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by Mike Telin

FILJAK-Martina-GreenA return performance is always special,” Croatian pianist Martina Filjak told us by telephone from Colorado Springs. “It was a very good concert and I have to say, the people in Akron are not only good musicians but they are also really nice. We left things on a very positive note and that is why this return is so special.”

The concert Filjak is referring to was her 2011 performance of Rachmaninoff’s second concerto with the Akron Symphony. In her review for this publication Elizabeth Kalanja wrote “What Filjak pulled from the keys was a sensual performance and her stage presence was mesmerizing… The orchestra and Filjak connected in a way that made it seem as if they always performed together and their joint effort resulted in an inspiring performance…”

On Saturday, October 26 at 8:00 pm, Martina Filjak returns to the Thomas Hall stage for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Akron Symphony under the direction of Christopher Wilkins. The concert also includes the Sibelius tone poems Finlandia and The Swan of Tuonela (featuring Cynthia Warren, English horn) and his Symphony no. 7.

Since winning first prize at the 2009 Cleveland International Piano Competition (CIPC) Martina Filjak has developed a very busy international career. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

EJ-Thomas-exteriorThere were no speeches on Saturday evening when Christopher Wilkins and the Akron Symphony celebrated the fortieth anniversary of E.J. Thomas Hall, just plenty of rich orchestral sound, cleverly designed to make a dry acoustical space ring with festive sonority.

Canny programming added to the celebratory nature of the evening. Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture (led by UA’s Guy Victor Bordo) contributed a sense of gravitas to a joint observance between the ASO and the University of Akron, and UA composer Nikola Resanovic’s infectious clarinet concerto provided bubbles for the anniversary toast. Richard Strauss’s brilliant orchestral tone poem (and monumental tribute to himself), Ein Heldenleben, gave the orchestra an opportunity to show itself off, something it did unabashedly and to brilliant effect.

One big factor in pulling this celebration off so successfully was Wilkins’s decision to fill out the string sections for the occasion, and to elevate winds and brass on a series of risers to better equalize balances and projection. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

EJ-Thomas-exteriorWhen the Edwin J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall opened at the University of Akron in October 1973, the multi-use space received rave reviews from critics. The 2,955 seat auditorium also became home to the Akron Symphony. On Saturday, October 12 beginning at 8:00 pm, Music Director Christopher Wilkins will lead the ASO in a concert that celebrates the Hall’s 40th anniversary. The program features Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture conducted by Guy Victor Bordo, Nikola Resanovic’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (Collateral Damage) with Kristina Belisle Jones as soloist, and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

As is the case with many of the world’s concert halls, E.J. Thomas has presented acoustical challenges for the symphony. But as Wilkins points out, “the positives of E.J. Thomas are easy to enumerate. It’s a very comfortable space for the audience and I think it’s an interesting piece of architecture. Also the physical location is ideal because it’s right on the line between the University campus and downtown and as the campus has moved toward downtown that whole area is so active.”

Wilkins says he chose Ein Heldenleben not so much because it was autobiographical for Strauss but rather it was a musical story of an artist’s life. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

ItSORRELL-Jeannette feels as though baroque music is finding its way back onto the programs of modern symphony orchestras,” says the Award-winning harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell. “I think that symphony orchestras have noticed how very popular baroque music has become.”

On Saturday, February 9 at 8:00 pm in Akron’s E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, Sorrell will make her third appearance as guest conductor of the Akron Symphony in a program featuring Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1 and 5 and selections from Handel’s Water Music Suites. Sorrell’s previous ASO appearances have featured an all-Mozart program as well a concert of music by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. “This is the first time I will be conducting baroque repertoire with the Akron Symphony. It will be fun and we are all excited about the program.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Laura Genemans

This past Saturday, the Akron Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Christopher Wilkins and the Akron Symphony Chorus under the direction of Maestro Hugh Ferguson Floyd in no uncertain terms established its excellence and value in this area as an exceptional musical force.

Verdi’s La forza del destino: Overture opened the program and established the tonal three notes representing the forces of destiny.  Thanks to the excellent pre-concert talk by Maestro Wilkins you knew what to listen for.  Without words, the orchestra created pictures with the entrance of the strings followed by the lyrical “gypsy-like” melody from the clarinet and flute. The continual movement between the strings (celli and viola) and winds wove the story taking you to your inevitable destiny – concluding with the low brass.  The music carried you due to the way the ensemble followed each other letting the Maestro lead – never releasing that thread of interest and tension.

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