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Britt Festivals announces classical season

 Posted: 6:40 PM January 21, 2014

The 2014 Britt Festivals classical season, announced by Britt Music Director Teddy Abrams and Britt officials this evening, mixes surprises in with the standard classical repertoire.

It includes music by the Beatles and movie composer John Williams alongside such usual suspects as Wagner and Tchaikovsky.

The music slated for opening night is perhaps emblematic of Abrams' approach to the season. The evening will begin with a short piece Abrams wrote.

Britt Festivals' 2014 Classical Festival

Aug. 1 — Composition by Britt Conductor Teddy Abrams, Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

  • Aug. 2 — Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Andrew von Oeyen and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.
  • Aug. 8 — "The Impostor" Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra with Bela Fleck and Brahms' Symphony No. 1.
  • Aug. 9 — Sibelius' "Finlandia," Sibelius' Violin Concerto with Augustin Hadelich and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, "From The New World."
  • Aug. 15 — Kander's Overture to Chicago, Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins" with vocalist Storm Large, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with pianist Julio Elizalde and "Four Dance Episodes" from "Rodeo" by Copland.
  • Aug. 16 — Symphony Pops with Time for Three, featuring music of the Beatles, Bach, Vivaldi, John Williams and more.
  • Aug. 17 — Wagner's Overture to "The Flying Dutchman," Weber's "Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos)," Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs" and Mahler's Symphony No. 1, "Titan."

"That might sound bold," he said, "but it's actually a celebration of the orchestra."

In line with that concept, there will be no guest artist. Instead, the orchestra will perform Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

Also on the 2014 list: a night devoted to Russian composers Aug. 2, a concert of music composed for live theater and/or movies Aug. 16 and a visit from banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck Aug. 8. The Russian-themed night will include music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky.

"It's three different perspectives on Russian music," Abrams said. "'Capriccio Espagnol' (by Rimsky-Korsakov) is a great show-off piece for the concertmaster and the principal clarinet. Prokofiev alternates between touching and dramatic to sardonic. And Tchaikovsky is just a universal composer. His fourth symphony has melodies that are so hauntingly beautiful, no mater how many times it's played."

Fleck, a genre bender who's better known in pop, rock and bluegrass circles, will perform "The Impostor," a concerto for banjo and orchestra.

"I cannot wait," Abrams said. "He's a legend, and I think our audience will be fascinated."

Another genre-bending act, Tf3, a young group known as the world's first classically trained garage band, will visit Aug. 16 for Britt's annual Symphony Pops night.

"They'll do a wide range of things," Abrams said. "That's their specialty."

That night's program will include Beatles and Williams tunes in addition to compositions by Bach and Vivaldi. It's a family event with special pricing ($15 reserved/$5 lawn).

Other musical guests are Storm Large of Pink Martini, who on Aug. 15 will sing Kurt Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins" with the orchestra. That evening also will include a performance by pianist Julio Elizalde of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

There's an American flavor to the season too, with music by Gershwin and Copland Aug. 15 and Leonard Bernstein Aug. 17.

The final concert of the season, like the first, will have no guest soloist so as to put the spotlight squarely on the orchestra. The program juxtaposes Romantic compositions by Wagner and Weber with a short piece by Leonard Bernstein and Mahler's first symphony.

Abrams hopes the season has something for everybody.

"We're trying to appeal to a broader audience," he acknowledged. "But we're not changing the model drastically."

Seats for Britt's 2014 classical season are $45 (reserved), $32 (lawn), $10 (students), $15 and $5 (Symphony Pops) plus special packages including the orchestra lovers' special (seven concerts for $270). For details, see

— Bill Varble

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