Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming Garden State Philharmonic Concerts

In a solution to some scheduling concerns at the newspaper, my column for next Sunday's Asbury Park Press already appears online. In there I mention Anthony LaGruth will lead the Garden State Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra in a performance of Mendelssohn's monumental oratorio, Elijah, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26 at Christ Episcopal Church, Toms River.

Prior to that concert, the Garden State Philharmonic will perform a very different program at its home venue, The Strand Theater in Lakewood. At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 19, the group performs a set they've called "Escuche!" (Spanish for "Listen!"). The evening will feature Spanish and Spanish-inspired pieces: Joaquin Rodrigo's guitar concerto Fantasia para un gentilhombre, Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo, and a New Jersey premiere by Gene Gutche, Bongo Divertimento (1961). Gutche was born in Berlin in 1907 and lived most of his life in the U.S., in Minnesota. He died in 2000.

"It's a bongo concerto, really," LaGruth said. "I discovered it relatively accidentally, going through some old scores. I took a look at it and thought it was quite charming and fun and I thought the audience would get a kick out of it."

In addition to the odd idea of a bongo as concerto soloist, the work has a theatrical side, he said, with instructions for the soloist's movements. The soloist here will be Adrienne Ostrander, the orchestra's principal percussionist. For the Rodrigo, the guitar soloist will be Giacomo LaVita.

"The program combines some familiar some not so familiar," LaGruth said, pointing out that the de Falla in particular--with its famous Ritual Fire Dance--is a crowd pleaser and the Fantasia is well known. The premiere adds a tickle of contrast and curiosity.

"I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of the guitar in front of the orchestra and the bongos in front of the orchestra."

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