Summer sounds in wintertime

Sitka festival musicians bring classics to Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Sitka Summer Music Festival performers return to the Kenai Peninsula this week and bring Wolfgang Motzart and Richard Strauss with them for a concert today in Soldotna.

The program includes a piano sonata and a string quartet piece by Motzart, as well as a piano quartet by Richard Strauss.

The Sitka Summer Music Festival was founded in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal. After being enthralled by Sitka's beauty and supportive arts community, he decided the Southeast town would be an ideal location for a reunion classical concert featuring musicians he had played with in his career.

The first festival had a shoestring budget and barely raised enough money for the musicians' return plane tickets, according to the festival's Web site. Since that year, word of the perform-ances caliber spread and the festival grew into a tradition now in its 34th year.

The festival has branched to performances beyond Sitka, including the winter tour that brought the musicians to Homer on Wednesday and Soldotna today.

Music lovers typically pack Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna for the annual performance, but no matter how popular the series becomes, the musicians still volunteer their time and participate in the festival for free with just their expenses paid.

This year's winter tour performers are Sungmi Im, piano; Paul Rosenthal and Ik-Hwan Bae, violins; Marcus Thompson, viola; and Armen Ksajikian, cello.

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, he has performed all over the state.

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.

Husband and wife Bae and Im are originally from Korea. Bae made his professional debut at 12 with the Seoul Philharmonic. At 14, he became the youngest recipient of the Korean Government Award in Arts.

Bae studied at the Juilliard School of Music and was a professor at the University of Connecticut. He has performed in several ensembles and festivals around the world, including the French Radio Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Belgium, Rochester Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Currently, he is the artistic director of the Bargemusic Ltd., one of the leading presenters of chamber music in New York City, and a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.

Im studied at Seoul National University and received her master's degree from Boston University. As a soloist she has played with the Jupiter Symphony in New York City and several orchestras in Korea. Other performances have taken her to London, Montreal, Dallas, Boston, New York and Seoul, Korea.

Thompson was born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, and lives is Boston, where he founded and leads programs in chamber music and performance study at MIT and serves on the viola faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music.

He has been a soloist with the Boston Pops, in the Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and St. Louis and recorded with the Slovenian Radio Symphony and the Czech National Symphony. He has performed in quartets and music festivals around the world and has a doctorate degree from Juilliard.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. today at Christ Lutheran Church at the "Y" in Soldotna. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids up to age 18 and are available at River City Books and Northcountry Fair in Soldotna, Already Read Books in Kenai and at the door.

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