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WVS soloist

There are all sorts of ways to program a classical music concert: Some programs, for example, offer clearly defined themes from start to finish.

But sometimes it's just as rewarding to find pieces that just sound good together and yet have enough contrast to stand out.

And it's the latter approach that's in place for this weekend's performances by the Willamette Valley Symphony. (See the attached box for details on performance times and tickets.)

If you press Jaclyn LaRue, the executive director of the symphony, she will admit one connecting thread: All the composers on the weekend's bill come from roughly the  same time period, the mid-to-late 1800s, but that's almost coincidental.

What's important, she said, is the contrast between the pieces on the program.

The program starts with Saint Saens' Dance Baccanale from his opera "Samson and Delilah," which features seductive melodies, exotic scales and increasingly frenzied percussion: "It's kind of a depraved dance," LaRue said.

The next piece on the program offers a challenging showcase for guest cellist Steve Pologe, from the University of Oregon: Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme "showcases just about every single thing that instrument can do," LaRue said, but added that Pologe ("just a really fine soloist") is up to the challenge.

The concert concludes with another contrasting piece: Chausson's Symphony in B-flat Major, which offers what LaRue called "extremely lush melodies and rich harmonies" reminiscent of pieces by Wagner and Franck. 

The Chausson work presents a considerable challenge for the orchestra, LaRue said: "It's one of the more challenging works that we've played," with extremely high notes and beautiful long melodic lines.

It is also, she noted, Chausson's only symphony: The composer died in 1899 at the age of 44 when the bicycle he was riding slammed into a brick wall.

The guest conductor for this concert, Hector Aguero, is a faculty member at Willamette University and one of the finalists for the symphony's musical director post. Sean Paul Mills, the orchestra's founder and previous musical director, left the mid-valley last year to take a job at Ball State University. 

It's been a treat, LaRue said, for the orchestra to work with the different finalists for the musical director job, each of whom gets the chance to conduct the orchestra:  "Each one has focused us on a little different set of skills. That's why you bring in guest conductors. ... This is an extremely wonderful year of growth for us." 

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