Chamber Music Amarillo to kick off 2018 with Concerto Extraordinaire

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Michael Palmer will conduct CMA's Concerto Extraordinaire.

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

A pair of contrasting works by two iconic classical composers will be highlighted at Chamber Music Amarillo's annual Concerto Extraordinaire.

The concert — set for 8 p.m. Jan. 6 in the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, 1400 Streit Drive — will feature Igor Stravinsky's Concerto in E-flat, Dumbarton Oaks, and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in G Minor.

They'll be performed by CMA's Amarillo Virtuosi chamber orchestra under the baton of Michael Palmer, father and frequent collaborator of CMA artistic director David Palmer. Suzanne Ramo, voice professor at West Texas A&M University and professional soprano, will sing the fourth movement of the Mahler symphony.

"I think the concert is going to have tremendous variety of both emotional and tonal expression," Michael Palmer said. "The Stravinsky is a great foil for the Mahler. The concert will begin with dry and acerbic music, then end with a beautiful warmth."

Stravinsky's work was commissioned by Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss for their 30th anniversary and named for their estate in Washington, D.C.

"It's patterned, in Stravinsky's style, after the Baroque period — that type of texture and instrumental combination — although it's in Stravinsky's 20th-century language," Palmer said. 

"But I think the Mahler is really the most interesting artistically and musically in the concert," he continued. "Dumbarton is really from Stravinsky's neo-classical period, where he was back to being very rigid with tempo and dynamics."

Mahler's work, by contrast, is a more metaphorical, lyrical work dealing with the meaning of life itself, he said.

Its second movement is written as "a dance with the devil," Palmer said, with a violin soloist tuned higher to achieve a "screechy sound." And its third movement was cited by Mahler as his favorite slow movement of his career, Palmer said.

But the highlight is the fourth movement, which incorporates a song written earlier by Mahler that depicts a child's view of heaven, Das himmlische Leben ("The Heavenly Life"), to be sung by Ramo.

"I’m exited to be working with Chamber Music Amarillo for the first time and to hear the Chamber version of Mahler’s 4th Symphony," Ramo said. "The text is generally described as a child’s view of heaven, and starts with a description of the peace and happiness there, but then spends a lot of time describing the food, and finally the music. So, peace, food, and music. I think even adults would find this version of heaven a delightful place.

"And also — sleigh bells. The sleigh bells might be my favorite part," she said.

"It's a very, very beautiful piece where the whole symphony really shines," Palmer said.

Tickets are $35.

Call 806-236-3545.




Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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