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Gaining its composure

When the curtain goes up this week on the first St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival, no one will suspect that the ambitious endeavor was in disarray a few months ago.

Published January 29, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Mark Sforzini remembers the first time he heard the idea of having a chamber music festival in St. Petersburg. "It sounded like a great idea, and it sounded like a lot of work," said Sforzini, a composer and the principal bassoon in the Florida Orchestra.

Little did Sforzini know how much work the idea - originally suggested by the orchestra's associate conductor, Susan Haig - would mean for him. The St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival, which makes its debut this week, was originally taken on as a project of the Palladium Theater under executive director Mark Spano. The Palladium continues to be central to the event, presenting the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in an all-Mozart program Friday night, but Spano is no longer there. He resigned in early December, leaving much of the work for the festival undone.

"It became a huge amount of work in December," said Sforzini, the festival committee chair. "There was no sponsor, no system for ticket sales, no program book."

The festival may have been in disarray two months ago, but you couldn't tell that now. Sforzini and Dar Webb, interim executive director at the Palladium, and other committee members scrambled to pull things together.

Underwritten by an anonymous sponsor, the festival has an excellent program book and other marketing material with information about all its events, five concerts at five venues plus two master classes. The proceedings begin tonight with an open rehearsal of the Quantum Winds, including Sforzini and other principal players in the orchestra, at Studio@620 Tickets for all the concerts can be bought at the Palladium.

The festival programming was anchored by a pair of concerts that were booked early: the Palladium's presentation of the acclaimed Lincoln Center ensemble, featuring violinist Ani Kavafian and pianist Wu Han; and Sunday afternoon's performance by flutist Gary Schocker and guitarist Jason Vieaux at the Museum of Fine Arts.

"It seemed sort of effortless the way the programming came together," Sforzini said. "We wanted it to be diverse, and the programs all just sort of complemented each other."

The Mozart program, including a piano trio and quartet, and sonata for piano, four hands, ties in nicely with the anniversary of the composer's 250th birthday. Schocker and Vieaux will play works of Vivaldi, Ibert and Debussy, as well as Schocker's Once Upon a . . . .

The festival has three premieres. Monday night, Duncan MacMillan's Serenade for violin and piano will be performed on a program by MacMillan and violinist Catherine McGlasson at Lewis House on the Eckerd College campus. The duo will also play works of Delius, Kreisler, Debussy and Scott Joplin.

The Quantum Winds, playing Wednesday night at Studio@620 will give the first performance of two works. El problema de viajar by Dee Moses, principal double bass with the orchestra, is for chamber ensemble and dance by his wife, choreographer Elsa Valbuena.

Sforzini's Sextet for Winds and Bass is the other new work on the Quantum agenda. It was commissioned in honor of group member Brian Moorhead, the orchestra's principal clarinet, by his wife, Marian, for their 30th wedding anniversary. Quantum's all-American program also includes music by Morton Gould, Michael Curtis and Gunther Schuller.

Another American composer, Norman Dello Joio, is the focus of Thursday night's concert at the St. Petersburg College Music Center. A Fable, The Bluebird and other Dello Joio works for chamber chorus will be performed by the SPC Madrigalians, conducted by Vernon Taranto Jr. There will also be a selection of instrumental works by Dello Joio, 93, winner of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for music. Taranto will lead a master class on Dello Joio Thursday afternoon.

Each of the five festival venues has merits, including the superb acoustics of the Music Center, the elegance of the museum's Marly Room and the openness of Studio@620's storefront gallery. "I think we have the perfect, intimate venues for chamber music," Sforzini said.

PREVIEW: Here is the schedule for the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival. For more information and tickets: Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; 727 822-3590; 7:30 p.m. Quantum Winds open rehearsal, Studio@620 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Free.

Monday, 7:30 p.m. Catherine McGlasson, violin; Duncan MacMillan, piano; Lewis House, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. $15.

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Quantum Winds & Friends, Studio@620 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. $20.

Thursday, 3:30 p.m. Master Class: A Journey Through the Musical Life of Norman Dello Joio; St. Petersburg College HS 117, 6605 Fifth Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Free.

7:30 p.m. Dello Joio program. SPC Madrigalians/Vernon Taranto Jr., conductor; Barbara Prescott, flute; David Irwin, clarinet; Theresa Villani, cello; Ruth Northcutt, piano; Coy Hall, piano. $15.

Friday, 7:30 p.m. Mozart program. Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Ani Kavafian, violin; Richard O'Neill, viola; Clancy Newman, cello; Benjamin Hochman, piano; Wu Han, piano. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $18-$24.

Saturday, 10 a.m. Master Class with Wu Han, Ani Kavafian; Florimezzo Wind Quintet; Florimezzo Piano Quartet. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $8.

Feb. 5, 2 p.m. Gary Schocker, flute; jason Vieaux, guitar. Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg. $8, $15.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 16:42:26]

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