Uncommon concerto will open ASO's season Ben-Dor dusts off Dvorak A minor

October 01, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

The Perlmans, Zuckermans, Lins, Midoris and others who have made our era such a golden age of violin playing have done us the additional service of enlarging the concerto repertoire.

After all, you can't perform the Brahms concerto every night, and CD buyers can be depended upon to stock only so many Tchaikovskys, Beethovens and Mendelssohns in their collections.

All of a sudden, the cognoscenti are treated to expert performances of less familiar concertos of Stravinsky, Berg, Shostakovich, Barber and others -- with far greater frequency than before.

One of the first of these "second-fiddle" fiddle concertos to have been brought down off the shelf is the marvelously tuneful A-minor concerto of Antonin Dvorak, which will be performed this weekend by Gisele Ben-Dor and her Annapolis Symphony Orchestra at the opening concerts of the 1993-1994 Maryland Hall season.

Also on the program are selections from Manuel de Falla's "Suite from the Three-Cornered Hat" and Robert Schumann's delectable "Spring" Symphony.

Margaret Batjer, a graduate of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute, where she studied with the legendary Ivan Galamian, will be the ASO's soloist. Based in Los Angeles, she has performed extensively in Europe and with such major American ensembles as the Philadelphia, St. Louis and Seattle orchestras.

While there is no shortage of critics to point out that the Dvorak concerto does not occupy the same exalted station as the Brahms or the Beethoven, Ms. Batjer brushes aside criticism of the Czech composer's work.

"Frankly," she says, "I enjoy playing it just as much as I enjoy the Brahms. I have an affinity for Czech music in general, and especially for Dvorak because it is just so tuneful.

"Yes, the orchestration may be thick, but it is so rich texturally. And the second movement is one of the most beautifully expansive you'll find in any of the big concertos."

She recalls with pleasure her first public performance of the Dvorak as an 18-year-old with the Eugene Ormandy-trained Philadelphia Orchestra.

"The orchestral sound was too beautiful to believe," she recalls. "It was a chance to experience then what I'd always hoped I'd accomplish in the future."

Ms. Batjer is performing extensively in America and Europe these days, as a soloist and chamber player. She spends several months each year as the second violinist of the Quartetto Accardo, a string quartet presided over by the Italian virtuoso, Salvatore Accardo.

"It's so stimulating to be getting such a wealth of emotional and musical information while exchanging ideas with colleagues you truly respect," she says.

And what of solo appearances like this one with the ASO? "Solo work nourishes a different part of me," she says with a smile.

"There's nothing better than standing up there alone in a Brahms or Dvorak concerto. When it comes to chamber music and solo appearances, I could never just experience one without the other."

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