"I think this is the most beautiful concert I've ever planned, in sheer beautiful sound."
That was the assessment of Minot Symphony Orchestra's conductor Dennis Simons regarding the program scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Minot State University's Ann Nicole Nelson Hall.
Joining the players for the centerpiece of Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3" is Nadejda Vlaeva, a native of Bulgaria and formidable virtuoso.
"This is considered one of the most difficult in the canon, and I'd been looking for someone to play it with us," he said. "(I'd) met her at the American Liszt Society and was just bowled over by her. When I asked her to come she said, 'Certainly! I've never been to North Dakota!'"
Simons pointed out that although he's heard and performed the "Rach 3" a number of times, each time is different. He likens it to hearing different singers singing the same piece.
"Vlaeva is like Sinatra -- she makes the music her own, with such rubato," he said. This he described as "stealing from the time and giving it back," just as Sinatra did in phrasing his signature pieces.
In keeping with the theme of "The Dance" the first piece being presented is Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances." The music uses songs, or airs, originally written for lutes and other such string instruments, but Respighi has rewritten it for modern instruments.
"You can almost feel that you're on a gondola with the 'Italiana' movement, and then the 'Arie de Corte,' or song of the heart ... it's just beautiful," Simons said. "The final movement, the 'Passacaglia,' takes a theme and the same idea goes around and around and you build on it. It's all very wonderful."
After the Rachmaninoff, Simons has placed the "Masquerade Suite" by Khachaturian.
"(In) this one he makes such an excitement," he said.
The suite has five parts, with a waltz, nocturne, mazurka, romance and gallop.
"The gallop is truly a gallop," Simons said. "This music is in a lighter vein, a contrast to the Rach. Concertmaster Jon Rumney is featured on a solo in the nocturne, and you'll hear music reminiscent of a movie in one of them, but I won't tell you which one.
"The whole concert is just a beauty of sound, and runs the whole gamut of emotions," he said.
Erik Anderson will be offering a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. with musical insights into the selections of the evening at a charge of $5 per person, $10 per family or free with season ticket. MSU students, faculty and staff are admitted free with a current ID.
Tickets for the concert vary according to seat selection, and reservations may be made by calling 858-4228.