SMOKIN' DUO: PREMIUM BLEND
Florida Orchestra musicians Brian Moorhead and Mark Sforzini sat next to each other for 15 years. Moorhead was the orchestra's principal clarinet, Sforzini its principal bassoon. They knew each other's moves so well, they gave their musical partnership a name: "Premium Blend."
"You can become very attuned to the person next to you, and we often breathed and shaped phrases as one," Sforzini said.
Moorhead retired in May after 44 years. Sforzini left the orchestra years ago to co-found the St. Petersburg Opera Company. The two have again joined forces in a big way. To celebrate his future while honoring the past, Moorhead asked Sforzini, who also composes music, to give their sound a melody.
Moorhead and Belinda Dumont commissioned the original composition from Sforzini. The result, A Concerto for Bassoon and Clarinet: Premium Blend, debuts at this weekend's ClarinetFest 2017, the annual meeting of the International Clarinet Association in Orlando. Moorhead and Sforzini will play their instruments, accompanied by New York pianist Mun-Tzung Wong. The Orlando performance is open only to members of the International Clarinet Association, but a free preview concert starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Petersburg Opera Company, 2145 First Ave S, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 823-2040. stpeteopera.org.
Sforzini is also composing Premium Blend for a full orchestra, which will be performed by the Tampa Bay Symphony at some point during the 2017-18 season of the symphony, which Sforzini directs.
"The bassoon and clarinet naturally complement each other and frequently play melodies together in octaves — in the 19th century symphonic repertoire, especially," Sforzini said. "This double concerto is a chance to move that special pairing to front and center and complement it with the orchestra as accompaniment. 'Premium Blend' also makes me think of coffee! As a juxtaposition to some of the more lyrical writing, there are a lot of rapid fire exchanges that 'percolate' through the music."
Moorhead couldn't be happier. "No one knows my music better than Mark."
ON POINTE: SARASOTA CUBAN BALLET
Young dancers audition every year from all over the world, hoping their live performances or videos will catch an approving eye from instructors at the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School. This year's Summer Intensive brings 90 young dancers from as far away as Japan to study with an the award-winning faculty, including Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez, the ballet school's co-founders.
Six weeks of grueling training culminates Saturday with two concerts, an afternoon student showcase featuring a variety of forms and an evening performance with students and alumni of the school who now dance with professional companies. The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School Summer Intensive Showcase starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N Pineapple Ave. $25. The school's On Stage Performance starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sarasota Opera House. $35 and up. (941) 328-1300. sarasotaopera.org.
LATE ADD: BROADWAY AT RUTH ECKERD
Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2017-18 Broadway season has just grown by two shows. Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder (Jan. 18-28) celebrates the alter ego of pulp fiction writer Mickey Spillane, who would have turned 100 in March. In the play, Mike gets into some trouble while guarding his ex-girlfriend and has to rough some people up. An on-stage jazz quartet supplies the music.
Kinky Boots (April 23), the heartwarming story about Charlie Price, some cross-dressers and the English shoe factory they saved, also returns by popular demand. Tickets are on sale now at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $35 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.