben-Amots composed the first two movements of his 30-minute “Odessa Trio” in 2008 as a commission for the Colorado State Music Teachers Association; he added two additional movements last summer. “It’s a lot of back-and-forth,” he says of composing, as the composer writes note-by-note, and then realizes, for example, that he or she wants more piano or to balance the violin with more viola, and often jumps among the instruments. “It’s a lot of going back and correcting.”
For Ben-Amots, this marks the first time all four movements of the piece will be performed at once—though he says he’s not nervous about hearing it showcased (by the Montage Music Society) in full. “The good thing about being a composer,” he says, “is you can just sit back [at the show] and not do anything.”
Details: A Trio of Trios will take place at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon on Sunday, November 2, at 4 p.m.; a pre-concert discussion will be held with Ben-Amots at 3 p.m. Tickets for the 90-minute program (including intermission) are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Also note that a Denver performance takes place on October 30 as part of the Neustadt JAAMM Fest.