Bright, breezy evening of 18th-century music Camerata: The Annapolis Symphony's chamber series gets off to an enjoyable start with performances of works by Mozart, Vitali, Vivaldi and J. C. Bach.

October 22, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

By the Annapolis Symphony's usual standards, the size of the audience Friday at the first chamber concert in the orchestra's Camerata Series was modest. But there was nothing modest about the enjoyment inspired by this bright, breezy evening of nifty 18th-century fare.

The conductor was Elizabeth Schulze, who recently concluded a four-year stint as co-associate conductor of the National Symphony. She led elegantly and passionately in selections by Mozart, Vitali, Vivaldi and Johann Christian Bach.

What I like most about Schulze is that she appears to have no use for the oppressive "authenticist" orthodoxy of today's period-performance gurus, who insist that modern instruments are supposed to sound just as deadly dull as antique ones.

How delightful to hear a peppy J. C. Bach symphony brought to life with vivacious string tone (with hints of vibrato) instead of all that infernal sawing away ordained for us by the Christopher Hogwoods and Trevor Pinnocks of the world.

J. C. Bach's talent never will be mistaken for that of his father, J. S. Bach, but his music, which took London by storm in the mid-18th century, isn't junk by a long shot.

He deserves to be heard, and that is confirmed by Schulze's handling of the E-flat Sinfonia, op. 9, no. 2.

The concert also provided a lovely flashback to the summer, when three dozen young string players descended on Annapolis to attend violinist Daniel Heifetz's International Music Institute.

Four Heifetz alumni -- Christopher Woods, Jocelyn Adelman, Karla Galva and Freddy Varela Montero -- joined the ASO for a run at Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins.

Lithe and danceable it wasn't, with a quartet of aspiring young virtuosos champing at the bit to make their moments count.

The conductor, realizing that collegial restraint wasn't in the cards, aided these displays of youthful ardor and encouraged the orchestra to jack up the intensity.

If you like your Vivaldi good and hot (as I do), it was your kind of night.

Daniel Heifetz was on hand to contribute an incendiary reading of Vitali's "Ciaconna" in a souped-up arrangement by Respighi.

His bravura playing brought the audience to its feet, though I imagine that while all the audience members were clapping, they also were wondering why Heifetz was dressed so casually when everyone around him had donned the traditional black and white of concert dress.

Alas, Mozart's wonderful Sinfonia Concertante (K. 364) never quite took off because of a mismatched pair of soloists.

Violinist Marc Ramirez played with a wiry intensity (he sounded angry), while violist Sel Kardan just ambled amiably through his part.

Neither entered the spirit of Mozart's celestial melodies with conviction, so I passed the time pleasantly by focusing on the orchestra, which sounded terrific.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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