Faculty soloists and new music in the spotlight for concert

Faculty soloists and new music in the spotlight for concert

Outstanding USC School of Music faculty members – trumpeter James Ackley and double bassist Craig Butterfield – will be center stage for the next USC Symphony Orchestra concert with two contemporary works. The concert takes place Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center.

Ackley and the orchestra will give the North American premiere of Juan Carlos Valencia Ramos’ Concierto para Trompeta y Orquesta from 2011, while Butterfield will be soloist for Nine Variants on Paganini, a 2002 work by Frank Proto. This will be the first time the soloists have performed these works.

The concert, which will be conducted by the orchestra’s assistant music director Neil Casey, will also include John Adams’ The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, op. 34.

Casey, Ackley and Butterfield aren’t just colleagues; they’re also friends who spend time together away from the concert hall and School of Music.

Associate professor Ackley was principal trumpet and soloist for the Bogota (Colombia) Philharmonic and taught at the National Conservatory of Music in Colombia. He is principal trumpeter with the Augusta Symphony and member of the Bala Brass Quintet.

“The USC Symphony had asked me to perform, but we hadn’t decided on a particular piece – then I got wind of this piece,” Ackley said. “It really uses the color of the orchestra and is full of Latin American sounds, folk melodies and jazz. I thought it would be a cool piece and the orchestra was very happy with it.”

Butterfield is active in the classical and jazz fields and performs regularly as a solo artist working with electronics and exploring the possibilities of the instrument. He was a member of Maynard Ferguson’s big band during 2004 and 2005 and is half of the guitar/bass duo Dez Cordes. This will be his first time performing as a soloist with the orchestra.

“One of the big problems for double bassists is the lack of repertoire,” said Butterfield. “In the late 1700s and early 1800s a number of composers were writing for double bass, then there was nothing for a long time. Now a lot more contemporary composers are writing for us.”

Nine Variants is based on Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 for solo violin which Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Rachmaninoff all tapped for inspiration.

This will be the first time Casey has led a full concert by the orchestra, but he’s well known as conductor for opera at USC. He also leads the Armstrong Atlantic Youth Orchestra in Savannah, Ga., and the USC Campus Orchestra. He has been assistant conductor of the Augusta Symphony and music director of the Statesboro-Georgia Southern Symphony and guest conductor with the Savannah Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Knoxville Symphony, Spokane Symphony, Richmond Symphony, S.C. Philharmonic and the Charleston Symphony.

The Chairman Dances (1985) is described by Adams as an “outtake” from Nixon in China, although it is not part of the opera and is musically dissimilar. It is meant to depict Madame Mao gatecrashing a presidential banquet and performing a seductive dance, enticing Chairman Mao to descend from his portrait and dance a foxtrot with her.

The concert closes with Capriccio Espagnol from 1887 by Rimsky-Korsakov. The composer based the piece on sketches he had made for a virtuoso violin fantasy on Spanish themes and then expanded it to feature almost every instrument in the orchestra during the five-movement. It is one of his most popular works.

“This concert allows us to bring two great soloists to stage for newer works the orchestra hasn’t performed and the Capriccio with its emphasis on each instrument lets the students shine as well,” said Casey. “And The Chairman Dances is just a wonderful and fun way to start any concert.”

Tickets are $30 for the general public, $25 for USC faculty and staff and seniors, and $8 for students. Call (803) 251-2222 or go to http://www.capitoltickets.com/

Via: USC Symphony Orchestra