By Kelly Smith

Feel the thrill of old favorites and the flutter of new love at The Florida Orchestra in February. The big moment comes Friday to Sunday, February 23-25 with the world premiere of a major work composed especially for the orchestra’s 50th birthday. 

Triptych is written by Tampa native Michael Ippolito, a graduate of Brandon High School who grew up listening to The Florida Orchestra. Now he’s a rising star composer whose music has been performed by top musicians in venues around the world. 

The three-part work takes inspiration from the swamps, storms and beaches of Florida. “I saw this piece as an opportunity to celebrate my hometown orchestra as well as reflect on the environment where I grew up,” Ippolito said. 

The 20-minute work debuts on a blockbuster concert, headlined by Dvorak’s iconic old favorite New World Symphony, conducted by Music Director Michael Francis. Also on the program is Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring Cuban pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan. Concerts are 8 p.m. Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 at the Mahaffey Theater and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Ruth Eckerd Hall. 

There is much more to love in February:
Music of Star Trek & Star Wars (Friday to Sunday, February 9-11 with Saturday matinee): It’s the Trekkies vs. The Force for one stellar concert, featuring music from the Star Trek TV show and movies along with Star Wars classics by John Williams. Conducted by Michael Francis, who performed on two Star Wars soundtracks with the London Symphony Orchestra. Part of Raymond James Pops series.

Romeo and Juliet & West Side Story Friday to Sunday, February Feb. 16-18: An evening of killer love stories with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein’s West Side Story. Plus the “best trumpeter on the planet” Hakan Hardenberger performs Gruber’s jazzy Aerial. Michael Francis conducts. Free tickets for kids and teens available in advance for this and all Tampa Bay Times Masterworks concerts.

Center Stage (Wednesday and Thursday, February 28 & March 1): This morning Coffee concert includes music from the theater, brought to you by Tony Award winner Stuart Malina, with selections from Rodgers’ The Sound of Music and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Free coffee and doughnuts! 

The Florida Orchestra performs regularly at the Straz Center in Tampa, Mahaffey in St. Petersburg and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Most tickets start at $15 and are available at floridaorchestra.org or 727-892-3337 and 800-662-7286.