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Orchestra's principal horn returns as soloist

James Wilson, longtime principal horn of the Florida Orchestra, has been on leave of absence this season, but he returns this weekend as the soloist in Haydn's Horn Concerto No. 1.

Wilson was originally scheduled to play the premiere of a horn concerto by David Rogers, but it has been postponed. Rogers is not only a composer but also the orchestra's busy artistic administrator, and he ran out of time to complete the concerto. "I'm a big fan of David's music and am still eager to play the piece he wants to write for me,'' Wilson said.

In December, Wilson, Rogers and music director Stefan Sanderling began to look around for something else to put on the program and eventually decided on the Haydn concerto. "It was written as a present for the same horn player that Mozart wrote his horn concertos for,'' Wilson said. "It's a very personable, beautiful piece. But it doesn't get played a lot.''

Wilson has been on leave to be a visiting professor in the Florida State University school of music. He had hoped to be appointed permanently to the position, but it was eliminated as part of the Legislature's deep cuts in higher education funding. So he'll be back in the orchestra next season, as will his wife, violinist Fiona Lofthouse, also on leave and able to be at home with their twin daughters, born in January 2007.

Wilson, a member of the horn section of Santa Fe Opera during the summer, has previously been the soloist in Mozart and Richard Strauss horn concertos with the orchestra. He doesn't expect his lack of orchestra playing this season to affect his performance as soloist. He did play with the Tallahassee Symphony.

"If there was any concern I'd have, it would be endurance,'' he said. "You can't practice in the practice room at the level of output that you have to have in the orchestra. But playing for students — I play a lot in my lessons, demonstrating — is the same sort of hot seat as being first horn.''

This weekend's program also includes Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Debussy's Petite Suite, and is conducted by Sanderling. Performances at 8 p.m. Friday at Ferguson Hall of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $19-$54. (813) 286-2403; toll-free 1-800-662-7286;

More orchestra: The orchestra made it through February without missing a payroll, which had been a possibility because of cash-flow issues, president Michael Pastreich said in a St. Petersburg Times story in January.

"Thanks to the unflagging efforts of our entire organization and the generosity of many people — both on and off of the board — we have now made it past this season's critical stage,'' Pastreich said in a recent e-mail to orchestra staff and board members, players and supporters. "Assuming we balance our budget this summer, our cash flow should be sufficient until next November.''

In other orchestra news, Alastair Willis will conduct the morning coffee concerts at Mahaffey Theater next season. Willis has been a staff conductor with the Seattle and Cincinnati symphony orchestras and is one of nine finalists to become music director of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Virginia.

, Sunday in the park: The Sunshine City Band is back, thanks to a $7,000 gift from an anonymous benefactor. "We're all thrilled,'' said trumpeter Charlie Rice, announcing that the 28-piece band will resume giving Sunday afternoon concerts from the bandshell in Williams Park in St. Petersburg. The group, which has been around in one form or another for about a century, hasn't played since last winter, when it lost city funding. Starting Sunday, concerts will be at 2 p.m. in the park every Sunday through April 6, with Chris Styles and John Bannon sharing conducting duties.

John Fleming can be reached at or (727) 893-8716.

Orchestra's principal horn returns as soloist 03/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 10:13pm]
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