Valentine's Day has been hyped to the gills in our culture. The stores are full of candies, flowers and paper monuments to everlasting love. If you and your beloved are looking for something a little different this week, something that is both exotic and romantic, the Spokane Symphony's concert on Friday, Feb. 16, may be just what you're looking for.

Music Director Fabio Mechetti will be conducting both his beloved Spokane Symphony and his beloved wife, piano soloist Aida Ribeiro, in a performance of Villa-Lobos' "Momoprecoce" or "King of the Mardi Gras." Also on the program is Igor Stravinsky's "Fireworks" and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," a tone poem by Richard Strauss.

While none of the pieces on the program is overly romantic in nature, the pairing of Mechetti and Ribeiro in performance is.

"We met in a music festival in Brazil in 1977," Mechetti recounts. Both were performing at the festival, and they met during rehearsals. "She was actually singing in the chorus, and I was preparing the chorus for some pieces, and that's when we met."

Two talented, creative types do not always make for beautiful music in the world of love. However, Mechetti says he and Ribeiro have made it work. "There are examples of couples who are in the same business who compete with each other. We are both in music, but we don't do the same thing so we don't compete with each other; we really help each other."

In fact, Mechetti feels that their shared passion has helped them. "Because we are involved in the same business, we understand what the implications of that are." That common interest especially pays off when they get a chance to work together. "We usually travel together when we can," Mechetti says. "The advantage to working with my wife is I know how she's going to play. I hear her reahearsing."

Still, he acknowledges that the possibility of being surprised is always there. "In any concert, there is an element of spontaneity and surprise," Mechetti admits. "But this piece doesn't give you the opportunity to be so free."

The "Momprecoce," a piece about Brazilian carnival by Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos, celebrates the holiday most forward in Brazilian minds right now.

"The seasons are opposite," Mechetti explains. "We also have Valentine's Day, but at different times of the year." Villa-Lobos' piece is a series of dances and interludes celebrating the more innocent side of Carnival.

"The King of the Carnival in Brazil is called 'King Momo,' " explains Mechetti. "And 'precoce' means infant or precocious. It's a word he [Villa-Lobos] made up that means sort of child king. It's basically a series of dances. Each dance is based on a character that children would dress up as... there are certain things that are very typical: the clown, the monster, the ogre."

When the piece was written half a century ago, Carnival was a little different then than it is now, Mechetti explains. "Carnival today is not as innocent and childlike as it used to be." But Mechetti promises we will hear the sounds of Brazil in the performance. "The music is very colorful, very exotic, with good Brazilian rhythms."

As if the thrill of performing with his very talented wife wasn't enough, Mechetti is also thrilled to be perfoming "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" for Spokane audiences. Most listeners will be familiar with the first two minutes of the piece, which was made famous in the opening of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001 Space Odyssey. "I think this is the first time it's been played in Spokane," says Mechetti. "It's very famous."

As for what a Brazilian man does for his Brazilian love on Valentine's Day, Mechetti says it's much the same as here. "Of course, you see red roses and chocolates, you take your love out to dinner... the same thing."

Pianist Aida Ribeiro joins conductor Fabio Mechetti and the Spokane Symphony at the Opera House on Friday, Feb. 16, at 8 pm. Tickets: $14.50-$32. Call: 325-SEAT.

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