Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stuart's Summer Break

You’d think having the summer “off” means taking it easy but when Stuart Malina gives friends the “What I Did During My Summer Break” report, it can be pretty exhausting.

After conducting five outdoor concerts across the greater 4th of July Weekend with the Harrisburg Symphony – you can read more about them in earlier posts here and here – “taking a break” means conducting a concert with the Shippensburg Festival Orchestra Thursday evening, then being a pianist for two out of three programs for Market Square Concerts Summer Music series the following week!

This is the sort of thing many communities don’t get to experience. Most orchestras across the country have conductors who don’t live where the orchestra is based: these maestros may be very committed and dedicated to their orchestras and to the community’s cultural scene, but there are side benefits made possible when the conductor lives there and is personally involved in what else goes on in the area.

As he approaches his 10th anniversary with the Harrisburg Symphony, Stuart will be conducting the second of this summer’s Shippensburg Festival Orchestra concerts, their 40th Anniversary Season, this Thursday at 8pm. The program is tried-and-true with the Overture to “Der Freischütz” by Carl Maria von Weber, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor by Max Bruch and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention the soloist for the Bruch concerto? Joshua Bell, one of the great violinists on the stage today – on any stage anywhere!

Bell had recently been in Central Pennsylvania to help the York Symphony celebrate their 75th Anniversary Season a little over a year ago when he played the Mendelssohn Concerto with Robert Hart Baker conducting the orchestra. So we’re very lucky to have him back in the area so soon.

Friends who’ve heard Bell’s performances – most recently playing the Bruch at Tanglewood – always comment on what a genuine guy he is after the performance, meeting the audience, autographing CDs, just like a rock star greeting young fans. He’s the kind of player that inspires young would-be musicians and music-lovers not just by his artistry (which is amazing) but also by his being so down-to-earth about it (a trait that is perhaps even more rare than great talent). While many of us may still think of him as the eternally young teen idol from the beginning of his career not that many years ago, he has the distinction of already being dubbed “A Living Legend,” something usually given to artists twice his age (or four times his seeming age).

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So now it’s time to take a break, right?

Not quite. The next week, Stuart once again takes to the piano bench to play chamber music with the Fry Street String Quartet as part of Market Square Concerts’ Summer Music 2009.

I’ll cover those concerts over at the Market Square Concerts Blog where you can read more about some of the repertoire – including the Shostakovich Piano Quintet which they’ll play Wednesday, July 22nd, at 6:00 at Market Square Church. In a few more days, I’ll post something about Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet that concludes the series Sunday afternoon at the Glen Allen Mill along the Yellow Breeches.

After that, Stuart tells me there's actually going to be some vacation time with the family - and then in August, getting ready for the Symphony's new season that begins with Dvořák's New World Symphony and the Four Seasons - not Vivaldi's set of violin concertos, but Astor Piazzolla's view from Buenos Aires, with violinist Alexander Kerr returning to the Forum to open the Masterworks Series October 3rd & 4th. But more of that later.

Meanwhile, enjoy your summer - and don't forget, Art doesn't take a vacation: you can enjoy it year 'round!

- Dr. Dick

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