Hitting the High Notes at SMF Part 2: A Serenade of Strings



Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the Sarasota Music Festival.

Concluding a successful opening week, the Sarasota Music Festival is well underway, with highlights this weekend, including American composer Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, visiting pianist--and past festival participant--Vijay Venkatesh and a student ensemble’s take on Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes. And on Saturday, international violinist Alexander Kerr will lead Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in the second symphony of the festival.

A teacher at the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Kerr has performed at music festivals all over the world but keeps returning to Sarasota. “Sarasota's the one place that sort of kept my attention,” says Kerr, a longstanding member of the festival’s faculty, partly because of the “very special atmosphere” in which faculty members, students and guest musicians work with each other in “every facet of music.” Drawn in by the sense of camaraderie with his colleagues and the room to work with students in a variety of settings, Kerr returns to Sarasota for his eighth summer.

On Saturday, Kerr will lead the strings section in Serenade for Strings, a piece he describes as “harmonically lush” and “charming.” An audience cannot help but be drawn in, Kerr says, by “so many different characters in one piece of music.” In just four movements, Tchaikovsky takes the orchestra--and the audience--on a musical journey, from the passionate, emotional introduction to a waltz typical of the composer’s ballet music, transitioning to a somber, poignant elegy and ending with a buoyant finale based on a Russian dance melody. “There's so many things that an audience can enjoy and its so typically Tchaikovsky in so many ways that you can't help but enjoy it,” he laughs. “Who doesn't like Tchaikovsky?”

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