(Wilson, N.C.) Plan now to make Thursday, Feb. 14, a special Valentine’s Day this year, and celebrate in gala fashion with the Barton College/Wilson Symphony Orchestra at the seventeenth annual Love the Symphony, one of Wilson’s premier social events of the year. The evening’s performance, under the direction of Mark N. Peterson, will feature noted pianist Eric Mazonson performing George Gershwin’s 20th century masterpiece Rhapsody in Blue.

This dinner concert will be an evening guaranteed to please both the ear and the palette with additional music selections from Wagner, Mendelssohn, Strauss Jr., Leroy Anderson and Shostakovich. The event will begin with a wine and cheese reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by entertainment at 7 p.m. The delectable buffet, prepared by Barton’s own master chefs, will be served at 8 p.m. following the concert.

Guest pianist, Mazonson received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Boston University, where he studied piano with Anthony di Bonaventura. He has played many recitals in the U.S., Canada and Europe and performed concerti with several orchestras. Mazonson was a member of the United States Military Academy Band, during which time he founded a touring piano-woodwind sextet. He also was an associate of Maestro Peterson’s at Bradford College where he taught piano, accompanied the chorus and arranged scores for musical theatre productions. Mazonson also has served as an adjunct faculty member at Roger Williams University and at the University of Rhode Island, where he accompanied the URI Concert Choir on two European tours. He is currently staff accompanist at Providence College where he teaches class piano. Mazonson also is the pianist for the renowned Lexington (MA) Master Singers.

The Valentine concert will open with Richard Wagner’s march “Arrival of the Guests at Wartburg.” Drawn from his fifth opera “Tannhäuser,” this work has all the pomp and flourish emblematic of Wagner’s early style.

Peterson’s notes about the selections artfully describe Felix Mendelssohn’s grand tour of Europe in the 1820s, and his reflections on the places he visited that inspired some of his greatest compositions. On his visit to Scotland, Mendelssohn went to the Hebrides Islands and saw the famous “Fingal’s Cave.” “Tremendously impressed by the beauty and immensity of the place, Mendelssohn quickly jotted down what would become the opening notes of the overture, including them in a letter written that same evening,” said Peterson. “A year later, he began work on his ‘Hebrides Overture,’ and it has since become a well known standard in the orchestral repertoire.

“The ‘Perpetuum Mobile,’ by the ‘Waltz King’ Johann Strauss Jr., is a rollicking little bob-bon which features solo moments from almost every instrument in the orchestra,” Peterson continued. “The term ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ suggests a piece of music characterized by a continuous steady stream of notes at a rapid tempo, and this ‘musical joke’ does just that.”

Leroy Anderson is famous for his charming compositions written in large part for the Boston Pops Orchestra. Peterson reflects that audiences have been delighted for generations by Anderson’s lighthearted touches in works such as “The Typewriter,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” “Fiddle-Faddle,” and “Syncopated Clock.” “Sleigh Ride,” to be presented at this performance, is a time-honored seasonal favorite featuring jingle bells, whip cracks, and horse whinnies.
“Rhapsody in Blue,” written by George Gershwin in 1924 for solo piano and jazz band, successfully combines elements of classical music with jazz. The composition was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé three times, originally for the “Paul Whiteman Orchestra” and later in a variety of symphonic revisions. The version for piano and symphony, to be presented at this concert, was orchestrated in 1942 and has become one of the most popular American concert works.
“The ‘Waltz No. 2’ finds Dmitri Shostakovich in an uncharacteristically light mood,” shared Peterson. “Written for what the composer called ‘Variety Orchestra,’ the work is a traditional Viennese waltz with several contemporary twists. This piece has been a favorite encore with André Rieu and his ‘Johann Strauss Orchestra,’ often bringing audiences to their feet with a nostalgic sing-a-long.”

This distinguished event’s popularity continues to grow following the change in venue three years ago to accommodate the ever-increasing number of guest reservations each year. Wilson Gymnasium on the Barton campus provides a spacious and elegantly transformed environment to provide the perfect backdrop for sweethearts and friends to enjoy the delightful classics performed by the orchestra.

Tickets are $50 per person, and reservations may be made by calling Lynne Medlin at 252-399-6309. Please note that tables for eight are available by reservation. No tickets will be mailed.

BB&T loves the symphony. Thanks to the generosity of the BB&T Wealth Management Division, a portion of your contribution is eligible for a tax deduction as a charitable gift.

Mark your calendars for this truly festive occasion.

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Questions? Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations at Barton College, at 252-399-6529 or email: kdaughety@barton.edu.