A challenging program Final candidate for conductor puts orchestra to test

March 12, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the fourth and final candidate in the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's search for a conductor, chose a challenging program that displayed the stunning color and range of the orchestra last weekend.

He opened with "Dances From Estancia," an Alberto Ginastera ballet from 1943 celebrating gaucho machismo, closed with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and placed Schumann's Concerto in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, with soloist Martha Babcock, in the middle.

Ginastera's music was a courageous choice that indicated Harth-Bedoya's confidence in the abilities of the orchestra.

The first dance, "Land Workers," was given exciting treatment by spirited brass. The third dance, "Cattle Men," was equally

energetic, with fast timpani in an exciting, rhythmic performance. The melodic "Wheat Dance," the feminine counterpoint in the work, was well articulated by the strings. The percussion section and the strings met the challenges of the "Final Dance," with ever more frantic insistent rhythms.

The Romantic music of Schumann's cello concerto provided a lovely contrast, and Harth-Bedoya proved a sensitive accompanist to Babcock, who seemed immersed in the music.

Schumann had few peers in his ability to sustain and expand a sublime melodic line, and Babcock, the assistant principal cellist of the Boston Symphony, soulfully interpreted this melody tinged with sadness.

Prokofiev said he had "conceived a symphony on the greatness of the human soul" in his fifth symphony, and he was right. This is the music of a triumphant Russia near the end of World War II.

The haunting melody of the first section was beautifully articulated by the strings, vibrant against flowing bassoon and flute. Brass provided strength and a military presence, and a solo clarinet with light brushed drums and lightly tapped lTC cymbals exulted in freedom. The third movement, the adagio, was developed in the woodwinds and the strings before it ended in dissonance.

There was a long pause between the third and fourth movements at Friday's concert. Perhaps Harth-Bedoya had to summon strength to achieve the exultant, sweeping conclusion.

The Annapolis Symphony clearly has benefited from this season of guest conductors, each of whom offered ambitious programs.

Steven Smith presented Beethoven, Richard Strauss and Shostakovich; David Effron gave us Schwantner, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff, and Leslie Dunner with soprano Kishna Davis offered a program of Verdi and Puccini, along with Dunner's own composition and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade."

Not only does this range of music show the breadth of the orchestra, it indicates the scope of each conductor. The symphony will be a credit to Annapolis, no matter who wins the baton.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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.