Bassoon concerto highlights an uncommon night Pleasant: Seldom- played works by Mendelssohn, Weber and Schubert add up to one very enjoyable concert.

November 26, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The program that the Annapolis Symphony offered last weekend seemed odd for its lack of pizazz.

Yet, despite the absence of a popular blockbuster or large-scale symphonic work, the evening was full of eminently enjoyable fare brought off nicely by the local orchestra under the direction of Peter Rubardt, leader of the Pensacola (Fla.) Symphony.

What we heard were three seldom-performed works by a trio of contemporaries from the palmy days of fledgling German Romanticism: Felix Mendelssohn, Carl Maria von Weber and Franz Schubert. Each was a master -- Schubert was the most incandescently gifted -- yet not one lived to celebrate his 41st birthday.

Rubardt's program consisted of Mendelssohn's "Fair Melusine" Overture, Weber's Bassoon Concerto and Symphony No. 6, the "Little C-major," of Schubert.

The real eye-opener was the Weber Concerto, a pleasantly tuneful piece containing more than a few tips of the cap in the direction of Mozart's concerto for the same instrument, K. 191.

It was nice to hear, especially because it was played by David McGill, perhaps the best bassoonist in the country. Still in his mid- 30s, he has occupied first chair in both the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony.

Once McGill began playing, it wasn't hard to figure out why two of America's premier orchestras have snapped him up. Technically, there's nothing he can't do. His tone is rich and clear with all the expressive qualities of a human voice. The gruff notes of the low register pop out assertively, while the top sings with a mellow timbre suggestive of an alto sax.

Weber was first and foremost a composer of opera, and in McGill's hands his concerto sounded like a delightful run of three arias.

The orchestra was well prepared by Rubardt, another talent who has yet to see the other side of his 30s. He accompanied well, and he also gave a bright, alert reading of "Fair Melusine," a take on the "Little Mermaid" story.

Best of all were the first three movements of the symphony that were incisive without losing any of their songfulness. Alas, the Finale failed to fly as the players refused to buy into the conductor's deliberate tempo, and the flutes went woefully out of tune.

Still, a pleasant concert, and bassoon aficionados had their best night in the history of Maryland Hall.

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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