Last week, you could say that Jeff Multer was woodshedding in the woods when he took his violin with him on a brief trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and got a little practicing in on the Sibelius Violin Concerto.
Multer, concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra, is the soloist in the concerto in three concerts this coming weekend.
"It's a little crazy to go away the week before a concerto, but sometimes it's good to find some other place to practice," said Multer, on the phone from a cottage near Boone, N.C. "I'm doing it from memory now. I didn't even bring the metronome along."
Along with practicing the Sibelius concerto, Multer has been studying some classic performances of it online. "I have been enjoying all the magnificent live performances that you can see on YouTube," he said. "There's a very young Hilary Hahn playing what is probably the most flawless performance of it. There's a fantastic performance by Leonid Kavakos, who is a real champion of the piece. There's a performance by Maxim Vengerov with the Chicago Symphony on tour with Daniel Barenboim conducting that is very poetic."
Multer will be joining some good company. Over the past 20 years, three other top-notch violinists have played the Sibelius with the orchestra, including Leila Josefowicz, Miriam Fried and James Enhes.
This weekend's performance was meant to tie in with Stefan Sanderling's plans to conduct all the Sibelius symphonies, but with his premature departure as music director, the program was inherited by guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger. It also includes the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony.
Lehninger, assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is conceivably a candidate to succeed Sanderling. Multer is on the music director search committee, but most of his attention will be focused on the Sibelius concerto.
"I'm going to be so busy just trying to play my part," the soloist said. "What I will try to do is come to some of the rehearsals that don't involve me of the Rachmaninoff symphony so I can see him work a little with the band."
Multer is an accomplished chamber musician, and he is bringing in several colleagues — cellist Edward Arron, viola player Danielle Farina and pianist Jeewon Park — to play a concert of piano quartets Feb. 20 at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg.
"We need more super high-level chamber music in the Tampa Bay area," he said. "This kind of electric chamber music will get people excited, I think."
Multer and the orchestra play at 8 p.m. Friday at Ferguson Hall of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $15-$45, with $10 tickets for students, educators and military. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286; floridaorchestra.org.
Verdi classic opens Friday
Rigoletto is one of opera's perennial favorites. Sarasota Opera launches its fall season with the Verdi classic, featuring baritone Marco Nistico in his role debut as the tortured court jester; soprano Maria D'Amato (the excellent Desdemona in last season's Otello) as the jester's daughter, Gilda; and tenor Hak Soo Kim as the licentious duke, who sings the incomparable aria La donna e mobile. The Sarasota production, a revival from 2008, opens Friday and has six performances through Nov. 12, with artistic director Victor DeRenzi conducting. $19-$135. (941) 366-8450; sarasotaopera.org.
Spotlight on Korean women
Korean women composers are celebrated in a concert by the USF School of Music, with Western hemisphere premieres of works by Lee Gui-Sook, Lee So-Yeon, Paik Young-Eun and Kim Eunhye. Faculty and students will perform, including the USF Percussion Ensemble, led by Robert McCormick, and soprano Kyoung Cho. The world premiere of Eunhye's Arari III will be played by a woodwind quintet that includes professor John Robison, author of the recently published Korean Women Composers and Their Music, who organized the concert. The performance is at 2 p.m. Sunday at the USF concert hall on the Tampa campus. $8-$15. (813) 974-2311; music.arts.usf.edu.
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.