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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The sounds of Symphonic Graffiti will bounce off the walls of the Fox

Violinist Mateusz Wolski (center) and conductor James Lowe (right) and the rest of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra this weekend will perform works by Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, Brahms, as well as a contemporary work, “Tuxedo: Casco ‘de’ Gama” by Hannah Kendall, inspired by the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat.  (Danny Cordero)
By Ed Condran The Spokesman-Review

It’s not difficult to understand how Hannah Kendall was inspired to write a contemporary piece, “Tuxedo: Casco ‘de’ Gama,” due to the impact of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

“Masterworks 2: Symphonic Graffiti,” which is slated for Saturday and Sunday at the Fox, has Basquiat’s name all over it. There won’t be paintings by the brilliant champion of street art and neo-expressionism at the venue. But there will be an array of works handpicked by the Spokane Symphony musicians.

“Every year we do a musician’s choice concert,” Spokane Symphony conductor James Lowe said. “Every year we survey the orchestra to see what they want to play and I end up with a long spreadsheet of pieces.”

Only four works made the cut: Kendall’s “Tuxedo,” Johannes Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor and Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor.

“Mandy (Amanda Howard Phillips, principal second violin) suggested the piece inspired by American art (Basquiat),” Lowe said. “(Violinist) Mateusz (Wolski) chose Mendelssohn. It’ll be the first time Mateusz will be performing the violin concerto. It’s such a beautiful work, which is full of sparkle and life. It’ll be interesting since Mateusz has been playing it for years but he’s never performed it in front of an audience.”

Saint-Saens’ organ symphony is a nice change up.

“The organ symphony is a big hunk of meat,” Lowe said. “It’s a piece of music that has been used for so many different things. It was in the soundtrack for the film ‘Babe.’ It became part of a pop song during the ’70s (‘If I Had Words’ by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley). It’s a visceral piece, that’s so moving.”

Andrew Angelos suggested the organ symphony. “I did so for a couple of reasons,” Angelos said. “The organ symphony was the first symphony I ever played in high school. Also, it’s a huge third horn piece and I’m the third horn player in the symphony. And how often do you have an organ in a symphony? An organ in the symphony is so powerful!”

The event kicks off with Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. “It’s a fascinating piece,” Lowe said. “Brahms was an interesting person. He never went to university and had such a low opinion of academics. Brahms was an anti-establishment guy, who was never comfortable being lauded as a composer. He would rather be in his local pub. So this is what he composed after being awarded an honorary doctorate. And with it we have a variety of different pieces for our show.”