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A noteworthy ‘05-06

Leila Josefowicz: Feb. 24, 2006
 (The Spokesman-Review)
Leila Josefowicz: Feb. 24, 2006 (The Spokesman-Review)
Travis Rivers Correspondent

The Spokane Symphony’s 2005-06 season will see the return of opera to the Opera House stage, a parade of well-known soloists, a newly commissioned work for the orchestra, and a foray into the Middle Earth of “The Lord of the Rings.” The orchestra announced next season’s schedule today in a mailing to its subscribers. It will open Sept. 16 with what Eckart Preu, the symphony’s music director, promises will be a memorable evening. “This year is the Spokane Symphony’s 60th birthday, so we’re celebrating by playing two of the most spectacular orchestral showpieces: ‘La Valse’ by Ravel and Richard Strauss’ suite from ‘Der Rosenkavalier,’ ” Preu said. “And we’re also doing one of the great showpieces for piano and orchestra, Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, with Jean-Philippe Collard,” he said. Collard, after winning a string of prizes in major piano competitions and establishing an enviable international career, was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2003 – the highest honor the French government can bestow. Another highlight comes in November with a performance of Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” Symphony in the Spokane Arena’s Star Theatre. In planning November’s concerts, the symphony faced a problem: The Opera House stage will be busy with a monthlong visit from the animals of “The Lion King” as part of the Best of Broadway series. So the orchestra decided to stage a spectacular of its own, presenting Shore’s six-movement symphony from his scores to the three “Lord of the Rings” films.

“Our performance will involve more than 200 performers including 70 orchestra players, a 120-voice choir, a children’s chorus and vocal soloists, plus high-definition projections,” said Annie Matlow, the symphony’s marketing director.

“So the only place that really made sense to present it was the Spokane Arena.”

The “Lord of the Rings” Symphony has been a runaway success with audiences in Atlanta, Phoenix and Seattle, Matlow said.

“We’re having our performance as a part of both our classics and our SuperPops series because we think it will have a great appeal to both audiences,” she said.

The classics series also will see the return of violinist Leila Josefowicz performing Shostakovich in February, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman playing Copland in April.

Classics newcomers include pianist Norman Krieger, who’ll play Gershwin’s Concerto in F in a February concert, and the husband-and-wife team of violinist Mira Wang and cellist Jan Vogler, performing Brahms’ Double Concerto in January.

A “Beethoven Bash” in October will feature two of the composer’s most famous symphonies, No. 3 (“Eroica”) and No. 5.

Opera has been absent from the symphony schedule since its 2002 performance of “La Boheme,” but it will be back on the Opera House stage in March 2006 with Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” The cast is yet to be announced.

It has also been a few seasons since the symphony has commissioned a new work.

Next season, using money from its Bruce Ferden Fund for 20th-Century Music, the orchestra has commissioned American composer Conrad Pope to write a new work scheduled for performance in April.

Pope has taught composition at Brandeis University and has been the recipient of Fulbright, MacDowell and Leonard Bernstein fellowships.

He has more than 50 film scores to his credit, including “Jurassic Park,” “Amistad” and “Patriot Games.”

Along with the “Lord of the Rings” program, music from the movies will be heard in two of the orchestra’s other concerts next season.

The SuperPops series opens in October with “The Mickey and Judy Show,” an evening of songs from movies made by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, such as “Embraceable You” and “I Got Rhythm.”

And in January, music from such films as “Gone with the Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” “Titanic” and other Academy Award winners will be heard in “Hooray for Hollywood.”

The pops series also will feature a performance by Grammy Award-winning country singer Kathy Mattea and the return of the nostalgic quintet Five by Design, performing songs associated with radio and television programs from the era of Sid Caesar, Perry Como and Arthur Godfrey.

Among the special concerts announced so far, the symphony will bring Diva, an all-woman jazz orchestra, to the Opera House in January and will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a concert featuring the Celtic Tenors, the Celtic Nots and the Haran Dancers.

Alberta Ballet returns with its annual holiday production of “The Nutcracker” in December.

The Symphony at The Met series will feature concerts with Spokane-born pianist Hsai-Jung Chang, and symphony bassoonist Lynne Feller-Marshall and violists Nick Carper and Jeanette Wee-Yang.

Elsewhere outside the Opera House, the symphony will give concerts at Coeur d’Alene’s North Idaho College in November and March, and has scheduled more of its popular Chamber Soirees at the Davenport Hotel in November, January and April.

“Those performances in the Marie Antoinette Room in the Davenport were sold out this season,” Matlow says. “It’s hard to beat the combination of the ‘up close and personal’ atmosphere, a beautiful location with food and wine, and wonderful music.”

The orchestra also sold out its first excursion into the nightclub world of the Big Easy Concert House earlier this season and will perform similar “Symphony on the Edge” concerts there in October and in May 2006.

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