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Sibelius Holds Special Place in Violinist’s Repertoire

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After a four-year absence from San Diego, violinist Miriam Fried returns next week to solo with the San Diego Symphony (May 17, 18) in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. During the 1987 La Jolla SummerFest, the versatile Fried played the gamut of composers from Bach to Shostakovich. But the Sibelius work, which she performed when she won the 1971 Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels, holds a special place in her varied repertory.

“I played the Sibelius in the finals of the Brussels competition, and it was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon,” said Fried in a telephone interview from Madrid. “The record did very well, and DGG re-released it twice. After the competition I was flooded with invitations to play the Sibelius concerto. I stopped counting after I performed it 200 times.”

In 1988, Fried made another recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic on the Finlandia label. But it was no easy task to persuade her Finnish colleagues to play, much less record, the Sibelius.

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“I had played in Helsinki many times, and each time I would say, ‘How about doing the Sibelius next time?’ They always suggested Brahms or Tchaikovsky. They reluctantly gave in after a while--I suppose every visiting violinist suggests performing Sibelius.”

Fried scoffed at the notion that you have to be Finnish to understand Sibelius, any more than only a German could rightly perform, say, the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

“But there is a definite connection between the mood of the Sibelius Concerto and the Finnish character,” she noted. “Like most Finns, the concerto is brooding and quite understated. Under the placid surface, however, there is a big Romantic piece churning.”

Born in Romania, Fried emigrated to Israel with her family when she was only 2. As a protege of Isaac Stern, she came to the United States to complete her musical studies at Juilliard and then at Indiana University. Fried is married to Indiana University professor Paul Biss, who performs on both violin and viola.

Like many of her musical colleagues, Fried is observing the Mozart bicentennial. She recently performed three of the five Mozart Violin Concertos in England. With the City of London Sinfonia, she is slated to record all the Mozart Violin Concertos for the Chandos label. The weakness of the world economy, however, has put the project, which was to have started this month, on hold. Such vagaries do not phase Fried.

“It’s the unpredictability of the music profession that appeals to me. In the last three weeks, I performed eight different concertos.”

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County arts grants. Musicians and other artists with missionary zeal have until June 25 to stake their claim on $20,000 to be awarded by San Diego County’s Public Arts Advisory Council. For the 1991-92 year, the PAAC will allocate grants of $1,000-$3,000 to partially fund collaborative art projects involving multiple arts disciplines. The PAAC gives priority to projects that go out to remote neighborhoods in the county and to those that are aimed at multicultural audiences.

Last year, the collaboration of trombonist Miles Anderson, violinist Erica Sharp and actor-storyteller David Novak in a performance piece “Apollo to the Rescue!” was one of 10 projects funded by PAAC’s Voluntary Fund for the Arts. The Encinitas-based musicians took their work, a fusion of Greek musical mythology, contemporary jazz and electronic idioms, to schools in Pauma Valley, Ramona, and Oceanside.

Artists who want to sharpen their grant-writing skills to apply for these county awards may attend a technical assistance workshop, which will be held at downtown San Diego’s Kingston Hotel on May 21 at 3 p.m. Larry Bazza, executive director of the PAAC, will lead the COMBO-sponsored workshop. There is no registration fee, but attendees should register with the COMBO office (231-6979).

Budget cut victim. With pianist Cynthia Darby, violinist Frank Almond played a noontime concert last Monday. The accomplished duo managed to fill the downtown Lyceum Space. Between his virtuoso showpieces by the likes of Kreisler and Sarasate, Almond amused the audience with wry asides.

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“There will be a prize for the loudest lunch,” was his best quip.

On a less humorous note, Almond’s residency at San Diego State University will probably end this semester because of the massive budget cuts recently announced by SDSU President Thomas Day. Unfortunately for the SDSU music department, much of the work Almond has done to cultivate string players for the department in high schools here and in Los Angeles will evaporate with his move.

After he performs in a spate of summer chamber music festivals, including San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival, Almond will return to New York City, which has been his base in recent years. The San Diego native is looking forward to appearances next season with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Goliard Chamber Soloists. He expects his recording of the Brahms’ Violin Sonatas with pianist William Wolfram to be released this summer.

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On the Air: San Diego Symphony Music Director Yoav Talmi can be heard interviewed live by Kingsley McLaren Tuesday on KFSD-FM (94.1) from 8 to 9 a.m. He will discuss his first season with the local orchestra and preview the two final upcoming programs of the winter season.

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