MPT strikes up the 'Orchestra!' and deserves standing ovation

Media Monitor

April 09, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Few students have escaped their school careers without hearing an instructional performance of "Peter and the Wolf," Prokofiev's music appreciation standard in which the instruments of the orchestra gain individual personalities.

But now it seems "Orchestra!" a series premiering on Maryland Public Television tomorrow night, could become a similar standard of much greater texture and depth.

With actor/pianist Dudley Moore and conductor Sir Georg Solti, the five-part weekly series is a splendid introduction to and appreciation of the past 300 years of serious music for a full orchestra.

Young viewers, particularly, may find it interesting that the orchestra on display is composed of enthusiastic young players, members of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra. Further, some of the production techniques, such as quick-cut editing from interview segments to performance snippets to something else, seem familiar from that other musical venue, MTV.

But the show really should be instructive to any who care even casually about the workings of fine music, and at times may remind viewers of the late Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts," which began airing in the late '50s.

Early on in the first show, Solti tells the young musicians of many nationalities that he has a dream: "To try to show the people that good music is not difficult to understand. . . . If anything can bring this world together for a peace, it is our music."

And Moore -- whose accomplished piano work we hear from time to time, including in some duel hand work with Solti -- adds that the show is intended as "a wonderful introduction to people who may not have given music a mere thought."

Cable viewers may remember that "Orchestra!" premiered about a year ago on Showtime as part of the network's Family Hour programming. Acquired by PBS stations, it also ran last month on Washington's WETA (Channel 26) during the station's spring pledge drive.

Tonight's premiere appropriately plays a kind of overture to segments to come, as we hear the talented orchestra performing Strauss' "Don Juan." In succession, Solti leads sectional run-throughs.

First come the strings, the major melody carriers, then the woodwinds -- "more like a lovely condiment," says Moore -- the brass and finally the percussion. In the latter case, of course, the instruments are silent for long intervals, and we see the players counting measures for their moments of emphasis.

Naturally, it all comes together in a full-dress performance.

We also learn something of the different periods of music, going back to the baroque, as a string ensemble plays Bach's third Brandenburg Concerto.

In future weeks, shows will take the modern orchestra apart section by section, such as next week's segment on the upper strings and woodwinds and the following week's lower strings and brass.

The music, too, continues to range through three centuries, including the 20th century work of Stravinsky, Bartok and Ravel.


On The Weekend Watch:

GOODBYE, HELLO -- A season finale and a program returning in hopes of avoiding a real finale highlight the regular series schedule. First up tonight at 10 is the customary season-ending cliffhanger episode of "Knots Landing" on CBS (Channel 11). Star Michele Lee directed, and among the usual churning plots intended to keep us hanging through the summer, Paige's life (Nicolette Sheridan) will hang in the balance. And on Saturday at 10 p.m. on CBS (Channel 11), "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" returns from network limbo for a last shot at winning ratings. The good show resumes with the first of a three-part sequence in which Rosie (Sharon Gless) slowly falls for a newspaper editor (Robert Wagner).

SONGS OF INSPIRATION -- Glen Campbell and Marilyn McCoo team as hosts of the "23rd Annual Dove Awards," a gospel music awards program, on cable's down-home Nashville Network tonight at 9. Did you know the country crooner of such hits as "Gentle on My Mind" and "Wichita Lineman" won a Dove Award in 1986 for his inspirational album, "No More Night?"

A GOLDEN OLDIE -- Trivia test: In the long saga of "The Adventures of Superman" series, did Lois Lane ever learn that Clark Kent and Superman shared the same suit? Well, yes and no. In the episode "The Wedding of Superman," being screened at 8:30 p.m. Friday on cable's Nick at Nite service, Lois (Noel Neill) only dreams she discovers the super truth by becoming engaged to the big lug. When she wakes up, the idea seems preposterous.

THE SPORTS SCENE -- The Baltimore Orioles embark on their first road trip of the year, and Channel 2 has two weekend games from Toronto, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. And "The Masters" golf classic concludes in Augusta, Ga., with live CBS coverage (Channel 11) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

IT'S A SMALL WORLD -- Walt Disney's idea for family fun created more than 30 years ago in Anaheim, Calif., finally crosses the Atlantic, with the opening near Paris of the newest Disney theme park. And "Euro Disney Special," a CBS special Saturday at 8 p.m. (Channel 11), celebrates the debut. Spouses Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson are hosts of a show featuring Cher, Gloria Estefan, The Four Tops, The Gypsy Kings, The Temptations and Tina Turner.

THE MOVIE MARQUEE -- How do you know the spring religious holidays are at hand? Charlton Heston turns up on TV clad in robe and sandals. On Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC (Channel 13), Heston overacts as the definitive screen Moses and Yul Bryner does the same as the evil Pharaoh in "The Ten Commandments," director Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film epic.

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