Rochester, N.Y, maestro leads ASO to 'energetic' performance

November 27, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Anyone foolish enough to buy into the scurrilous notion that "Those who can't, teach" received his comeuppance at last weekend's concerts given by the Annapolis Symphony.

On the podium was David Effron, 59, the maestro from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

Effron, who has become one of the country's foremost maestros of academia during his 21-year stint at Eastman, appeared as the second entrant in this year's ASO conductor's derby.

He conducted a diverse program that included the propulsive modernism of Joseph Schwantner's "A Sudden Rainbow," the songful purity of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, and the sprawling romanticism of Sergei Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony.

I can't remember a time when the symphony expressed itself with more musical character than during the Rachmaninoff Symphony. There was passion and plenty of heat. The moodiness of the Russian soul came through beautifully in Movement I.

Solo after solo from visiting English hornist David Mankin, concertmaster Philip Spletzer and principal clarinetist Fred Jacobowitz emerged with lustrous tone and unbroken phrasing.

Make no mistake. Despite its voluptuousness, "Rachy 2" is a dense, lengthy work that can go slack in a heartbeat under the wrong baton. Effron pulled it off by conveying his mastery of the score with hands-on, "I'm in charge" conducting replete with big gestures, insistent eye contact, and few moments of detachment on the podium. He did what leaders are supposed to do. He led.

Thanks to Effron's efforts, the musicians also bought into the percussive rhythms and luminous effects of Schwantner's "Sudden Rainbow" a palpable enthusiasm. Sensing such commitment from the players, the audience seemed willing to have a listen and enjoy the piece on its merits. No small achievement for a work of this idiom in these parts.

Effron also became an ingratiating collaborator as violinist Alexander Kerr, 27, a Virginian just appointed concertmaster of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra, joined the ASO for the Mendelssohn Concerto.

Despite some ungainly swoops in the opening measures, it wasn't hard to see why Kerr won the Dutch job. What incredibly gorgeous tone he has and it was shown off in this most melodic of fiddle concertos.

Alas, the winds let the side down with some intonation problems at the end of Movement I.

Effron's accompaniment was sensitive and energetic.

He must be considered a solid contender to assume the directorship of the Annapolis Symphony. The orchestra, even with more than the usual number of substitute players dotting its ranks last weekend, hasn't sounded this good in years.

You heard it here, folks. Teachers can do more than "just" teach. And there's no pro like an old pro.

Pub Date: 11/27/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.