The gang’s all here for 1st weekend

Durango Herald File Photo

Maestro Guillermo Figueroa keeps the orchestra relaxed during last year’s Music in the Mountains festival. The full orchestra will hit the stage under the big tent for the first time this season on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

It’s always special when Music in the Mountains rolls out the full festival orchestra each year, and this weekend the music will match the moment.

“We’ve got some very big works, lots of brass, lots of everything. It’s going to be fun,” said Maestro Guillermo Figueroa on Thursday while preparing for that evening’s chamber concert, in which he performed.

For Saturday’s “Elegance and Excitement!” and Sunday’s “Tour de Force” programs, Figueroa will be back on the other side of the conductor’s podium leading the largest Music in the Mountains orchestra in several seasons.

“It’s the complete full symphony and not cut down for the first week as we’ve done in the past,” he said.

Saturday will be even more special for festival fans as the featured soloist will be Music in the Mountains’ artistic director, Greg Hustis. He’ll be in the spotlight for Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4, which will be second on the program after Schubert’s Overture to “Rosamunde.”

“I’m excited for Greg and this, the most beautiful of the four (horn concertos),” Figueroa said. “People think these are lighter and not so important, but that’s not the case with this work. It’s an amazing piece with absolute perfection of form and beauty of melodies. It’s just absolutely brilliant.”

The second half of “Elegance and Excitement!” comes direct from France with a couple of time-traveling pieces. Darius Milhaud’s “Le boeuf sur le toit” (the ox on the roof) is as whimsical as its title suggests, and it originally was intended to be the score for one of Charlie Chaplin’s silent films. Capping the night will be Camille Saint-Saens’ familiar “Danse Bacchanale” from “Samson et Dalila.”

“The way the program was structured, we needed something relatively short to end the program in a big way, but not a long piece,” Figueroa said. “It’s a phenomenal collection of Brazilian dance tunes, very Latin, very danceable, great fun, and people are going to be very, very amused with this one.”

The orchestra members will have to rest up quickly to prepare for Sunday’s “Tour de Force.” The first half will be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in its entirety. Figueroa described the Second as a transitional composition for Beethoven, and it’s not heard as often as some of its more famous brethren.

“It’s one of my favorites and one of his happiest and most uplifting – not like the dramatic Fifth or monumental Ninth,” Figueroa said.

Violin soloist Dmitri Berlinsky will lead the orchestra out of intermission with Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. Berlinsky is a Russian-born global star and has played chamber music with Music in the Mountains and taught for the conservatory, but this will be his first solo opportunity with the festival orchestra. Among his awards are the Paganin competition (Italy), Queen Elizabeth Music Competition (Belgium), International Tchaikovsky Competition (Russia) and the Montreal International Violin Competition.

Concluding the “Tour de Force” will be Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’ “Capriccio Espagnol,” another upbeat finale with Latin flair and lots of percussion.

Anyone looking to catch a weekend performance during this year’s festival would be well-served to choose either or both of these early concerts.

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