MOSC opens 47th season with guest violinistBy Georgia Temple
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When violinist Brian Lewis's great-grandmother fled the Russian Revolution, she could bring only one item with her. She arrived in the United States at Galveston carrying her violin.
"My family has my great-grandmother's violin," said Lewis, who performs here Saturday, Sept. 12, with the Midland-Odessa Symphony Orchestra as part of the organization's continuing Texas Artist Series. "It's not the finest violin, but it means so much to me. It's part of my family's history. It's such a great thing to look back and see where you family came from.
"My great-grandmother came through the great state of Texas on her way to Kansas City where there were Russian and Polish settlements. And my great-grandparents lived about 10 miles from each other, one in Russia and one in Poland, and they never met until they got to Kansas City. My family used to work for a company that made wheels for trains."
Conductor Gary Lewis will be returning for his third season when the Midland-Odessa Symphony and amp; Chorale, Inc. opens its 47th season, "Harmonic Connections," with Masterworks I at Mid-Cities Community Church at 7 p.m. Saturday. He will continue his pre-concert lectures before each Masterworks concert this season, starting at 6:15 p.m., for patrons who would like the opportunity to learn about the music being performed.
"I'm very excited about this season of "Harmonic Connections," said the conductor. "We look forward to connecting you with some of the greatest music ever written in a way that will move and excite you. During this concert Texas violinist Brian Lewis will get us started with the evocative Barber Violin Concerto, followed by the all-time classic Fifth Symphony of Beethoven."
"The Barber Concerto is a great American work and a concerto that I have played frequently � one of my favorite concertos and one of my favorite works by an American composer," Lewis said in a telephone interview with the Reporter-Telegram. "The piece has a very open sounding quality to it. The way that Barber writes is in a way very American. It reminds me of the open plains and the absolute beauty of the second movement is very much like taking a walk in the moonlight, and the third movement is just devilishly difficult.
"When this piece was written, the person it was written for said to Samuel Barber that the first two movements were not flashy enough so he wrote the third movement, and the person he wrote it for could not play it. It's fiendishly difficult for the violinist and the orchestra as well, but it's a rhythmically exciting movement. And I'm looking forward to playing it with the Midland-Odessa Symphony."
Lewis is from a family of violinists.
"Everyone in my family plays the violin," said Lewis, who is originally from Ottawa, Kansas but now lives in Austin. "My mom (Alice Joy Lewis) plays the violin, my sister (Beth) plays the violin, my grandmother (Rebecca) played the violin and my great grandmother, Rebecca Mackish. If you ever meet a Mackish, they're related to me. It was a name the people at immigration made up as he (great-grandfather Peter) came through Ellis Island. My mom and sister and I still play concerts together and have a good time.
"My dad (Tom B. Lewis. Ph.D.) is an organic chemistry professor. He plays an instrument, too. He plays the CD player. And he said, 'Well, somebody had to drive everybody to all those rehearsals.' He has always been the greatest of supporters. He's driven hundreds and hundreds of miles to hear me play. And my brother (Stephen) used to play the cello. Music has always been a very important part of my family, and I think a very important part of everyone's education."
Lewis holds the David and Mary Winton Green Chair in String Performance and Pedagogy at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also artistic director of the Starling-DeLay Symposium on Violin Studies at The Juilliard School in New York City, concertmaster of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, founding member of the Texas Piano Quartet, and artistic director of the Starling Distinguished Violinist Series at UT. He holds both bachelor's and master's of music degrees from The Juilliard School where he was a student of Dorothy DeLay, Masao Kawasaki, and Hyo Kang. Lewis recorded six CDs, most recently for Delos as soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra of music by Leonard Bernstein and Hollywood composer Michael McLean.
"I started when I was 4 years old," said Lewis, who began his studies as a student of Eleanor Allen. He participated in the Ottawa Suzuki Strings program under the direction of his mother and later studied with Tiberius Klausner. Twice he traveled to Japan where he studied with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto.
"When I went to kindergarten, I was shocked to learn that not everybody played the violin because I really thought everybody did," Lewis said. "I played my first recital by myself when I was 5 years old and began touring at the age of 9. It's always great fun to collaborate with different orchestras and different conductors.
"And it was a great privilege to record at Abby Road Studio in London with the London Symphony Orchestra. We got to record in Studio One, where the Beatles recorded. I was so excited I even took my shoes off and recorded in my socks the way that they did."
The Texas attitude toward music helped draw Lewis to the Lone Star State.
"There are so many exciting things in music going on in the entire state of Texas, and Austin has some great musical offerings," said Lewis. "I was offered an endowed chair position at UT so I decided to be in Austin. I've got wonderful students. There's a wonderful attitude toward live music and classical music and people are just friendly here. I'm happy to call Texas my new home. I've been here for seven or eight years at the Butler School of Music. � Music is alive and well and living in Texas, and I am very happy to be a part of that musical scene."