Sommerfest's music director wears two hats

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
July 23, 2009
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Minneapolis, Minn. — Andrew Litton began studying piano when he was 5, but by the time he reached his 10th birthday, he knew his career would be as a conductor.

Fortunately for him -- and us -- he has been able to combine the two careers. For this week's live broadcast from Sommerfest, he'll do both.

Andrew Litton leads the Minnesota Orchestra this Friday in a Sommerfest concert that includes some major hits.

Paul Dukas' masterful "Scherzo after a Ballad by Goethe" is much better known as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a piece made famous by a pointy-hatted sorcerer-in-training Mickey Mouse in Disney's "Fantasia."

The Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saens includes two pianos and an organ. But it was the organ that won out, hence the nickname "Organ Symphony." It's not so much a concerto as a piece for expanded orchestra, where Saint-Saens could utilize the two instruments he played as a virtuoso himself.

Andrew Litton will need to put down his baton to conduct Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," to keep his hands free to perform at the piano. It's the ultimate American work; jazz-inspired in classical form and perfect summer fare.

The one piece new to most audiences is the short "Eclogue" by English composer Gerald Finzi. He much preferred country life to bustling London, and described this ramble as "untroubled serenity."

Jeff Esworthy hosts the live broadcast of Sommerfest from Orchestra Hall, this Friday at 8 p.m. on Classical MPR.

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