Symphony adds flair to baroque works

April 22, 1999|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Everyone went for baroque at the Annapolis Symphony's Camerata Series chamber concert at Maryland Hall Friday night.

J. S. Bach's Second Orchestral Suite, Antonio Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto and Johann Pachelbel's ubiquitous Canon were on the bill, along with Edvard Grieg's "Holberg Suite," a work inspired by 18th-century dances even though it was written by a 19th-century Romantic composer.

On the podium was Piotr Gajewski, who conducts regularly at Washington's Catholic University when he isn't jetting off to England, Canada, the Czech Republic or his native Poland to ride the international conducting merry-go-around.

He secured nice playing from the reduced orchestra, crafted generally hospitable accompaniments for his two woodwind soloists and managed to inject some warmth into a baroque idiom dominated by the dour musicological ideologues of the "authentic performance" school who never met a cold, desiccated phrase they didn't like.

Gajewski doesn't buy into their nonsense. His baroque dances dance a little, there's some flair to his phrasing and I heard hints of vibrato from his strings. That alone makes him an iconoclast among today's dry-as-dust pedants of the podium.

Nancy Stagnitta, the ASO's principal piccolo, was delightful in Vivaldi's perky concerto for that diminutive instrument. If you know the piccolo only from the famous obbligato in Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," you'll be shocked at what Vivaldi gets that squeaky little thing to do.

Flutist Kimberley Valerio is one of the first principal players hired during the Leslie Dunner era, and the ASO's new maestro chose well. She has lovely tone, fashions stylish phrases and has the chops to conquer the tongue-twisting "Badinerie" of Bach's Second Suite without working up a sweat. She was drowned out by the ASO strings on occasion, but that's no reflection on her. Mr. Gajewski could have shushed his fiddles some.

Excellent continuo cello playing was provided by Annapolis High School graduate Rupert Thompson. Could he be enticed back from Boston, where his career is based these days, to a prominent spot in the ASO cello section? He's the package, and that section, the orchestra's weakest by far, could use him.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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