Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will give two concerts this month

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Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will give two concerts this month

LEWISTON — The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will perform the third concert series of its 20th anniversary season under guest conductor Yoichi Ugadawa on Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21.

Pianist Charles Floyd will perform Evard Grieg’s piano Concerto in A Minor (“The Norwegian”), and the orchestra will perform Vasily (Basil) Kalinnikov’s First Symphony and Tom Vignieri’s “An American Hymn,” a piece commissioned by Ugadawa in 2001.

Performances will be at the Franco-American Heritage Center on Saturday and at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham on Sunday. The Orion’s auxiliary seating section will be opened for the concert.

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Ugadawa is known for his relaxed manner and comfort at speaking from the podium, helping to give both novices and enthusiasts a greater appreciation for symphonic music. He last conducted the Midcoast Symphony two years ago.

Ugadawa is music director and conductor of the Cape Ann Symphony, Melrose Symphony and Quincy Symphony orchestras. He is also on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory and is a cover conductor for the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Floyd, who has been described as a pianist with a “big ringing tone and phenomenal chops,” is also an accomplished and well-known conductor and composer. He began studying piano at age 4, gave his first solo recital at age 9, and by 20 had been heard in solo, chamber and concerto performances throughout the United States and Spain.

The recipient of numerous awards, Floyd’s compositions range from solo and chamber music to large orchestral and vocal works.

Besides his accomplishments as a performer, Floyd is an annual guest conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and has been in concert with more than 500 orchestras internationally since 1991. In July, 2005, he joined the small team of conductors performing Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony at the request of the Oscar-winning film composer. In January 2009, he conducted the HBO preinaugural concert “We Are One” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for President Barack Obama.

Grieg was a nationalist composer and popular in his native Norway, particularly known for his Peer Gynt Suite and pieces incorporating Scandinavian folk music. However, his piano Concerto in A Minor also exhibits the emotional flourishes of the German Romantics with whom he studied and admired.

Vignieri, a Boston-based composer and music administrator, is currently a producer for the popular radio show “From the Top.” “An American Hymn” was commissioned by Udagawa for his Melrose Symphony Orchestra and first performed in 2001. The main theme starts in the brass section with the tune harmonized with a mixture of familiar and more Copland-esque chords. This section ends with the brass suddenly revealing the strings at the cadence, as though they had been there all along.

The middle section recasts the first section for strings and winds, while the final full statement of the material is a grand passage involving the whole orchestra, including timpani. The final gentle cadence in the string section recalls the end of the first section.

Kalinnikov is a composer better known in Russia than in the West. He died young, at 35. His First Symphony was during his lifetime his most successful work and remains part of the regular repertory in Russia.

This symphony is tuneful and has a Russian tinge without actually quoting any actual folk material. However, its single and very Russian feature, is the “wall of sound” created by the brass choir’s big tunes, often amplified by fast passage work in the strings and colorful percussion backup.

Go and do

WHAT: Midcoast Symphony Orchestra concerts

WHEN & WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20, at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston

WHEN & WHERE: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham

TICKETS: $15; available by calling 846-5378, online at www.midcoastsymphony.org/ and at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Magnolia in Bath or the concert hall prior to concert. People 18 and younger admitted free.

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