‘You can’t argue with good chemistry’: Cellist returns for concert with PA Symphony

Port Angeles Symphony Concert

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17 (pre-concert chat with conductor 6:40-7 p.m.)

Where: Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.

Tickets: $20-$30 for premium seats; $15 general admission; $12 for senior citizens; 16 and younger free; available at The Joyful Noise (112 W, Washington St., Sequim), Port Book and News (104 E. First St., Port Angeles), Port Angeles Symphony office (216 N. Laurel St. #C), or at the door

More info: Call 360-457-5579

On the web: PortAngelesSymphony.org

Young Julian tried out 10 or 12 musical instruments before finding the one.

This formidable stringed thing is, “simply, the tool with which I can sing,” and convey as much beauty as humanly possible, he said.

Julian Schwarz, a Seattle-bred musician who now divides his time between New York City and Winchester, Va., began playing the cello 21 years ago, at age 6. When he performs with the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra this Saturday, Feb. 17, he will bring his favorite cello, one made by Gennaro Gagliano in Naples, Italy, in 1743.

“It is by far the most incredible cello I have ever played,” Schwarz said in an interview from his place in New York.

So it fits a masterwork: Antonin Dvorak’s Concerto for Violoncello, which Schwarz and the Symphony will play on Saturday at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.

As is traditional, Port Angeles Symphony conductor and music director Jonathan Pasternack will give a pre-concert chat from 6:40-7 p.m.; the performance will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $12 for seniors and students and $15 general to $20 to $30 for premium seats, while youngsters 16 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Ticket outlets include Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles, The Joyful Noise in downtown Sequim and the Port Angeles Symphony office at 360-457-5579.

Tickets will be sold at the door, too.

The Port Angeles Symphony’s final rehearsal is also open to the public. It starts at 10 a.m. at the Performing Arts Center, with admission at $5 per person or $10 per family.

“There’s something about the energy of the hall,” Schwarz said of the auditorium here. He also admires the sense of ownership he sees between the community and its orchestra. The Port Angeles Symphony, now in the midst of its 85th season of concerts, includes some 70 players, from high school standouts to sexagenarians.

Schwarz came to the North Olympic Peninsula two seasons ago to join the orchestra and perform Elgar’s epic cello concerto.

“He’s a terrific cellist, first of all,” said Pasternack.

“He has a huge sound, which he can also make sound like an intimate whisper. “He really gets to the emotional core of the music,” and at times, it is just sublime.

“He’s a big hit with our audiences,” Pasternack said, adding, “You can’t argue with good chemistry.”

Also on Saturday’s concert program are Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance, Op. 44, No. 8, and the Symphony in D Minor from César Franck.

Pasternack noted that this symphony features an English horn solo by Nancy Reis, a longtime orchestra member, as well as woodwind solos that will transfix the audience.

“That’s an amazing piece. I love that piece,” Schwarz said of the Franck.

As for the cello work, “It may be the greatest cello concerto ever written. Nothing can replace hearing a great masterwork live.”

Dvorak’s work starts with a grand entrance; then comes the chance for, as Schwarz puts it, “a lot of showmanship for the cello … it’s gorgeous.”

But then the weather grows stormy.

“It’s beautiful and singing one moment, then heroic and powerful in another moment,” Schwarz said, adding that the concerto also has passages that will melt the heart.

The cellist is busy these days, as a professor at Virginia’s Shenandoah University, as a teaching assistant at Juilliard, his alma mater, and performing all over the country. In February alone he has engagements at the Boulder Bach Festival in Colorado, a master class at New York University, a concert with the Frisson Ensemble in Florida and another with the Shenandoah Choir back in Winchester.

The night before his Port Angeles concert, he’ll perform Beethoven and Brahms at the Music Center of the Northwest in Seattle.

His visit to the Northwest is a trip home; Schwarz is the son of Seattle Symphony conductor laureate Gerard Schwarz.

Saturday’s concert will be one of the last chances to purchase Golden Tickets to the Applause! Auction, the Port Angeles Symphony’s most important fundraiser, set for March 24 at The Cedars at Dungeness golf course in Sequim.

The Golden Tickets, at $50 each, go into a prize drawing; the winner gets to choose any item he or she desires from the auction catalog. Items include several domestic and international trips.

For more information about the Applause! Auction and about the orchestra’s concerts now through May, visit PortAngelesSymphony.org, call 360-457-5579 or find the Port Angeles Symphony on Facebook.

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