Corey Cerovsek

Canadian violinist Corey Cerovsek returns to Waco for his third guest artist performance in Thursday’s season opener.

Thursday’s Waco Symphony Orchestra season-opening concert will offer flashes of familiarity in what the audience will see and hear.

They’ll see a familiar, if older, face in Canadian violinist Corey Cerovsek, who makes his third appearance with the WSO, the last coming in 2003. He’ll play Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy,” which he performed then, and in his hands will be a Stradivarius that was familiar to a previous owner: legendary virtuoso Niccolò Paganini.

Cerovsek will follow the WSO’s performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, one of the composer’s least-played symphonies, but, thanks to its sequence in his writing, one with echoes of his better known Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, said WSO Music Director Stephen Heyde.

The concert’s opening work, Dmitri Kabalevsky’s “Overture to ‘Colas Breugnon,’ ” may be the most unfamiliar of the evening’s program, but one whose rousing style makes it readily accessible, Heyde noted.

“It’s a big, flashy orchestra piece that races from beginning to end . . . It showcases all the orchestral instruments very well,” he said.

Cerovsek, 46, made his first Waco appearances with the WSO and the Baylor Symphony Orchestra while in his early 20s. Even by then, he was well on his way to establishing his career. A prodigy on violin, which he started at the age of 5, Cerovsek was equally brilliant in his academics, earning master’s, then doctoral degrees in music and mathematics before he turned 20.

A few years younger than American violin master Joshua Bell, Cerovsek also studied at Indiana University and under the great Josef Gingold. “He had the same gifts and pedagogy as Joshua Bell,” said Heyde. “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve met in music-making.”

Cerovsek, whose parents were Austrian emigres to Canada, returns to Waco with a career of globe-spanning concert accolades for both his violin and piano playing — sometimes both in the same concert — and award-winning collaborations with Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen and American pianist Andrew Russo. Cerovsek’s recording with Russo of Corigliano’s Violin Sonata won them a Grammy Award nomination.

At the same time, Cerovsek serves as chief technology officer for a technology company specializing in medical education that he co-founded.

The four-movement Bruch concerto weaves strong melodies based on Scottish folk tunes with virtuosic passages. “It’s a spectacular piece,” Heyde said.

Beethoven started what became his Fifth Symphony, with its distinctive four-note percussive theme, before his Fourth, but put that symphony aside to create a new work commissioned by a Silesian nobleman, Count Franz von Oppersdorff.

As a result, the Fourth contains elements that he would develop further in his Fifth Symphony and others explored later in his Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral,” the WSO music director said.

“It has the energy of the Fifth, but those beautiful lyrical spots come from the Sixth,” he said. “In the Fourth, there’s one masterful stroke after another.”

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor