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Symphony highlights classical favorites

How often have you wished you could attend a concert of classical music and you get to pick what the orchestra will play? Last season the Rogue Valley Symphony asked its audience to help select the classical favorites to be performed during this season. Next week violinist Jonathan Carney will perform as soloist with the symphony in a program featuring those audience choices.

The concerts are scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Southern Oregon University's Music Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 2, at the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., Grants Pass.

Carney is now in his sixth season as concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Before that, he was concertmaster of London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for 12 years, at the invitation of Vladimir Ashkenazy. Hailed as one of the great concertmasters of his generation, Carney comes from an unusual musical background; all six members of his family graduated from the Julliard School in New York.

The concerts will begin with Rossini's "Overture to the Barber of Seville." Like Mozart, Gioachino Rossini was introduced to music and instructed by his father, and later studied with Antonio Salieri. Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" is perhaps the best known Italian comic opera. The lively overture, popular today as a concert piece by itself, was actually composed by Rossini for another previous opera. He added the now-famous overture to his "Barber of Seville" just before the opera's public premiere in Rome in February 1816.

Next on the program will be a violin concerto of "Five" Seasons — an arrangement of three Baroque movements from Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" combined with contemporary Winter and Spring movements taken from "Cuatro Estaciones Portenas" (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) by the 20th century Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992).

Composed in 1723, Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni ("The Four Seasons") is a virtuosic piece for solo violin and orchestra that musically depicts the changes in the world of nature during the course of the year. Piazzolla's Winter and Spring movements are highly entertaining, also displaying virtuosic solo violin passages with tango-inspired rhythmic intensity.

The orchestra also will perform Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 5. in B-flat Major. It was written in 1816 by the Austrian composer when he was just 19 years old. Known for his gift of creating beautiful melodies, Schubert composed more than 600 songs, a large body of chamber and solo piano music, a number of operas and masses, and he completed eight symphonies before his untimely death at age 31.

A pre-concert lecture by Pat Daly will be held one hour before each performance. Please note the Ashland concert will be held on a Thursday evening, not Friday.

Seating for all concerts is reserved and tickets may be purchased at the door depending on availability. Ashland tickets are $33 and $40, Medford tickets are $26 and $33, Grants Pass tickets are $23 and $30. Student tickets are available at each venue for $5. Tickets may be purchased at the door or by calling the box office from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, at 552-6398. See www.rvsymphony.org.

Violinist Jonathan Carey will perform as soloist with the Rogue Valley Symphony. - The Rogue Valley Symphony)