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Fain, Spokane Symphony team up for weekend concerts

Thu., Sept. 29, 2011

Vanity Fair says that “violinist Tim Fain plays like a virtuoso and thinks like a cinematographer.”

Fain, after all, appeared onscreen in the Oscar-nominated “Black Swan.” His character was The Violinist, who performs as the camera swirls around Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied.

With the Spokane Symphony this weekend, Fain will unspool one of his favorite concertos, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, in a concert titled “Tango and Other Human Passions.”

The program will also include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (the Pastoral Symphony) and Osvaldo Golijov’s “Last Round,” a piece that incorporates tango rhythms with dancing violin bows (more on that below).

Mozart definitely fits into the non-tango part of the evening. He wrote this concerto when he was only 19.

Fain says he “loved that piece since I was a kid” – and not just for the energetic parts.

“The slow (second) movement is one of the most beautiful things that Mozart has ever written,” Fain said by phone from a vacation in Montana.

He was taking a break after the debut of his multimedia project, “Portals,” at Symphony Space in New York.

Fain, 35, is celebrated for his embrace of experimental forms and contemporary composers. In “Portals,” he played a new work he commissioned from Philip Glass.

It’s quite a contrast: Mozart has been in the musical repertoire for centuries, while Glass emailed him the score, movement by movement.

“I really had to develop my own performance practice from scratch,” said Fain. “I couldn’t put on a recording of someone else’s playing.”

Yet he doesn’t claim that either method is more artistically rewarding. He loves both.

“I grew up with the classics, and the 20th century performers as well,” said Fain. “In a way, I’m in the business of searching out great music. … Sometimes, you find it in a completely different place.”

He comes by his affinity to film naturally – he grew up in Santa Monica and sang in a chorus for a Steven Spielberg movie soundtrack when he was only 11. He loved being part of “Black Swan,” in which he actually recorded the music live on the set.

“I really knew that music after 40 takes,” said Fain, who now lives in New York.

Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony will be the symphony’s other warhorse this weekend, under the baton of music director Eckart Preu. This symphony is rightly celebrated as one of Beethoven’s triumphs, an ode to the rural countryside.

Golijov’s tango-inspired “Last Round” should prove to be a wild ride. According to the composer himself, “two quartets confront each other, separated by the focal bass … the bows fly in the air as inverted legs in crisscrossed choreography.”

So apparently it takes at least nine to tango.

By the way, there will be one element older than either Mozart or Beethoven in this concert. Fain will be playing his concert instrument: a 1717 violin from Italian maker Gobetti.

It’s on long-term loan to Fain from the Stradivarius Society of Chicago. He couldn’t afford one otherwise.

“I’d have to decide whether to buy the mansion in Beverly Hills or the violin,” he said, laughing.



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