GCO kicks off a week of Russian music


Gainesville Chamber Orchestra violinist Mishayla Greist plays amid a crowd of students in late 2002. Children and families will stroll through the orchestra again Saturday when GCO performs its showcase of Russian music at University Auditorium.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 10:49 p.m.

It's a Russian Storybook Occasion. No, it's a Russian Spectacular!

The Gainesville Chamber Orchestra has used both terms to describe its Saturday concert at University Auditorium. What's more, there's another concert later in the week that picks up on the same theme.

First, Saturday's program: It's GCO's annual family concert, which includes the now-familiar kids' Walk Through the Orchestra.

"It's as much of a kick for the musicians as the families walking through the orchestra who see, hear and feel what they do," said Conductor Evans Haile.

Legends, particularly Russian ones, have proven to be a rich resource for many of that country's most familiar musical treats. From Tchaikovsky came scores based on the tales of "The Snow Maiden" and "Sleeping Beauty." Stravinsky conjured up an especially vivid realization of "The Firebird," and Rimsky-Korsakov evoked the imaginings of "Scheherezade." Aram Khachaturian musically embellished the exploits of Spartacus, the Roman rebel slave.

All - or portions - of those works are on the docket for the GCO program. For ticket information, call (352) 336-5448 or (352) 392-ARTS.

  • The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will host the follow-up encounter with Russian music, namely a "Tchaikovsky Gala" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The ensemble in this instance is the touring Moscow State Radio Symphony (110 members) and Chorus (60). Their connection to the illustrious composer would seem ironclad.

    This ensemble was founded in 1978 and originally led by conductor Alexander Mikhailov. It accomplished a 34-city U.S. tour in 1999, and on this occasion is being conducted by Pavel Sorokin.

    Indeed, the program is an attractive one, if a little vague yet on some of the details. One highlight should be a Tchaikovsky piano concerto, which I assume is the well-known first of the three. The soloist was not specified.

    Another attention-getter will be the "1812 Overture," a sure-fire favorite even if the cannon called for might be simulated by a really big drum.

    While I don't know if the singers will chime in on a chorale version of "1812," they definitely will get involved in choruses extracted from some of the dozen or so Tchaikovsky operas. Most are unfamiliar to present-day audiences, except for "Eugene Onegin" and "Queen of Spades (Pique Dame)." Other selections will be from "Charodeika" and "Maid of Orleans."

    Further explanation is in order, and that may be provided by University of Florida professor Will Kesling, who just happens to be a popular guest conductor in Russia. He will give a pre-performance discussion at 6:45 p.m.

  • Earlier this week, another UF faculty member, pianist Boaz Sharon, arrived in Moscow for the beginning of a tour that will take him, partly on the trans-Siberian railroad, to concerts from the Pacific coast region to Moscow. The tour includes a stop in Ekaterinburg, where he made a successful concert appearance three years ago.

  • Back on the UF campus, organist Laura Ellis will perform a 4 p.m. recital Sunday at University Auditorium. Composers represented include J.S. Bach, Thierry Escaich, Larry King and Louis Vierne.

    Starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, carillonneur Lee Cobb will chime in with an occasional series of 50-minute recitals. We'll try to provide more details for the remaining three programs - Feb. 15, March 14 and April 18.

  • Some items in UF's Musicology Lecture Series just grab our attention. They're hard for townies to get to - usually 3 p.m. Wednesdays in room 146 of the Music Building - but how can anyone pass up this Wednesday's talk? It's "Thunder in the Ear of the Prince: The Responsory 'Deum time (Fear God)' in the Medieval Coronation Liturgy."

    The presenter is David Schiller of the University of Georgia.

    So it might be a little esoteric. On the other hand, why shouldn't we expect to see a little of this kind of experience introduced into the increasingly popular medieval fairs?

    David Grundy can be reached at dmgrundy@aol.com.

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