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Casino Theatre celebrates restoration

| Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003

A first-class restoration calls for a first-class celebration.

That's what the Casino Theatre Restoration and Management Group plans to offer Friday as it toasts completion of yet another phase of giving the historic Vandergrift venue new life.

The long-closed balcony, with comfortably cushioned Victorian-style and roomier seating designed for the Casino, will re-open in style with a concert by some of the world's best musicians.

Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra, comprising members of the world-class organization, will perform under the baton of Andres Cardenes, renowned symphony violinist, concertmaster, conductor and teacher.

The Chamber performs pieces written for slightly smaller ensembles.

Ken Meltzer, symphony community spokesman, will serve as host for the evening, introducing and offering background about selections.

"It's a great program (to include Haydn and Tchaikovsky) and the kind of program that can really appeal to people of all backgrounds," says Meltzer. "There's not a piece that I would feel the least bit hesitant about recommending to someone who has never heard classical music before."

Meltzer emphasizes that classical music always was written and intended to be entertainment. "It's a very high form of entertainment, but you're supposed to walk out feeling happier than when you went in," he says. "You can learn a lot about the composer and the history of the piece, but in the final analysis, the idea is to go in and have a good time. The composers who wrote this music wanted as many people as possible to enjoy what they did."

A goal is to let people know that the symphony is accessible, Cardenes suggests. "It's a chance for people to visualize pictures and paintings and literature and life and nature. These are all things depicted in music," he says. "Passions, anger, love, everything we feel and know about in life, are things brought out in music."

Cardenes is a quality choice to make that happen, Meltzer says.

"Western Pennsylvania is very lucky to have a concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony of his caliber," he says. "He is someone who very easily could have been a concertmaster or soloist in any orchestra in the world. He is a dynamic performer with one of the most beautiful violin sounds I've ever heard anyone play, very sweet and lyrical."

Cuban-born Cardenes captured the top American prize in the 1982 Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in Moscow.

He has appeared with more than 100 orchestras worldwide. He also is preparing to release "A Cuban Blues Man," his first jazz crossover recording.

Cardenes was named Pittsburgh Magazine's 1997 classical artist of the year, and he received the 2001 "Shalom" award from Kollel's International Jewish Center for promoting world harmony and peace through music.

He gives kudos to the Casino Theatre Restoration committee for promoting culture in the community and its dedication to keeping a venue alive.

"It's vitually important for every community, for their individual identification, to take care of its cultural treasures," Cardenes says. "It provides a place for people to commune other than a church or a football game, a place for a cultural event where people can come and be together in a beautiful place. Those are essential ingredients in any community."

Some of the greatest concert halls in the world are the oldest, Meltzer adds. "They are great halls in terms of sound. They tend to sometimes be smaller halls. They are good for intimacy, and you can't help but feel a sense of history when you go into them. Every time a performer gets on stage, he or she has a (connection) to the great people who have been there. The more we can preserve the older theaters, the better."

Meltzer, a Baltimore transplant, is impressed with the "really strong" sense of history and tradition he has found in western Pennsylvania. "They are really proud of the past and do their best to preserve it. That's all for the better."

Additional Information:

If you go

What: Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra.

When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: Casino Theatre, Vandergrift.

Cost: $20 (Front-row seating in the main floor and balcony costs $50 and includes a pre-concert champagne reception and theater tour at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: 724-567-5000, benefit tickets; 724-568-1221, main-floor seating; 724-568-2317, balcony seats.

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