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Yampolsky Takes Baton for IPO's 'Famous Fives'

Acclaimed conductor and Northwestern professor Victor Yampolsky guest conducts the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra through Schubert's and Shostakovich's fifth symphonies.

Born more than 100 years apart and in different countries, Austrian composer Franz Schubert and Russian Dmitri Shostakovich share more than musical brilliance.

Both composed glorious fifth symphonies.

On March 6, the concert, Famous Fives, will fill the with the music of Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Minor and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor.

Maestro Victor Yampolsky returns as guest conductor for this program.

Internationally acclaimed, Yampolsky currently holds a named chair in music performance at Northwestern University and serves as music director for the Peninsula Music Festival in Wisconsin's Door County. He also serves as guest conductor for many orchestras during the performance season.

When asked what musical details he would want the audience to recognize during the program, Yampolsky speaks like a poet.

“It is quite easy to explain,” he said. “Music is the very powerful language of sounds and it is very effective. In order to listen to Schubert, you need no explanation. Close your eyes and shut out the boring everyday world. Let the music transfer your thoughts to a beautiful world of dreams and imagination.

“I can tell you, Franz Schubert had a very rare gift for melody," he added. "He wrote hundreds of songs. He and his friends would get together after work, or whatever, and he played glorious music for them.”

Of course, live music was the way friends shared entertainment in the days before people could get together and listen to CDs or watch TV or participate in any of the seemingly endless choices in the 21st century.

One can almost imagine Yampolsky stepping into Schubert’s circle of friends to celebrate the music. Born in Kyrgyzstan in 1942, Yampolsky was surrounded by “the language of music” from birth.

His father, legendary pianist Vladimir Yampolsky, was one of the great concert soloists in the annals of 20th century music. Victor Yampolsky's mother had a stellar music career as a teenager and also “was a star” as a mother and wife. She relinquished the concert life to raise a family and provide love, friendship and emotional support for her famous husband, he said.

The younger Yampolsky’s career as a violinist and conductor was well-established in the Soviet Union before he immigrated to the United States in 1973.

Once here, however, Yampolsky’s musical life soared, and today his resume reads like a worldwide tour of honors, performances and conducting positions crossing every continent on the globe.

Because of his past, Yampolsky says he feels a bond with Shostakovich, who lived under Soviet rule.

“Shostakovich was a sort of man like I was (in that) he did not have an easy life (in the Soviet Union)," he said. "His talent, his work were reactions to his own society. His pieces are very powerful because of his suffering, and we are very grateful for (his) leaving with us a musical thread of history. All the movements (of his fifth symphony) are moving and touch different strings of our emotions and intellect. The work followed the well-established model of the symphonic form. Different “musical ideas” come through in the early movements, some “not only contrasting but in dramatic conflict.”

“The conflict, displayed, then is resolved,” he said. “The patterns are like Beethoven, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Schubert. Shostakovich has an acute sense for drama and we should hear that from the first note. For readers, if they have any doubts, they should make a serious effort to be there.” 

Famous Fives

When: 8 p.m., March 5
Where: , 19900 S. Harlem Ave.
How much? $$30-$50, $15 students
More info: Call 708-481-7774 or go to the IPO's website

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