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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Symphony celebrates 20th year

Three-week series highlighted by Midori performance

Express Arts Editor

To see the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in its present glory—with 111 world-class musicians, throngs of music lovers under an enormous and acoustically modified symphony tent on the Sun Valley Esplanade—it is hard to even imagine the symphony in its infancy 20 years ago. That is when Carl Eberl, professor emeritus of Queens College of the City University of New York, founded the Elkhorn Music Festival with 20 musicians.

Celebrating his 80th birthday this year, Eberl will return to conduct "It Happened in Sun Valley" during the opening night concert 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.

And what a homecoming it will be, with performances by violinists Midori and Leila Josefowicz, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet throughout the 11-concert series.

For chamber music enthusiasts, the Edgar M. Bronfman three-concert series that runs prior to the regular season, continues tonight with works by Brahms and Shostakovich. Jeremy Constant, Paul Brancato, Christina King and Steven Honigberg will perform Brahms’ String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51, No. 1. Constant, Honigberg and Kathryn Brake will play Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67.

The chamber group will tackle Danielpour’s A Child’s Reliquary for Piano Trio and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major on Friday, July 30. All concerts are at 6:30 p.m.

Returning for his 10th year to conduct the regular symphony season is Alasdair Neale, music director of the Marin Symphony and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra.

And Neale, according to Jaci Wilkins, executive director of the SVSS, is one of the main reasons the symphony has enjoyed so much success.

"The symphony really does get better every year. The principals in each chair are principals in major symphonies across the country. Alasdair, with his network and connections brings in such high caliber musicians."

What few people likely realize about the symphony is that each performance is done with one rehearsal.

"Alasdair is unique in being able to do everything with just one rehearsal. Not every conductor can pull that off. He has a unique rapport with musicians," Wilkins said.

Generally Neale sets the musical program in December. The artists are invited around the beginning of the year—a process that is more complicated than it sounds. With the high caliber of musicians comes a logistical puzzle in working around all of their schedules. And for musicians who are in such high demand—like Midori—the planning starts a year or two before they are scheduled to perform.

What also sets the SVSS off from virtually every other top-notch symphony is the fact that all of its concerts are offered free of charge. Given the caliber and size of the orchestra, that is no small order.

Wilkins attributes this to two factors. "Without the generosity of our donors or our housing hosts (musicians stay in private homes during the concert season), we could never do this."

Included in the series this year are 11 full concerts, a gala benefit scheduled for Aug. 4 and a family festival Aug. 6—a daylong event featuring children’s activities and performances by students of the Sun Valley Summer Music Workshops.

Following opening night, Neale will conduct soloist Leila Josefowicz Monday, Aug. 2. The works on tap for that concert are Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Beethoven’s Concerto in D Major for Violin.

Other highlights of the three-week series include Americana Night at the Pops Aug. 9, soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Aug. 10 and the finale concert Aug. 16 when the orchestra will perform the notoriously difficult Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D Major.

For this last concert, Wilkins relayed that Neale conceded they would actually need two rehearsals.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.