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At times, Duluth seems a bit isolated, being approximately 150 miles north of the nearest major crossroad. In order to get to Duluth, you pretty much have to decide to go to Duluth: you just don’t get here by simply criss-crossing the USA Interstate highway network. At the same time, I have been constantly surprised by the artists who perform in Duluth, having been snagged by one organization or another while flying over, or driving through, on the road from Madison to Sioux Falls or Fargo, for example.
I am frequently reminded of a Woody Allen quotation from the 1993 film, Manhattan Murder Mystery. After midnight in New York City, Larry Lipton’s wife is hungry, so Larry suggests ordering pizza. When his wife hesitates, because of the time, he replies: “New York is the city that never sleeps! That’s why we don’t live in Duluth. That, plus I don’t even know where Duluth is. Lucky me.”
From Athens to Duluth, via Toronto and New England
Au contraire, Monsieur Lipton, lucky us Duluthians. This past week we were entertained by Achilles Liarmakopoulos, Greek-born trombone prodigy who just celebrated his thirtieth birthday. He has been playing with the Toronto-based Canadian Brass for the past four years! He happened to be on the UMD campus as a friend of trombone faculty Derek Bromme, and he offered a public recital, joined by faculty pianist Tracy Lipke-Perry.
The tango, La muerte del angel, by Astor Piazzolla opened the recital, with both pianist and trombone presenting a very emotional interchange. Later, Liarmakopoulos shared the flashy trombone solo, Joe Jack Binglebandit, composed by Christian Lindberg, another trombone wizard. I could hardly believe this was happening in Duluth, MN.
A new DSSO season began with plenty of brass
Last Saturday night, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra began its 2015/16 season with a blockbuster performance of three spectacular works. Caribeña, by Miguel del Aguila, splashed Brazilian color and excitement all over the first twelve minutes of the evening. This excitement from a young, powerful composer keeps classical music in full motion, even in the 21st century.
Brilliant pianist, Alexander Korsantia, took a seat at the Steinway, and energetically fingered his way through the nearly non-stop Piano Concerto No. 3, by fellow Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Music director Dirk Meyer has been comfortable with Prokofiev before, and this was no exception. The orchestra and soloist were in precision, as this piece demands split-second reactions to changes in tempo and mood. Occasional lyric moments allow the audience to breathe before the next percussive, impetuous section drives to another closing. The bass drum and the piano shared the final moment together, and the audience jumped to its feet with a natural momentum.
Meyer then led the DSSO in the majestic, experimental Symphony No. 4, composed by Robert Schumann back in the 1840s. All four movements are interwoven, with the changes of tempo being part of the living musical experience. This was romantic music at its peak, with melody and harmony telling a breathtaking narrative about the peaks and valleys of Schumann’s personal journey.
Both the Prokofiev and Schumann pieces had not been on DSSO programs since the mid-1980s, so it was a real treat for this current generation to have such stimulating renditions. This GENESIS-titled event of the new season would indicate that a lot more creativity is going to take place. Watch for chamber music specials as well as The Wizard of Oz - on the screen with the DSSO playing the soundtrack on Saturday, 04 October, 2015. I’ll look for you in the audience.