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Accordion and oboists get to shine with Columbia Orchestra

Columbia Flier

There will be a musical balancing act of sorts when the Columbia Orchestra performs on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Jim Rouse Theatre. Different periods and styles promise to happily share the same program.

The three pieces being done represent an eclectic 21st-century composition, Osvaldo Golijov's "Azul"; an 18th-century classical gem, Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Oboes; and a great example of the 19th-century romantic sensibility, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.

Golijov, who was born in 1960, intended "Azul" ("Blue") to evoke colorful associations including water and the sky. His piece was written in 2006 for cellist Yo Yo Ma and had its premiere in Tanglewood, Mass. The cellist for the upcoming Columbia performance is Rachel Young, who has been a member of the National Symphony since 1998.

As a composer from the demographically diverse country of Argentina, Golijov incorporates Klezmer and also religious music reflecting his Jewish origins. This single movement composition also reflects the style of Baroque concerti by Handel, Bach and Couperin.

"Golijov is a marvelous composer. We did his songs for soprano and orchestra a few years ago," said Columbia Orchestra music director Jason Love. "In 'Azul,' there are so many cultural influences to it."

Indeed, "Azul" even includes an accordion solo. To put it mildly, this is not an instrument typically heard in a classical music program.

"I didn't know where to find an accordion player," Love remarked, but then he did find Baltimore-based accordion player Kraig Greff.

Yet another unusual aspect of "Azul" is that the staging will have the orchestra placed behind a lineup of soloists consisting of the cellist, the accordion player and two percussionists.

The second composer on the bill, Vivaldi, is so immediately associated with his most famous piece, "Four Seasons," that people sometimes forget he wrote a total of 500 concerti. Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Oboes was composed around 1715.

Jason Love had a very specific reason for selecting this particular concerto. Lindsey Spear, the Columbia Orchestra's principal oboist, is leaving after 18 years with the orchestra. Her replacement is Elizabeth Berman. Both of them get to share the stage for this concerto.

"There are only so many concerti for two oboists!" Love replied with a laugh when he was asked why he picked this particular piece.

Those two pieces anchor the first half of the program, while its second half is given over to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. Love said it has been at least a decade since the Columbia Orchestra performed it and he's eager to do it again.

"It's one of the most virtuosic symphonies there is and we wanted to have it on this program. It's nice coming back to the piece for a fresh perspective on it," Love said.

Tchaikovsky composed this symphony in 1878 and dedicated it to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck.

In terms of the circumstances behind the composition of a specific work, there has long been an inclination within the classical music community to look for connections between this Russian composer's troubled personal life and the moods expressed in his musical output. Love understands that impulse, but also is inclined to resist such armchair psychoanalysis.

"It's not what's written about the piece, but what's actually written on the page," he said. "Tchaikovsky wears his heart on his sleeve with the music, but there's also emotional restraint. He does the balancing himself."

Columbia Orchestra performs Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $28 and $22, $24 and $18 for seniors, $12 and $10 for students. Call 410-465-8777 or go to www.columbiaorchestra.org

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