Symphony opener to explore new frontiers

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Juneau Symphony's season opening concert titled "Discover New Frontiers" will give music enthusiasts just that chance by discovering the organization's sound during its debut performance at the new Thunder Mountain High School auditorium.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It is the clearest hall by far in town, and that means we can hear everything on stage," Conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett said. "When we're on the (Juneau-Douglas High School) stage the winds play but their sound goes away, the brass can't hear the strings. At Thunder Mountain everybody hears everything."

The concert will be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday at TMHS, and again at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Pickett will give a pre-concert lecture an hour before each concert starts.

Concertgoers will also be able to discover something else new at the season opener, with celebrated local soloists Paul and Linda Rosenthal performing their first double violin concerto with the Juneau Symphony. The husband-and-wife team will perform "Concertante No. 2 for Two Violins and Orchestra" by Louis Spohr.

Linda Rosenthal, who has played in venues across the globe, said she is excited to perform in the new TMHS auditorium for the first time. The Rosenthals practiced in the hall for the first time on Tuesday night.

"We can hear each other really well up on stage," she said. "It's a lovely, sweet little hall. ... It will be a different visual and listening experience for people who are used to the JDHS auditorium."

The Rosenthals performed Spohr's two-violin concerto in Massachusetts about a year and a half ago and really wanted to perform it with the Juneau Symphony. Pickett said he felt it would be a wonderful way to kick off the symphony's new season.

"Doing a double concerto is not as simple as taking two really great performers and throwing them together," he said. "They have to really feel what the other person is doing, and of course Paul and Linda being terrific solo virtuosos, but also a husband-wife team, it's pretty great to have the double concerto."

The piece is very inspiring music that never gets old because you can keep discovering new treasures within the music, Linda Rosenthal said.

"It's challenging in the most wonderful way for us, and just full of beautiful melodies, one after another, and it's satisfying on every level," she said.

Spohr, a German born composer, violinist and conductor, was one of the most highly respected, important and busiest musicians of the early 19th century, Rosenthal said.

"He was a whole composer and a conductor and was just one of the busiest guys on the scene during his time," she said.

Joseph Haydn's "Lo Speziale" Overture will also be performed. Pickett describes it as a "fantastic piece" that is charming, light and a perfect opener for the symphony's debut in the new auditorium.

"It's the kind of piece that needs that transparency of sound that the hall really has," he said.

Jean Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2" will also be performed as part of the season opener. It is one of the most requested pieces Juneau Symphony has ever been asked to perform, Pickett said. He was skeptical of it in the past because of his own personal opinions, but since working on it he said he has been won over by the "audience blockbuster."

Sibelius, a Finish composer, created "Symphony No. 2" as a very spacious and interesting piece that really features the brass section, Pickett said.

"It's very northern feeling, kind of craggy and jagged, sort of like the mountains meet the seas, which I think makes it appropriate for Alaska," he said.

General admission for advance tickets is $20, and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are also available for $2 extra at the door. Sunday's concert will be a pay-as-you-can show for door tickets. However, the TMHS auditorium has a capacity of 408 people, which is a little more than half the amount JDHS can hold so organizers are advising people to buy their tickets in advance. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, or online at

"This is going to be a really good one," Pickett said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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