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Trio of upcoming RSO concerts feature music for a lifetime

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Music that lasts a lifetime

Graphic illustration by Dan Talsky,, using, in part, artwork from the Racine Symphony Orchesta.

With the first official day of spring still a week away, the Racine Symphony Orchestra is already celebrating the new season with a variety of musical offerings for listeners of all ages.

Last weekend’s bonus Masterworks concert, featuring guest artist/pianist Sahun Hong, launched the RSO’s spring series, which will continue with two free performances in March, and a season finale Masterworks concert, “Old Clock, New Hands,” on April 26. And whether you are a longtime symphony fan or just discovering the classical genre, there’s bound to be something to pique your musical interest.

First on the list is the orchestra’s annual Concert for Fifth Grade Students on March 18, which is free and open to the public. Each year, about 1,500 area students attend this special concert, performed by members of the symphony at Grace Church and geared toward young listeners.

This year’s offering will feature a piece called “Compose Yourself!” by American composer/arranger/conductor James Stephenson, which is designed to engage the audience in the creative process of music composition, according to Pasquale Laurino, artistic director/conductor of the RSO. While it is easy to become very casual about the music listening experience, Stephenson’s interactive piece gives the audience the opportunity to be involved in decisions such as what the speed of the piece will be, and how loud or soft it should be played, Laurino said.

“All of the decisions a composer makes will be put forth to the fifth-graders,” he said. “It is such a great introduction, and a very clever piece. And being able to give kids the opportunity to experience that will be great fun,”

Laurino — who will relinquish his baton to Stephenson for this concert (and instead will narrate) — said he is very excited to have the Chicago-area composer, whose works have been performed by leading American orchestras, in Racine. “He is a tremendously talented guy.”

Classical guitar

The outstanding talents of another musician, classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo, will also be part of the orchestra’s spring offerings. Izquierdo — who spent a week in Racine last October performing and working with area students as the RSO’s artist-in-residence — will return on March 23 to give a free, public recital at Holy Communion Lutheran Church.

“Rene is a world-class player,” Laurino said. “Anyone who came to our concert in the fall knows he is one of the most talented instrumentalists, on any instrument. I’m certain this will be a great recital.”

For more about Izquierdo, see his biographical sketch below.

The guitarist’s recital is offered free of charge as a goodwill gesture by the symphony, which absorbs the costs of putting such concerts on, Laurino said. “It is an important thing to do, and we are glad to be able to offer it to the community.”

Old Clock, New Hands

On April 26, the symphony will return to its Masterworks concert format with its 2013/14 season finale, “Old Clock, New Hands,” performed at the Racine Theatre Guild. This concert will feature some of the area’s most talented young musicians (aka, “new hands”), sharing the stage with the RSO.

Violinist Austin Budiono, winner of the 2014 Young Artists’ Competition, will be the orchestra’s guest artist, performing Wieniawski’s “Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor.” And about 20 students from the Racine County Side-by-Side Youth Invitational will join the orchestra in playing Haydn’s “Symphony No. 101,” also known as “The Clock” because of the tick-tock rhythm in its second movement.

As one of his 12 London symphonies — inspired by time the composer spent in London — “The Clock” is one of the last of 100-plus symphonies written by Haydn, according to Laurino.

“You know, indisputably, when you hear this that you are listening to a master at work,” he said.

Also on the April program is Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” which Laurino said “must be considered the greatest Christmas present ever given.”

Wagner composed the piece as a present for his wife, Cosima, and had it performed for the first time on Christmas morning, 1870, by a small ensemble in their home. Originally created as a private piece, it went unpublished for many years, Laurino said.

“I love the image of Wagner sneaking the group of musicians into their house, the music drifting up to Cosima’s bedroom, and having her wake up to hear the piece being played for the first time,” he said. “The piece is so evocative of that when you hear it.”

Spring offerings from the RSO

• 9:15 and 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 18: Community Concert/Concert for Fifth Grade Students, at Grace Church, 3626 Highway 31, featuring “Compose Yourself!” by Jim Stephenson. Free and open to the public.

• 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23: Free Recital by classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo, at Holy Communion Lutheran Church 2000 W. Sixth St. Izquierdo, who was the RSO’s 2013 artist in residence, returns for this public concert.

• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26: “Old Clock, New Hands,” a Masterworks concert at the Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave., featuring the winner of the Young Artists' Competition. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door. For tickets and information call 262-636-9285 or go to

About Rene Izquierdo

A professor of classical guitar at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rene Izquierdo has performed as a guest soloist and in chamber music concerts throughout the United States, Canada, Cuba, Spain, France and Italy. The native of Cuba graduated from the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and Superior Institute of Art in Havana, and went on to receive master of music and artist degrees from Yale University’s School of Music, where he studied with Benjamin Verdery.

He has studied with numerous guitarists including Leo Brouwer, David Russell, Eli Kassner, Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Jorge Morel. And, he’s the recipient of various music awards, including those from the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition in 2004, the Extremadura International Guitar Competition and the Schadt String Competition.

In a review of his CD “The Artistry of Rene Izquierdo” (Luthier Music, 2009), “Classical Guitar” magazine said Izquierdo’s “natural and instinctive interpretations are second to none; his virtuoso technique allows him absolute command of the instrument giving him the independence of subtle phrasing, dazzling speed, beautiful tonal control ... everything.”

He will perform a free, community recital at 2 p.m. on March 23 at Holy Communion Church. More information at


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