'Mostly Mozart' to showcase top flutist

Friday, November 14, 2003

In the kingdom of flutists, Mark Sparks is at the least a prince. n Windplayer Magazine recently named him one of the top 10 flute players in the United States.

"I think he's one of the top 10 flutists in the world," says Paul Thompson, a flutist on the music faculty at Southeast Missouri State University.

Sparks, principal flutist for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, will be showcased Sunday when the Southeast Missouri Chamber Orchestra presents a "Mostly Mozart" concert at Old St. Vincent's Church in Cape Girardeau. He will play Mozart's Andante in C major for flute and orchestra and a Vivaldi flute concerto.

The orchestra also will perform Mozart's classic "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" for strings.

Anyone who likes "The Four Seasons" will enjoy the Vivaldi concerto, Thompson says. "It requires tremendous virtuosity ... It is quite a challenge in terms of technique and breath control."

Mozart often was quoted saying he disliked the flute. "But he said this about various other instruments," Thompson says.

He describes the andante from one of Mozart's two concertos for flute as "gorgeous and lyrical."

Thompson first heard Sparks play years ago when the university's public radio station, KRCU 90.9 FM, broadcast concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra's flute solos invariably amazed him, and Thompson eventually discovered that Sparks was then the orchestra's principal flutist.

"He is stunningly good," he says.

Dr. Sara Edgerton will conduct the orchestra, which has 22 members. Chamber orchestras are about the size full orchestras were in the day of Mozart and Bach. Modern-day symphony orchestras work well for the romance of Beethoven but are too lumbering for the expressiveness of Mozart, Edgerton says.

"A chamber orchestra really makes the music come alive."

Her chamber orchestra employs primarily strings, along with oboes, horns and a harpsichord.

She has been as impressed as Thompson with Sparks' playing during rehearsals. "It's a real thrill to stand that close to a musician of that caliber," she says.

"... The music just sings. It pours out of him."


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