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Master soloist: OKC Philharmonic concertmaster Gregory Lee to be featured in season finale

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Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Gregory Lee, left, meets with visiting violinist Chee-Yun in 2018 during rehearsals in Oklahoma City.  [The Oklahoman Archives]
Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Gregory Lee, left, meets with visiting violinist Chee-Yun in 2018 during rehearsals in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman Archives]

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic will explore all four seasons in its 2018-19 Classics season finale.

“Vivaldi wrote over 400 concertos — so many — but ‘The Four Seasons’ is the most famous and recognizable,” said Gregory Lee, the orchestra’s principal first violinist. “This is the first time it’s going to be played in our Classics series, which is amazing to me. … I just love the way Vivaldi is able to make the violin sound so virtuosic and brilliant."

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s longtime concertmaster, Lee will take his place in the sun during Saturday night’s performance as the soloist on “The Four Seasons.” Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate has paired the Italian composer’s iconic 1725 tone poem on the program with Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1 in C minor.”

“To highlight a piece’s revolutionary character — like in this case, the Brahms first symphony — I like to then pair it with something much earlier … and then we create a contrast between the two,” Mickelthwate said. “(Gregory is) a great player, and then he’s just really, really helpful. He’s a good leader.”

Stepping into the spotlight

A native of Australia, Lee joined the OKC Philharmonic as concertmaster, a title given to the principal first violinist, 12 years ago, at roughly the same time he joined the music faculty at the University of Oklahoma.

“The concertmaster is sort of a role that has had a long tradition. I think before there was a conductor, the concertmaster would lead the orchestra. But now I serve as a liaison between the orchestra and the conductor, especially with the string section. I might help with doing bowings or letting the orchestra know which part of the bow to play in … and, of course, tuning the orchestra,” Lee said.

While he loved working with the philharmonic’s founding music director Joel Levine, Lee said he is honored to be the soloist at final concert of Mickelthwate’s debut season.

“It’s definitely very exciting. I don’t do this very often, being a soloist, and it’s great to be doing it in front of my own orchestra,” said Lee, adding that his parents are coming from Australia for Saturday’s concert. “Alexander’s often bringing in and playing pieces we’ve never done before or being a little more adventurous. I sometimes wonder, ‘How’s the audience gonna react?’ But the audience seems to have really been accepting and really enjoy what we’ve done so far."

Playing an iconic piece

A pop culture favorite, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” has been adapted to jazz, techno, tango and rock stylings and featured in an array of video games, movie trailers and TV shows.

“This piece can play in so many different ways. There’s so many ways to interpret it,” Lee said. “It’s always a trick to find a balance between wanting to play it in a style that has some reflection of performance practice — I think that’s sort of been the trend that last 20, 30 years, to play it in some influence of how it was played back then — but also have a more contemporary, 21st-century take on it.”

Even if the music is already familiar to them, Lee said he believes that concertgoers will be astounded with how much more powerful the “Seasons” can be when experienced live.

“There’s that sort of invisible interaction ... that you feel with being a performer and also being in the audience. It definitely feels different performing for a full house, as we usually do get here, and hopefully the audience will also feel like it’s a different experience than just turning on a CD,” he said.

IN CONCERT

Oklahoma City Philharmonic featuring violinist Gregory Lee.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.

Tickets and information: www.okcphil.org or call 842-5387.

Related Photos
<strong>Gregory Lee [Photo provided]</strong>

Gregory Lee [Photo provided]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a6e6e2b424d2af38fe1cf0e61d67d2ce.jpg" alt="Photo - Gregory Lee [Photo provided] " title=" Gregory Lee [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Gregory Lee [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-aa266902e7fcb7b507493977aedd6b2b.jpg" alt="Photo - Gregory Lee [Photo provided] " title=" Gregory Lee [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Gregory Lee [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2f0804826974ab230c6b0c0eb51b508b.jpg" alt="Photo - The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] " title=" The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-37001552b9ffa16259ecbe34b9aa4213.jpg" alt="Photo - Gregory Lee [Photo provided] " title=" Gregory Lee [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Gregory Lee [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-95a408e0e6db8626c20d7f5a1da37de3.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Philharmonic concertmaster Gregory Lee speaks during an interview at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by Ulises Serrano] " title=" Oklahoma City Philharmonic concertmaster Gregory Lee speaks during an interview at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by Ulises Serrano] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Philharmonic concertmaster Gregory Lee speaks during an interview at the Civic Center Music Hall. [Photo by Ulises Serrano] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4390fce6c8ca59be9b82cfc2e4827797.jpg" alt="Photo - The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] " title=" The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> The Oklahoma City Philharmonic performs in concert. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-164d4010e4534bbb416b5dc2227ab78b.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Gregory Lee, left, meets with visiting violinist Chee-Yun in 2018 during rehearsals in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman Archives] " title=" Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Gregory Lee, left, meets with visiting violinist Chee-Yun in 2018 during rehearsals in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman Archives] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Gregory Lee, left, meets with visiting violinist Chee-Yun in 2018 during rehearsals in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman Archives] </figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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