560 Music Center:’A welcome addition’

Chamber Orchestra, 'Piano Extravaganza'highlight Department of Music's fall series

The Department of Music in Arts & Sciences will launch its fall 2007 concert series with “4 x 4,” a performance by the Washington University Chamber Orchestra.

Workers continue to renovate the 1,115-seat E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall in the 560 Music Center. The formal opening takes place Oct. 28 with the gala “Piano Extravaganza.”

The program — which begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, in Holmes Lounge, Ridgley Hall — will feature concertos written for four instruments, including Concerto in B minor for four violins by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741); Concerto for four flutes by Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729); and Le Phénix for four cellos by Michel Corrette (1707-95).

The concert is free and open to the public. The Chamber Orchestra is led by Elizabeth Macdonald, director of strings in the Department of Music.

Dolores Pesce, Ph.D., professor and chair of the music department, notes that the department presents approximately 70 events each year, ranging from intimate student and faculty recitals to major concerts by the department’s 10 performance organizations.

“Our students and ensembles represent a wide range of musical styles — everything from small jazz combos to the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern repertoires,” Pesce said. “Performers are drawn from across the entire University community and include both undergraduates and graduate students, regardless of academic concentration, as well as alumni, faculty, staff, spouses and community musicians.”

Pesce points out that the centerpiece of the fall schedule is the “Piano Extravaganza” on Oct. 28. The concert will feature more than 10 student, faculty and alumni pianists — including Seth Carlin, professor of music — guest-conducted by Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and former music director for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The program will feature works by Wagner, Sousa, Bach, Walton, Grieg, von Suppé, Poulenc and Rachmaninoff, as well as a new composition by the department’s own Martin Kennedy, assistant professor of music.

“The ‘Piano Extravaganza’ marks the formal opening of the University’s newly renovated 560 Music Center,” Pesce said. “It’s also a fund-raiser for the department, with proceeds going to purchase new pianos for the center’s teaching, performance and rehearsal spaces. It should be a terrific event.”

The 560 Music Center, located at 560 Trinity Ave. in University City, was acquired by Washington University in 2005 and previously housed Webster University’s Community Music School.

Dedicated in 1929, the two-story, 45,000-square-foot structure (originally built as a synagogue) houses three performance venues — including the 1,115-seat E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, now the University’s largest performance space — as well as teaching studios, rehearsal spaces and administrative offices for the music department.

“The 560 is a welcome addition to Washington University’s arts facilities,” Pesce added. “It eases pressure on our existing performance spaces while also giving us a major new presence in the heart of the Delmar Loop.

“It’s going to be a wonderful facility for the public and for students and faculty, many of whom live nearby.”