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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A stirring celebration of our 16th president

Spokane Symphony audiences enjoyed a rare treat this weekend. World premieres carry their own thrill, but rarely does an audience find itself witnessing a masterful composer celebrating a great occasion by delivering an impressive work into the hands of ideal interpreters. With Michael Daugherty’s “Letters From Lincoln” at The Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox on Saturday, the audience found itself in the presence of a moving tribute to our 16th president.

Commissioned Lincoln Bicentennial music premieres

Abraham Lincoln liked music. As a younger man, he enjoyed a good fiddle tune with his fellow lawyers when traveling to the Illinois circuit courts. When he became president, he attended opera and musical shows given by touring companies in Washington. And the Lincolns often hosted performances at the White House.

At a glance: Spokane Symphony

What: Works by Bartok, Dvorak and Beethoven, with guest pianist Chris O’Riley. When: Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 3 p.m.

Pianist Christopher O’Riley steps in as second replacement for symphony concerts

The Spokane Symphony got two big surprises as it approached its first pair of classical concerts of 2009 – and neither was the kind of surprise that conductors or symphony managers relish. First, the orchestra’s originally scheduled piano soloist, Gabriela Montero, got an offer she couldn’t refuse: playing a new work by John Williams for President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities next week.

Blazing Banjos

When it comes to high-brow musical respect, the banjo ranks somewhere below the accordion and above the kazoo. In fact, according to banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, some people discover they like banjo music “only when they hear it by mistake,” as they did on Fleck’s classical banjo album, “Perpetual Motion.”

Symphony goes clubbing

Musicians, some people say, can’t stay away from bars. The Spokane Symphony doesn’t deny it. This is the fourth season the orchestra has taken its players to one of Spokane’s most popular downtown night clubs – the Knitting Factory – for the Symphony on the Edge series. The venue has the advantage of taking the symphony away from the formality and Art Deco elegance of it home at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox (just a block away) and shifts the orchestra and its audience into an out-there mode that allows programming of music that might be too edgy for Classics or even Casual Classics concerts across the street.

Classic Russian

The Russians will invade The Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox this weekend when the Spokane Symphony performs a program of music by Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Eckart Preu will conduct Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and the suite from Prokofiev’s opera “The Love for the Three Oranges.” The young American violinist Stefan Jackiw will perform as soloist in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto. Jackiw (pronounced JAH-keev) was born in Cambridge, Mass., to parents who are both physicists. “But there was classical music around our house all the time,” the violinist recalls. “I really loved the violin, and when I was 4, a friend gave me a very small violin as a birthday present. “I began studying with a Russian lady, Zinaida Gilels, when I was five or six,” Jackiw says. “She grew up in the famous musical family that included the pianist Emil Gilels and his half sister, Elizaveta, who was also a violinist. I knew practically nothing about playing the violin, so Zinaida Gilels really introduced me to the violin and taught me how to play – the discipline of practice, how I use the bow, all the ingredients of the sound I produce.

‘Alpine Symphony’ showcases talent

Conductor Eckart Preu led the members of the Spokane Symphony to a Straussian summit Saturday as the orchestra opened its 2008-09 season. Richard Strauss’s “Alpine Symphony” represents some breathtaking challenges, but the Spokane players rose to the occasion.

Alpine adventure

The Spokane Symphony opens its 2008-09 season with some musical mountain climbing as the orchestra play Richard Strauss’s seldom-performed “Alpine Symphony” Saturday evening at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. The concert will be repeated Sunday afternoon. Violinist Elina Vähälä will join the orchestra as soloist in Max Bruch’s popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Conductor Eckart Preu will open the concert with Mozart’s Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Event to showcase tribe’s culture

Children and families can immerse themselves in the music and culture of the Spokane Tribe at a special program Sunday at CenterStage and the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. The event opens at 1 p.m. with free, kid-centric activities focusing on the tribe. It culminates with a Spokane Symphony concert at 4 spotlighting hundreds of Indian children from the tribe's Wellpinit School on the reservation.

A work in progress

"It all started with me wanting more room for my CDs," says Kevin Hekmatpanah, explaining his recent move from a 700-square-foot condo in downtown Spokane to a "fixer-upper" roughly 10 times that size on a bluff overlooking the Spokane River. A seasoned cellist with the Spokane Symphony and an associate professor of music at Gonzaga University, Hekmatpanah, 43, has been collecting classical music on compact disc since the technology first became available in the late 1980s.