Musical Musings

Kazem Abdullah Returns to lead the Festival Orchestra

SMF Alum Kazem Abdullah Returns to Conduct Sound Stories


Former clarinet fellow Kazem Abdullah joins the ranks of Sarasota Music Festival’s prestigious faculty this year as guest conductor for the second Festival Saturday: Sound Stories.

Abdullah will lead the Festival orchestra in a diverse program of music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Respighi. Despite the contrasting styles of the three works on this program, composed across three centuries, he says, “ I think for the audience it will be interesting to hear how an orchestra that stays the same size can sound so different in the hands of different composers.”

“Respighi’s style, especially in his tone poems like Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticelli Pictures), often thrives on juxtaposition and contrast. He uses their divergent subject matters to maximum effect here to create a dynamic collection of snapshots to musically evoke the paintings.”

Image: The three paintings by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli that were inspiration for Ottorino Respighi's Trittico Botticelliano

Abdullah recalls the “electricity [the faculty] were able to create onstage,” as a hallmark of the Festival, and he says Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations will be no exception when performed by longtime faculty cellist Desmond Hoebig.

The concert concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter,” which Abdullah estimates to be “one of the greatest symphonies ever written. Its melodic invention and emotional depth remain unsurpassed.”

Maestro Abdullah’s recalls some of the highlights from his time as an SMF fellow:

“The two summers that I spent at SMF in 1998 and 1999 were very influential to my growth and development as a musician. The highlights for me were the chamber music performances that I took part in, which spanned so many styles, periods and types of ensembles. Many of the musical and performing principles that were taught in masterclasses by musicians like Joseph Silverstein, Robert Vernon and Robert Levin influenced how I thought about and performed music, both as a clarinetist and conductor.”


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