Pittsburgh Youth Symphony plans 4-stop European tour

| Friday, June 13, 2014, 7:18 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra will take off on its seventh international tour June 15, returning to Europe for four concerts in four countries and flying home June 26.

Music director Lawrence Loh will lead the teenage musicians in big-league repertoire at concerts June 18 at Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague, Czech Republic; June 21 at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria; June 21 at Slovak Radio Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia; and June 25 at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.

Music to be performed includes Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and Gustav Mahler's “Totenfeier,” the original version of the first movement of his Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”).

Runa Shuda, 15, and in her first year with the youth symphony, is looking forward to going to other countries and performing there.

“Playing in Dvorak Hall and Mozart's hometown (Salzburg), historic places, is going to be a very good experience,” says the flutist, who lives in Friendship.

Getting ready for the tour has been a good experience for her, too. She's been assigned to play the piccolo part in the Shostakovich piece.

“It's really hard. The Shostakovich is a challenge for me, but it's also fun to play. I appreciate how Mr. Loh put me on the part because I got so much better practicing it,” says Shuda, who studies with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal piccolo Rhian Kenney.

The tour will be a memorable farewell to the youth symphony for bassist Eli Naragon, who graduated from Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside and in September will be a freshman at the Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio.

“I'm really excited because I want to be a professional musician and hope this won't be the last time I do this,” he says. “I'm looking forward to playing in Europe in all these different halls with my friends and having a really good time.”

Naragon, 18, lives in Mt. Lebanon and studies classical and jazz with symphony bassist Jeffrey Grubbs and jazz with Paul Thompson.

The Shostakovich is his favorite of the tour repertoire, he says. “It's a very energetic piece and also says so much about Shostakovich's life and what it was like to be under Stalin and for that finally to be over. It's really well-written, very colorful and is a beautifully deep piece.”

The youth symphony has toured internationally every three years since Craig W. Johnson became executive director in 1999.

“We are such a global world in regard to communication, but to actually be in these places so rich in history, and for us, music history is something greater,” Johnson says. “The center of (classical) music history you could say is in Vienna. That's why it's so meaningful for us to be there. I think it's a really important part of growing as a musician and citizen of the world.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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