Orchestra was rehearsed for visiting maestro, but not for snow

February 15, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

In its 34 seasons, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra had never missed a concert.

Then, courtesy of the relentless winter of '94, it happened twice in the same weekend.

The performance scheduled for Friday, Feb. 11 was, of course, canceled immediately in the aftermath of the Thursday-Friday storm. But the hope was that the program consisting of Faure's "Pavane," the Saint-Saens A-minor Cello Concerto and Beethoven's Eighth Symphony could be salvaged on Saturday.

Winter had already played havoc with the orchestra's preparations under guest conductor Walter Proost, the 42-year-old Belgian maestro who recently became the first non-Italian ever to head a major Italian orchestra, the Symphony of San Remo.

The normal slate of a half-dozen rehearsals had been cut in half, and the musicians were hoping to catch some quick practice time an hour before Saturday's concert. It might have worked.

"I was amazed at what they had been able to accomplish after only one rehearsal on the Beethoven," said Mr. Proost.

"The players were giving each other looks that said, 'Hey, this is our orchestra.' "

But it was not to be. An eager crowd of perhaps 200 to 300 had gathered by curtain time Saturday, but as musicians began congregating on stage, it was clear there was a problem.

Outgoing orchestra President James Cheevers announced cancellation at 8:03 p.m., explaining that too many players had become stranded on Routes 97 and 50 for the concert to take place. He had a point.

Without flutes and bassoons, Beethoven's Eighth will not fly.

As players and audience members mingled afterward in Maryland Hall's Severn Town Room, disappointment was in the air.

"I really wanted to play for him," said first violinist Glen Agus, speaking of Mr. Proost. "The orchestra really liked this guy," he said.

"It would have been very good," said Suzanne Orban, the principal cellist who had waited years for her first chance to solo with the orchestra. Deprived of the opportunity, she clutched her bouquet of red and white flowers and managed a smile.

"I was sounding really hot," she said.

"It's a pity," said Mr. Proost, who had earlier refused an opportunity to fly immediately back to Italy to substitute for an ailing colleague. Instead, he had been hoping that Saturday's concert would come off.

"The orchestra wants me to return, and we will try to work in the dates. But next time, reserve good weather for me."

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