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Wichita orchestra to accompany guitar virtuoso in ‘Italian Symphony’

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at 11:39 p.m.

If you go

Wichita Symphony Orchestra: ‘Italian Symphony’

Guest artist: Eliot Fisk, Guitar

Guest conductor: Christopher Wilkins

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Jan. 13

Tickets: $17-$49

For more information, call 316-267-7658 or visit www.wso.org.

Concert talks: Begin one hour prior to each performance in the Century II Concert Hall and are free to all ticket holders.

Inside the Music: Conductor Daniel Hege will give a one-hour presentation about the works that will be featured at the concert at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. In addition to the lecture and music sampling, sweets and coffee will be served. Admission is $5, and the presentation will be on the second floor of Century II.

Guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk, one of the most sought-after classical guitarists in the world, is coming to Wichita to perform with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

Fisk will play Antonio Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto and Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” For both pieces, the orchestra will be minimized to accompany the guitar.

“He’s an outstanding performer,” said Daniel Hege, the symphony’s music director and conductor. “He’s very exciting and incredibly engaging.”

Fisk said he is thrilled to visit Wichita.

“It’s wonderful that people value music in Wichita,” Fisk said. “There are a lot of ancillary benefits to playing and listening to music.”

Fisk wants people to hear live music. He goes out of his way to demonstrate and perform worldwide. The Yale University graduate and native of upstate New York teaches at two colleges: the New England Conservatory and Universitaet Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He says he wants to reach as many people as he can with his guitar. In Austria, he teaches in five languages. He is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, German and English and also converses in Swedish.

“It’s my missionary imperative to get out there and interface with the community,” Fisk said. “I want to capture their imagination.”

Fisk, a Grammy nominee, has garnered many awards, including one from the King of Spain. But what he says he wants most is for people to realize the benefits of live classical music. To facilitate his goals, he travels the world performing and visiting schools, senior citizens homes and prisons.

“When you are on stage playing music with one another, there is no such thing as just one individual winning,” he said. “We’ve all got to win.”

Fisk will bring either his cedar and spruce guitar named Brujo, Spanish for shaman or medicine man, or his blond maple guitar named Paladin. Both guitars were handcrafted by luthier Stephan Connor.

Fisk ended up with Connor’s guitars after performing a blind listening contest with his students.

“This one guitar kept beating all the others,” Fisk said. After that, Fisk changed over to Connor’s instruments.

The first work that Fisk will perform is Rodrigo’s most famous piece, “Concierto de Aranjuez.” Rodrigo (1901-1999) composed many pieces for guitar, although he never played the instrument himself. This concerto, like all his others, was written in Braille, as the composer lost his sight at age 3. Similar to his other works, the piece evokes melodies from folk tunes from his native Spain. The concerto also features the English horn.

Vivaldi’s guitar concerto that Fisk will play is one of the more than 450 concertos written by the renowned Italian composer and violinist. One of the most prolific baroque composers, Vivaldi is best known for “The Four Seasons.”

“The guitar creates a very intimate relationship,” said Hege. Fitting with the Italian motif, the symphony will begin with Gioachino Rossini’s “Italian in Algiers: Overture” and end the evening with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4, ‘Italian.’ ”

Rossini (1792-1868), a native of Italy, is noted for his operatic compositions. The comic opera “Italian in Algiers” was written in 1813. The overture opens with an oboe that is soon followed by other woodwinds and ends with a typical Rossinian crescendo.

“The overture has beautiful melodies and a beautiful oboe solo,” Hege said. “It also has a sense of humor.”

German-born Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was inspired to write his Symphony No. 4, which ends the concert, while touring Italy from 1830 to 1831. The work, however, was not completed until two years later in Berlin. On his visit to Italy, Mendelssohn absorbed some of the Italian cultural and musical folk traditions. He used these music and dance traditions for inspiration.

“Mendelssohn’s music is just sublime. People will love the melodies and harmonies,” Hege said.

“Rossini and Mendelssohn’s works make wonderful bookends for the concert.”

Christopher Wilkins, who serves as music director of the Orlando Philharmonic and the Akron Symphony, will be guest conductor for the performances.

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