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Arts & Culture

Russians Rock LSO

Timothy Muffitt
Maestro Timothy Muffitt

The Lansing Symphony presents an evening of Russian Music this weekend. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke with the LSO’s Maestro Timothy Muffitt about the program which welcomes guest violinist and faculty member of the MSU College of Music, Dmitri Berlinsky.

Sure, violinist Dmitri Berlinsky is a powerful presence in Mid-Michigan as an Artist-Faculty member of the MSU College of Music, but as Maestro Timothy Muffitt of the Lansing Symphony points out, "We have to remember that even though Dmitri is right here in East Lansing, he's one of the world's greatest violinists. He's an extraordinary violinist. He played with the orchestra some time ago and it was time now to bring him back and I happened to run into him in the hallway. And in my mind, I had thought 'Wouldn't it be great it Dmitri would play Glazunov? " But then I wanted to see what he wanted to play. So I said, 'You know, I'd love to have with your the orchestra and what would you like to play?" and he said "Glazunov." and okay! We're off to a good start!

[Music from Glazunov's Violin Concerto plays.]

"I mean it's such a powerful pairing of him with that work." explains Muffitt. "It's Glazunov's greatest piece, hands down, and a terrific example of the Russian violin repertoire that I thought it would be nice to put together a whole program that was the same kind of synergy. And then, so how do we open the program? I've always felt that Alfred Schnittke is a very important voice and a very interesting voice out of that part of the world." The piece Muffitt has selected to kick off this weekend's Russian-themed program is Alfred Schnittke’s Gogol Suite. "So this is a work that I think the audience will really enjoy. It's from a film score. it's a good example of his polystylistic approach. It's got some humor in it, it's got some dark humor in it."

[Music from Schnittke's Gogol Suite plays]

The remainder of this Lansing Symphony Orchestra concert featuring three eras of Russian classical music is the 5th Symphony by a composer who brought some light to the people during the harshest times of Stalin’s Soviet regime.

"You know, Shostakovich was a phenomenon, really!" exclaims Muffitt. "I mean, in a time of such great suppression by the Soviet Government, he was the voice of the people. And because he was speaking in the language of music, I think that he could communicate things that perhaps a poet, or a playwright, or an author couldn't."

[Music from Shostakovich's 5th Symphony plays]

"So it was when there was a premiere of a Shostakovich Symphony, there would be a line out the door, and around the block and down the street. Which is not something we see in a lot of classical music." muses Muffitt. "That kind of connection to the people. It's what we all want, it's what we're striving for in this business. We want everyone to feel that connected to us. But he was important to the people."

[More music from Shostakovich's 5th Symphony plays]

At the premiere of Shostakovitch's Fifth Symphony, there was a famous half-an-hour standing ovation of applause from the original audience. Is Maestro Muffitt ready to be standing accepting applause at the Wharton Center for that long?

"I'll stand there for half-an-hour, if the audience wants to give us that, sure."

The Lansing Symphony and Maestro Timothy Muffitt perform Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, Alfred Schittke’s Gogol Suite, and are also joined by Dmitri Berlinsky to perform Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. A program simply called Music of Russia, they play this Saturday night at the Wharton Center in East Lansing. Tickets and more information at Lansing Symphony.org

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