AVON PARK — The Florida Orchestra usually performs in St. Petersburg but its first-ever residency program brought the orchestra to perform at the Alan Jay Wildstein Performing Arts Center at South Florida State College.
The Florda Orchestra performed a Masterworks concert Thursday evening, Jan. 19, as well as two abbreviated free concerts Friday morning for fourth- and fifth-grade students in Highlands County.
A brief pre-concert lecture was given Thursday night by principal guest conductor Stuart Malina, general manager Ed Parsons and principal oboist John Upton. The talk gave a short synopsis of the history of each piece to be performed and the composers behind the creation. The talk enriched the concert experience for those the audience. The passion for the music was evident in the speakers’ voices.
The first piece was by Brahms: “Variations on a Theme by Haydn.” According to Malina, the piece took 20 years to complete with many revisions, each worse than the first. Originally the piece was scored for the piano then later the orchestra. The irregular five-bar patterns add interest to this piece. The origins of the piece are ambiguous and may have even been at least partially written by Haydn’s pupil, Ignaz Pleyel. Whatever the origin, the piece is a beautiful and romantic work of art.
Mozart’s “Oboe Concerto” featured a major solo by Upton, accompanied by the orchestra. This piece was lost for many years and eventually found in some archives. According to Malina, if one note is changed in a Mozart concerto, the entire piece would be ruined. This bright and lively performance earned Upton a standing ovation from the audience.
The orchestra played Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz”. Malina described Liszt as “a rock star. He was like Elvis of his day.” The piece was created for the orchestra first and then for piano. The theme is borrowed from Lenau’s “Faust.”
The evening wrapped up with Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4, Italian.” Mendelssohn was inspired to write the symphony based on his two-year tour of Italy. Each major Italian city is represented through music.
The Florida Orchestra will be entering its 50th season next year. Keeping a professional orchestra working that long is a major feat. President and CEO Michael Pastreich credits his board of directors and music director Michael Francis for continually evolving the nonprofit orchestra forward.
The orchestra is constantly adding new music to reach new generations. New concerts include rock music, video game music and family concerts, to name just a few.
The Florida Ochestra will return to Highlands County to perform a free concert Saturday, March 11 at 4:30 p.m. to kick off race week at Sebring International Raceway. The orchestra will also perform with the Highlands County Concert Band in a side-by-side concert at noon that same day.
For more information on The Florida Orchestra visit www.Floridaorchestra.org.