New leader, new season for Symphony

SANDUSKY Veteran orchestra conductor Carl Topilow has learned a few things after decades of leading orchestras across the Uni
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Veteran orchestra conductor Carl Topilow has learned a few things after decades of leading orchestras across the United States.

Topliow is eager to show off what he's learned, and promises Sandusky music lovers concerts that are "fun and uplifting and exciting."

The excitement begins this fall, when Topilow, the new music director and conductor of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, will lead the orchestra in a opening night concert at 8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Sandusky State Theatre.

The show will be repeated at 4 p.m. Sept. 14 at Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center in Norwalk.

Topilow and his musicians also hope classical music buffs will mark their calendars for concerts on Dec. 7, March 21 and April 25.

Topilow, 61, best-known for leading the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, unveiled next year's program as he was introduced Thursday as the Firelands Symphony's new conductor. He's been hired to serve in the post for three years.

The new conductor explained that as he gets to know the musicians, he wants to make sure they'll be successful. So he's been careful not to select extremely difficult pieces for the first season.

"The orchestra will sound well and play well," he predicted.

Topilow's selections will include familiar favorites from the heart of the classical repertoire -- everything from Beethoven to Verdi -- as well as holiday fare in the Dec. 7 "A Very Merry Christmas" show.

The conductor says the audience also will enjoy the guest musicians he's bringing to Sandusky.

For example, the opening concert will feature guitarist Jason Vieaux, the soloist for Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez."

Vieaux has pleased audiences all over the world, Topilow said.

"Jason's amazing," Topilow said. "He'll be very intense."

Jamie Steinemann, executive director of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, says subscriptions for the 2008-2009 season will go on sale June 15. Subscriptions for the four shows will be $72 for adults, $60 for seniors and $20 for students who can produce a student ID.

Tickets for individual shows will be offered August 1, and they'll be $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and $7 for students, she said.

Here's a closer look at the four planned shows:

n September 13 (Sandusky) and Sept. 14 (Norwalk)

The "Star Spangled Banner," Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5."

Jason Vieaux will play guitar for the Rodrigo piece.

Topilow is an accomplished clarinet player who often performs with a bright red instrument. The program notes are silent on whether Topilow will play during the opening concert, but Topilow's web site ( shows him playing "The Star Spangled Banner" at Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians home games.

n Dec. 7 holiday concert in Sandusky

The program hasn't been announced yet, but Topilow says he is working on a "little medley for myself on the clarinet."

n March 21 in Sandusky

An Italian-theme concert will feature some of the greatest hits of Italian opera, including instrumental overtures and songs performed by soprano Elizabeth Zharoff and Joseph Turro. Look for Topilow to haul out the clarinet again to play two numbers, including the theme from "The Godfather."

n April 25 (Sandusky) and April 26 (Norwalk)

The final concert, paying tribute to both Scotland and Shakespeare, features Lerner and Loewe's "Overture to Brigadoon," Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy" (featuring teen prodigy Caroline Goulding on violin), Bernstein's "Overture to West Side Story" and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet."