Clarinetist solos with USC Symphony tonight
By, Frenche Brewer, Brewer4@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3691
Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner who has appeared with orchestras and chamber music groups around the world, will perform for the first time with the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra Tuesday, Oct. 16.
He will be a soloist for the late Denmark composer Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto, op 57.
The concert is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Koger Center for the Arts. Tickets for the concert are $25; $20 for USC faculty and staff, seniors and military; and $8 for students. For more information, call (803) 251-2222 or go to capitoltickets.com.
The concert will also include performances of Aaron Coplan’s “Billy the Kid Suite”and “España” by Emmanuel Chabrier. Copland’s 1939 “Billy the Kid Suite,” inspired by American folk songs, was written for what would become the New York City Ballet. The ballet and music are a narrative through the outlaw’s life. The suite was considered a breakthrough for Copland setting the stage for his “Rodeo” and “Appalachian Spring” ballet scores.
Chabrier was a lawyer and full-time civil servant until “España.” He was inspired to compose the orchestral rhapsody in 1883 after absorbing and researching folk tunes in Spain.
The work made Chabrier a celebrated and influential composer whose admirers included Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Richard Strauss, Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky.
Fiterstein first performed the concerto with orchestra at the 2001 Carl Nielsen International Music Competition and Festival – and won the first-place award in the clarinet division. A few months later he performed it in the composer’s native Denmark with the Danish National Orchestra.
“I really have a personal connection with it,” Fiterstein said. “It was such a great experience to play the concerto with that orchestra because they know it so well. I can’t imagine a better group to perform this with.”
Nielsen composed the concerto in 1928 for Aage Oxenvad of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet as part of a plan to write a work for each quintet member inspired by the personality of the instrument and the player. Nielsen described the clarinet as “at once warm-hearted, and completely hysterical, gentle as balm and screaming as a streetcar on poorly lubricated rails” which also happened to match Oxenvad’s irascible personality. The Clarinet Concerto unfolds in one continuous movement, with four sections related to symphonic structure emerging.
Although Fiterstein has performed the concerto several times in the decade since winning the Nielsen competition, it isn’t programed by many orchestras due to its difficulty. Before coming to Columbia, he will play it twice with the St. Paul, Minnesota, Chamber Orchestra.
Like much of Nielsen’s music, the concerto received little immediate attention outside Denmark. In music circles the composer was widely admired and championed by Leonard Bernstein and others, but only during the past two decades has his music been performed regularly around the world.
Fiterstein recently completed his fourth summer performing at the Marlboro Music Festival and has toured with Musicians from Marlboro. He was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center CMS II program for young performers and continues to perform as a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society. He has been soloist with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the China National Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and has performed with the American, Borromeo and Daedalus string quartets and given recitals at the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie’s Weill Hall and the Louvre. A native of Belarus, he was raised in Israel and graduated from the Juilliard School.
His recording of new works by composer Ronn Yedidia was released on the Naxos label this year. A Gramophone magazine review said "Fiterstein appears to be capable of anything a composer could possibly ask. His sound can be warm or penetrating, he travels the instrument's range with nimble assurance and he has an exceptional command of dynamic extremes…Fiterstein puts his multi-faceted artistry to splendid use.”
While this will be Fiterstein’s first performance with the USC Symphony he has previously worked with Donald Portnoy, director of the USC Symphony. He is married to the violinist Meira Silverstein, a native of Columbia who studied violin with Maestro Portnoy.
Fiterstein is one of several soloists making a first appearance with the orchestra this season. Zeyu Victor Li, a semi-finalist in the 2012 Yehudi Menuhin Young Violinist Competition, will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D major” and the Brasil Guitar Duo will perform the U.S. premiere of a concerto by Paulo Bellinati.
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