Saturday's Symphony concert to feature Anne Sellitti
By Sarah Hall
When the Salisbury Symphony presents a concert of masterworks this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Catawba’s Keppel Auditorium, they will feature one of their own when Anne Sellitti, principal cellist, performs as soloist for the Cello Concerto in E Minor by British composer Edward Elgar.
Sellitti has been a member of the Salisbury Symphony since 1988. She also plays with Winston-Salem Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Carolina Baroque, the North Carolina Symphony, Oleander Chamber Orchestra and the Long Bay Symphony. She performs every summer with the Lancaster Festival in Ohio.
She received her bachelor’s degree in cello performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she was the first person to earn a minor in early music there, and a master’s in cello performance from Boston University.
She has taught for the Salisbury Symphony’s youth string education programs. She is teaching currently for both Catawba and Salem colleges and has a large private teaching studio in Winston-Salem.
Sellitti discussed her preparation for the upcoming concert when she presented a “Cello Chat” for the public last Sunday afternoon in Catawba’s Hoke Hall. During her talk, Sellitti provided information about her training as a musician, how she went about learning the difficult Elgar work especially for this concert, and her historical research into the piece.
As a young student growing up on Staten Island, what Sellitti really wanted to learn was how to be a rock ‘n’ roll drummer. But the school had other ideas, putting her in string class and assigning her to cello because she had big hands.
The way she describes her early musical training, it seems she managed to excel in spite of, rather than because of, her music class. Even though her teacher was an Eastman grad, Sellitti says the instructor was “over the whole teaching thing.”
Sellitti says she had been trying to play the cello for six months before anyone showed her that the end pin at the base of the cello is supposed to be pulled out. Until then, she had just been hunching down over the instrument to reach the strings.
Sellitti told humorously how, after she had made it through the Applebaum String Builder Book I, she thought she knew all the notes on the cello. But when her brother played her a recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto, she realized there were a lot more notes still to go.
Records of performances by the gifted cellist Jacqueline du Pre largely inspired Sellitti to practice and improve. And the Elgar concerto was du Pre’s signature piece before her remarkable solo career ended prematurely by age 28 due to multiple sclerosis.
Last Sunday’s “Cello Chat” included video of du Pre precisely performing the work’s complicated second movement. The group also viewed a scene from the 1999 movie “Hilary and Jackie” which portrays du Pre’s life, and a clip from the more recent film “August Rush” which also utilizes the Elgar concerto.
The somber mood of the E Minor concerto and the soulful sound of the cello provided a fitting background for scenes in these films dealing with loss. Sellitti told the group that the Elgar work is a lament for the losses England sustained during World War I. But while most of the work evokes sadness, there are also “glimmers of happier times past and hope for the future.”
This concert marks the first time Sellitti has performed the Elgar concerto with an orchestra. She has been preparing since June.
One of Sellitti’s trademarks is her green cello which she has played on some family and pops concerts. That’s just one instrument of her large collection which includes her original high school cello, an electric cello, a Baroque gamba, and many more.
The instrument Sellitti will play Saturday is her 2005 Grubaugh and Seifert cello, a gift from her sister after Sellitti’s previous concert instrument cracked down the back.
Music Director David Hagy programmed the Elgar concerto as part of this concert that explores different composers’ views of mankind.
According to Hagy, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” is a “triumphant tribute to the value of everyone, not just the leaders or those with special talents.”
He calls the Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” a “more scathing review of society illustrating many people who ignore the ‘question of life’ while others try to answer it but refuse to work together or agree.” The orchestra will be performing these first two selections without stopping for applause.
Hagy states that the Elgar “was the most contemplative and introverted concerto” he could find. “As the concert begins outspokenly and moves to a more quiet, philosophic piece I wanted to continue with a very emotional and introspective work.”
The concert will conclude with a work that completes the cycle of the concert emotionally, philosophically and thematically, Copland’s Third Symphony. It begins with a quiet movement that becomes agitated then returns to calm.
The second movement is more boisterous and nervous. Hagy describes the third movement as moving from “quietly disturbed, to fun, and back to questioning uncertainty.”
The answer seems to finally come in the fourth movement which utilizes the “Fanfare for the Common Man” and sets an energetic and joyful mood. Thus, says Hagy, the concert goes full circle.
Hagy goes on to say that this is one of the most difficult concerts the musicians have tackled, and employs more musicians than any concert this decade, creating a full and triumphant sound.
This concert provides the public a unique opportunity, Hagy says. “Members of orchestras throughout the state have expressed their surprise that we are doing this difficult work. Its performance will be a major achievement for us.”
Admission to the concert is by season ticket, or individual tickets available at the box office one hour before the performance. The cost is adults $20, seniors $17, students $6, and children $4. The symphony will also be bringing back their “Balcony For A Buck” opportunity.
Tickets are available at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Belk, Step in Time, Sidewalk Deli, Escape the Daily Grind, Crescent Pharmacy. Tickets may also be ordered by phone from the Symphony office. Call the Symphony office at 704-637-4314, or visit www.salisburysymphony.org.
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