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Published: Friday, 3/18/2005

Symphony explores work of Tchaikovsky

Violinist Corey Cerovsek will join the Toledo Symphony this
weekend in concert at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.
Violinist Corey Cerovsek will join the Toledo Symphony this weekend in concert at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.

The public and private Tchaikovsky is the focus when the Toledo Symphony performs this weekend at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Music from a seven-year period of the composer's middle career is featured.

The time period is short, but the music surprisingly diverse. Credit that partially to the composer's growing reach, but even more to life experience, particularly his disastrous 1877 marriage to a Moscow Conservatory student.

Indeed, so desperate was the 38-year-old composer that just weeks after the wedding he tried to kill himself by standing in the Moscow River. He hoped to contract pneumonia, but a strong physical constitution saved him. Always delicate of psyche, however, he soon fell into a coma following a nervous collapse.

That ended the relationship. The couple was never divorced, but also never saw each other again.

Written some five years before the ill-fated pairing was the Symphony No. 2 in C Minor ("Little Russian"), a rambling, mostly light-hearted affair full of long rhapsodic melodies, a number of which were adapted from Ukrainian folk songs.

The work is rarely performed, but this is mostly due to the long shadow of the composer's later symphonies.

Written during the recovery period following Tchaikovsky's nuptial crisis was his 1878 Violin Concerto in D Major. Today it is one of the most performed works in the symphonic repertoire, but at its premiere people hardly knew what to make of it. Violinists found the music so technically difficult as to be nearly unplayable; critics found the heart-on-the-sleeve emotional theatrics embarrassing, even vulgar.

Both complaints occasionally surface today, but much more difficult pieces have since been written, and ours is hardly a time of emotional constraint.

Opening the concert is an excerpt from the opera Eugene Onegin, written around the same time as the concerto. The piece will be a Toledo Symphony premiere.

Canadian violin soloist Corey Cerovsek last performed with the Toledo Symphony in 2001. In addition to his skills on the violin, he is an accomplished mathematician. He completed course work for a doctorate at the age of 18, the same year he completed work for a doctorate in music, both degrees from Indiana University.

Tonight marks Nicaraguan conductor Giancarlo Guerrero's Toledo Symphony debut. Guerrero is music director of the Eugene (Oregon) Symphony and associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Violinist Corey Cerovsek joins conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and the Toledo Symphony in an all-Tchaikovsky program at 8 tonight and tomorrow in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets range from $18 to $45. Information: 419-246-8000 or 1-800-348-1253.

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com

or 419-724-6152.

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