At this weekend's Quad City Symphony concerts at Augustana College, David Bellugi will be the guest conductor and the soloist. For much of the concert, he'll actually be playing the recorder as he conducts. And that's just one of the elements of this concert that make it unusual.
Bellugi will be joined on stage by accordionist Ivano Battiston for an accordion-recorder duo. Both musicians are professors at Italy's Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Music, and they have been performing together for seven years.
Like Bellugi, Battiston has two roles in this concert. The symphony will perform his "Double B" Concerto for Recorder, Accordion, & Strings, making him both the soloist and composer.
That work and A. Riccardo Luciani's Dances from Anacrò for Recorder & Orchestra (a piece written for Bellugi) are both North American premieres.
The Italian-themed concert, titled "Celebrate Instruments," also includes Rossini's Overture to Il Signor Bruschino, Astor Piazzolla's Concerto for Accordion ("Aconcagua"), and Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony.
Performances are 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Augustana College's Centennial Hall.
Although Bellugi and Battiston are traveling from Italy, Bellugi does have local ties. When he was born in 1954, his father, Piero Bellugi, was conductor the Tri-City Symphony, which became the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.
Bellugi's doubling as guest conductor and soloist will make the concert a challenging one for the musicians. The orchestra will have to follow along, he said.
"With the Luciani piece, it's not difficult for me to conduct while I'm playing," he said in a recent phone interview. "The orchestra doesn't need much other than beginnings and endings. ... The rhythm is quite stable, and they'll be able to see me and hear me."
Battiston's concerto, however, will be more difficult. The second movement is particularly challenging because of its improvisation.
"The improvisation is built above a tapestry of sounds from the orchestra," Bellugi said. "We actually had to rewrite the piece a little bit so that it could be done without a conductor. In other words, we will rely on various sections of the orchestra to give cues when to come in."
The concerts mark the end of a 10-day residency for the two musicians. Bellugi will host "Inside the Music," a discussion of the upcoming concerts, at St. Ambrose University's Rogalski Center at 5:30 p.m. on November 30. He will also talk about the performances at the "Concert Conversations" held an hour before each concert at Augustana College's Larson Hall.
The focus of their residency, however, was performing at local schools.
"We love playing for kids because they're fresh, they're exciting, they react, they're spontaneous, and they love our concerts," Bellugi said. "Their faces light up when we play. It's a joy."