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You got your jazz in my classical
Orchestra finishes its season with a performance that blends genres

05/20/10



It is very difficult for lightning to strike twice. Sometimes an experimental collaboration works only between the two musicians willing to risk what it takes to have a unique performance. But two Granite State concertmasters, who have known each other for much of their musical careers, will look to capture lightning with their violin strings.

Elliott Markow and Gerald Mordis, two Granite State Symphony Orchestra (GSSO) concertmasters, will conclude the GSSO’s 16th season by performing the works of famous violinists Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menhuin on Saturday, May 8, at 8 p.m. in Concord. During the 1970s and ’80s, Grappelli combined his jazz skills with Menhuin’s classical training to produce six albums. The collaboration was heralded as a success but the blending of two genres, one based on hours of training, the other bursts of unbridled creativity, is not for the faint of heart.

Markow and Mordis are up for the challenge. And Mordis believes that if you’re a good violinist and have a soul for music you can bend with any style.

“I listened to Grappelli when I was in my 20s and I thought ‘I can do that’,” Mordis said. “And now I am doing it.”

But Grappelli was a trained jazz musician. Mordis is not. But no matter. It is in his blood and he said he has a flair for that type of music, which leaves him with a great feeling.

“I get great satisfaction after playing an opera concert,” Mordis said. “But I’ve got some fire in me when I’m playing that [jazz violin] music.”

While Mordis is not strictly a jazz violinist like Grappelli, he does believe Markow is as much a virtuoso as Menhuin.

“Elliott is a virtuoso,” Mordis said. “I say these things because I really believe them. He admires me for what I do and I for what he does.” 

That admiration dates back to their early days at the Boston Community Music School, where Mordis remembers meeting Markow when he came to study with one of Mordis’s teachers. Since then they have both gone on to have extraordinary careers.

Markow, who plays on a violin made in 1709 by famous Italian luthier Giovanni Battista Rogeri, is also a concertmaster for the New Hampshire Philharmonic and the Nashua Symphony Orchestra.

Mordis loves variety and his career highlights it. Besides performing as a First Violinist with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the Boston Ballet, Mordis also performed on the Aerosmith music video, “Dream On.” As a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he performed on soundtracks for Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.

Despite these decorated backgrounds, the two men have never soloed together. But their upcoming duet brought them together for one rehearsal in Mordis’s living room. Mordis said the two did not want to over-rehearse the performance, but putting everything together with only one rehearsal has been a challenge. It is a challenge Mordis revels in.

In fact, it was Mordis who brought the idea of the duet to GSSO Conductor and Artistic Director Robert Babb. Mordis had performed the pieces with the Boston Pops and loved them so much he purchased the music from the conductor.

“It is fun to do duets,” Mordis said. “When you put two styles together it becomes a real crowd-pleaser.”

As the performance is the last of the season for the Granite State Symphony Orchestra, there will also be a silent auction, according to Nuha Haddad, the GSSO board member in charge of the silent auction. Some of the prizes up for bid include a week’s lodging in September on Nantucket Island, a chance to sit in the orchestra during a performance, and an opportunity to conduct the orchestra. You can also win a two-hour piano performance by maestro Robert Babb at your home. Or, if sport is your vice, you can play a round of golf with Babb.

GSSO president Bob Senko is happy this final performance is by two accomplished musicians and is something a little different.

“It is always our challenge to attract a new audience,” Senko said.

Violin times two

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St. in Concord, 228-2793, www.concordcityauditorium.org
When: Saturday, May 8, at 8 p.m. Audience can arrive at 7 p.m. to review silent auction items
Tickets: Range from $7 to $33
Info: www.gsso.org or 226-4776






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