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Three Conductors To Launch Golden Season

Three conductors will share the stage Saturday when the Spokane Symphony Orchestra inaugurates its 50th anniversary season at the Opera House. Donald Thulean, who led the orchestra from 1962 to 1984, and Gunther Schuller, who was artistic adviser and principal conductor in the 1984-85 season, will join Fabio Mechetti, music director since 1993, in a program which includes works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Stravinsky, Copland and Barber.

Thulean will open Saturday’s gala concert with Copland’s “El Salon Mexico.” Since leaving Spokane in 1984, Thulean has been an executive with the American Symphony Orchestra League where he is now vice president for orchestra development. Thulean, who was named conductor emeritus of the Spokane Symphony, last led the orchestra in 1988. The featured work on that program was Copland’s Third Symphony.

“Donald Thulean has always been a missionary for American music,” says Mechetti. “So we asked him to open our 50th anniversary program with an American work.”

Schuller first conducted the orchestra as a guest conductor in 1983. While he served only one year as music director, Schuller has conducted the orchestra each summer at The Festival at Sandpoint and has appeared regularly as guest conductor in Opera House performances. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music composition, Schuller is well-known for his scrupulous attention to detail in the classic repertoire. He will lead the symphony in Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3.

Mechetti has programmed three works on Saturday’s program paying tribute to past symphony music directors Harold Paul Whalen, Bruce Ferden and Vakhtang Jordania.

Harold Paul Whalen, the orchestra’s founding music director, led the orchestra from 1945 to 1961. To honor Whalen, who died in 1981, Mechetti has programmed three orchestral excerpts from Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust,” a work Whalen programmed in the early years of the Spokane Philharmonic.

Whalen’s daughter Connie, now a member of the Oregon Symphony, will play as a member of the Spokane Symphony viola section in the opening-night program.

“At least 12 performers from the Spokane Philharmonic’s first season will be non-performing guests at Saturday’s concerts,” says Jonathan Martin, the orchestra’s executive director.

Ferden, the orchestra’s music director from 1985 to 1991, died in 1993 of complications from AIDS. In Ferden’s memory, the orchestra’s string section will play Barber’s Adagio for Strings, performing without a conductor.

Vakhtang Jordania, who led the orchestra from 1991 to 1993, was unable to return for the 50th season opening because of rehearsal commitments with the Portland Opera.

Mechetti will close the concert with Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite.

Kendall Feeney, music director of the Zephyr concert series and faculty associate at Eastern Washington University, will discuss the music on Saturday’s program in a pre-concert talk in the Opera House auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. A champagne and cake reception, free to ticket holders, will follow the concert in the Ag Trade Center.

xxxx Spokane Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Donald Thulean, Gunther Schuller and Fabio Mechetti Location and time: Opera House, Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $12-$25, available at the symphony box office, 624-1200, and G&B; outlets