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Symphony to present 'feast' May 4

Bon Bons and Bratwurst' offers Berlioz and Beethoven


The French and Germans have loved and hated each other for centuries. But both peoples certainly agree on two things — life must have good food and music to be worth living.

So the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra has cooked up “French elegance and German vigor” with its “Bon Bons and Bratwurst” concerts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, at First United Methodist Church, 1838 S.W. Jefferson St., Portland, as well as at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at Mt. Hood Community College, 26000 S.E. Stark St.

Tickets are available at 503-234-4077, columbiasymphony.org, or at the door one hour before the performance.

Adult tickets cost $35, seniors $30, students $10 and children $5.

Conductor Peter Shannon will lead the symphony as it plays works by Berlioz, Ysaye, Sarasate and Beethoven.by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS - Peter Shannon

Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Sarah Kwak and her husband, Vali Phillips, who also plays in the same symphony, will star on two works for duo violins.

Shannon says the concert is a mix of “forgotten gems” as well as such pieces as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, probably the best-known piece in all of classical music.

“It’s a wonderful evening of music,” he says. “I can definitely recommend it to everybody.”

Bon Bons

The “Bon Bons” include Berlioz’s “Marche Hongroise (Hungarian March)” from “The Damnation of Faust.” That will be followed by “Amitié (Friendship)” by French composer Eugene Ysaye, as well as Sarasate’s “Navarra (Spanish Dance) for Two Violins and Orchestra, Op. 33.”

The first half will feature Kwak and Phillips.Vali Phillips and Sarah Kwak

Phillips joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1997, served as principal second violin for his first 11 seasons, and in 2008 joined the orchestra’s first violin section.

He made his solo debut performing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto in 2001. Before coming to Minnesota, Phillips served as concertmaster of the Savannah Symphony Orchestra and associate concertmaster of both the Erie Philharmonic and the Charleston Symphony. He has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He spent two summers at the Tanglewood Festival and has performed at the Grand Teton Music Festival.

He and Kwak met when they both belonged to the Minnesota Orchestra. She served as first associate concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra from 1988 to 2012 and as that orchestra’s acting concertmaster from January 2010 to September 2011.

A 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship winner, she has been a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and she has toured internationally with the Casa Verde Trio in such countries as China. She is the first artist ever to capture all three memorial awards at the Washington International Competition, and also won the 1989 WAMSO Young Artist Competition.

The couple joined the Oregon Symphony in fall of 2012.

Bratwurst

The “meat” of the evening is Beethoven’s oft-played Fifth Symphony. Shannon says the piece is like Beethoven himself — no nonsense.

“It’s very direct,” he says. “He didn’t like to wear a wig, he didn’t like the niceties of his day. This is pure Beethoven, so it’s pure emotion.”

A native of Cork, Ireland, Shannon just became a U.S. citizen and serves as artistic director and conductor of the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in Georgia. One critic described the Irish conductor as a “juggernaut on stage,” and compared a philharmonic performance of Beethoven’s Fifth to that of being at a rock concert.

“I hope Peter Shannon forgives the tortured analogy to (hard rock band) AC/DC,” he wrote. “It’s intended as a compliment.”

Shannon has guest conducted German, Polish, Hungarian and Irish orchestras. In the summers of 2009-11, he returned to Germany, Hungary and Holland as artistic director and conductor of “Voices of Europe,” a weeklong festival of concerts performed by choirs of ethnic minorities from all over Europe.

Shannon has been officially recognized by the American Federation of Musicians and the U.S. government as “an individual of extraordinary ability.” However, he says not everyone agrees.

“When I said that to my mother, she said, ‘Since when have you been able to bend spoons?’” he says with a laugh.