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Wyner returns to lead Warren Philharmonic

WARREN — Susan Davenny Wyner will lead the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in two-and-a-half years Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.

“I’ve missed the musicians and the folks out there enormously,” the conductor and music director of the orchestra said during a telephone interview Monday from her home in Boston. “To gather again feels enormously celebratory. I’ve grown to love them and respect their skills.”

The orchestra played a concert at the Robins Theatre in September 2021 celebrating the 100th anniversary of Paige & Byrnes Insurance, and it opened its 2021-22 season last October, but Michael Gelfand, a longtime musician with the WPO and conductor of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, led those performances.

“It’s been a quiet time, an interesting time for a lot of us who love to perform and love to engage with people to be, in a way, sequestered and in a much more private space,” she said.

Wyner said she did some online collaborations with musicians, but the orchestral and operatic projects that normally filled her schedule were halted.

The concert Sunday essentially is the same program Wyner would have conducted in April 2020 if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t started.

“I switched the Mozart symphony (Paris Symphony No. 31) for the overture (Abduction from the Seraglio Overture) because I think the audience’s sense of time is different now (post-pandemic). I thought it would be more fun to do a shorter Mozart and dig right into the rest of the program,” Wyner said.

The rest of the program will include “Pulse” by Margaret Brouwer, two pieces from “Nocturnes” by Claude Debussy (prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun” and “Fetes”) and “The Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky.

Brouwer, who will be at Sunday’s performance, served as head of the composition department at Cleveland Institute of Music from 1996 until 2008 and now is a professor emeritus. Brouwer and Wyner’s husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Yehudi Wyner, have exchanged pieces they were working on to get feedback from one another, Wyner said.

“I’ve known of her music and wanted to do something by her because, not only is she celebrated worldwide and nationally, but she is here (in northeast Ohio) and could be with us,” Wyner said. “It’s a voice and imagination I admire. It’s strong and forceful and has these warm aspects to it.”

Wyner described “Pulse” as having a very “American” feel in the way she uses short rhythmic cells and builds them, but the work also includes a middle section that includes more of a Middle Eastern influence.

The work may be even more appropriate today as Americans connect to the plight of Ukrainians following the attack of their country by Russia.

“She writes music that embraces multicultural things,” Wyner said. “In that sense, it feels more touching to be doing this piece now.”

agray@tribtoday.com

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