Ben-Dor era comes to a close Conductor: With concerts this weekend, Gisele Ben-Dor will conclude her productive tenure as music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

April 17, 1997|By David Lindauer | David Lindauer,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A notable era in the life of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra is about to end. Concerts tomorrow and Saturday in Maryland Hall will mark the end of Gisele Ben-Dor's six-season tenure as music director.

When she joined the orchestra as its music director in the 1991-1992 season, she discovered that the orchestra had great potential and set about upgrading its standards. She also sought to introduce Annapolis to new sounds, playing works unfamiliar to local audiences.

The innovative repertoire that Ben-Dor brought to Annapolis departed from the standard masterpieces of the Romantic era ** and gave her listeners a new awareness of music of the 20th century and, in particular, of American composers.

Bernstein, Barber, Copland and Amy Beach were featured, as Ben-Dor sought to turn the orchestra into a contemporary cultural force in the community.

Her farewell concerts epitomize this eclectic repertoire. Just as she has featured such American composers as Charles Ives and David Ott in her programs, she will present the brash and syncopated "Danzon Cubano" by Aaron Copland this weekend.

The Romantic repertoire will be represented by Dvorak's magisterial Cello Concerto, featuring Ronald Thomas as soloist. Finally, Ben-Dor will present a masterpiece of this century, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

Not only did she create an expanded repertoire, but Ben-Dor also increased the orchestra's community involvement. She opened Quiet Waters Park with a Labor Day concert in 1991, doubled the number of family concerts and established the symphony's education program with "Symphonic Music in the Schools" in 1994.

Working from her experiences with children's concerts at the Houston Symphony Orchestra, she focused her formidable energy on reaching new audiences and has left behind an established musical program of family concerts.

With such an array of accomplishments to her credit, Ben-Dor would seem to have achieved everything she set out to do with the orchestra. She recently stated, "It is a much more mature orchestra than the orchestra I inherited." And yet, in her view, there was so much more that could have been done.

"I wish I could have continued to work with the orchestra to make it into the jewel it can be," she said.

She also expressed an unfulfilled desire to have played in more locations and possibly to have started a series of light concerts to bring more young adults into the concert hall.

Her departure leaves the Annapolis symphony without a music director for the coming season. To select her successor, the board of directors has selected four final candidates from nearly 300 applicants. Each of the finalists will conduct one concert during the 1997-1998 season before the board picks her successor in March.

The new conductor will have a large role to fill. As educator, innovator and musical director, Ben-Dor has left a striking impression on the city of Annapolis and upon its musical and artistic community. Our delight at hearing her conduct this coming weekend must be tempered with the thought that with the final notes of Bartok, Annapolis will lose this supremely talented musician.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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