Lorna McGhee

Flutist Lorna McGhee of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is the guest soloist at this weekend's String Orchestra of the Rockies concert.

The String Orchestra of the Rockies’ concert this Sunday boasts a Scottish flute virtuoso, a collaboration with up-and-coming student musicians, and a tribute to Ukraine.

Lorna McGhee, originally from Scotland, is the principal flutist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and is in frequent demand, performing around the world with major ensembles.

“She gets a sound on the flute that I had never heard before,” said Maria Larionoff, the artistic director of the ensemble, a professional, conductorless group that draws its members from around the state and region.

In addition to McGhee’s technical abilities, they wanted to provide some variety by spotlighting a non-string player this season. (McGhee was originally scheduled for a prior visit that was postponed due to the pandemic.)

McGhee will perform on the Concerto in D Minor for flute, strings and orchestra by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, also known as C.P.E. Bach, whose father was Johann Sebastian Bach.

He was a Classical composer but the work may sound Baroque to listeners, Larionoff said, colored by showy, fast, technical runs. One portion is given over to flute, cello and harpsichord. The latter is making a relatively rare appearance for the orchestra, courtesy of Aneta Panusz. Listeners can also expect a sudden change in harmony in the last movement.

McGhee is also spotlighted on Concertino for flute, strings and piano, by Cecile Chaminade (1867-1944), a French female composer. Larionoff said it has a lyrical opening, a fast section with a large cadenza, and a closing that mirrors the mood at the beginning. Regarding the technical demands on the soloist, Chaminade wrote the piece for a flute competition in Paris.

“You can imagine it really puts the flute through a workout, and she is the person to do this.”

The work also calls for piano accompaniment by Panusz, which again is a tonal variety for the SOR.

The orchestra is going to perform one work in honor of Ukraine. “Orawa” was composed by Wojciech Kilar (1932-2013), a native of Lviv who composed for films like “The Pianist.”

"It’s a powerful and inspiring and uplifting piece, and it seemed really appropriate to musically pay tribute to the Ukrainian people, and show our support for their struggles, and their strength and their determination,” Larionoff said.

“Orawa,” named after a mountainous region near the borders with Poland and Slovakia, is roughly 10 minutes and originally written as a quartet in 1986. Kilar arranged it for orchestra with an unusual structure in which each part is technically a solo, all blending together into a whole, Larionoff said.

“It’s a stunning work, and the ending is incredibly powerful and moving,” she said.

The orchestra will also feature “rising star” student musicians from the University of Montana and high schools. They’ve been rehearsing with and will perform side-by-side with the professionals on the Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg (1948-1907).

“When we bring them in, we treat them as professionals, we expect them to contribute, we expect them to be on our level and they always rise to the occasion,” she said.

Regarding the selection, it’s “one of those works that you can play all the time and you just don’t get tired of it.”