There's something about the number eight this weekend with the Florida Orchestra.
In the spotlight will be the orchestra's own James Connors, principal cellist for 25 years — since 1988 — playing Edward Elgar's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 85. Elgar's last major work, it seems to signal both his unhappiness over World War I and his descent into becoming a crotchety, lonely old man in his final years. It's mellow, meditative. The other two works on the program should pick up the mood a bit. Dvorak's pastoral Symphony No. 8, Op. 88 reflects his carefree months at his summer retreat in 1889. Haydn's Symphony No. 88 is a blend of lively and stately themes.
The guest conductor is the much sought-after Mei-Ann Chen, the first woman to win the Malko Competition for young conductors, in 2005. She has conducted here before, in the 2007-08 season for Shostakovich's Festive Overture.
Performances: 8 p.m. Friday at the Straz Center in Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45. Onstage seats ($75): At press time, Mahaffey's 10 seats were sold out, Straz had eight available and REH had two left. (727) 892-3337.
Kelly Smith, Times staff writer