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Festival finale concert set this weekend

Christian Reif, resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of that Symphony’s youth orchestra, conducts a Lakes Area Music Festival concert last year. Submitted Photo 1 / 3
Julia Bullock will be the soprano soloist in the symphony’s final movement in the Lakes Area Music Festival concerts this coming weekend. Submitted Photo / Christian Steiner2 / 3
Christian Reif, resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of that Symphony’s youth orchestra, will conduct the Lakes Area Music Festival concerts this coming weekend. Submitted Photo 3 / 3

For its final concerts of the season, the Lakes Area Music Festival will undertake its most challenging composition yet: Gustav Mahler's sometimes diabolical but ultimately heavenly "Symphony No. 4," a news release stated.

The events will be 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, and 2 p.m. Sunday at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Both performances are free of charge.

Samuel Barber's "Knoxville, Summer of 1915" and Kevin Puts' "Millennium Canons" also will be on the program.

Mahler knew how he was going to end his fourth symphony even before he composed it. He earlier wrote a piece based on a German poem about a child's view of heaven. Julia Bullock, the soprano soloist in the symphony's final movement, stated the work "closes with the voice of an angel, or how a child might imagine an angel to be; paired with each angelic delight, there's an acknowledgement of violence and sacrifice."

Bullock, who is returning to the festival after participating in its 2011 and 2012 seasons, has appeared with the San Francisco Opera, the Dutch National Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, among many others.

"Knoxville, Summer of 1915" will also feature Bullock as soloist. Of that piece, she states: "'Knoxville' is one of America's quintessential works, with words by author James Agee, music by Barber, and the impetus for its creation being soprano Eleanor Steber, all three being among America's most celebrated artists. But at its heart, this piece is not about being American. It is about recalling a time when you are young and feel that the world is ideal. After the first major loss of a loved one, you not only begin to appreciate those around you, but you begin the process of identifying who you are and what you value."

The program opens with Puts' composition to celebrate the turn of this century. Puts, who has deep ties to Minnesota, writes of the piece: "I wrote 'Millennium Canons' to usher in a new millennium with fanfare, celebration and lyricism. Its rising textures and melodic counterpoint are almost always created through use of the canon, which also provides rhythmic propulsion at times."

Christian Reif, who will conduct the concerts, will also give a lecture about the music a half-hour before each performance. Reif is currently resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of that Symphony's youth orchestra.

Following the Saturday performance audiences are invited to join the musicians at a post- concert reception at Prairie Bay Grill in Baxter. Following the Sunday performance, an end-of-season Brewery Bash will be at Roundhouse Brewery, featuring the Opus 10 white IPA brewed special for the Lakes Area Music Festival's 10th anniversary.

The Lakes Area Music Festival, an annual summer series attracting many leading instrumental and vocal performers, takes place Aug. 4-26. For more information, visit www.lakesareamusic.org.