Originally created 09/22/96

Symphony opens a spirited season



According to legend, at the opening of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, Tchaikovsky ran in and played Glinka's overture to Russlan and Ludmilla to make sure it was the first music to be heard in the building.

Tchaikovsky would no doubt approve, then, of Augusta Symphony music director Donald Portnoy's decision to use the Glinka piece to open the symphony's 1996-97 MasterWorks series.

"It just starts off in a very spirited way," said Dr. Portnoy.

The 1996-97 season of the Augusta Symphony will likely be noted for its crossover performances, but the ensemble opens its MasterWorks series next weekend with a concert featuring the most straightforward of quantities - a Beethoven work.

Later this year the symphony will test its flexibility in concerts with jazz musician Eddie Daniels and fiddler Mark O'Connor.

It opens the series with a visit from pianist Claude Frank, who is known internationally for his Beethoven interpretations, said Dr. Portnoy. Mr. Frank performs with the symphony at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Augusta State University's Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, 2500 Walton Way.

The concert with Mr. Frank will be one of several on the symphony's opening weekend. It will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, and it will open its Publix Family Series at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Augusta State theater.

Given Mr. Frank's background, the Saturday performance had to include some Beethoven. The symphony will perform the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58. It will also feature Hanson's Symphony No. 2, Romantic.

Symphonies around the country are performing Hanson this month because it is the 100th anniversary of his birth. This piece, his best known, is modern, but accessible, Dr. Portnoy said. If you feel a little creepy when you hear it, it's because a version of the composition was part of the soundtrack to the movie Alien.

The crossovers on the symphony's MasterWorks docket later this year are a trend among symphonies around the country, Dr. Portnoy said. They bring a new audience to the shows and also give regular symphony-goers a chance to hear something different.

"We serve the community kind of a musical diet, and you need a little variety," Dr. Portnoy said.

On stage:

What: The Augusta Symphony

When and where: Aiken Fall Classic at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Etherredge Center, University of South Carolina-Aiken; MasterWorks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Augusta State University's Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre; Publix Family Series at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at Augusta State University.

How much: $60 for series, $20 for adults for Aiken Classic; $24, $22, $18 and $10 for MasterWorks; $10 for adults and $5 for children for the family concert.

Phone: 826-4705.