Arts and Entertainment

Wharton warms the heart as orchestra's principal cellist | ASO in concert

Brian Wharton - Courtesy photo
Brian Wharton
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Brian Wharton is comfortable performing complex compositions on the big stage.

His latest task is stringing together German composer Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei, a powerful, melodic prayer – and the featured 10-minute solo in the Auburn Symphony Orchestra's April 26-27 concerts at the Auburn Performing Arts Center.

"I've always enjoyed its beauty, the singing nature on the instrument," Wharton said of the composition. "It is representative of human prayer and song. ... To play it beautifully takes a lot of concentration and a lot of skill."

Wharton, the orchestra's principal cellist and a professional musician for 20 years, embraces the opportunity to play such a demanding piece close to home. He and wife Melinda, a music and orchestra teacher at Mt. Baker Middle School and a professional violinist, are raising two children in Lakeland Hills.

Wharton's solo is part of a program that includes Shostakovich Symphony No. 9 and Haydn Symphony No. 45, "The Farewell", which ties into the theme of the series-ending concert.

Next weekend's concerts are the orchestra's final appearances at the APAC until October 2015, when the new, adjoining Auburn High School is up and running. The orchestra will perform its 2014-15 concert season at the Theatre at Mountainview (High School).

The concert's final piece, Haydn's "The Farewell" – based on the history of the symphony – has the musicians leaving the stage during the final movement until only two remain at the end.

Wharton and some members of the 60-strong orchestra plan to play on this year and beyond. The orchestra's Outdoor Chamber Series returns to Mary Olson Farm for three performances this summer.

Music moves Wharton, who is in high demand as an instructor.

"I'm very passionate about teaching as well as playing," Wharton said of his craft. "I have a lot of pride in the orchestra. I feel it's a great honor."

Wharton enjoys all kinds of music, and has played with some of the legendary performers of his diverse times – ranging from R&B tunes with Smokey Robinson to Italian operatic tenor classics with Luciano Pavarotti.

Wharton, who grew up in Moscow, Idaho, received his bachelor's degree from Western Washington University and his master's from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He studied under and performed with heralded musicians, instructors and composers. He has held fellowships at the Congress of Strings and the Aspen Music Festival.

He was a member of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra and has appeared with the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras throughout the Northwest. He also has performed for many groups in chamber music. He currently performs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Wharton helped usher in a chamber music series with the ASO in 2005. Today, it has blossomed into a self-sustaining concert series

His many years of performing have helped him develop into a well-rounded, respected and appreciated artist.

"(The experience) helps me play ... in a mature style that allows me to communicate with my audience in a very personal way," Wharton said.


'The Farewell'

• What: Auburn Symphony Orchestra concert series, featuring ASO's principal cello Brian Wharton, performing Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei; Shostakovich Symphony No. 9; and Haydn Symphony No. 45, 'The Farewell'

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26; 2:30 p.m. April 27

• Also: Conductor Stewart Kershaw and KUOW host Dave Beck present a free pre-concert lectures (6:45 p.m. Saturday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday), focusing on the composers and their works.

• Tickets: Reserved seats, $34 adults, $27 seniors, $10 students. Call 253-887-7777 or purchase online at

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