String Orchestra of the Rockies

The String Orchestra of the Rockies.

The orchestra itself is taking the spotlight at the next String Orchestra of the Rockies concert.

The professional ensemble, which has no conductor, performs here in Missoula and pulls from across the state and region.

"Looking over the roster, I noticed that all of our players who are leading are concertmasters and principal players in different symphonies throughout Montana," said artistic director Maria Larianoff.

The centerpiece of the "Ravel & Romance" concert is Quartet for Strings in F Major, written in 1903. The French composer, known for the ubiquitous "Bolero," only produced one string quartet, she said.

Larinoff said the first movement is expressive; the second has interesting string effects such as pizzicato (or plucked, not bowed, strings), muted effects with eerie colors and arpeggios; the third a solo for principal violist Jennfier Smith and "foggy" sounds from moving the bow over the fingerboard; and the final an unusual 5/8 rhythm that "powers all the way to the end."

The quartet was arranged for string orchestra by Barry Lieberman, a bassist and Larianoff's husband. She said he replaced some cello solos with bass solos, which will go to Bren Plummer, a Seattle musician who also teaches at the University of Montana.

The other portions of the program are "short, brilliant showpieces," she said.

"It'll be fun for audiences to see the different personalities and the different leadership styles of the different violinists who are sitting in the concertmaster chair," she said.

Rossini wrote Sonata No. 1. in G Major in 1804, when he wasn't even a teenager.

"I can't imagine a 12-year-old writing these brilliant, long, virtuosic passages," she said. The two violins are thrust into "competing roles," she said. The first violin section will play a long, demanding piece, which the second violin section will repeat.

The leader on that piece is Megan Karls. She's a member of the Cascade Quartet and a principal second violinist in the Great Falls Symphony.

The second half takes a shorter, lighter tone.

Hugo Wolf's Italian Serenade is "very light, fluffy, virtuosic." Mary Papoulis, of the Cascade Quartet and a concertmaster at the Great Falls Symphony, will lead.

Next is a "brooding" Romance in C Major, Opus 42, by Sibelius. Larianoff thought the program needed something "dark to offset all the frivolity." Carrie Krause, a Baroque music expert and concertmaster for the Bozeman Symphony, will lead.

Pablo de Sarasate's Andalusian Romance is led by Mary Kothman, the assistant concertmaster at the Bozeman Symphony and a professor at Montana State University.

The piece was arranged by Stephanie Chase, a former child virtuoso who the New York Times said plays "with taste, accuracy and unfailing musicality."

The orchestra will also play Chase's arrangement of Bizet-Sarasate's "A Fantasy About Carmen," as a teaser for her visit next year as a guest soloist. Larinoff herself will lead on the Carmen, the concert closer, which she called "quite a barn-burner."

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