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Musician concert picks: Sarah Shellman

The Florida Orchestra musicians will play more than 130 concerts in the 2018/19 season, but which ones are they most looking forward to?  As the season gets ready to launch Sept. 28, here are concerts handpicked by Principal Second Violinist Sarah Shellman.

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Clyne’s The Seamstress
(On the Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 concert, April 12-14)

I can easily say I’m most excited about the Masterworks concert in which I’m soloing on Anna Clyne’s The Seamstress. Clyne’s music is expansive and haunting in general. The piece is imagined as a one-act ballet in which “Alone on the stage, the seamstress is seated, unraveling threads from an antique cloth laid gently over her lap. Lost in her thoughts, her mind begins to meander and her imagination spirals into a series of five tales that range from love to despair, and that combine memory with fantasy.” The soloist’s voice is that of the strong, imaginative narrator, and W.B. Yeats poem “A Coat” weaves through the score (literally and emotionally). I even hear a subtle nod to Scheherazade in the work (that’s my own imagining, not the composer’s intent). Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Anna at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California, where I’ve been a member of the first violin section since 2007, and we discussed the possibility of her coming to Florida for the performances in April. It would be so exciting for both of us; she’d get to hear only the second interpretation of The Seamstress, because it hasn’t been played since its 2015 premiere by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Jennifer Koh. I’d be honored to perform for the creative force behind the piece.

Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante
(On Mozart & Sibelius concert, Dec. 7-9)

I’d be remiss not to express my enthusiasm for the December Masterworks concert featuring TFO’s own Nancy Chang and Derek Mosloff playing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. They are both beautiful players, and Nancy is a close friend/partner in crime. Also, the piece is one of my favorite works in the Western classical canon. I think the writing is so operatic that the solo lines transcend the string instruments and become absolutely vocal in terms of poignancy and beauty.

Schubert’s Symphony No. 9
(Jan. 18-20)

I’m looking forward to the Masterworks in January conducted by Josh Weilerstein and featuring Josh Roman performing Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto. Both are great musicians, really down to earth, and the whole program is thoroughly interesting. Bates’ music strongly draws on his experience as a DJ — it’s heavy on the electronica and really fun to play. Also on the program is Poem for Orchestra by William Grant Still, who is experiencing a bit of a renaissance (deservedly so). The final piece, Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, reminds me of Bruckner in its scale and structure, but uses the more lyrical, vocal writing of the early 18th century. Every performance of the piece is a journey.

Evening at Bach’s Coffeehouse
(Oct. 26-28)

I can’t forget the concert in the fall with Jeanette Sorrell! I studied historical performance at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and played a lot of concerts on period instruments before I started playing with TFO. Ms. Sorrell’s ensemble Apollo’s Fire was a big deal even back then, and many of my friends went on to work with her professionally. I’ve often regretted that I couldn’t keep up that part of my musical life.  Even though we won’t be playing the concert on historical instruments, I’m very excited to hear how she gets us to evoke period sounds and style using modern equipment.

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