New Century spotlights mandolin, local composers 

click to enlarge Guest soloists: Mandolin virtuosos Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg join the New Century Chamber Orchestra in concerts this week. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Guest soloists: Mandolin virtuosos Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg join the New Century Chamber Orchestra in concerts this week.

World-class mandolin players Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg are featured performers in New Century Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming, locally-themed concert series, "Sounds from the Bay Area.”

Onstage Saturday in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, the program of works by Bay Area composers conducted by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg includes Gordon Getty’s "Four Traditional Pieces"; John Adams’ "Shaker Loops" and Mill Valley jazz violinist Evan Price’s world-premiere "Emergence."

Marshall joins the orchestra to solo in his own composition, Concerto No. 1 for Mandolin and String Orchestra; Lichtenberg plays Vivaldi’s Concerto for Mandolin in C.

In a world of specialization, Oakland-based Marshall is a rare versatile instrumentalist, playing mandolin, guitar, violin and other instruments. His repertory encompasses baroque, bluegrass, all manner of classical and pop.

Marshall's 2007 concerto is unusual these days, in that the intimate mandolin is rarely heard against the sound of an orchestra.

"Performing with the mandolin and a large ensemble became impractical because of the instrument’s lack of sustain and volume," Marshall says. "The last major composer to successfully compose for the solo mandolin and orchestra was Vivaldi in the early to mid-1700s. Of course, in the baroque era, instruments were quieter and orchestras were much smaller in size."

Lichtenberg, a professor of mandolin at Cologne Music Conservatory, performs internationally, earning rave reviews for appearances with the Dresden Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and other groups.

Getty, a major supporter of the arts, has been composing for many years. Among his most performed works are the opera "Plump Jack" and the choral piece "Joan and the Bells." Originally composed for piano, "Four Traditional Pieces" have been transcribed for strings.

Adams’ wrote the minimalist "Shaker Loops" in 1978 when he was teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While his works have gone beyond the minimalist label and constraints, "Shaker Loops" remains one of his most frequently performed compositions.

Price, a respected jazz violinist who also plays with square dance bands, string quartets and blues groups, calls himself a "student of music since age 3. ” At 8, he picked up the violin.

He says, “Using the violin as my passport, I have explored the wide world of music, paying dues in many genres which are native to the violin as well as those which are not."

“Emergence,” Price’s New Century commission for this program, is not his first work with the orchestra. For the group’s 10th anniversary-season Beatles’ “Abbey Road” concerts, he arranged “You Never Give Me Your Money.”


New Century Chamber Orchestra

Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $29 to $59

Contact: (415) 392-4400,

Note: An open rehearsal is at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Herbst Theatre; other performances are Thursday in Berkeley, Friday in Palo Alto and Sunday in San Rafael.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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