The Helena Symphony Orchestra offers an evening of Classical music featuring acclaimed cellist Ovidiu Marinescu, performing Joseph Haydn’s Concerto in C Major, at a 7:30 p.m. concert Saturday, March 23, at the Helena Civic Center.

The concert opens and closes with two dynamic and fiery Ludwig van Beethoven overtures and includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Prague Symphony” – Symphony No. 38.

Marinescu, who is touring in China, messaged his comments about the concerto and its joys and challenges:

“The concerto in C Major by Haydn is a very special piece for me, as I have performed it across the world, from Pennsylvania, Romania, to the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, a very reputable hall where the greatest artists have performed.

“The concerto by Haydn is indeed full of joy, sparkle and youthfulness. It belongs more to the Rococo style, the elegant style of music ‘en Vogue’ before the full-fledged classical style became the norm.

“The first movement is a beautifully ornamented song for the cello accompanied by the orchestra, with a short cadenza at the end. The middle movement is lyrical and full of emotion, with moments of pathos.

“The third movement is the showcase of the concerto, displaying super-fast sections for the cello, and challenging the orchestra to maximum virtuosic playing.

“I can’t wait to share this piece with the audience in Helena, this concert representing my return to a place that I feel is home for me.”

“The audience just loves him,” said Music Director Allan R. Scott, and he has “performed more than any other soloist we ever had.” This will be his fifth time.

Scott and Marinescu are longtime friends and have collaborated for almost 20 years, performing throughout the country many times.

The concerto was just discovered 50 to 60 years ago, said Scott.

“It’s so wonderful. It’s typical Haydn,” he said. “Haydn is the guy you just want to sit and hang out with. Haydn is charming, and he’s funny, and has a wonderful sense of beauty and a great sense of humor. ...Haydn’s music smiles. It’s very accessible. When you put it with a cello soloist, it does that in spades. It’s just so wonderful.”

On Saturday night, the charm of Haydn, meets that of Marinescu.

“I think with Ovidiu, the person you see playing the cello, is who he is. He’s a wonderful, warm, giving person.”

Marinescu grew up in Romania when it was part of the Communist Soviet Bloc.

“The irony of it was, if it hadn’t been for the awful dictatorship, he never would have played the cello,” said Scott.

In fourth grade, he was assigned the cello because that’s the way it was done in Romania, said Scott. “Depending on what grade you are determines what instrument you play.”

Apparently, when Marinescu’s father brought home the instrument, Marinescu had no idea what it was.

Thinking it was a toy, he straddled it to ride it like a tank, said Scott.

For Marinescu, he and his cello turned out to be a lucky pairing.

Romania “has an unbelievable string program,” said Scott. “They train really amazing string players, and there are orchestras everywhere.”

Trained at the Romanian National Academy of Music, Marinescu won first prize and Music Critics’ Award in the George Dima Cello Competition. In the United States, he studied with Wolfgang Laufer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Another evening highlight is the popular Prague Symphony.

“Prague was one of a very few cities that expressed a genuine interest and admiration for Mozart’s music,” said Scott. “It was in Prague, the capital of Bohemia (today located in Czech Republic), that Mozart developed a special closeness to the audiences.”

They loved his operas --”The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni,” said Scott

His “Prague Symphony” “is so uplifting,” and he dedicated it to the people of Prague.

“The Prague Symphony is the most romantic of his symphonies,” said Scott.

Mozart was a highly unusual composer in that he wrote only one copy of his work, said Scott. “He wrote it down complete the first time,” without any revisions.

Scott specifically designed this all Classical concert with two Beethoven overtures bookending the evening.

“This is music everybody loves,” said Scott, of the Beethoven overtures. “Beethoven speaks to us in ways that are so human.”

Beethoven’s overture to the play “Coriolan,” opens Saturday’s concert.

It gives “a wonderfully powerful musical depiction of the tragedy of the play in a brief seven minutes,” said Scott.

Beethoven’s “The Creatures of Prometheus,” closes the evening. The ballet overture “was one of the first major commissions for Beethoven, and… remains one of his first great public triumphs,” said Scott. Although it’s brief, it has “a dance-like drive and energy.”

Tickets are $15 to $55 (plus a $5 transaction fee) and available online at www.helenasymphony.org, or call 442-1860, or visit the Symphony Box Office, 2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1 on the Walking Mall 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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