LSCO season kicks off Wednesday with Superior native Letourneau

Fans of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra seem to expect, even demand, the unexpected -- new works, experiments and unusual orchestration, all mixed with the tried and true.

Fans of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra seem to expect, even demand, the unexpected -- new works, experiments and unusual orchestration, all mixed with the tried and true.

This season, which begins Wednesday, they will get even more of what they hunger for.

The orchestra's anticipated summer season will stretch across five Wednesdays in June and July, intimately housed at Weber Music Hall on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.

The opening concert will feature violinist De Ann Burger Letourneau, a Superior, Wis., native, returning to the Northland to solo on a Beethoven violin concerto.

The concert will open with "Overture to Il Signor Bruschino," by Gioacchino Rossini, and also involves two new works, "Einstein's Dream," by Cindy McTee, and "Wounded Fields," by Steve Heltzeg.


That's typical.

Artistic director Warren Friesen, reached by phone from his office at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he was finishing out the school year, described the season as exciting. "It's kind of typical LSCO, Warren Friesen programming," he said.

Only with even more new works than usual.

"There are seven works that will be absolutely new to the orchestra and to the people," he said.

That number includes five which were written by women, which is unusual but "not any sort of social statement," Friesen said.

"In addition to that, then, there are a number of other things that are newish," he said.

For that opening concert, "Wounded Fields" is written by a friend of Friesen's. Its subject is Gettysburg. "Einstein's Dream" is the first of two pieces by McTee the LSCO will perform this year. The timing is perfect for it, with the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of special relativity coming this year.

The piece is also really new -- when Friesen discovered it on McTee's Web site in April, it had just debuted in March with the Dallas Symphony, which has exclusive rights to it for a year but allowed the LSCO to perform it.


"So we'll actually be the second orchestra to do this," he said.

McTee is from Texas. Its orchestration is for strings, percussion and computer-generated sounds. The second McTee piece for the year is "Twittering Machine," slated for the last concert of the year.

The McTee pieces demonstrate one thing Friesen said has made programming new works easier -- the Internet.

"The Internet makes it much easier to find new stuff and to hear it right away," he said.

Before, a musical director had to peruse a catalog and then write to ask for a perusal score. Now, with a few clicks, one can listen to the piece right on the composer's site.

Another of the notable new pieces is a premiere by Greg Moore in the last concert of the season, a piece for saxophone quartet and orchestra. The piece was commissioned by the LSCO. The composer, on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, will perform in the concert.

That's the other season highlight for Friesen: the soloists. He said one of the things the orchestra tries to do is feature people who are from the area who have gone off and done well, like Letourneau, and those who are in the area and succeeding, like Moore, Erin Aldridge and Betsy Husby.

Friesen said this will be Letourneau's fourth or fifth appearance with the LSCO. "I would imagine that we'll always bring her back every three or four years," he said.


Husby and Aldridge are also "notable figures" in the area, he said. Aldridge was recently named concertmaster with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

The third concert, July 13, will feature the Ali Sisters, ages 11, 15 and 17, performing Mozart's rarely-heard "Triple Piano Concerto." And the July 20 concert will feature the Young Piano Competition winner from UMD.

This year, like last, Friesen will give pre-concert talks on Mondays at the Duluth Public Library, to help acquaint listeners with the music they will hear.

It's a natural thing for Friesen, who taught music appreciation for many years. The talks sometimes include recordings and question-and-answer sessions.

"Actually, some of the people that come there are very astute," he said.

Although he talks to his audiences, in what has become part of the LSCO appeal, he prefers the library setting where he doesn't have to switch gears between making music and talking.

The whole thing is part of what Friesen says feels like a family, including him, the musicians and the audience. "I'm not sure how we created it, but we did create it," he said. "That feels really good to me."

Here's how the season breaks down:


June 29 -- Aldridge and Husby, violin and cello, respectively, will perform Brahms' "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor." Additional works include a Mozart overture, an homage to the queen of Tonga by Dominick Argento and "Three Film Scores" by Toru Takemitsu.

July 13 -- In addition to the Mozart "Concerto for Three Pianos," the concert will include the groundbreaking "Music from 'Psycho'" by Bernard Herrmann, and works by Sibelius and Ravel. A new work in the program is Karen Amrhein's "Serenade."

July 20 -- The young guest pianist will perform Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 2," and a 20th century work by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge brings a modern twist. But Mozart should be a musical point of interest. His Symphony No. 40 is on the schedule, as well as Lawrence Dillon's "Amadeus ex Machina," a "whimsical re-imagining" of that same Mozart symphony.

July 27 -- In addition to the McTwee and Moore pieces will be another new work, Monica Houghton's "Glancing at Flowers." On the more traditional side, the concert features Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'" and Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," set in the original chamber orchestration that Copland described as more personal and more touching.

Pre-concert discussions are Mondays before each concert at noon in the Gold Room at the Duluth Public Library's main facility. The discussions are free.

Each concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at Weber Music Hall. For tickets or more information, call 525-4076 or visit .

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