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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Symphony to feature pieces inspired by art, literature

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC
Hege Hege
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Frescos, paintings, and Biblical stories take on musical life this weekend in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.

Guest conductor Daniel Hege leads the Toledo Symphony in an innovative program of music by Martinu, Gubaidulina, and Mussorgsky. Soloists include symphony violists Valentin Ragusitu and Ellen Craig. Two of the pieces will be Toledo Symphony first performances.

Opening the program is Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu's rich-toned 1955 composition "The Frescos of Piero della Francesca." Martinu drew his inspiration from a series of dramatic works that Piero created around the year 1466 for the Cappella Maggiore of San Francesco in Arezzo, Tuscany. The painter's images are grandly dramatic in the high Renaissance style. They depict religious events and battle scenes, as well as such power figures as Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and the Emperor Constantine.

Martinu found the 500-year-old chapel, with its floor-to-dome artworks, deeply affecting. He set down his impressions in a highly accessible three-movement piece for large orchestra. The music is at once warm, powerful, and incisive. The tonal palette is invariably rich with harmonic color.

The Martinu piece makes a fine pairing with Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina's "Two Paths" (1999), which draws inspiration from the New Testament story of Lazarus' contrary sisters Martha and Mary. Violists Ragusitu and Craig play the roles of the sisters while the orchestra mediates.

Gubaidulina's music tends to be quirky and propulsive. It is also marked by strong religious conviction. The 74-year-old composer has said that "spiritual renewal" is the most important reason to compose.

The program closes with a tonic of the familiar: Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," originally written for piano, but later orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. The composer leads a musical tour depicting the art of painter and friend Victor Hartmann. The finale, "The Great Gate of Kiev," offers one of classical music's most recognized melodies. Other movements are variously charming, witty, or comical.

Since 1999, Hege has served as music director of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. This is his Toledo Symphony debut.

Violists Valentin Ragusitu and Ellen Craig join conductor Daniel Hege and the Toledo Symphony in music of Martinu, Gubaidulina, and Mussorgsky at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets range from $19 to $46. Information: 419-246-8000.

Contact Steven Cornelius at:

scornelius@theblade.com

or 419-724-6152.



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