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SHIPPENSBURG >> This year's Shippensburg Festival Series July 9, 16 and 23 promises to be a knock-out with three symphonies, two concertos and Mozart's "Requiem." The music promises to generate life-long memories of a not-to-be missed event — and it will also allow the audience an opportunity to hear a performance on a rare Stradivarius.

All three concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University. Seats cost $35, $25 or $20 ($10 for ages 18 and younger), with discounts for all three concerts.

Two conductors will head the series. The first two concerts will be under the baton of Robert Treviño, who returns for a third year, and Steven Smith, music director of the Richmond Symphony.

Treviño's talent and profound knowledge of music are hallmarks of his work, as he puts together challenging music arranged around a central theme; last year it was freedom, personified not only in symphonic music, but also opera, and the year before, the idea of love. This year's theme is spirituality and resurrection, with works that, in several cases, were the last pieces written by their respective composers.

"The idea is to present life as seen through different periods — the beginning, middle or end," Treviño said. "All the works deal with heavier subject matter as to what it means to be alive. All are thought-provoking, reflective works."

Concert I

The July 9 concert opens with Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47, by Jean Sibelius, his only concerto and last work. Guest artist is Simone Lamsma, who will perform on her Stradivarius.

"It is a beautiful piece but technically hard to play," said Treviño. "This piece has a great surge of power toward the end, the resurrection; it starts in an unsure place, and then come the challenges to one's existence. It sets up the festival."

The next piece, Symphony No. 4 in E flat (also known as the "Romantic"), was composed by Anton Bruckner, an organist who came to composing relatively late in life. By choice, he lived a very austere life in a monastery, although he was not a monk.

"His music deals with the spiritual world and he incorporated this into the numerical elements in his music. For instance, repeating a motif three times would be a reference to the trinity, 10 times to the commandments. He takes you on an emotional and spiritual journey. I think the Shippensburg audience will love it."

Concert II

The July 16 concert Treviño describes as "more temporal" and will be performed with Alain Lefevre, a pianist he calls "spectacular, a great musician and fabulous showman. He will be an instant hit with the audience."

The first piece is Sergei Rachmaninov's Concerto for Piano No. 2 in C minor. After his first concerto was universally panned by critics, Rachmaninov entered a deep depression to the point he stopped composing and performing. With the aid of a psychologist, he wrote this piece, which reflects his experience. "It is dark, emphasized by starting off at the bottom of the piano. But slowly he continues and the light returns as he recovers from depression," said Treviño.

Rachmaninov did hear his music performed, but died nine days afterward at the age of 53.

The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky contains four movements: an adagio, a waltz in a different tempo and then a fortissimo march which ends in a blaze of glory. "Most people think the third movement is the end and begin to applaud. I will let people cheer and the orchestra stand, and then I will continue with the last movement, which is so tragic, I can't imagine someone not being heart-broken," Treviño said. "I arranged it that way, as the encore is about resurrection, Alexander Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia."

Concert III

The final concert with vocal soloists will feature the well-known and loved "Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626)," by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Dying at age 35, Mozart left an unfinished composition, about which swirls much controversy. But it has entered the musical canon as a stirring and powerful piece of music.

Last on the performance list is Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 97 (Rhenish). "The first two movements of this piece are about living on the Rhine River, and in the fourth are introduced serious elements," said Treviño. "In all his symphonies there are what I call the prayer movements. This very pious, introspective music gives the distinct impression of stepping into a cathedral." Schumann died in a psychiatric ward, and this was the last piece he wrote.

As if the music alone is not enough, the performers enhance it with their formidable talents. Simone Lamsma has been called one of classical music's "most thrilling stars"; Lefevre hailed for his "phenomenal technique"; and the guest soloists — Elizabeth Shoenfelt, soprano, Leah Serr, mezzo-soprano, Michael Bicoy, tenor, and Bryan Jackson, bass — have all been acclaimed by the music world. Also featured in the last concert is the Shippensburg Festival Chorus, with 26 professional singers from the region.

The Shippensburg Festival Symphony is now in its 46th year and since 1986 has been under the artistic direction of Dr. Blaine Shover, music professor at Shippensburg University.

TICKETS: Call the box office at 717-477-7469 or order online at www.luhrscenter.com.

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