Dunner ASO debut to feature Brahms Concerts: The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will present its first subscription concerts of the season tomorrow and Saturday.

September 10, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Expect nothing but firsts at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts this weekend.

The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra presents its first subscription concerts of the 1998-1999 season at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

Leslie B. Dunner, the ASO's new music director, will take the Maryland Hall stage for the first time since he was appointed conductor in April.

Dunner will make his subscription debut with two firsts composed by Johannes Brahms, a giant of 19th-century music whose sumptuously sustained melodic lines and deep orchestral sonorities will be loved as long as great music is played.

Dunner will conduct the monumental First Symphony, the work Brahms slaved over and then withheld from publication for years, until 1876, when he was 43. When you feel the spirit of Beethoven -- indeed of the entire classical age -- peering over your shoulder as Brahms did, you're not in any rush.

Joining the C minor Symphony on the program this weekend will be the grand, darkly passionate D minor Piano Concerto, Brahms' first composition in that genre.

Brahms began crafting the work as a symphony in 1854 at the suggestion of Robert Schumann, his dear friend and fellow composer.

Those symphonic melodies eventually became the spectacularly turbulent piano concerto that gave voice to the despair Brahms felt as he watched the emotional collapse that led to Schumann's death in 1856.

Brahms befriended Schumann's widow, Clara, and his warm feelings for her found their way into the sublimely poetic slow movement of the concerto.

Clara was a first-rate pianist who championed the D minor Concerto in her concert appearances.

The soloist this weekend is Peter Orth, a Philadelphian who studied at the Juilliard School in New York and at the Marlboro Festival with the legendary Rudolf Serkin. He has appeared with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

The ASO has performed both pieces, to negligible effect. A decade ago, under conductor Peter Bay, the orchestra sounded scrawny and unprepared in the concerto as it squandered the gallant efforts of Peabody pianist Ann Schein.

Gisele Ben-Dor turned in a run-of-the-mill reading of the symphony at her audition concert in February 1991 but got the job anyway.

So, not only does the music of Brahms provide the fare for Dunner's first subscription concerts, but it also presents him with his first great challenge.

Information: 410-269-1132.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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