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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2012

Star to shine at pair of weekend concerts

Clarinetist Shifrin to play with Toledo symphony

BY SALLY VALLONGO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Clarinetist David Shifrin Clarinetist David Shifrin
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When superstar clarinetist David Shifrin performs in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle during the Toledo Symphony Classics VI concerts this weekend, acute noses may detect the fragrance of orange peel.

No, it won't be another experiment in synesthesia such as the orchestra and Toledo Museum of Art produced a month ago for Pictures at an Exhibition, its most recent Classics performances.

These upcoming concerts will be all music, with works by Beethoven, Weber, Ponchielli, and Bright Sheng tracing a path from the Romantic period to just a few years ago.

And Shifrin's appearance, the first here in several years, is to play a concerto -- Weber's second for clarinet and orchestra -- and then jam with resident clarinet whiz, Georg Klaas, in Ponchielli's Divertimento for Two Clarinets.

OK, about the orange peel: "I learned a trick from a legendary clarinet technician named Hans Moennig," Shifrin said in a phone interview. "When the weather is especially dry, I sometimes keep orange peels in the case with my clarinet. It may raise eyebrows because it looks like I carried my lunch in the clarinet case, but it does the trick!"

Considered one of the top clarinetists in this country and celebrated abroad, Shifrin plays his custom clarinet in a style likened to bel canto singing: smooth, rich, and supple. One of only two woodwind players to win the prestigious Avery Fisher Award (1987), the musician and busy performer is a professor of music at Yale University.

His roots in Toledo are deep: he joined the Toledo Symphony in the 1980s as principal clarinet during his tenure on the University of Michigan faculty. "I felt very fortunate to be a part of the orchestra," he recalled. "I had left my position as principal clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra to teach at the University of Michigan and pursue a solo and chamber music career.

"Performing with the [Toledo Symphony] on a part-time basis allowed me to pursue my dreams without giving up the incomparable experience of playing symphonic masterpieces with a great orchestra in a great hall. I have always loved the Peristyle."

Shifrin said he is looking forward to performing with Klaas, who has been principal clarinetist since 2001, in the lively Ponchielli work, basically a duet with small string ensemble backing.

"It's a great thrill and honor for me to play with David on this weekend's concerts," said Klaas, during a break from practicing. "The piece, Il Convegno ("The Meeting") is like a conversation between two old friends and is rich with the charm and wit found in Ponchielli's most popular works.

Principal conductor Stefan Sanderling will conduct the concert, which will bookend the two works for clarinet with new and old works. Opening will be "Flute Moon," from Bright Sheng's 1999 commission in two movements for the Houston Symphony. TSO principal flutist Joel Tse will solo in this energetic work for flute and piccolo, percussion, and strings based on Chinese mythology.

In the second half of the concerts, Sanderling will bring to life Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, a favorite of Toledo audiences for decades.

Tickets are $20-$50 at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com. Student rush tickets are available both nights one hour before the concerts.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.



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