Maestro's Solo 

Leighton Smith drops the baton to tickle the ivories

If there were a patron saint of professional orchestral music in Colorado Springs, Lawrence Leighton Smith would be a serious contender for the title. He's an accomplished soloist, a brilliant conductor, a passionate chess player (a fact that might not seem music-related, but speaks highly of his shrewd problem-solving abilities), and a devoted member of this community. And lucky for us, it looks like he's here to stay. Smith recently agreed to be the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's first music director.

Aside from his numerous personal musical accomplishments, he has conducted some of the top soloists in the country during his three years behind the baton with the former Colorado Springs Symphony. Local audiences have seen James Galway, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Rachel Barton take the stage with the orchestra.

It's easy to forget that conductors are also musicians, but next week concert will smash the myth that conductors just stand around and wave a stick. As a special treat, the Philharmonic will present their first classical concert featuring a long-anticipated solo performance by Maestro Smith.

"The musicians have been the ones making the music in my three seasons here," Smith says. "I've just been beating a stick. It'll be great to finally get to make a sound with these players I love and admire so much."

Associate Music Director Thomas Wilson will conduct the orchestra as they join Smith to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, op. 19.

It's a well-known fact that Beethoven's second piano concerto is actually his first, and his first his second, but he spent so much time reworking the first one that they were published in reverse order. Regardless of their enumeration, these concertos are written in the style of Mozart, and No. 2 is absolutely lovely, providing a wonderful example of Beethoven's adeptness at writing in the Classical style (rather than the Romantic style for which he is best known).

Smith will retake the podium to conduct the orchestra as they perform Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, a piece so moving that it has been called "the tenth," meaning it would have been the symphony Beethoven had written after his ninth symphony if he had not died. This is a fitting piece for the orchestra; its tragic swells and promising sweetness are reminiscent of the dramatic changes and hopeful beginnings the organization has been experiencing since January.

The orchestra will also play the theatrical romp, Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino (the force of destiny) with Maestro Wilson conducting.

This concert will, once again, be a benefit for the members of the orchestra, who have not seen paychecks since the end of 2002. It is the third benefit concert for the musicians this year. The organization is hard at work planning a full season for 2003-2004, including pops, classical and choral works.

--Bettina Swigger


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