World-class performers bring music to hometown settings

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2004

A German, a Russian and a New Yorker walk into a room ....

Under different circumstances, this could be the setup for a good joke, but when Arnulf von Arnim, Armen Ksajikian and Paul Rosenthal walk into Christ Lutheran Church on Feb. 5, the room will be filled with high-class professional chamber music, not laughter.

The trio are making a stop in the central Kenai Peninsula during their Sitka Summer Music Festival Winter Concert tour.

"I think that it's such a wonderful opportunity for us here on the central peninsula to have the chance to see musicians of this caliber," said Lorrene Forbes, secretary of the Performing Arts Society, which is hosting the concert. "And of course there's nothing more exciting than seeing the live musicians."

The Sitka Summer Music Festival was founded in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal. Rosenthal lives in Juneau, but during a trip to Sitka he decided the town would be an ideal location for a concert featuring musicians he had played with in his career.

"His idea was that Sitka was such a beautiful setting, and it had a really supportive community there and he just thought it would be a neat place to bring musicians from all over the world," said Maria Allison, with the society.



Since that first concert 30 years ago, the summer event has become an annual one, drawing between 18 and 35 professional musicians from around the world each year to the picturesque seaside community.

The festival's autumn and winter concerts began in 1980 in Sitka, and the summer and winter tours became an offshoot of those concerts as a way to spread their high-quality music throughout the state. Sitka Summer Music Festival performers have been coming to the central peninsula for about 10 years, Forbes estimated.

"(Rosenthal) brings musicians up on tour from other parts of the Unites States and world," Forbes said. "It gives us the opportunity to see people we wouldn't otherwise see, especially here, without having to drive to Anchorage."

This year's winter tour includes Rosenthal, a violinist; Arnulf von Arnim, a pianist; and Armen Ksajikian, a cellist.

Rosenthal is originally from New York and began playing the violin at age 3. He moved to Alaska in 1969 and has served on the faculty of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Anchorage and has given master classes in Europe, Japan and Korea.

As part of the Sitka Summer Music Festival, of which he is the artistic director as well as the founder, he has performed all over the state.

Arnim was born in 1947 and began piano lessons at age 5. He has studied with several well-respected musicians and has won a Study Foundation of the German Nation scholarship and several international competitions. He has performed in the United States, most European countries and Japan.



Ksajikian, originally from the Soviet Union, began his professional music career at age 12 with the Abkhazian State Philharmonic. He moved to the United States in 1976 and has been the principal cellist for several orchestras, symphonies and ballet orchestras.

Ksajikian has participated in several music festivals, including in Sitka, Fairbanks and Juneau, is a member of the Armadillo String Quartet and went on United States and European tours with Mikhail Barysknikov and the White Oak Dance Project. He was in the 1994 action-adventure film "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and has performed on more than 800 motion picture soundtracks.

In the Feb. 5 concert, the trio will perform "Three Movements from Partita No. 3 in E Major for Violin Solo" by Bach, "Divertimento in D Major for Cello and Piano" by Haydn, "Fantasy Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 73" by Schumann and "Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2" by Beethoven.

"They're always interesting," Forbes said. "They have a variety of music and musicianship, and they're always outstanding. I just love hearing people live produce that kind of music."

The musicians are starting their trip in the central peninsula. From here they will perform in Nome, White Mountain, Juneau and Sitka in February.

Advanced tickets for the Feb. 5 show at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna may be purchased at Alaskan Gift and Gallery and Already Read Books in Kenai, and River City Books and North Country Fair in Soldotna.

Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $10 for youth.

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