The soloist and the symphony

Sibelius and Stravinsky on the bill for performance featuring New York violinist

Posted: Friday, February 02, 2007

Annaliesa Place's plane was fogged in Wednesday night, and Alaska Airlines lost her luggage, but the New York City violinist finally arrived Thursday afternoon in Juneau.

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That gave her just less than two hours of down time before digging back into Jean Sibelius' 1904 "Violin Concerto in D minor" - one of the featured works in the Juneau Symphony Orchestra's "Winter Wonders" concert this weekend.

"It's one of those pieces that's a musical masterpiece," said the soloist. "It's just a great work of art. I would say it's as good as the Beethoven or the Brahms violin concerto, but there's something about it. It's a little flash, it's kind of quirky, and it's as traditional as the other two. It has a flair about it."

Place has visited several times for the Juneau Jazz & Classics festival, but this is her first performance with the symphony.

She appears at festivals throughout the world and performs with several ensembles - Momenta Quartet, Mosaik Two and ecco. She is also on the faculty of the Thurnauer School of Music in New Jersey.

She last played the Sibelius concerto 10 years ago with her high school youth orchestra in Cleveland. She knows Juneau Symphony conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett from playing a Brahms violin concerto with his North State Symphony in Chico, Calif.

"Sibelius really resonates to Alaska especially, because he's up in Finland, writing about the same northern area and it's a similar kind of terrain," Pickett said. "You've got these really rocky craggy mountains, this really dense forest and then the sea.

"She drives it, and there's a lot of room for individual flair," he said. "She's a very powerful and musical player."

Wonders of winter

What: Juneau Symphony Orchestra, "Winter Wonders."

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

Tickets: $20 general admission bought in advance, $15 for students and seniors; available at Hearthside Books or $2 more at the door. Sunday's matinee is $12 for children under 12.

"I lost my original copy of the music with all of my markings, but that was sort of a blessing," Place said.

"It made me approach it in a new way. I have my own approach and my own timing with the piece, but I'll obviously consider what the orchestra is going to do. It's a symbiotic relationship."

After a brief intermission, the concert will resume with Stravinsky's "Petrouchka," his 1911 score for a ballet about a straw-filled wooden puppet who cavorts with gypsies and dancing bears at a fair sideshow in St. Petersburg.

"It's one of my top five favorite pieces," Pickett said. "If I'm on a deserted island, and I'm stuck, I'm going to take 'Petrouchka' with me. It's one of the most brilliant pieces of dramatic music out there. My other four of the five would be broody and stormy, but this is just so bright and energetic."

Pianist Sue Kazama and the trumpets will trade off portraying Petrouchka. Listen for the tuba as the dancing bear.

"It's full of these incredible rhythms, and that's one of the things that people are going to come away with," Pickett said. "It has this rhythmic and dancy and bouncy sense. It's one of the most fun pieces to conduct, and it's technically one of the most difficult pieces to conduct."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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