UCA’s Virtuoso Series presents lively jazz concert

Emma Turner

Jazz music filled the University Center for the Arts as Colorado State University faculty displayed their expertise. 

Saxophonist, Peter Sommer, performed with pianist, Timothy Burns, as part of the Virtuoso Concert Series Monday night. Three major works were presented, each with several movements.

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Tim Burns on stage as the piano player for the Virtuoso Series Concert.
Tim Burns takes the stage as a piano player, accompanying Peter Sommer on stage at the University Center for the Arts. (Jenn Yingling | Collegian)

The Virtuoso Series is a set of musical performances by Colorado State University faculty. Burns serves as supervisor of piano at CSU, and Sommer is an associate professor of jazz studies and saxophone.

At Monday night’s concert, Sommer demonstrated great variety in style throughout each movement while articulating challenging sections. Many pieces were fast paced with great dynamic changes.

Each piece also provided complex phrases for Burns who flawlessly set tempo and supported the saxophone melody line. Sommer’s timbre was full, piercing and clean throughout and dropped into almost hollow sounds in parts of the final piece.

The first half of the performance was met with full applause from the audience.

“He is indeed, incredible,” said Judith Eastman, a local audience member. “I loved the ‘Recitativo’ piece because it reminded me of an operatic piece that, maybe, a soprano would sing in a Donizetti opera.”

The “Recitativo – Fantasia” piece Eastman referred to was one movement of the first

Peter Sommer plays the saxophone on stage at the UCA.
CSU faculty member Peter Sommer plays the saxophone at the University Center for the Arts as part of the Virtuoso Series Concert on Monday. (Jenn Yingling | Collegian)

work, “César Franck’s “Sonata in A Major.” This movement was a challenging piece for the saxophone and included drastic and rapid changes in pitch followed by contrasting soft notes of melody and delicate piano bass.

The concert continued to add variety with largely strophic and modified strophic phrases. Several other audience members enjoyed it too.

Dominique Reilly, a music student, said, “I liked the timeline of the pieces. They went from Franck all the way to stuff that was influenced by folk music.”

The timeline of the pieces began in the 19th century France and moved to 1991 Japan.

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“That was a famous, famous piece written for violin,” Sommer said.

The next piece, Bernhard Heiden’s “Sonata,” was written for a famous saxophonist which marked “the beginning of saxophone pedagogy,” according to Sommer.

Sommer’s career as a saxophonist does not only reside in the area of art music. He has been established as an elite jazz musician in Colorado and played with a number of arranged groups as well as performed as a soloist.

Sommer has released four albums, some of which feature several original compositions. Sommer plays for the Ken Walker Sextet, Ninth and Lincoln, Wil Swindler Elevenet, Fred Hess Big Band, Colorado Jazz Orchestra and the New Third Stream Saxophone Quartet.

The next Virtuoso series concert will be held at the UCA on September 18th. Margaret Miller will perform with the viola accompanied by Burns.

Collegian reporter Emma Turner can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @EmmaTurner1228.