Randall Craig Fleischer, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra continues its season-long celebration of its maestro’s 20th year by honoring his love of Russian music, as well as presenting yet another performance of his signature career composition, “Echoes” on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Atwood Concert Hall in the downtown Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.

Ten years ago, the ASO featured the world premiere of the ground-breaking “Echoes” piece composed by Randall Craig Fleischer, the ASO’s maestro and music director for the past two decades. Fleischer was chosen from an extensive field of candidates to fulfill the commission from the Education through Cultural and Historic Organizations group – an association of seven Native peoples organizations across the United States working collectively to increase cultural education.

“Writing Echoes was one of the most satisfying experiences of my musical life,” Fleischer said.

While composing, Fleischer visited several Native cultural centers and museums for first-hand viewing of indigenous dancing and music presentation. He taped the sessions, asked endless questions and employed the material he gathered to prepare what has become a widely accepted and welcomed artistic presentation honoring the contribution and culture of Native cultures from Alaska to Hawaii and to Massachusetts and Mississippi.

“In making these journeys and studying the music, I met many wonderful artists and found their passion for their culture inspiring,” Fleischer recalls. “This was a journey of discovery for me – not only the discovery of new music, but of new friends. It reinforced my belief that music is the language of peace and brotherhood.”

“Echoes” includes New England sea music with dancing, music and singing representative of Alaska Native cultures and Native Hawaiian and Native American cultures as well. The piece is comprised of six scenes bringing together the story of the 19th century maritime trade and whaling industry as ships sailed from the East Coast to Cape Horn in South America and sail back north via the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, the West Coast and Alaska.

The “Echoes” piece is scheduled to Saturday night’s finale on the playlist.

Of course, a night of music celebrating Fleischer would not be complete without a significant nod to the sounds of Russian culture.

Saturday’s performance is scheduled to open with the “Festival Overture, opus 96,” by Dmitri Shostakovich, a Soviet composer and pianist who was a musical hero and mentor to Fleischer’s musical mentor, Mstislav Rostropovich, a Soviet exile who was the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. when Fleischer served as its associate conductor.

Rostropovich is reported to have often said of Shostakovich, “He was the most important man in my life, after my father.”

The “Festival Overture” was written just days before its premiere in Moscow on Nov. 6, 1954, after officials at the Bolshoi Theater discovered they lacked an appropriate opening work to celebrate the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution.

They called upon Shostakovich, a musical consultant with the theater, to “write something quickly,” not knowing the piece described as a “brilliant effervescent work, with its vivacious energy spilling over like uncorked champagne,” would retain such popularity being used as the theme for the 1980 Summer Olympics and as the musical backdrop for the lighting of the cauldron at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The next two pieces scheduled on Saturday night’s playlist are again favorites of the Maestro and ones he conducted during his audition for the ASO.

They are the “Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) by Felix Mendelssohn and the “Death and Transfiguration,” by Richard Strauss.

Tickets for Saturday’s performance are available at the CenterTix Box Office at the ACPA or online at www.centertix.com or by calling (907) 263-2787.

Infrared headphones for the hearing impaired are available concert night from the house manager on the orchestra level.

At 7 p.m., Susan Wingrove-Reed, the ASO education coordinator, is slated to present an education talk regarding the personalities of “Echoes” in the Atwood Concert Hall.

Reach Amy Armstrong via email at: authoramyarmstrong@gmail.com.


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