Doubly exciting symphony opening

Twin musicians help Vancouver Symphony opens 34th season

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photoHillel Zori

If you go

• What: Vancouver Symphony concert with Nitai and Hillel Zori plus Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony with Jonas Nordwall.

• When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

• Where: Crossroads Community Church, 7708 N.E. 78th St.

• Cost: $50 for reserved seats, $35 for general admission, $30 for seniors and $10 for students.

Information: 360-735-7278 or visit the symphony's website.

In the world of classical music, there are very few twins who grow up to become virtuoso musicians.

But that is the case with the Zori brothers, who will help kick off the Vancouver Symphony's 34th season. Both men are highly steeped in music.

Violinist Nitai Zori and cellist Hillel Zori started learning to read and sing music at the age of 3 and began to study their instruments at the age of 6. And if that wasn't enough, they also pursued piano lessons for 12 years.

Besides serving as the concertmaster of the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra in his native Israel, Nitai is an active soloist and chamber musician in violin, baroque violin and viola, and records regularly for radio. After winning several prizes, including the 1990 Rostropovich Cello competition in Paris, Hillel has combined a career as a soloist with teaching at Tel Aviv University.

Although Nitai has appeared with the Vancouver Symphony before, this will be the first time that both have been featured with the orchestra. Nitai will go first, playing Maurice Ravel's "Tzigane," a rhapsodic work that evokes gypsy music. It was commissioned by Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Arányi, who was the great-niece of the influential violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim.

"'Tzigane' opens with an extended solo for the violin," said Nitai, "which is one of the most demanding opening in the violin literature, buried in the middle of which is a theme characterized by a dotted-rhythm, falling-fifth figure which serves as the melodic meat for much of the work. The harp, in the orchestra version, enters with its own chromatic mini-cadenza as the soloist's fiery technical gestures and robust double stops subside into flickering double tremolos and a pair of unaccompanied trills that usher in the main body of the piece."

If that piece doesn't warm you up, then the next one will. That's because Hillel will perform "Carmeniana," which is his own arrangement of several themes from Georges Bizet's "Carmen." Hillel wrote the solo part in 2003 while staying in a kibbutz and added the orchestral part the following year when he was on a summer vacation.

"'Carmen' is by far my favorite opera after Mozart operas," said Hillel. "The idea of a rebel woman who wants to control her life … put in exotic way of writing, the melodies are irresistible, the harmonies are luscious, sexy and tempting, just beautiful. Before I wrote anything down, I improvised for hours exploring, stretching the cello abilities to its limits within the 19th century genre of virtuoso string writing."

The Zori brothers will then team up with the orchestra for Camille Saint-Saëns' "The Muse and the Poet." Saint-Saëns wrote the 16-minute, one-movement work in December of 1909 while in Luxor, Egypt. He was 75 years old and recovering from the arduous task of writing the world's first film score for a silent movie called "The Assassination of the Duke of Guise."

Hillel says "The Muse and the Poet" incorporates the idea of the muse as inspiration and the poet as the carrier of that spirit.

The Zori brothers have performed "The Muse and the Poet" with the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra in Israel and the Balearic Symphony Orchestra in Mallorca, Spain — both times under the baton of Salvador Brotons.

The second half of the program will feature one of the great works in the orchestral repertory, Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 3, which is known as the "Organ Symphony." Written in 1886, it was not a symphony for organ, but rather a symphonic work that incorporates the organ in two of its four movements. Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in England, the first performance was given in London on May 19, 1886, and conducted by the composer. After the death of his friend Franz Liszt on July 31, 1886, Saint-Saëns dedicated the work to Liszt's memory.

The finale is always impressive because of the massive, grand sound that the combined forces produce. Renowned Portland organist Jonas Nordwall will command the organ.

"I conducted this piece a long time ago with the Vancouver Symphony," Brotons said. "I believe it was in 1995. It is a phenomenal symphony. It has wonderful melodies and is very powerful. It is an audience piece. The organ gives great harmonic support and mellow feeling. The last movement is extraordinarily brilliant."

Brotons will begin the concert with Aaron Copland's "An Outdoor Overture." Copland wrote the piece in 1938 for a top-notch youth orchestra in New York City.

"It is an optimistic piece with an extensive melodic trumpet solo at the beginning," Brotons said. "It is very rhythmic and outgoing, which makes it a perfect piece to start the season."