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Best Practices 

Why the Spokane Symphony's 69th season could be one of its biggest yet

click to enlarge Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, left, and Music Director Eckart Preu share a laugh during rehearsals. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, left, and Music Director Eckart Preu share a laugh during rehearsals.

"Oh, they'll hate us if we play it that way," says Eckart Preu, his laughter filling the glowing auditorium from the stage of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

The Spokane Symphony music director is working out the string bowings for Brahms' Symphony No. 4 with concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, a week before the new season's opening night. Almost in their own language, the maestro air-bows and sings what he envisions; the violinist plays the melodic lines beautifully, working out the mechanics. They'll pass this strategy along to the rest of the string section, so all can play in unison.

To musicians — or classical music aficionados who have listened to a recording of a particular piece ad nauseam — a "down bow" (pulling the arm so the elbow is extended) or an "up bow" (opposite direction) can make all the difference in the sound quality of a certain passage. To most, the minute difference doesn't even register. The Spokane Symphony played the Brahms piece in 2008, but Preu is always striving for perfection.

Beginning this weekend, Spokane Symphony's 69th season is shaping up to be its most exciting yet. Not only will the first concert include one of Brahms' masterworks, it also features two concertos for two pianos, performed by internationally acclaimed pianists Gil Garburg and Sivan Silver, who also are husband and wife.

The rest of the season includes some of the most well-known classical works ever written: Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas. There are other modern works — which Preu says he's particularly excited about — by Frank Zappa, Arvo Pärt and Astor Piazzolla. The SuperPops concerts are not to be outdone, with shows celebrating Elvis and the holidays, as well as featuring Brazilian jazz-funk legend Sergio Mendes and the Portland-based "little orchestra" Pink Martini. Over the year, the symphony will play more than 60 concerts, performing at the Fox as well as outdoor venues.

A week before the season is about to begin, Audrey Overstreet, the symphony's director of marketing and public relations, says more subscription packages have been sold than ever before. This is due in part to April's Pink Martini concert, but also the masterpieces on the classical bill, she says.

"This is just a killer lineup this year, full of works that so many people know and love," says Overstreet.

More than that, the symphony's musicians are secure in their roles after receiving a two-year contract extension. It was a scary time for the musicians after a strike in the fall of 2012, Wolski says, but now the future looks brighter.

"It feels, going into this new season as an organization, that we're all on the same page," says Wolski, who is entering his eighth season with the symphony. "Even if the world around us doesn't look as wonderful as we all wished, we are trying to make the world better with our music, trying to put on the best show possible." ♦

Spokane Symphony Opening Night with Silver-Garburg Duo • Sat, Sept. 20, at 8 pm; Sun, Sept. 21, at 3 pm • $15-$54 • Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox • 1001 W. Sprague • • 624-1200

Many concerts start at $15, but with a college ID, local college students can experience select Spokane Symphony performances all year for just $25 up front.

Other Symphony Openings

Washington Idaho Symphony in Moscow: Sept. 27-28, playing works by Marquez, Piazzolla, Hare and Villa-Lobos.

Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra: Oct. 10-11, playing works by Rossini, Mozart and Dvorak.

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