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Nurit Bar-Josef solos with Britt orchestra

Nurit Bar-Josef typically enjoys Britt's classical festival from the lawn, but this year, Maestro Peter Bay has found a more conspicuous seat for her.

The violinist, who hails from the nation's capital, will be the featured soloist at the Britt Festival Orchestra's third concert of the season. The concert will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville.

Bar-Josef, concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., attends the festival every year to see her husband, Erich Heckscher, the Britt orchestra's principal bassoonist, perform.

"I've known about her for years, and since she was visiting Britt every year to see Erich and hear the festival, I thought it was time to do something about it," Bay says.

Bar-Josef started studying violin in 1980 at the age of 5 after her ballet instructor pointed out that she was very "musical." In high school, she attended Julliard's pre-college program in New York on the weekends.

"That was my first orchestral experience, and I loved the camaraderie and being on stage with that many people," she says. "Soloing is definitely different. ... The spotlight is on you, and it's a whole different feeling. ... You're being scrutinized for every note you're playing. I can't say I prefer it, but I enjoy the challenge."

For the concert, Bar-Josef will perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto — "one of the most frequently performed" and beautiful violin concertos, Bay says.

"As a child, my mother encouraged me to listen to a lot of classical music," Bar-Josef says. "Every (cassette) tape you came across by these great violinists always had Bruch's Violin Concerto on one side and Mendelssohn's on the other side."

Aaron Copland's "Happy Anniversary," Carl Nielsen's "Helios Overture" and Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations" also are on Saturday's program.

"Happy Anniversary," a seldom-heard piece by Copland, is the composer's original arrangement of "Happy Birthday" commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra in honor of conductor Eugene Ormandy's birthday, Bay explains.

The piece has both lyrical and melodic moments and fast, fiery ones, making it well-suited for a summer set, Bar-Josef adds.

Nielsen, a Danish composer, wrote his "Helios Overture" while on vacation in Greece. The piece reflects the sunrise and sunset over the Aegean Sea as seen from his hotel window, Bay says.

"It starts very quietly as if the sun were rising, it peaks in the middle of the piece when the day is at full break and dies away as the sun goes down," he says.

A favorite of Bar-Josef and Bay, the "Enigma Variations" is a set of 14 variations, each dedicated to one of Elgar's friends.

"I chose this work because I consider everybody in the orchestra a friend of mine, and this is one of the most beautiful pieces from a composer to a group of friends," Bay says.

Bar-Josef says the ninth variation, "Nimrod," has a clarinet solo that moves her to tears every time she hears it.

"It's so beautiful," she says.

Reserved seating at the Britt concert costs $35, $33 for seniors 60 and older; lawn seating is $25, $23 for seniors and $10 for ages 12 and younger. See www.brittfest.org, call 541-773-6077 or visit the box office at 216 W. Main St., Medford.

Before she was concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra, Nurit Bar-Josef was assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops and assistant principal second violin with the Saint Louis Symphony. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music and later studied at The Julliard School. - Photo courtesy of Britt Festivals